From: Chuck Tarver <nero@UDel.Edu>
Date: Tue, 17 Oct 1995 23:38:25 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: MMM my experience.
I wasn't planning to share my MMM impressions so soon. I'm still processing. I have shared a great deal already with family and friends but was hoping to have something more developed before I shared it with the folks on glbpoc. However, since I consider folks on glbpoc family and friend, you'll get my feelings warts and all.
When I made the decision to attend the march and take my oldest son Curtis, age 13, I deliberately decided to turn off my brain (for me not difficult at all) and just feel and observe.
Upon arriving at UD's Center for Black Culture, I could feel I had made the right decision. It was electric. My son and I arrived at around 1:30am. The students--young men and women--had just completed a march across campus. There was still a lot of emotional energy left in the center as faculty, staff and other students arrived. The director of the center was around busily greeting folks as they arrived and making sure folks going to the march signed in. Folks were hugging, laughing, and talking.
As we got ready to leave, student leaders from the BSU and NAACP began assigning passengers to each of the five vans. One student said he would transport the faculty, staff and guest in one van. It was immediately knicknamed the "Geritol" van and we all laughed. Fifty one people travelled in our caravan. Close to 100 people from the University attended.
We left at around 2am. Even the trip down I-95 normally 2 hours was exhillirating. THE ROAD WAS PACKED! even at that hour. Most of the vehicles were filled with black men. We saw an accident just before the beltway split. Apparently a car had driven off the road hit a pole and burst into flame. Brothers were all around fanning flames, helping victims, whatever they could do. We heard that five passengers were in the vehicle but only two had been pulled to safety. (I have no further confirmation)
We arrived at 5am at the New Carrollton metro station. Busses, cars, and vans were arriving from all over the place. I saw all types of brothers board the metro--all sizes, shapes, colors. Some even looked (stereotypically gay). The train was packed but not noisy. I could hear conversations from throughout the car. Brothers were introducing themselves and identifying where they came from. I heard, Detroit,
Chicago, St. Louis, and countless other cities and states mentioned all within a few feet of each other. Without even intending to I made mental notes of the folks nearest me.
By 6am we were near the Capital steps so that we could take part in the opening prayer ceremonies which began at 7am. It was awesome to see the sun rise over the Capital. We first heard music, punctuated with talking, laughter, and a general sense of comeraderie. They were playing Earth Wind and Fire (So you know I was happy!) I noticed that I was directly behind a male couple. We acknowledged each other. People were standing shoulder to shoulder. There were a few women present at that hour of the morning as well.
There was a lot of touching. As people would move through the crowd they would grab a shoulder or put their hands on someone's waist or back to steady themselves as they moved. Groups would snake through the crowd frat-style--arm in arm or one hand on the shoulder of the brother in front of them. People stepped on toes, cordially exchanged excusses and moved on. No one seemed ruffled or violated.
As an example of just how cordial everyone was here's one that actually happend to me. While moving through the crowd stepping on my share of toes, I noticed another brother LIMPING through the crowd. As we passed each other graceful person that I am, I KICKED HIM IN HIS BAD LEG. He winced in pain but as I excused myself he was cordial. Try that one in an ordinary crowd of black men or any group for that matter.
We got the usual, "What did they do let you all out?!" When we said we were from Delaware. One man near me said he was from Boston. I told him that was where my son was born. He said his uncle had started the black newspaper in Wilmington. I let him know they are archived in the University library's special collections. People got acquainted quickly and easily.
Just before the prayer service started they played James Brown's "Get On Up" You should have seen the crowd reaction. The piece was stopped midway to prepare for the service. People started chanting "Get Up, Turn it Up" and I'm Black and I'm Proud to the tune of the music.
As soon as someone stepped to the microphone, the crowd got chillingly quiet and solemn. The male couple in front of me prayed with one arm around each other and the other hand raised upward. They were obvious to me and I'm sure others. We all prayed silently.
At around 9am, my son Curtis and I went by his grandparent's house so that he could get a nap. While he was napping I watched TV and talked with my inlaws. They don't have cable, but sat transfixed when ever a news break would come on. Before leaving to return to the mall. I happened to the Washington Post on the dinning room table where Curtis was eating lunch. I asked him did he recognize the man in the picture. It was the man we were standing near on the metro. His name was James Watkins. The same as his grandfather.
We returned to the Mall at 1pm for the ending speeches. We heard Maya Angelou, Stevie Wonder and countless others. Curtis would periodically take his note pad out of his backpack to take notes or snap a picture with his camera.
We did a lot of walking hoping to run into people we knew but I told him that would be unlikely given the size of the crowd. When we left the mall area to visit the vendors we were still able to listen to the entire thing on the walkman, WPFW (89.3FM).
It was a great father and son sort of day. Curtis and I were both inspired.