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Men Reflect Back on Changes A Year After Million Man March

By Jon Jeter
The Washington Post
CHICAGO

Eric Prince was one of a few hundred people who gathered outside a church on this city's South Side Thursday to commemorate the second anniversary of the Million Man March. As the unfailingly polite 28-year-old stood under the gray sky, he contemplated what the historic rally meant both to him and the nation.

His own life was changed. Encouraged by Louis Farrakhan's message of self-reliance, he quit his job as a paramedic and began his own marketing company with a friend, Deleon Howard, who gave up a career as a mortgage banker and model.

Now, inspired by Farrakhan's summons for black men to be more responsible, Prince and Howard are organizing a local effort to send women to the Million Women March being planned in Philadelphia next week.

"The march just made us feel like we could do a lot more for our community," Prince said. "We had to come out today because it's important to show our support for those who support us."

Then he thought for a moment, reflecting on whether the rest of the country has responded like he has. "No, it hasn't changed the world. People who are looking for immediate change aren't necessarily going to find it. That hasn't really happened."

Prince and Howard represent both the wide-reaching influence and the limitations of the Million Man March and, perhaps, its nominal leader, Farrakhan. The gathering of hundreds of thousands of black men in Washington was a tremendous accomplishment, but two years later, its impact seems more soulful than seismic.

The march may have been a seminal moment in many African Americans' lives, but not necessarily the beginning of any political, economic or social movement.

Consequently, supporters say, any difference it has made in black communities across the country may be hard for outsiders to see or measure by any statistical yardstick. But they are real, just the same.

"Oh, there is definitely something in the air," said civil rights activist Dick Gregory, who was one of perhaps 200 celebrants who gathered at Fernwood United Methodist Church.