Multitudes of people from across the country will shortly converge on the National Mall in Washington D.C. to celebrate the two decades’ mark of a march that attracted over one million Black men.

With the Washington Monument in the background, participants in the Million Man March gather on the Mall in Washington Monday Oct. 16, 1995. Tens of thousands of black men from across America gathered at the base of the Capitol in a rally of unity, self-affirmation and protest. (AP Photo/Doug Mills)

With the Washington Monument in the background, participants in the Million Man March gather on the Mall in Washington Monday Oct. 16, 1995. Tens of thousands of black men from across America gathered at the base of the Capitol in a rally of unity, self-affirmation and protest. (AP Photo/Doug Mills)

The 20th anniversary of the Million Man March will take place on Oct. 10  with the theme “Justice or Else!” There will be speeches from prominent civil rights activists, national and local D.C. politicians and musical selections from artists. The keynote address will be delivered by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

“We need to go back to the 60s,” Cora Masters Barry, a former first lady of the District and a force behind the 1995 Million Man March. “All of this has got to stop and that’s why we are saying ‘Justice or Else!’

In 1995, Farrakhan issued a call for one million Black men to come to the District to atone for their individual and collective negative behavior among the race. Well over one million Black men responded on Oct. 16, 1995 on the National Mall.

This year, leaders from the march 20 years ago, decided that it was time to re-dedicate Black people to the principles of the first march but broaden its focus.

“We want Latinos and Native Americans to join us this year,” the Rev. Willie Wilson, senior pastor of Union Temple Baptist Church in Southeast D.C., said. “They have had their names and cultures changed by the oppressor and the oppressor has used the education process to rob them of their self-esteem. That is why you see alcohol and drug use rampant among Native Americans.”

Women were urged by Farrakhan not to attend the 1995 march but this year, the female presence in the planning of the march is considerable (see story on A3).

“I am on the steering committee of the march with the Rev. Willie Wilson and Minister Ishmael Muhammad,” Barry said. “We have women working with the march top to bottom.”

Barry’s husband, the late Marion S. Barry, was the mayor of the District when the march took place. Mayor Barry was a strong supporter of the event and did whatever he could to see that it was a success.

However, there is talk among march leaders in the city that D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) is disengaged from the event. That is simply not true, LaToya Foster, a spokeswoman for Bowser, said.

“The mayor is fully up to speed with what is going on with the march,” Foster said. “The march will be taking place with some other events in the District that day but the mayor is aware of the activities that will take place. The administration is working with the leaders of the Million Man March.”

A lot of organizational meetings for the 1995 march took place at the headquarters of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity. The organization is playing an important role this year, as well.

“The Million Man March anniversary leaders are using our offices for mobilization plans,” Steven Ballard, Phi Beta Sigma’s deputy executive director, said. “Benjamin Chavis is one of the leaders of the march, just as he was 20 years ago and he facilitated the use of the headquarters then and now. Sigma will be out in force on Oct. 10 and our national president, Jonathan Mason, will be one of the speakers on the program.”

There will be speakers on a wide variety of causes, including District statehood. D.C. Council member Vincent Orange (D-At Large) said that he will be speaking at the march on the District being admitted to the union as the 51st state.

“We know that theme of the march is ‘Justice or Else!’,” Orange said. “We have a theme to go along with that, ‘Statehood or Else!’ We have nearly 700,000 American citizens in D.C. that has no voting representation in the U.S. House and Senate and yet we send $3 billion to the federal government in the form of taxes and 2,000 residents have died in America’s wars.”

Orange’s colleague, LaRuby May (D-Ward 8) wants her constituents to participate in the march.

“We need to support positive Black men when they are doing the work of the community,” May said. “I am really interested in what is going to happen beyond ’10-10′ and the initiatives to help Black people.”

There has been criticism that the 1995 march produced little if any results. Barry disputes that assertion.

“The Million Man March got records number of people registered to vote, it got a large number of Black kids adopted, crime came down in the Black community for a while and Black men went back to their families,” she said.