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Women leave Philadelphia rally with sense of hope and purpose

October 27, 1997

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ The speeches are over. Now comes the hard part.

Many black women said they return home from the weekend’s Million Woman March with a newfound sense of purpose and passion that could transform their cities and towns.

``It was a great moment for all women across America. It was a chance to express themselves, and to feel their power,″ said Sister Gloriastine Muhammad, 48, of Macon, Ga. ``I think it will make a great difference in the community _ any community,″

Hundreds of thousands of people stood shoulder to shoulder on the mile-long Benjamin Franklin Parkway for Saturday’s march. Rally organizers said 2.1 million people filled the route from City Hall to the Museum of Art as rain gave way to a chilly, gray day.

Police gave no official estimate. But officers pegged the crowd for the seven-hour program at 300,000 to 1 million.

Themes of emotional strength, the value of motherhood and solidarity struck home for many. Adriene Breckenridge, a 33-year-old academic adviser at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said she heard a plea for healing.

``And if it starts with our sisters we have chance of healing our communities,″ she said. ``The march is instilling a lot of hope in a lot of women who were losing hope in society.″

Joyce Mosby of Richmond, Va., agreed and urged marchers to take what they heard and put it to use at home.

``We want to take back our streets, our homes, take back our children,″ she said. ``We want to rid our neighborhoods of the drugs and crime and other bad elements. We know that education is the key to getting and achieving our goals.″

Not all marchers came away with a glow, however. Many complained that a poor sound system made it difficult to hear speakers.

Others were turned off by the horde of entrepreneurs hawking everything from buttons and T-shirts to cardboard-framed Polaroids of marchers.

``I expected a good feeling here and all I see are men selling things left and right,″ said Dorothy Meredith of Gary, Ind.

``But I’ll go home and try to get involved. I have to think about what. I’m sure things will get better for women, just maybe not in my lifetime.″

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