Event underscores meaning of original Million Man March

By Gus Bode

Terrell Chaney can remember watching the Million Man March on television 10 years ago as he sat in the Herbert Hoover Boys & Girls Club in St. Louis.

The sophomore from St. Louis said as he watched hundreds of thousands of black men march on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., he saw more than proud men. He saw the march as signifying the struggle of blacks in America.

The Million Man March in 1995 was organized as a gathering of black men to empower and unite in the nation’s capital and their communities. Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan led the march, which has been recognized as one of the largest gatherings in Washington.


Ten years later, the event has weathered much criticism as some people say the goals and dreams passed around that day on the National Mall stayed there and never returned back into the community and the homes.

On Saturday, people converged once more on the National Mall lawn to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the march and begin a campaign called the Millions More Movement, which is designed to ensure that the ideas continue on a grassroots level. Some of the issues included this time were:poverty, hurricane relief efforts and police brutality.

“If I could have marched with them, I would have with no hesitation,” Chaney said of the 1995 march.

On Sunday, Chaney had the opportunity to participate in the same march his father did 10 years ago but on a much smaller scale. The mortuary science major joined about 30 people gathered outside Brush Towers to hold a local version of the commemorative ceremony. Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. sponsored the event.

“This is to show we are doing something more than just wearing a T-shirt,” said Zachary Sweet, event organizer and fraternity member. The fraternity was reinstated two years ago after a 1999 hazing incident.

The ceremony included three speakers from the University who encouraged the small group to use the low numbers as inspiration and lead in the community.

“Your presence here today shows that you are leaders,” said Alfred Jackson, coordinator for student support services.


Dexter Wakefield, fraternity adviser and assistant agriculture professor, told the group that leadership comes from within.

“There are not many of us here, but it takes one to build a house,” Wakefield said. “It starts with one and the numbers will increase. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t make it in society.”

The Rev. Joseph Brown was the final speaker to the ceremony. He slowly walked to the microphone, closed his eyes and began to sing softly. As he sang, the low bass voices of Wakefield and Jackson joined in like a soft thunder.

“Hush, hush, somebody’s calling my name,” Brown sang, “Oh my Lord, oh my Lord, what shall I do?”

Brown ended the hymn and looked at the students gathered in front of him. He reminded them the insulting names their ancestors had been called and what they had struggled through as slaves. He also reminded them that young people led all major black movements.

“Somebody a long time ago knew they couldn’t get from point A to point B without pulling up some courage,” Brown said. “… When somebody calls your name, you got to go. Son, when it is your time – stand up, stand up.

“This is not a black issue, this is a human issue.”

As Chaney prepared to leave after the ceremony, he said Sunday’s speeches brought home the message. He said the next time he hears the call, he will know what he needs to do.

“Get up and just go,” he said.

Reporter Andrea Zimmermann can be reached at [email protected]