Million Man March becomes a place for families second time around

More wives, sisters and daughters

Families were plentiful on the National Mall Saturday with many people tucked into lounge chairs or seated on blankets surrounded by their children and grandchildren to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March. The event was also a call for justice and equality for Black people in the United States.

Andre Spriggs, a Washington resident for 45 years and a Gulf War veteran, shouted in energetic agreement as Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan told the men in the crowd to value and respect women. Spriggs, who works at Liberty Tax Service, attended the first march in 1995 and returned this time with his three sons in tow.

“It was a great movement back then,” he said. “It just felt real good to be around a whole bunch of other black people, white people, all races and nobody being violent toward each other. We all came together for a common cause.” Unlike 1995, when the march focused on Black men and called them to assume their roles in uplifting the black community, this march was much more inclusive of women and people of other ethnic backgrounds.

Springs said he had been satisfied with the impact of the first march, but some of that message became lost over time and he hoped this anniversary celebration would serve to revitalize the movement to move the community forward. “I just want to see more peace,” he said, “and for the young guys that are coming up for them to see what we did a long time ago to help them get to where they’re at.”

Those young men included his twin sons, Lamar, and Zenith Keys, 5, and his stepson, Zuri Allen, 8. Spriggs said that he wanted his sons to experience Black unity and hoped it would help them understand the community’s call for justice, particularly as it related to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Spriggs said attending the anniversary of the Million Man March was an important experience for his sons, but they might be too young to appreciate it. “They pretty much want to play games and stuff so I have to take that away from them and make sure that they get the real,” he said. Springs said it was important to be “real” with his sons and to raise them to be aware of their history and to emphasize unity among all people.

Other families traveled great distances to participate in the event, which was attended by 800,000 people by some estimates. Zuheerah Muhammad drove over 12 hours with her family from Atlanta, Ga., to give her family “an amazing experience.” Muhammad and her husband, Salim, have been members of the Nation of Islam since 1974. He attended the first march in 1995 with their sons and nephews.

This time she said she was happy to witness the occasion with her daughter, granddaughter and great grandchildren. “To see so many different people is amazing,” she said, “so it’s exciting for them and they really have something to take back to school.” When asked how she explained the march to the younger children, Muhammad said, “I told them, ‘This is a movement for unity first with yourself. This is another form of showing them that we can come together and we have to come together, that we must show love for one another. We must respect our brothers and sisters and I teach them foremost to respect their elders, so I’m praying that it sinks in.’ ”

Muhammad said the twelve-hour journey was a form of dedication. They made it in part, she said, “to show people that we really are devoted to the movement.” The march has become a part of their family’s history and something she hopes the children will remember.

Likewise, Henry Banks, a senior sports management major, drove 12 hours from Millikin University in Decatur, Ill., as part of the campus organization Brothers Moving Forward. Banks said he made the trip because he wanted to be a part of this moment in history. Although he enjoyed hearing the speeches, he said it was the environment – the positive atmosphere, resembling a family reunion — that affected him the most. “You saw so many people with their kids,” he said, “People always say it’s always single mothers, but you saw a whole bunch of families together. “It showed our culture in a different light; it was different from what you would see on TV.”