March Leaders Tell Of Outreach Effort And Plan A Reunion Million Woman March Organizers Also Were Critical Of How City Officials Handled The Event.

Posted: November 11, 1997

Still basking in the success of the Million Woman March, organizers yesterday outlined plans to initiate an array of community-based programs aimed at helping black women help themselves, culminating with a Million Woman March reunion in 2000.

``There is so much more work to be done,'' said Phile Chionesu, founder of the march. ``We demonstrated what is yet to come.''

Organizers publicly thanked the hundreds of volunteers at the Oct. 25 event on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, one of the largest gatherings in Philadelphia history. They also criticized city officials for what they described as logistical snafus affecting bus parking and vendor registration.

And they issued a challenge to businesses in the region, which reaped an estimated $21.7 million in march-related spending: Write a check.

``We will gladly accept a percentage of that money so we can move forward,'' said Nadirah Williams, fund-raising chair for the march. Organizers declined offers of corporate sponsorship and paid all expenses - the biggest being a $32,000 insurance fee - with ``grassroots funds,'' she said.

Immediate plans call for the development of a ``sisterhood network'' made up of national Million Woman March chapters. Also planned are:

* A ``clothes closet'' providing free clothing for women entering the job market for the first time.

* A ``Let's Do Lunch'' program to provide nourishing meals for women and children under the age of 5, prepared by volunteers in church kitchens with food donated by area businesses.

* A book donation program for women in jail that would supply them with self-help reading material.

Chionesu, a South Street businesswoman, said Philadelphia is one of three cities being considered for the Million Woman March reunion in 2000. She would not name the two other candidates.

She was critical of the way Philadelphia handled march planning.

Organizers said that the buses carrying people to the march were detoured from their planned routes and that the number of parking spots was decreased 24 hours before the event. The location given for the vendors to register was also changed at the last minute, they said.

The changes, organizer Barbara Smith said, ``created chaos on both sides.''

The women said they had requested a meeting with Mayor Rendell to request an explanation.

Joseph C. Certaine, the city's managing director, said that because of heavy rainfall the day before the march, vendors were redirected from 41st Street and Lansdowne Avenue to an area on Sweetbriar Drive that was sheltered from the downpour.

``Other than that,'' he said, ``I don't know what they're talking about. There were not changes with any of the plans that we put forth. In fact, we did the whole plan for them. . . . To me, we did what was required and other things we could do to try to help.''

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