Thousands March for Family Unity

Monday, October 16th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — Following the call of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, thousands converged on the capital Monday for the first Million Family March on the National Mall.

``I think this is a once-in-a-lifetime blessing,'' said Darryl Tucker, who attended the original Million Man March alone but this time brought his wife and three children on the all-night car trip from Detroit. ``I think the spirit that comes from this will help families around the world come closer and be better people.''

The march officially began about 6 a.m. with Muslim prayers and religious speakers calling for unity and family renewal. ``The issue today is can we people of God come together despite out diversity for the noblest of causes, the family,'' said Minister Rashul Muhammad, one of the sons of Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad.

``We need to realize that we are one,'' said Archbishop George Stallings of the Imani Temple of Washington, a black Catholic church. ``Before there was faith, there was family.''

The march comes on the fifth anniversary of the Million Man March, which was also spearheaded by Farrakhan, who has been accused of anti-white and anti-Semitic sentiments.

But unlike the 1995 event, which was aimed at black men, people of all faiths and races were invited to participate in the march by Farrakhan, who has been trying to make his image more mainstream.

``For those who think that Farrakhan is too black in his preaching to ever embrace humanity, no,'' he said.

Organizers declined to say how many people they expect, but they told city officials to prepare for more than 1 million. Federal officials said about 400,000 showed up for the Million Man March, while march organizers estimated that about 2 million people were on the Mall, which stretches from the U.S. Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial.

Several thousand people showed up for the beginning but march organizers said they expected more people later in the day. ``By the peak of the day we expect to have record numbers of people on the Mall,'' said Ismael Muhammad, Nation of Islam national spokesman.

March supporters said they hoped to mobilize backing for a get-out-the-vote campaign, as well as for what organizers described as a family-oriented public policy agenda.

A 156-page ``National Agenda'' addresses a raft of issues including welfare and Social Security reform, substance abuse prevention, education and overhaul of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

The gatherings at the Capitol, the Washington Monument, the Ellipse and the Lincoln Memorial were featuring speakers including the Rev. Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King III and Farrakhan, whose afternoon address was to close the event.

Farrakhan had hinted that he would endorse a presidential nominee at the march, but he said Sunday on NBC's ``Meet the Press'' that none of the candidates responded to his request to review the march's agenda. ``So it would be difficult for us to endorse a candidate that won't even speak to the agenda that we've put before them,'' he said.

Singers Stevie Wonder, Macy Gray and Regina Bell were lined up to perform for the crowd, and Farrakhan was to deliver a ``sacred wedding blessing'' to 10,000 couples.

Farrakhan said he knew people would question his alliance with the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, whose Unification Church is a major sponsor of the march, along with some other religious groups.

But ``we need today divine composers,'' Farrakhan, a musician, said Saturday. ``We need today someone who can write the score to unite the human family so we can be beautiful as the music that we hear instead of like the ugliness in the world.''

``If music can make us one, why should the word of God make us many?''

The Million Family March comes a day after a women's rights march here by the National Organization for Women. Several thousand chanting demonstrators marched past the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund buildings in a protest against world poverty and the mistreatment of women.


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