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20th anniversary of Million Man March generates pride, tenacity

WASHINGTON – Georgia lawyer Bill Murrain traveled to the nation’s capital for the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March and proudly stood side-by-side with three generations of black males: his sons, son-in-laws and five grandsons.

And last weekend, as he approached the White House, Murrain spoke with pride about the accomplishments of black Americans over the years, which includes the historic election of President Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president.

“The fact is, for all of its imperfections, we live in the most magnanimous country in the world,” said Murrain, who voted for Obama in both presidential elections.

“I am reassured that the next generation of black males has a brighter future ahead of them. They awaken to a First Family and a nation led marvelously by one of their race, President Obama, and my grandsons take it as a normal occurrence,” Murrain said. “It is their reality.”

Murrain was one of several hundred thousand African-American men and women who ventured to the National Mall for the anniversary of the Million Man March, which boasted a modern-day theme that resonated with many African-Americans and other people of color: “Justice or Else.”

Belal Smalls, 16 (right) and his cousin, Kaream McClary, 14, traveled from Charleston, S.C., to attend the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March.  (Photo by Andre Chung)
Belal Smalls, 16 (right) and his cousin, Kaream McClary, 14, traveled from Charleston, S.C., to attend the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March. (Photo by Andre Chung)

An estimated 400 bus trips were organized from across the country – from as far away as California – to hear Minister Louis Farrakhan call for an end to police violence against African-Americans while also demanding a halt to black-on-black crime, which kills more inner-city men than all other causes combined.

Among the thousands who converged on Washington – a crowd that was more diverse and younger than 20 years ago and with more women – was Dorothy Hill of Buffalo. At 80 years young, she jumped into her car and drove 401 miles from Buffalo to hear Farrakhan and to feel the spirit of the occasion.

“I just had to be here,” she said. “Too much is happening to the black community for me to just sit home.”

Dwayne Morgan, 36, drove nine hours from Indianapolis to Washington, D.C., with his nephew and four cousins.

“I wanted them to witness this event, and I wanted them to learn about what’s happening around them,” Morgan said, as he stood on the mall. “And I wanted them to learn something about themselves.”

Victor Pearson of suburban Baltimore came with four boys from his neighborhood, ages 11 through 14.

“They needed to experience this,” said Pearson, who has no children of his own. “I could have told them about it. But it would not have been the same. You can only get this feeling from being here, not someone telling you about it.”

Joe Wilburn traveled from Southern California to attend the march – an event he said he wasn’t about to miss.

“I was in prison when they held the first one. I told myself that if there was another one, I wouldn’t miss it,” Wilburn said. “And I feel blessed to be among such a feeling of positive people who want to see equal rights for all.

“Having been what I have been through, I had to come to be a part of something meaningful,” he added. “I feel good about myself.”

Lewis Allen, 14, from Indianapolis, said his family expects a positive change from his experience at the Million Man March, adding that he has a responsibility as a black teenager to learn more about African American history.

“They want me to leave Indianapolis as a boy,” Allen said, “and come back as a man.”

For her part, 80-year-old Dorothy Hill said she would drive back to her Buffalo home feeling replenished from her experience and hopeful for change.

“There’s a lot to be done, and I hope all the change that was talked about becomes reality,” she said. “It was a powerful day just to be here. Everyone felt like family. I can go home knowing I was a part of something very special.”

Curtis Binn contributed to this report.