Student-organized event draws inspiration from Million Man March

Snow came down Saturday morning during the march activities. (Jake McLernon)

Bundled in warm jackets atop of business suits, members of the Mason community took to Patriot Circle this weekend to emulate the Million Man March that took place nearly two decades ago. 

The first-ever Mason Man March, a campus-scaled version of 1995’s Million Man March, drew support Saturday predominately from Mason’s African-American community and the student groups that organized it. Open to the whole Mason community, the event consisted of reflections from speakers on today’s issues facing the black community and a march around Mason Circle complete with a campus police motorcade.

Starting from Dewberry Hall in the Johnson Center, 31 male and female members marched with the motorcade leading them all the way around Patriot Circle to Northern Neck, passing by Southside and ending at the Mason statue. 

"I'm happy if somebody can walk away and know one person who they can go back and take that message to," said Britt Wright, an organizer of the march and a brother of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. 

"A lot of people in our age don't even know what [the Million Man March] was about, so we're trying to inform people and generate that same spirit," said Greg Bannister, another organizer of the march and a member of G.E.N.T. Men. 

The Million Man March, held on October 16, 1995, in Washington, D.C., was an event in a larger movement to gather attention for the economic and social issues facing the African American community. It was also a day of reflection for the African American community on the image of the African American man.

Minister Louis Farrakhan organized the march in 1995, also delivering the keynote speech. Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam religious movement, is viewed as a controversial figure for his views on politics and religion and rhetoric, receiving both praise and heavy criticism. Recent activity includes the Obama campaign distancing itself from Farrakhan’s then-support for his presidential bid in 2008, and comments implying intentional levee destruction to wipe out black population in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Mark C. Hopson, a Mason communication professor, attended the Million Man March and spoke during the Mason Man March’s reflection. In his remarks, Hopson recognized that Farrakhan was a controversial figure, and while he “didn’t immediately pick up the call,” he participated to “stand up and do something that represented some belief, some action.”

“I think that [the Mason Man March] is not only an extension of a great moment which happened about 16 years ago, but It’s also the planting of another seed of things for years and years to come,” Hopson said. “Hopefully this feeling, this mood and sentiment will increase with each and every action.”

The march had been in planning since November 2011 and was a collaboration between G.E.N.T Men, the Black Student Alliance, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc.  

At the end of the march, some of the participants who walked reflected on what they had done. 

“It was kind of a reminder to say that we need to take care of what needs to be done on and off this campus to set our future in stone and be successful,” said Emmett Nyamey, a brother of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. 

“It was a feeling of accomplishment just to see how not just black males, but males in general come together and do something that hasn’t been done before,” said Gabriel Hamilton, a brother of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. “We all knew that it was for the greater cause.” 

Wright and Bannister, expect the Mason Man March to become a campus tradition.

“I don’t think anybody’s ever done anything like this, so we can take it from being a reflection to making it a Mason tradition,” Wright said.

“This will be the first of many [marches] that we’re going to do,“ Bannister said while thanking everyone for coming. “[The march is] supposed to impact the whole community and bring us all out together as one [to] embrace men, not only black men, but every man to help one together out so we can help accomplish the dream that Martin Luther King Jr. had.”

Some of the participants say they will come back to campus for future marches.  

“I will most definitely be marching next year,” Hamilton said, “this is something that is going to be going on for a long time. Even when I graduate, and if I’m still in the area, I’m going to make sure to come out and march.”


Your rating: None Average: 3 (2 votes)
Student Media Group: