- The Washington Times - Friday, October 11, 2002

A black group will demonstrate this weekend on behalf of what it calls the "civil rights of the unborn" in Birmingham, Ala., the scene of civil rights marches in the 1960s.

The demonstration, led by the Fayetteville, N.C.-based Life Education and Resource Network, or LEARN, will march through the city to end what group leaders call a "conspiracy of silence" from the black community on abortion.

It is known as the Say So March, after a phrase used by its pro-life organizers: "If you love the children, say so."

"Abortion is the genocide on the black community," says Damon Owens, national spokesman for LEARN. "This is not the legacy civil rights was supposed to have."

LEARN is a minority voice among black Americans, many of whom favor abortion and one of whom, Faye Wattleton, is a former president of Planned Parenthood. The abortion-rights group once sponsored an ad campaign, "African-American Men for Choice," that featured 11 black male celebrities.

March organizers hope at least 1,425 blacks will join the march on Monday, its final day. The Alan Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood, said that number represents the estimated number of fetuses aborted daily.

"We want [people] to see what [that number] looks like," says the Rev. Johnny Hunter, national director of LEARN.

The Say So March, an annual event, is hosted in different cities each year. In 1999, it followed an underground-railroad path between Newark, N.J., and the District. This year it will begin and end at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

Organizers said abortion is a step backward for blacks after strides made in the 1960s. "What good is voter rights for an aborted child?" asks Mr. Hunter, who hopes the bulk of the demonstrators will come from Alabama.

"We want to wake up Birmingham," Mr. Hunter says. Local supporters will include the Rev. Ollie Gunn of Lipscomb, the Rev. Arthur Johnson of Doers of the Word Ministries in Birmingham, and the Rev. Demetrics Roscoe of Living Church, also in Birmingham. Other participants are expected from New Jersey, Texas, Illinois and California.

In past demonstrations, marchers carried signs saying "Stop the lynching in the womb" and "Stop black genocide." This year, they will carry posters showing a black infant in the palm of a hand. A few white groups have asked to march, including one couple with adopted black children.

"Those who are not chocolate are welcome to march," Mr. Hunter says. One white group has offered to supply water and refreshments for participants, but will not march.

The event will begin at noon tomorrow. Participants will march through the city in shifts around the clock, breaking once for a prayer vigil between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. on Sunday. It will end with a press conference at 11 a.m. on Monday.

Organizers received permits for the march and expect it to be orderly and nonviolent, but they do expect some counterdemonstrations.

"We are not naive enough to think we won't be opposed," Mr. Hunter says. "Others are welcome to give opposition, because we know what they are and who they are."

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