On the second anniversary of the Million Man March, black men and women marked the occasion Thursday at scattered rallies around the country with some of the spirit but nowhere near the multitudes of the original gathering.
Louis Farrakhan, the minister of the Nation of Islam, which organized the march in 1995, had called for a "holy day of atonement," urging African-Americans to abstain from food, work and school on Thursday.It was impossible to tell just how many heeded the call. Rallies in Chicago, New York, Denver, Atlanta and Philadelphia were sparsely attended.
There were no throngs of black men on the Mall in Washington, where hundreds of thousands took part in the march two years ago. Nor did a crowd gather in front of the United Nations in New York as they did last year to hear Farrakhan or to protest his appearance.
The U.S. Postal Service, the nation's largest employer after the military, reported no significant absences among its 800,000 employees, nearly a fourth of whom are black. And at Morehouse College, the historically black institution in Atlanta, officials reported normal attendance.
In Denver, a rally organized by the Nation of Islam drew about 100 men and women to the steps of the state capitol. Participants said they hoped it would lead to an annual commemoration.
"Today is about establishing tradition for our generations to come," observed John Heath, the owner of a private school for black children. "It's more than a gathering for the moment. It's a gathering for a lifetime."
In an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America," Far-rak-han said he hoped that the anniversary of the Million Man March would be observed beyond the African-American community and become "a major holy day among not only our people but I believe the American people as well."