High goal set for state 200,000 Md. black men predicted for D.C. rally

October 06, 1995|By NORRIS P. WEST | NORRIS P. WEST,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Alisa Samuels, Elaine Tassy and Ellen Gamerman contributed to this article.

Maryland organizers of the Million Man March are talking big numbers.

"We expect every African-American man to be in that march," said the Rev. John L. Wright, the march's state organizer. "It's an act of God."

Mr. Wright predicts that 200,000 African-American men from Maryland will trek to Washington Oct. 16 to participate in the event, which is being promoted as a "day of atonement" that will display unity and economic strength.

It remains to be seen whether organizers can approach Mr. Wright's goal, which would be more than one-third of Maryland's African-American men counted in the 1990 national census. But it's clear that the march has struck a chord in the Baltimore area.

Some African-Americans predict that it will reach the scale of the civil rights march on Washington in 1963, while others dismiss it as a vehicle for Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who originated the idea.

"I feel like it's going to be good for America to see brothers, uniting," said Jeffrey Walker, 27, a barber in East Columbia.

NAACP chapter sends letters

The Howard County chapter of the National Association for the ** Advancement of Colored People has mailed 900 letters to

encourage participation, and area ministers are encouraging male worshipers to march.

March planners in Anne Arundel County have distributed 3,000 fliers in majority-black neighborhoods, said Lewis Bracy, a local organizer.

More than 50 black men participated last month in a "March for Atonement" in Annapolis, an event that mirrored the themes of the Million Man March.

"I haven't seen this kind of response since 1983, when Jesse Jackson marched on Washington," said Mr. Bracy, who plans to enlist "the guys hanging on the corner, doing negative things" to march.

Organizers sought to stir up support Tuesday night during a planning meeting at the Union Baptist Missionary Convention headquarters on Madison Street in Baltimore.

Nearly 300 people came together, dressed in --ikis to double-breasted suits, their hairstyle ranging from dreadlocks to shaved heads. Christian preachers stood alongside Muslim ministers in a gathering that had all the enthusiasm of a Baptist revival.

They reported that 40 buses have been reserved and sought to make arrangements for Marylanders to go by the MARC train.

Enthusiasm increases

Organizers say the excitement produced Tuesday night is percolating in the streets of Baltimore, in Washington suburbs and in small towns on the Eastern Shore.

Sitting in the cafeteria at the University of Baltimore Law School, first-year student Anthony Smith, 30, said he was impressed that Christians and Muslims are coming together.

"I think that as black men we need to show unity, even if in some areas we might not agree," said Mr. Smith, a criminal intelligence analyst at Interpol.

In Baltimore County, Donald Hawkins, president of the Halethorpe Civic Association, said he supports the idea but doesn't have time to march.

"I think there is a need for the black man to stand up and be recognized. So many times we are taken for granted, shoved on the back burner, ignored," Mr. Hawkins said. "It's not just the black man that needs to stand up -- the black race needs to stand up, take note of itself, and stop the black-on-black crime."

But Louis Diggs, a Catonsville historian, said he was wary of Mr. Farrakhan's role.

"The reason I don't intend to go is I just don't believe in this black Muslim thing," Mr. Diggs said. "Since Farrakhan is the originator of it, I just can't see it. He espouses too much hatred for me, and I'm a little leery."

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