On Oct. 16, Wildemere Park residents are celebrating the 27th anniversary of the Million Man March from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 3203 Montgomery Ave., Detroit. The Wildemere Park Neighborhood Association and Vonzie Whitlow, owner of Whitlow’s Barber Shop and alumni of the march, have partnered to gather the community for a celebration.
This breakfast celebration is a volunteer-driven event where residents raise funds among themselves and other sponsors for a community breakfast. One of the regular patrons of the occasion is Whitlow, and he has pledged to offer food for around 150 people at the event. Organizing this annual breakfast has also been his personal vow which started the year after the Million Man March, and he has not missed a year supporting it.
Coming back from the Million Man March in Washington, D.C. in 1995, Whitlow, and the others who attended, asked themselves: “What are you going to do when you get home? What are you going to do for your community?” For him, it was starting the annual breakfast, according to an interview he gave for the Detroit Free Press.
On October 16, 1995, the Million Man March, a political rally in support of African American unity and traditional family values, took place in Washington, D.C. It was one of the biggest gatherings of its sort in American history, with estimates of the march’s participants ranging from 400,000 to approximately 1.1 million, the majority of whom were African American males. While the march was called upon by the controversial religious Louis Farrakhan who has been banned on Facebook for extremism, the march had a lasting impact in the sense of community and among African Americans. Notable figures who showed support for the march included Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, and Dr. Cornel West.
“It was like people going down to the Red Sea when they was going to the promised land,” Whitlow described his experience going to the rally. “And the buses was lined up so far, and you could see all the buses coming back, hitting the turnpike. It looked like Christmastime, them buses just lined up coming back from the Million Man March. That was a beautiful sight.” He added that attending the rally was a deeply moving experience for many. “Then we got on the bus and everybody started giving testimony about what they learned, and a couple guys cried. One of the Detroit police gave a testimony and he cried, tears just running down.”
The Wildemere Park Neighborhood Association is also calling for donations and volunteers who would like to help make the annual community breakfast possible. For those interested in volunteering, you can check https://www.wildemerepark.org or visit their Facebook page.