- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 17, 2000

Some came to hear the speeches. Some came to advocate a cause.
But many who trekked to the Mall for yesterday's Million Family March, sponsored by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, appeared to be out solely to support families.
"I wanted to show my son a piece of history," said Victor Defrieitas, 35, of Silver Spring, Md., as he lay on the grass next to Victor Jr., 8. "This is just a chance for everyone to get together and unite."
The event, touted as "interreligious, international and interracial," drew women in African dresses, young men in Nike shirts and bow-tied members of the Nation of Islam's security branch, the Fruit of Islam.
The predominantly black crowd sat on the grass in the sun and looked up at jumbo TV screens, or crowded around speakers at stages near the U.S. Capitol, Lincoln Memorial or Washington Monument.
Others strolled the length of the Mall as bold statements like "We have come together out of necessity" echoed from loudspeakers.
"I'm a Teamster. I'm pretty much involved in things like this," said Charles Payne, 49, who drove 14 hours from Memphis, Tenn. "The family is on the downward spiral. Anytime you break the family up you do a disservice to mankind."
Army Sgt. Derrick Detria of Woodbridge, Va., took the day off and drove into town with his wife and two little girls. "I didn't go to the Million Man March. I wanted to see exactly what it was about. Anything that brings families together anyway is OK."
Yesterday marked the fifth anniversary of Mr. Farrakhan's Million Man March, which aimed to call attention to the importance of black men in the home and in society.
Several men with dreadlocks, dressed in Rastafarian clothes and burning incense attracted marchers who had their pictures taken with them.
Bongo Roi, 27, said their yellow, red and green flag with a lion emblem symbolized nationalist Ethiopia, "the only free state never conquered by anybody."
"It's the only flag of the earth," he said. "It's for Ethiopia, before colonization."
Vincenta Ezirike, 26, of Cambridge, Md., like many in attendance, came to hear Mr. Farrakhan, a man she described as a "direct" speaker. She also wanted to hear renditions of the Sister Sledge tune "We Are Family."
Some in the crowd, like Jason Ollarvia and Afrika Porter of Chicago, came to tie the knot.
"It was a surprise. We just agreed to do it," said Mr. Ollarvia, 25, dressed in a long white top and pants.
Some 10,000 couples some in National of Islam gowns and others in jeans first uttered or renewed their marital vows on various stages. Mr. Farrakhan gave the blessing.
Mr. Ollarvia and his new bride whom he met eight months ago at a party ordered a package from Million Family March organizers that included a lapel pin for the groom, a sash for the bride and an embroidered bag.
"We both kind of agreed it would be historical," said Mr. Ollarvia, who exchanged vows with his wife on the Lincoln Memorial steps.
For the record, the two did not exchange rings.
"It's very traditional," the new Mrs. Ollarvia said.
"But we're different," her husband said.
Throughout the Mall, volunteers pushed smaller causes within the big one. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People encouraged visitors to vote, while Lyndon LaRouche backers handed out literature.
One flier on the lawn invited people to Oriental exercise classes on the Mall.
Plenty of money was to be made at the march.
Vendors hawked pins reading "I Love Being Black," bumper stickers that read "Thank God for the Million Family March" and T-shirts stating "I Was There."
Police closed a block of Constitution Avenue to make way for a makeshift international market, where buyers could find books, Million Family March compact discs and Donald Duck stuffed animals whose shirts stated "2000 Family March."
Even obscure items like liquid soap and sleds that work on grass could be found.
John Drake contributed to this report.

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