The Roosevelt Public Library is taking as many as eight young men from the community to the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March in Washington, D.C., as a history and social science endeavor, said Wilton Robinson Jr., a trustee of the library board.
"It's that, and it's a part of a library program, 'Boys to Men, My Brother's Keeper' to help young men understand their responsibility to themselves and their community," he said.
He is "disappointed, but not discouraged," that so few responded to fliers about the event for which they plan to leave early Saturday.
"We bought 10 bus tickets [at $45 each], but only five kids confirmed they would go, so when a dad wanted to go with his son, we threw his ticket in, too."
The original march on Oct. 16, 1995, drew between 400,000 and 1.2 million black men from around the nation to the National Mall. It had been called by controversial Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan and managed by former NAACP president Benjamin Chavis Jr. and other black leaders. It was to shed more positive light on black men than normally seen in the media and to unify the group in seeking social justice.
Farrakhan also called Saturday's demonstration, as an outgrowth of the Black Lives Matter movement that followed the questionable police-related deaths of several black people around the country in recent years.
"It's sad there's a stigma automatically attached to having dark skin," said Jeremy Maynard, who is going with his son Jeremiah, 10, to Washington. "Integrity has to be taught."
What is integrity? he asked Jeremiah.
The fifth-grader at Roosevelt's Washington-Rose School responded: "Integrity is to do the right thing, the right way for the right reasons."
Jeremiah, who wants to be an animator, said he doesn't know much about the Saturday event, "but I want to learn."
Jace Pearson, 19, a sophomore studying sports management at Farmingdale State College, said he leaped at the chance to go. "I want to see it," he said. "People will be inspired to improve their daily lives and meet goals that they couldn't before. People will help each other, and it will be a great opportunity for networking. Plus, it will broaden people's perspective, getting outside of their own comfort zone. . . . This is an opportunity for that."
The Rev. Malcolm Jackson, pastor of Memorial AME Zion Church in Hempstead, said he plans to go to Washington Friday and return Saturday night. "I can't afford not to be there . . . to observe such a huge sense of solidarity. We can use all of the hope and support we can get."
Robinson said he asked the youths taking the trip to read up on the earlier march and compare it to what they see and hear Saturday. Any young man from Roosevelt interested in one of the three available tickets should call the library Friday at 516-378-0222.