Just two days before the Million Woman March, an organizer stood at an airline ticket counter, cash in hand, to pay for Winnie Mandela's ticket from South Africa.
The sight underscored the greatest strength and weakness of the march scheduled for Saturday - its grass-roots organization."It has these dramas and these hurdles," march spokeswoman Barbara Smith said, referring to a momentary glitch in getting the event's most famous speaker to Philadelphia. "Nothing is going to hurt these women or this march."
Designed to revitalize black families and communities, the women's march hopes to recapture the spirit of the Million Man March in Washington two years ago.
But organizational problems have abounded. Co-chairwoman Asia Coney paid the $10,000 city permit just before the deadline. Organizers wrongly announced Coretta Scott King and Rosa Parks would attend. Voice mail boxes are frequently too full to take messages and telephone calls go unreturned.
"This whole thing has had controversy," organizer Phile Chionesu acknowledged Thursday.
Still, organizers say they are proud they never handed their march over to slick marketers or banked on a big name the way that the Million Man March was associated with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
"We have done things that have challenged the status quo," Chionesu said.
"Sisters have been talking about this for a long time," she said.