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Forum Recaps Million Man March

By James M. Wahl
Staff Reporter

Building on the euphoria generated by Monday's rally of hundreds of thousands of black men in Washington for the "Million Man March," over 60 people crowded into the third floor lounge of the predominately black living group Chocolate City for an open forum Wednesday night.

Organized by Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, the march on the National Mall was billed as a "day of atonement" for black men across the nation, drawing 400,000 participants, according to National Park Service estimates. Organizers of the event say that the count was closer to 2 million.

With memories of the rally fresh in their minds, several students who attended the rally opened the discussion by describing their experience.

"We got to the march by 4:30 a.m. when it was still pitch dark and there were already 100,000 people there. By 8:30 a.m. we had made our way up to the front and kept lifting each other up on our shoulders," said Greg A. Shell '97, one of 25 members of Chocolate City at the march.

Participants awestruck

Inspired and excited, participants described the solidarity and resolve demonstrated by black men from across the nation. "We showed America the unity and power of blacks on Clinton's doorstep," said Craig M. Robinson '97. "I think that it was especially important that black men from MIT were present since we represent the future."

But not everyone at the forum was impressed. "I can't separate the fact of who Farrakhan is and what he is trying to do. I can't be a part of anything that will further Farrakhan and his racist and bigoted doctrine," said Michael W. Tucker '98, referring to controversy over remarks made by Farrakhan about Jews and whites.

Such questions about the legitimacy of Farrakhan's leadership, however, were quickly rebutted with the idea that the event was so potentially beneficial to the black community that it transcended any single man.

"Farrakhan should not be part of the argument," said Peter Hardie, 39, executive director of Roxbury Youthworks. "There is a lot of positivity here. We need to stop debating the march and start talking about how we can make a difference in the community where it really means something."

His response was met with a chorus of support and applause.

What to do now?

But most people attending the forum were caught up short by the question: What can we do now?

For example, the issue of the importance of political action -- particularly voting -- was mentioned by several people at the forum. But when someone asked how many people in the room were currently registered to vote, only seven hands were raised.

Later in the evening, though, the group's mood became more determined and optimistic. "The media and other people talk about what they want to see for the black community," said Marlo V. Kemp '96.

"But they are not directly affected, we are,"Kemp said. "And therefore, we have to do whatever we can to get involved in our communities -- we need to help ourselves."