- The Washington Times - Friday, July 21, 2000

You remember the axiom: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. So you declare, "I will not boogaloo." You won't dance, won't move to any tune sung by the calypso-singer-turned-Nation-of-Islam-leader Louis Farrakhan.
It has nothing to do with "million" being in the title. But since 1995, when he declared the first "million march," you have become sick up to here with the word. There was the "Million Women March," the "Million Youth March," and more recently the "Million Mom March," against guns. You wouldn't be surprised if next year the People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals called a "Million Minks March" on the National Mall in Washington to lash out at those women who refuse to surrender their furs. None of these groups who promised millions actually have produced a million. But you don't begrudge anyone's aspirations.
What really has you riled is Louie's audacity; he thinks he can tap into everyone's emotions once again for his own self-aggrandizement. His last performance still lingers. That was five years ago when, sporting a slick hairdo and devilish smile, he said all the right words and touted a razor-sharp analysis about the political, socioeconomic dilemma confronting African-Americans, brothers and sisters alike. He even threw in a little numerology and Masonic history, for mystical effect. You, an acolyte of the New Age crew, liked that stuff, although it caused some to wonder if he was mentally stable.
It was seductive the way he called out brothers, demanding that they explain themselves, ask sisters' forgiveness, start acting like they understand the role of men in relationships, in families, and in communities. Too many women had been burdened for decades, working multiple jobs, rearing children alone, fighting drug dealers, and all other manner of rodents. But there he was, a smooth talker with a sparkling vocabulary who didn't mince words, taking brothers to task and calling for a "Day of Atonement and Reconciliation." The political junkie in you also liked that he promised to create a third party that would challenge those others who ignored African-Americans or took them for granted. Yeah, he had you wrapped bow-tie tight around his finger.
Months later, reality came banging at your door. He and his minions couldn't account for all the money that had been collected. The promise of a third party fizzled, and if there was any movement to establish economic development projects, you never saw any in your city where the same folks who were poor before October 1995 still are poor. And the brothers, well, all you know is that too many sisters are still rearing children alone, without their fathers as active participants.
So this time you won't take the calypso singer's hand. It's fine that he's called for this Million Family March slated for Oct. 16. He says America is in trouble mostly because of the disintegration of the family. His point is underscored by a 50 percent divorce rate and the fact that 60 percent of all African-American children currently live in households without their biological fathers. You know the dysfunction created by all of this; your own life offers testimony, although somehow you have risen above the suffering you endured for decades. But there are millions of others who are in pain, troubled by the breakdown of their families, and thus their communities.
Who wouldn't embrace the "Declaration of Family Bill of Rights and Responsibility," which advocates, among other things that families have the right "to livable income but also the responsibility to seek self-help, self-determination, and shared responsibility for eliminating poverty and economic inequities; the right to participate in the political process and the duty to help govern themselves through informed voting, organizing, supporting and providing community-focused leadership; and the right to be free from inequities and discrimination based on immigration status, race, ethnicity, gender, age and religion but also the responsibility to internally and externally resist prejudice and bigotry?" You certainly agree with that 10-part statement, and the eight steps of "atonement."
But you have heard it all before. The repertoire hasn't changed. Some people might say that's a sign of the Islamic leader's commitment, his determination, his sincerity. It also could be a signal for intransigence or constipation. One thing is clear to you: If things are to improve in black America, or America in general, it will take more than a march on the Mall, more than declarations, and pledges. And, if the calypso man, facing his own mortality, wants to reassert himself one more time on the circuit, get the politicians and others all worked up, get them to provide him an audience or yet another audition, well, that's their time being wasted. You will not be one in a million to vouch for him. If you had your way he'd be the only one at the Mall come this October. The whole affair would be, to use a clich, like the sound of one hand clapping his, not yours.

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