Baltimore men flock to demonstration in D.C. Camaraderie, excitement animate participants from diverse walks of life

October 17, 1995|By NORRIS P. WEST | NORRIS P. WEST,SUN STAFF

They were a Christian minister and a weapons tester for a gun manufacturer, a state probation agent and the president of the ++ Black Student Union at Johns Hopkins University.

They were Baltimore men, taking a journey into history, joining about 400,000 others at yesterday's Million Man March in Washington.

"My adrenalin is up right now because I know we're going for a positive move," said David Hendricks, 40, a corrections officer at the Maryland Correctional Institution at Jessup. He used a personal day to attend the event. "Hopefully, we'll get a victory out of this."

A security officer at Pennsylvania Station said the crowds started arriving at 1 a.m. By 6 a.m., the station was packed. Mr. Hendricks' train left at 7 a.m.

The riders greeted one another with smiles as they boarded. A uniformed MARC employee strolled through the cars, calling out, "Good morning, black men." Passengers cheered when the train pulled out of the station for the 45-minute ride. Several people shouted, "Fired up."

Larry Jenkins, 44, a quality assurance employee at Beretta USA Corp., said he had supported the march from the start but that he was concerned it would become a platform for Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam and the man who proposed the idea.

"I would call this a once-in-a-lifetime event," said Mr. Jenkins. "I say once-in-a-lifetime because it is a march only of African-Americans. This is what we need right now because we're still hurting."

Ronnie Massey, 36, of Woodlawn said the scenario of black men laughing and talking on the train counters the pictures of black-on-black crime on 11 o'clock television news programs.

"This is the most positive thing I've ever seen since being a little boy," he said.

Charles Sydnor III, the Black Student Union president, said the gathering gave him a child-like joy.

Like Christmas

"Last night, I felt the same excitement you feel at Christmas time," said Mr. Sydnor, who is majoring in history and public policy. "The expectations are high about what you're going to get. That's what I'm feeling today."

He said the actual event was more meaningful than his studies of 1960s demonstrations in school.

"When I look back, read about the '60s, I think, 'Would I have done something like that?' " he asked. "Now, here's my chance to do something like that. I want to take full advantage of this learning experience. You can't learn anything like this in a classroom."

He traveled with his father, Charles Sydnor Jr., 42, a probation agent.

"I had mixed feelings about coming down," said the father. "After seeing some of the speakers on TV shows yesterday, that pushed me more to come out."

As his train sped through Baltimore neighborhoods, Michael Powell, 35, a co-worker of Mr. Hendricks at the Maryland Correctional Institution in Jessup, said, "This is going to be a great event as far as history. There has never been 1 million black men before at a peaceful rally. This will show that as a community, we're not violent. What I'm feeling now is being overjoyed that all of us are coming together for unity."

Union Station in Washington also was jammed with marchers. Seven members of Mr. Hendricks' group became separated.

Sticking together

The other eight pledged to stick together. One of them dropped off after the group reached the Mall and angled through the crowd for a spot in front of the Capitol.

The thumping rhythm of African drums filled the air when the group arrived at about 8 a.m. During lulls in the morning program, the men ate chicken sandwiches and drank bottled spring water. They inched forward, getting closer and closer to the Capitol steps and the stage. They were never close enough to see the stage but they could hear everything.

The Rev. Michael Hendricks, 43, said he was ready to work on an economic development plan for African-Americans if a committee was convened at the march. Mr. Hendricks described himself as an embittered businessman and said he would let blacks know that they can go from being victims of society to entrepreneurs who control their own destiny.

"I'm exceedingly encouraged by this turnout," he said, surveying the mass of people stretching from the Capitol to the Washington Monument. "It's an indication that black people are ready to cooperate with one another to do something about their economic condition."

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