Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Million Man March Echoes: Politics, Self-Reliance, Prayer

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Million Man March Echoes: Politics, Self-Reliance, Prayer

Article excerpt

A MONTH after rallying in Washington, many of the hundreds of thousands of black men who joined the Million Man March are striding back into their neighborhoods and making good on pledges to shoulder greater responsibility at home.

From joining citizens' patrols on "devil's night" in Detroit, to mentoring black youths in Philadelphia, to registering friends to vote in Atlanta, the men are invigorating grass-roots efforts to make their neighborhoods strong, safe, and sound.

Take the scene in a South Side church in Chicago, for instance. Nearly 100 marchers took their campaign for black empowerment one step further, endorsing a local candidate for Congress. Amid cheers and applause, the roomful of mostly middle-aged black men questioned candidates, including Jesse Jackson Jr., and voted in what organizer Rev. Al Demus called a "litmus test" of the march's power of political mobilization.

"I hope the candidates understand there is now a Million Man March society that is very concerned about how they will represent black people," said Carl McDonald, a construction manager attending the forum at Park Manor Christian Church.

Hopeful of building on this street-level momentum, an estimated 300 march leaders from around the country are scheduled to gather in the capital today to begin hammering out a national post-march agenda.

The three-day National African-American Leadership Summit is to bring together the two lead organizers of the march - summit convener Benjamin Chavis Jr. and Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam - as well as Joseph Lowery of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Urban League head Hugh Price, members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and NAACP officials.

The summit, to be held at Howard University, will unveil an economic development fund to nurture black-owned businesses and a national health plan for African Americans, the Rev. Mr. Chavis says.

Participants will also discuss a black political agenda, plans for a black political convention in 1996, and the progress of an ongoing drive to register an estimated 8 million eligible black voters.

Chavis denied, however, that the summit would consider founding an independent black political party.

"The agenda is not about party politics, but how to empower the black community politically, economically, and spiritually," Chavis said. "We have a tremendous network of activism, now it is a question of channeling that activism."

Regardless of the outcome of the Nov. 16-18 summit, local organizers say the real post-march agenda will be determined in the churches, schools, and streets of diverse black communities across the country.

"People are going on their own inspiration," says Tyrone Brooks, an Atlanta march organizer and Georgia state representative. "We don't need to be locked into any group. …

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