WASHINGTON – Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan (search) asked blacks to focus on ways to help the nation's downtrodden as he prepared for a major gathering Saturday marking the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March.
"The suffering of our people is greater than our differences," said Farrakhan, speaking Friday at a symposium at Howard University in advance of the latest event, called the Millions More Movement. "We are not yet free at last, so there is work to be done."
Millions More organizers, calling Friday a "Day of Absence, Day of Dialogue," held panel discussions at Howard led by academics on faith, the academic gat doesn't matter how long I live, I want everything to be all right for our people," Farrakhan said. Blacks must become "ingrained with the idea of a new world," he said.
The Million Man March set a goal of 1 million people. While estimates of the actual size vary, it's recognized as one of the largest gatherings on the National Mall.
Organizers haven't set a goal for Saturday's event, but it's also expected to be large. Benjamin Chavis, the march's mobilization director, said at least 2,000 chartered buses were headed toward Washington, in addition to untold numbers of vans and cars.
U.S. Park Police Sgt. Scott Fear said extra officers will be staffing the event on horse and bicycle and by foot "to basically manage the crowds," but no officers were being brought in from other police agencies.
"We expect it to be a peaceful event," Fear said.
In a nod to the expected presence of many young people, Farrakhan told the Howard University crowd that youth, particularly hip-hop artists, are "the pied pipers of our new world. Give them a chance."
Russell Simmons, co-founder of Def Jam Records, has been a steady supporter of the gathering.
"There's a buzz across the country" about the march, said Simmons, who also chairs the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network. "It's going to be a spiritually uplifting event."