On Oct. 16, 1995, African-American males descended in droves on the District of Columbia for a historic gathering on the National Mall. Prophetically dubbed the Million Man March ahead of time, the gathering lived up to its billing, with anywhere between 1 and 2 million brothers attending – depending upon the news source.
Over the course of the day-long event, organized by Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam, the audience listened to such luminaries as the Rev. Al Sharpton, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Rev. Ben Chavis, Congressman Charles Rangel, Kwanzaa creator Ron Karenga, Stevie Wonder and Los Angeles Sentinel publisher Danny Bakewell. They heard from female leaders, too, including attorney Faye Williams, poet Maya Angelou, civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks, Dr. Dorothy Height and Dr. Betty Shabazz, the widow of the late Malcolm X, to name a few.
While the speeches touched on a range of themes, they unified to paint a touching picture of Black-on-Black love in stark contradiction to the prevailing negative images then disseminated by the mainstream media. All of the above has been faithfully preserved by director Glenn Towery in Long Live the Spirit of the Million Man March, a documentary serving as a priceless keepsake of what was also referred to as a “Day of Atonement.”
To his credit, Towery, with the help of Kenyan cameraman Linus Leting, managed to capture not only what transpired up on the stage, but the intimate reflections of many lesser-known participants, who share from the heart just what the experience meant to them. Given the escalation of the host of woes affliction the Black community over the intervening years, that makes this memento of more optimistic times all the more priceless.