Leaders of the Million Family March said Thursday they are uncertain how many people to expect for next week's gathering in the nation's capital, but believe the crowds will represent a range of racial and ethnic backgrounds.
``The success of the Million Man March five years ago, opened the hearts and minds of people,'' said Benjamin F. Muhammad, national director of the event and the former director of the NAACP. ``This is a plan for a million families.''
At a news conference here, Muhammad, formerly known as Benjamin Chavis, said he began planning the event with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan within days of the Oct. 16, 1995, Million Man March. The family march will be held Monday.
Farrakhan met with people of various races, religions, and ethnic backgrounds seeking support for the effort, Muhammad said.
Stevie Wonder, Toni Braxton, East Indian sitarist Ravi Shankar, Bangledeshi lutist Ali Akbar Khan, performers from China and Shinto drummers from Japan are among the musicians committed to participating.
``We've got to meet as brethren,'' said Rabbi David Z. Ben-Ami, founder of the American Forum for Jewish-Christian Cooperation based in Harrisburg, Pa.
The assembled religious leaders downplayed the dominant roles of specific religious groups and said that members of the Promise Keepers and the Christian Coalition could be among the marchers on Monday.
``We're here to strengthen and rebuild families,'' said Rev. Michael Jenkins, president of the Family Federation for World Peace, an arm of Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church.
March supporters said they hoped to mobilize backing for what organizers described as a family oriented public policy agenda submitted to national political leaders.
The 156-page ``National Agenda'' addresses a raft of issues including welfare and Social Security reform, substance abuse prevention, education, and reform of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
While audited expenses for the Million Man March totaled just over $2 million in 1995, officials said increased costs for equipment and services are likely to push expenses for the family march beyond that amount.