TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – The 25th anniversary of the historic Million Man March was celebrated on Saturday in Topeka.
Hundreds of thousands of people marched in Washington D.C. 25 years ago, and to remember that day, a large group gathered at the Kansas State Capitol.
“They came from all over, and they came on buses, riding with each other, just to come that day to do a moment of atonement,” said Lisa Davis, the organizer of the Spirit of the Million Man March.
People originally marched on Oct. 16, 1995, when Louis Farrakhan asked for Black men to come together in the nation’s capital, to hear from speakers about ways to improve not just themselves, but also their families and communities.
Davis decided to organize a similar event as a way to commemorate that march and in hopes of giving Topeka’s younger generation advice from successful Black men, on how they became leaders.
“It was so important then, and it was like almost a million people,” Davis said. “I knew we weren’t going to get nothing like that, but I thought we should recognize it.
The men attending marched from the Kansas Judicial Center to the Capitol building, where they heard from musicians, singers and speakers. Topics discussed included the responsibility of a man, how to turn one’s life around after making mistakes and the importance of voting.
“Their voice is important, their ability to capture the responsibility of voting is very important,” said Courtney Dillard, one of the speakers at the march.
Dillard grew up in Topeka before heading to Atlanta. On Saturday, he traveled back to his hometown to share some of the values he learned growing up, and has continued to carry with him throughout his life.
“What it looks like for a person who left 30 years ago, to come back with such a bode and clear and confident voice, to talk about the very value system that I learned in Topeka,” Dillard said.
However, there was another message hoping to be displayed at the march: to show Black people in a positive light to the Topeka community, according to Davis.
“Our president that said we are thugs,” Davis said. “I wanted them to see us in a positive light and see that we are able to come out, and be in one accord.”
Davis also hoped the event helped to inspire the younger generation of Black men, who will go out into the world holding these values with them, just as Dillard did.
“It is probably the greatest thing that I’ve done this year by far,” Dillard said. “Just to come home, stand on the Capitol steps and talk to the people about voting.”
Davis hopes to be able to continue smaller events similar to Saturday’s in the future, so the message of the Million Man March is never forgotten.