Philadelphia prepares to host 16th anniversary weekend focused on hunger, violence and politics
By Jehron Muhammad, Special to the NNPA from The Final Call –
The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan has chosen this city as the host site for the 16th anniversary of the Million Man March. This year's celebration (Oct. 7-9) is being called the 16th anniversary of the Million Man March weekend.
Activities will include a city-wide Jummah congregational prayer service (Friday) a reception (Friday), so Min. Farrakhan can thank those who participated in Philadelphia's contribution to the Million Man March in 1995 and those assisting in organizing the 16th anniversary celebration.
Activities also will include a Saturday, Oct. 8, leadership forum with Min Farrakhan, a presentation by the Nation of Islam Research Group and a food drive to bring light to Philadelphia's severe hunger problem and a major address by Min. Farrakhan Sunday, Oct. 9, at the Philadelphia Civic Center.
The food drive will also coincide with the Minister's lecture as the event's local organizing committee is asking each of the expected audience of 17,000 to bring a non-perishable food item to the venue.
The 1995 march was the largest gathering in U.S. history. The significance of the march was increased because the two million plus participants that gathered in Washington D.C. were men. Women were asked to stay at home and offer encouragement, as Black men came to D.C. to recommitment themselves to their families and to their communities.
During a Sept. 14 press conference hosted by the Philadelphia local organizing committee, Nation of Islam Student Minister Rodney Muhammad opened by saying the weekend event is “designed to reignite and … reenergize … the spirit of the Million Man March.”
Music mogul and chair of Universal Communities, Kenny Gamble, chairman of the Local Organizing Committee, emphasized the importance of people of all colors getting involved in weekend events.
Asked about weekend activities, the former managing director of the city of Philadelphia and the events operations person Joe Certaine said, Min. Farrakhan would participate in a “leadership meeting that focuses on young people.” During the three-hour session the Minister will “in depth” go over issues that affect the everyday lives of youth, he said. “An action plan would be produced as a part of our activity moving forward,” Certaine added.
After the press conference, during an exclusive interview with The Final Call, Certaine described the weekend focus on three themes: street violence, hunger and political accountability:
• Concerning street violence: “We know that we must work together in our communities to combat the escalating violence that stifles the peace and stability required for families to grow and prosper in our neighborhoods.
“Philadelphia has an array of organizations that are trying to combat street violence. Some have been around for decades. In many cases, the organizations all compete for some of the same money sparingly doled out by local, state and federal agencies or private foundations. They also compete for support from the elected officials, who either endorse or discount the individual organization's efforts, based upon whether or not that organization is aligned with a specific politicians.
“We have the means and ability to stop street violence by collective action in our communities, not by organizational competition. In many instances we can demonstrate our strength in combating this problem by working together. We should begin finding ways where we can collectively impact this problem and stop the fragmentation that seems to plague every step toward progress. A direct-action, frontline coalition of leaders and organizations is the best way to confront this problem at the neighborhood level. It will be difficult and vocal but we must pool our talent for the greater good.”
• Concerning hunger: “Philadelphia is the poorest of the major big cities, in the United States, with a population of over one million people. The overall poverty rate is approximately 25 percent and according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index recent survey in the first congressional district, almost half of the families with children (49.6 percent) suffer from hunger. These facts make this largely Philadelphia district the 2nd hungriest congressional district in the United States.
“How can we accept the fact that half our families, most of whom are families of color, can't buy enough food for their children not to be hungry? As we prepare for the Million Man March anniversary, we must also mobilize and introduce an action plan that begins with each person bringing at least one non-perishable item to the Pennsylvania Convention Center on Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011. This will be the kick-off of the coalition's (the Philadelphia Millions More Movement) Campaign Against Hunger. We must help our people to feed their children.”
• Concerning political accountability: “How is it that these economic and social problems continue unabated in Philadelphia, given the political representation we're supposed to have at the local, state and federal level? Why have we allowed the elected officials and their appointed subordinates to ignore the fact that they are supposed to be public servants, accountable to their constituents? Why is it that we do not challenge our elected representatives to be more effective? Why can't they aggressively support an agenda prepared by community leadership? Our strength is our unity of purpose. In Pennsylvania in 2012, all state representatives, one half of all state senators and all members of Congress will be elected. There will also be a presidential election. Now is the time to enforce political accountability.
“The plan of action being proposed could serve as a model for the revitalization of the Millions More Movement in different areas of the country. Any person running for office must have an opportunity to explain what they have done, what they intend to do and how we can all work together to build practical solutions to these problems and others. In some cities, one or two of the core issues may change but political accountability should be consistent throughout the formation.”
These “short term goals,” according to Certaine, are to “serve to mobilize our people.” Having an “immediate impact” is important and focusing on issues that affect all of our lives “hasten the unity of our communities,” he said.
“This commemoration couldn't come at a better time,” added Minister Rodney Muhammad, a member of The Greater Philadelphia Local Organizing Committee.
“We stand in violation of the pledge that we made in D.C. that day. That pledge represents a code of conduct and because it was violated on every point, our communities continue to suffer. Our failure to stand by our pledge has allowed disunity to creep into our communities, making them worse off than they were in 1995,” said the local representative of the Nation of Islam's Muhammad Mosque No. 12, who also oversees the Nation's Delaware Valley Region.
The pledge taken by the men assembled on the National Mall 16 years ago was a solemn promise to respect women, care for their children, rebuild their communities, enter into international trade and commerce and refrain from unwarranted acts of violence on one another. The march unleashed a tidal wave of activity that beat back the Republican onslaught to capture Congress and 1.7 million additional Black voters put the Democratic Party back in office. Thousands of children were adopted, which was one of the march platforms, while urban peace activists went to work curbing violence, which led to a drop in urban crime rates. Fathers reunited with their children and mentoring programs, businesses and other community-building initiatives took place.
“The main thing about the Million Man March that makes it so important in our history, is that it was a march that we created on our own, and we paid for it on our own. It brought about a unity for the first time, a unity of Black men, coming together for common cause and to face a common problem. It brought us from every area of persuasion that you could find us, in America,” Min. Muhammad continued. “There were Christians, Muslims, nationalists, integrationists and separatists. From every philosophical and religious persuasion and political persuasion, you could find us there at the Million Man March.”