Million Man March's message still resonates Participants, others seek to help black community

November 06, 1995|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,SUN STAFF

The message of "giving back" that resounded at the Million Man March was a sweet note in Lonnie J. Carr's ears.

As president of 100 Black Men of Maryland, Mr. Carr has been preaching the sermon that successful African-Americans ought to go into depressed communities and lend a hand.

But the march gave the sermon a wider, more captive audience.

"It's sent a message we've always sent to the African-American community," said Mr. Carr, whose organization was formed in 1991 and encourages men to help disadvantaged city youths by helping them academically and taking them to cultural and sporting events.

"We need to go back to our communities and bring others along with us, the way others have brought us along," Mr. Carr said.

Since the Oct. 16 event in Washington, he said, his phone has been ringing with callers asking how they can help improve the quality of life in the black community.

Mr. Carr said he suggests to callers that they join his organization or volunteer, tutoring children and being mentors. He said his group works with 235 youths and has provided nine scholarships ranging from $500 to $2,000.

The response he has gotten may be an indication that the march has had the desired effect -- inspiring attendees and television viewers to join groups that benefit African-American communities or spur people to work individually on local problems.

In Detroit, the march got credit for holding down the number of arsons in the city's infamous "Devil's Night." In Baltimore, the highly rated black radio station WXYV-FM (V-103) cited the march's influence in announcing that it no longer will play songs that denigrate women.

March organizers insist that the event was not a one-day affair, but the beginning of a movement. Across the nation, groups that organized the march remain intact. The Maryland organizing committee continues to meet on Tuesday nights in West Baltimore, seeking ways to get people working on social problems and on economic development strategies.

"We really want to keep the momentum," said Lisa Mitchell, a talk-show host on WOL and WOLB. "The response has been overwhelming. People want to be a part of this."

Ms. Mitchell said about 100 people attended last Tuesday night's meeting at the United Baptist Missionary Convention at Madison Avenue and Preston Street. She said those attending were encouraged to get involved in their neighborhoods and schools.

That message greets callers to the telephone voice mail at the local Million Man March headquarters.

"That's right, over 1 million strong, proud African-American men in Washington, D.C.," the voice says. "To build on the momentum of the Million Man March, we encourage you to join your neighborhood association or other organization. We encourage you to adopt a child or adopt a prisoner and we encourage you to register to vote."

Zel,.5l Ms. Mitchell said a city social services official appeared at Tuesday's meeting, at the invitation of the group, to explain the procedures for adopting children.

The Rev. John L. Wright, chairman of the Maryland organization, said he expects the movement to work at the grass-roots level and up.

"I'm really encouraging people to get involved with the NAACP, the Urban League, the Boy Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts of America," Mr. Wright said. "I tell them to get involved in housing issues and to get involved with local governments."

The march apparently has caused a blip in voter registration.

Barbara E. Jackson, Baltimore city election administrator, said between 700 and 1,000 people filled out registration cards during the week after the march, either to make sure they were properly registered or to register in the first place.

Meanwhile, some organizations that help needy African-Americans say they are optimistic about long-term benefits from the march.

"I think there is a heightened awareness of the need to do certain things," said Donna Jones Stanley, executive director of Associated Black Charities. "One is to focus on the black community as a group and black organizations as entities that need to be strengthened so we can in turn strengthen the community."

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