By Junious R Stanton

I suppose it is inevitable that folks would begin to compare the recent Million Family March with its predecessor, the Million Man March.
Comparisons are always subjective. I attended both, and there are some very obvious differences.

First of all, the whites treated the Million Family March differently than they did the MMM. There were no members of the white community going on national television this time, telling black folks not to attend, like they did with the Million Man March.
There was no post-March controversy about the actual numbers, because the media did almost a complete whitewash of the event. None of the major networks or local television outlets in my area mentioned the March at all! Five years ago, they were bent on putting in the public mind that the call for a million men to show up on the Mall was a failure, even though Stevie Wonder could see that there were more than a million men out there that day.

But the biggest difference, of course, was that this time there were women and children at the March. Five years ago there were a handful of women present and most of them were there to see and be seen. This time I couldn't help but notice the sistahs, especially the members of the Nation of Islam in their uniforms, in attendance with their families.
Another difference was the pre-march buzz on the street. Five years ago, when I attended the annual Congressional Black Caucus, everywhere I went folks asked, "Are you going to the Million Man March?" There was excitement in the air in DC. The town literally crackled with anticipation and anticipation.

I went to DC a few weeks before the Million Family March and felt no such emotion. Five years ago I went with a contingent from my fraternity. The trip was well planned and we knew ahead of time where we were going how we were getting there where we would meet etc.
This time I waited until the very last minute to decide whether to go. This trip was planned by the sistahs. I wasn't privy to the plans. I just paid my money and went along. Everything worked out fine with no problems or hitches. The big difference for me was when we arrived in DC this time, we each went our separate ways and except for a few occasions, I didn't see others again until we went got back on the van.
Each event has its own personality.

I suppose the Million Family March planners had a better handle on executing things, getting support and financial commitments because they had already pulled one off before. I noticed more involvement from the hip-hop community in this year's event, with more celebrities young people would know and more financial participation from people like music mogul Russell Simmons.

The MMM was the first of its kind and the brothers who made the trek to DC in 1995 had a special consciousness. A survey done at the 1995 March indicated a large percentage of attendees were ready and willing to do something to alter their and their community's condition.
Those who attended in 1995 were determined enough to make up their own mind to support an idea and program bigger than the issue of Minister Farrakhan, and in the process defy white AmeriKKKa's attempts to dictate what was best for them/us.

The people this time seemed just as determined, because there was very little pre-March hype or controversy. I sensed they wanted the feeling they witnessed at the original march and to be a part of making history with their families.
This time though, I didn't feel the camaraderie or the same almost mystical spirit I felt in '95. Yes the people at the Million Family March were polite and well mannered. For some reason they didn't seem as friendly, I guess because they were with their own families and could focus on them instead of strangers. Not as many made eye contact or smiled.
There was a lot of hustling by the vendors, whereas in '95 the emphases and focus was on the brothers being together in love and respect.

There was love and respect at the Million Family March too, but a different kind. For one thing the Million Family March was more inclusive, not just with women but Europeans, Asians and children. That in itself made for a different atmosphere and vibe. Folks were cordial and accepting of one another and that was good.
I interviewed white couples and they seem genuinely supportive of the goals of the Million Family March.
This March had a more international flavor - - there were more dignitaries from foreign countries this time, more groups were given an opportunity to express themselves and present diverse issues. The Arabs talked about the situation in Palestine, the Native Americans articulated their concerns as did the Latino community.

There was an air of support and a common consensus the U.S. system was unjust, anti-family and morally out of sync. I guess folks weren't afraid to be associated with Minister Farrakhan this time around, and the fact the March was going to get world wide coverage and a platform for their programs and grievances didn't hurt.This year there was a message from Mumia Abu-Jamal, the courageous brother who is on death row because he was denied a fair trial. His message was well received.

Another difference was that there was much more mention of God this time. Representatives from numerous traditions and faiths spoke unabashedly about how Minister Farrakhan was being used by God to do a great work. This year's March focused on family stability and rebuilding the family as a viable institution for social redemption, and that was good. There was also the mass renewal of marriage vows and weddings at the Million Family March that gave this event a special flavor for those who participated and for those who watched that the Million Man march did not have. In my mind both Marches were beneficial - - they both called us to task to make a difference. Last time men returned home ablaze with desire to improve their communities and we did, even though no mention or credit was given to the MMM for that by whites. We took pledges at both marches.
I didn't feel the afterglow at the MFM like I did the MMM, but then again, each event has its won personality.

The MMM was special because it was the first of its kind. Time will tell how committed we are to the goals of the March this time.

(c)2000 HYPE Information Service

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