Grass-roots activists from across the country are working to organize a Million Woman March in Philadelphia this fall, an event sponsors hope will generate the sense of solidarity among black women that the Million Man March ignited among black men.
The march is scheduled for Oct. 25 but, so far, the planned event shows signs of serious organizational problems. Philadelphia city officials, while continuing to plan for a large march, are concerned because march organizers had to be pressed before applying for the necessary permits. Also, they said, organizers this week failed to show up for two crucial planning meetings with city officials.
“So far we have been unable to get the sponsors in for a meeting with representatives of municipal agencies,” said Joseph C. Certaine, Philadelphia’s managing director. “But we are confident that we will eventually get together.”
In addition, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, who is prominently mentioned in written materials being circulated by march organizers, said she knows virtually nothing about the planned event.
“We don’t know anything about it, although we have been trying to find out,” Waters said.
“We don’t know what the Million Woman March is. We don’t understand who is organizing it or what its purpose is. It may be a good thing and something we can endorse, but at this point, we just don’t know anything about it.”
During a Washington news conference Wednesday, local organizers said the march is being patterned on the Million Man March, which had its share of planning problems but in the end drew some 800,000 black men to the Mall on Oct. 16, 1995, making it one of the largest events in the city’s history.
“This is about rebuilding our foundation as a people,” said Zola Aminata, national spokeswoman for the march. She said Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, former wife of South African President Nelson Mandela, is confirmed as a march speaker and that Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who led the Million Man March, has endorsed the event.
Aminata, an activist in Philadelphia, said organizers hope the march will serve as a catalyst for getting black women more involved in grass-roots efforts including establishing independent black schools, forming rites of passage centers, and helping women making the transition from prison to their communities.