Millions More Movement Descends on U.S. Capital

Busloads of people are on the way to Washington, D.C., for the Millions More Movement. Deloit Parker, who runs the Self-Help for African People through Education (SHAPE) Community Center in Houston, talks about this weekend's event, which comes on the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March. Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, organized both events.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

African-Americans from across the nation are on their way to Washington, DC, traveling in cars, trains, planes and by the busload. They're coming en masse to the nation's capital for the Millions More Movement. The event, organized by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, marks the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March on the National Mall.

(Soundbite of 1995 speech)

Reverend LOUIS FARRAKHAN (Nation of Islam): Who went wrong?

Crowd: (In unison) Me!

Rev. FARRAKHAN: Who gotta fix it?

Crowd: (In unison) Me!

Rev. FARRAKHAN: Who should we look to?

Audience: (In unison) Me!

Rev. FARRAKHAN: Yeah! And then if you add another letter to M-E, you get an N. What does that say?

Crowd: (In unison) Men!

Rev. FARRAKHAN: Men!

Crowd: (In unison) Men.

Rev. FARRAKHAN: Because in the beginning God made man. And if we are at a new beginning, we've got to make a man all over again but make him in the image and the likeness of God.

NORRIS: Minister Louis Farrakhan at the Million Man March in 1995.

This year organizers promise a much more diverse crowd. For one thing, women are encouraged to attend, along with the young, the old and people of different races. Deloyd Parker is the leader of the SHARE Community Center in Houston; that stands for Self-Help for African People Through Education. He's on his way to Washington with two busloads of people. Many of them are marching for the first time. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The community center is called SHAPE, not SHARE.]

Mr. DELOYD PARKER (Leader, SHAPE Community Center): They heard about the Million Man March 10 years ago. I know one young man, Omar(ph), who came all the way from San Antonio, Texas, to join with us. This is his first Million Man March. So people are going all out of their way to get on board, to get on the--so to speak, get on the bus. You know, we have two busloads right now all en route, from schoolteachers to educators to children, elders. I mean, every age group is included on this bus.

NORRIS: Now you took off from Houston. Houston has seen a lot in the last few months. First, the city opened its arms to a lot of people who were evacuated from the Gulf Coast, New Orleans and the surrounding area after Hurricane Katrina. And then the city found itself in the path of Hurricane Rita. Has that had an effect on this journey?

Mr. PARKER: Of course it did. How would it not? It had a significant effect on us because when people are overwhelmed with natural and man-made disasters, because I definitely consider what happened to be natural and enhanced by man to be made worse, people were kind of troubled, and people were economically impacted in terms of their ability to go on this trip. That's why we made space and seats available for many of those brothers and sisters from Port Arthur, Texas, from Louisiana and Mississippi, because they wanted to experience it. They left their homes and went to Houston. Some of them have to start over again. They wanted to go to DC, so they can get some direction and some guidance and get something that they can bring back and help them to regroup in their lives in Houston, Texas, or in connected cities.

NORRIS: In 1995, at the first march, it was billed as a day of atonement, really, for men to come together and take stock of their lives and think about what kind of men they wanted to be as they moved forward. How will be the march be different, and what's the message this year?

Mr. PARKER: The difference is not in the march. The difference is in who all is embracing the spirit of the march. We're still talking about atonement, but at the same time we want to do it as a family, do it as a community. And that's what's in this bus: family members, community members. People from all religious or spiritual backgrounds all are on this bus and excited about going to Washington, DC, because we know that we are going for a purpose, and that's to get some direction, so we can go back home and strengthen our constitution.

NORRIS: Deloyd Parker runs the SHAPE Community Center in Houston; that stands for Self-Help for African People Through Education.

Thanks so much for talking to us.

Mr. PARKER: Thank you very much.

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