Inspired and led by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, more than a million Black men gathered in Washington, D.C. to declare their right to justice to atone for their failure as men and to accept responsibility as the family head.
On that day, Monday, October 16, 1995 there was a sea of Black men, many who stood for 10 hours or more sharing, learning, listening, fasting, hugging, crying, laughing, and praying. The day produced a spirit of brotherhood, love, and unity like never before experienced among Black men in America. All creeds and classes were present: Christians, Muslims, Hebrews, Agnostics, nationalists, pan-Africanists, civil rights organizations, fraternal organizations, rich, poor, celebrities and people from nearly every organization, profession and walk of life were present. It was a day of atonement, reconciliation and responsibility.
“The Million Man March was one of the most historic organizing and mobilizing events in the history of Black people in the United States,” said Chicago-based Dr. Conrad Worrill, who was a main organizer of the March and the current president emeritus of the National United Black Front.
Congress shut down that day and President William Clinton was “out of town.” Mainstream media in American and media outlets from around the world were watching. The world did not see thieves, criminals and savages as usually portrayed through mainstream music, movies and other forms of media; on that day, the world saw a vastly different picture of the Black man in America. The world saw Black men demonstrating the willingness to shoulder the responsibility of improving themselves and the community. There was neither one fight nor one arrest that day. There was no smoking or drinking. The Washington Mall, where the March was held, was left as clean as it was found. Two of the best descriptions of the Million Man March include the word “miracle” and the phrase “a glimpse of heaven.”
Along with those who attended, many men, women and children spent the day at home watching the event on television and participating in the day of fasting and absence. Workers did not go to work that day, children did not go to school that day and no one engaged in sport or play.
During Min. Farrakhan’s message to the millions gathered in the mall and those watching on television around the world that day, he explained to the world the need for atonement and he laid out the eight steps of atonement. Thus, for the past 18 years, people gather, reflect and observe the Holy Day of Atonement.
At the conclusion of the March, the millions of men repeated a pledge given by Minister Farrakhan that focused on a personal commitment to be responsible and active in improving the Black community. The purpose was for Black men to take responsibility for their own actions and to help develop their own communities, and to atone for their lack of responsibility. Many of the men assembled took the pledge given that day seriously and have been actively involved in making their word bond ever since.
“The March changed my life and my perspective of life in so many ways. I (gained) a tremendous commitment to the betterment of my culture, and a heightened capacity to care and to love. I am now trying to live by the code of honor and the right conditions set forth in the pledge that I took,” said Glenn Towery, owner of Fairy God Brother Productions and Film Company, LLC that produced the DVD, Long Live the Spirit, a documentary about the Million Man March.
“I have formed my own company and am striving to create culturally enriching productions for African Americans and the world. Thank you Minister Farrakhan for being a conduit to God that allowed such a magnificent idea as the Million Man March to come through your person into fruition. Thank you Benjamin Chavis and all of the organizers, planners and conveners of the Million Man March.”
Immediately following the March, roughly 1.7 million Black men registered to vote and organizational memberships skyrocketed—the NAACP, churches and mosques reported huge increases and the National Association of Black Social Workers reported a flood of 13,000 applications to adopt Black children.
The spirit of the March continues to this day.
“Since the Million Man March, October has become a special month for me,” said Dr. Ayo Maat, Organizer in Green and Disability Issues. “During the first march, I kept my children out of school and they stayed up all night and watched the event the entire day without complaint or fatigue. Since then, I have been working to instill the spirit of atonement and uplift of the race.”
“The spirit, energy, and the ideas that were articulated on that day still resonate among the activists and organizers and thinkers and the masses of Black men who participated in 1995,” said Dr. Worrill. “Although it may not appear that the energy and spirit and impact of that day is still with us; it has manifested itself with us today as Black men are engaged in numerous projects inspired by the Million Man March that can be documented.”
In another public display of accountability, the Million Man March was the first ever public march to provide an independent Financial Audit of its operations.
Over the years, the commemoration which also serves as the Nation of Islam’s Holy Day of Atonement, has been held in different cities. This year’s event will be held in Kingston, , with the keynote address on October 19th by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan.