TRAVELING throughout the United States over the last year or more, I've been blessed to talk to about 150,000 or more black men directly.
And out of that I've thought the black man is specifically under assault, and all of the legislation, for instance, that is coming on the heels of the new crime bill is focused on filling new prisons with black men.
All of the movies I have seen recently about life in the ghetto or life in the 'hood have pictured black men in a manner that when these movies are sent throughout the world, we are seen as an undermining reality in American life that America would do well to get rid of.
We would like to structure a march calling on black men in particular to stand in unity to declare to the world that we are ready to shoulder our responsibility as the heads of our families and leaders in our communities.
Louis Farrakhan is minister of the Nation of Islam. This is adapted from remarks to the African-American Leadership Conference in Houston earlier this year, as published in Emerge magazine.
We want to reverse the ugly look of black men around the world by giving the world a positive look at dedicated, sober, determined black men.
We also feel that the march should have a spiritual component, and so we call it "A Day of Atonement."
The march has two focuses. One, mobilizing 1 million black men to come to Washington, D.C., to make statements to the world concerning our own desire to take up our responsibility as men, whether or not government programs do anything for us.
It is our responsibility to do for ourselves and our families. We feel that we need to atone, to repent.
We do not feel that we should any longer burden our women with ourselves, but we should accept the responsibility that God has imposed on us as heads of families and communities.
So we want to ask our sisters if they would permit us to make this point: No nation gets any respect if you go out to war and you put your women in the trenches and the men stay at home cooking.
Going to war
Every nation that goes to war tests the fiber of the manhood of that nation. And literally, going to Washington to seek justice for our people is like going to war.
What should the response be or what do we hope would be the response of those who are unable to make the march?
We feel that it has to be two-prong.
One, that nobody would go to work that day. Some would call it
a general strike, but the object is to affect America in such a way that America knows that we are united in purpose to make a change for the benefit of ourselves, our families and our future.
Two, that our children would not go to school that day. School would be at home. Men and women would develop a curriculum for home study that day to put the home in harmony with the march in Washington.
We are hoping that every church would open its doors that day to reconcile differences between members of the congregation who don't get along with each other. We are also hoping that organizations would meet that day to resolve internal conflict.
Ideally the whole day would be given to us to come together as a family.
At the same time, we should not go to any store that day. Whatever we buy, we should shop the week before. We don't want to see a black face in the mall.
Let the rest of America see what it means to miss us.
And we would hope and pray that with a million black men showing up, we would register every one to vote.
Open the churches that day, in sync with what we do in Washington, so that people can register in every church and be ready to vote.
Interests, not parties
But we're not voting Democratic. And we are not voting Republican. We're voting what is in the best interest of our people.
We hold our vote and force whoever is running for office to come and answer our needs, not for any individual to represent us, but for us as a body to be represented by whoever, whatever party.
And we will hold our vote and determine the election of 1996, just as Ross Perot had people all coming to kiss his ring.
Be prepared from that march to set up an African-American Economic Development Fund.
We've got to organize these men to go back to be organizers in their communities.
All of our people have to become organized, and we're hoping that the million who march will be the catalyst for the organization of our people throughout America for change.
That is the purpose of the march.
It has spiritual overtones, economic overtones, social overtones, educational overtones and a moral overtone.
Our men are ready if somebody will guide them. They are ready to shoulder their responsibility.