Professor Cornel West '74 and Minister Conrad Muhammed said the upcoming Million Man March on Washington, D.C. will be the largest demonstration in the history of the U.S., speaking to more than 350 people in a packed Arco Forum at the Institute of Politics last night.
On October 16, one million black men are scheduled to march on the capitol in an effort organized by Minister of the Nation of Islam Louis Farrakhan to unite the nation's black community.
"There is too much pain, suffering and grief in America in general, and in black society in particular," West said. "America is drifting in a coldhearted direction and there has to be a demonstration that says we aren't going to stand for it."
Muhammed agreed with West's analysis of the predicament of many black Americans.
"If the black man continues to be the Achilles heel of America, then the future of America does not hold well," he said.
Although only black men are encouraged to march, the demonstration is intended to represent the entire black community. Maya Angelou and Rosa Parks are scheduled to speak to the crowd at the march.
According to Muhammed, the primary aim of this "national day of atonement" is to bring together the black community by transcending differences and facing issues of poverty and racial stereotypes that plague blacks and all Americans.
"This will be one of the greatest and most significant statements by black men since we came here as slaves," Muhammed said.
Muhammed, speaking as Farrakhan's representative, encouraged members of the black community to strike from work for the day, and to abstain from labor and commercial activity.
West and Muhammed evoked enthusiastic responses from the audience.
Kimberly A. Patillo --'96 said the speakers had altered her attitude towards the march.
"I came with a lot of skepticism about my role in the march as a black woman, and I think they really addressed that issue," she said following the event. "The march is the vision of our parent generation and the civil rights movement."
Andrea Sangiovanni '96 said he was equally moved.
"It was the fullest expression of the democratic spirit of what America could be," he said.
Others said the speech had helped to cement their belief in the march's purpose.
"I think it's coming at a great time," said Kimberly D. Allen, a student at the School of Education.
"I am in support of the march and its goals," she added