While some say they're marched out, others remain optimistic about the promise of a Million Man update.
Ten years ago, when Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan called for a Million Man March, Lawrence Eaddy was there. For the rally, Eaddy organized work schedules and bus transportation at the post office where he works. He later joined more than a million black men-by the organizers' count-on Washington, D.C.'s National Mall for a day of unity and atonement for their so-called shortcomings as men, husbands and fathers.
"We were definitely fired up," Eaddy, 38, remembers. "It was men being men. Every man was ready to make a stand for himself, his family and his community." But for the upcoming 10th anniversary commemoration, called the Millions More Movement, Eaddy is staying home. "I can't possibly feel the way I felt then," says Eaddy. "My prayer was that the unity of that day wouldn't go down, but obviously it did."
After the historic 1995 march, Eaddy returned to Philadelphia committed to strengthening his Logan neighborhood. And he remains committed. He now coaches youth basketball and football leagues, and mentors young black men in his community.
But he's also dismayed by the unemployment, poverty, drugs, violence and lack of education that are still destroying many of the city's black neighborhoods. Frustrated and weary, Eaddy says he's "marched out."
"We don't need another march to determine that we need to come together," says Eaddy. "We know what the problems are, yet things haven't gotten any better in 10 years, so that kind of shows me, what did we learn from the first march?"
Since the 1995 march, there have been offshoots like the Million Woman, Youth, Family, Mom and Worker marches. But the Millions More Movement Local Organizing Committee chairman, attorney Michael Coard, promises this year's rally isn't just another march.
"This is not a one-shot deal," says Coard, who attended the first march, and who admits there was "no real follow-up" to sustain the momentum. "It's not just planning for the Oct. 15 mobilization, but planning for the days, weeks, months and years after. Before it might have just been a gathering, but now it's a movement."
According its website, the Millions More Movement will address unity, spiritual values, education, economic development, political power, reparations, police brutality, racial profiling, healthcare, self-reliance and peace.
Preventing gun violence, Coard says, will be the top priority at the newly opened Philadelphia Millions More Movement office, located at 2221 N. Broad St. Gun violence is the No. 1 cause of homicide in the city, and so far this year blacks have accounted for 83 percent of murder victims.
"The most important thing is a do-for-self mentality," says Coard. "We don't really need the police to help us regarding gun violence. I complain about white cops killing young black men, but there have been more young black men killing young black men than the police ever have. But if we can enlighten young black men to put the guns down and stop shooting each other, then we resolve that issue. We need to do for black self, and that's exactly what this Millions More Movement is about."
Coard says more than 40,000 Philadelphians-the largest contingent from any city in the country-attended the Million Man March. This year, by including black women and children, local organizers hope for a dramatic increase in attendance.
"There's strength in numbers," says activist and record producer Kenny Gamble, who's serving as Millions More's regional chairman. "This movement is a very important instrument in laying a foundation for our future."
Coard will soon announce the departure locations and times for buses heading to the Millions More Movement. But when they roll out in the early morning darkness, Eaddy will be at home, fast asleep.
"Everybody knows where we're at," says Eaddy. "A couple of hours of 'We gotta be better, y'all'-we already know that. That energy needs to be directed somewhere else."
Coard hopes to convince people like Eaddy that the march is critical.
"To those out there who say, 'Oh, I'm not going to participate. I'm marched out. I'm meeting-ed out. I'm not going to waste my time,'" says Coard, "my response to them is we are where we are because of your indifference. This thing will fail if you don't work. It will succeed if you do work."
Kia Gregory (firstname.lastname@example.org) last interviewed Paul Vallas in advance of the new school year.
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