According to the Philadelphia Tribune, it was a “women’s-focused event” that was a grass roots effort leveraging “black women supporting each other while solving problems to focus on their trials, circumstances, and successes.”
The newspaper estimated that the event was attended by 750,000 African-American women. What is particularly noteworthy about this turnout was that 1997 predates the widespread use of internet to market events through social media. Therefore, the event was promoted largely via a grass roots effort that included posting flyers in storefronts and on church bulletin boards and extensive word of mouth.
The women, and men, who marched, met on Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway to begin the event, which included a “program of prayer, music and inspirational speeches.” Although the march was largely endorsed by local leaders, many complained that prominent leaders had not been invited to speak. Among the speakers were Brenda Burgess, Dick Gregory and Representative Maxine Waters, a democrat from California, who was chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and was a keynote speaker at the event. In general, the paper notes that speeches were structured around three themes:
Atonement; Reconciliation; and Responsibility.
At the time, Rep. Waters was looking into whether the CIA was involved “with drug traffickers who brought crack cocaine into Black communities,” according to the paper. She wanted a government investigation into these allegations that the federal government had assisted in the spread of crack cocaine within America’s inner cities either through omission or commission.
This was the general topic of her speech at the event. Her objective was twofold: to publicize the request for an investigation and also to warn the community’s youth about the dangers of drug use.