The University Record, January 23, 1996

Million Man March panel draws crowd of 300

By Jared Blank 

"A day of atonement and reconciliation" was how Lawrence A. Coleman, coordinator of Christians and Muslims for the Million Man March, characterized the March during the Martin Luther King Day symposium, "The Million Man March: Where Do We Go from Here?" A crowd of 300 heard a panel discuss the implications of the Oct. 16 March, held in Washington, D.C., and organized by controversial Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

Coleman said the March was necessary because of the country's racist history. "This land of my birth is a land of hate anddiscrimination---a land where people in general are hateful" and where "producers" use the mass media to "control the attitude of the electorate," Coleman said.

He stressed the need for African Americans to become self-reliant and not dependent on the producers. "Many of you will be manipulators for the producers. We want to depend upon ourselves for economic reliance." However, "without atonement and reconciliation, we will only be richer fools," he said.

Coleman suggested many ways that men could continue the positive spirit of the March, including: continuing your education; improving family relationships; sharing your skills and knowledge with others; re-creating neighborhoods; and mobilizing your community by registering people to vote. "Become committed warriors to the struggle," Coleman said.

"It is my conclusion that Martin Luther King would have been a fervent supporter of the Million Man March, despite the controversies that surrounded Minister Farrakhan," said Hanley Norment, president of the state of Maryland NAACP.

He discussed observations he made about the March that he felt made it unique among other demonstrations in Washington. He cited that the goal and agenda were "conservative and based on the American dream," that the March sought no specific demands from the government and that it had "continuing and aftermath activities to help bring about achievement of its goals."

Norment suggested three "self-help initiatives" to continue the momentum of the March.

 

Be an active watchdog and advocate in local government.

 

Cease electing and defending the election of African Americans to office simply because they are African Americans.

 

Increase education by restructuring public school systems to meet needs of African Americans.

Lester Spence, a doctoral student in political science who attended the March, expressed some frustration about the amount of work that still needs to be done to move the country toward equality for all. "There are so many things that have oppressed Blacks, it is difficult to articulate a single strategy to combat them."

Dawud Muhammad, area representative of the Nation of Islam, dismissed Farrakhan's critics who have called him a racist and an anti-Semite. Muhammad said the attacks on Farrakhan's sincerity were an insult to the Black community, asking, "Would two million peoples go and follow a racist and a bigot?"

The symposium was sponsored by the Black Undergraduate Law Association, the U-M Chapter of the NAACP and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity (Epsilon Chapter).