Standing in the middle of the National Mall, it was obvious that there may not have been a million people at the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March.
I never expected there to be.
I expected there to be a good amount of the older generations that attended the original march to come out, but mainly, I anticipated the youth, people my age, to be in attendance heavily. I was pleased to see packed fields with people of all ages calling for change.
There have been many high profile civil rights cases and rallies since I’ve been in college. One thing I noticed is that, no matter what they say about our generation, we come out to these events in unity and support for a better cause.
We have our faults, but most of us do see the bigger picture. What I was most shocked about was the positive interaction between our elders and youth. Too often I’ve seen a clashing between the generations of blacks in this country, especially when it comes to current issues impacting our community and the sharing of ideas. One generation doesn’t want to give up their position and status, and the other generation doesn’t listen or compromise.
As I stood watching the third jumbo screen with intense wind blowing, sore legs, and open ears, I overheard an older gentleman discussing issues effecting our community with a younger gentleman about the same age as myself. No screaming, no finger pointing, no blaming of generations, just honest conversation. I didn’t see a lot of dads with their sons, but I did see a lot of fatherlike figures sharing knowledge with us, at the same time receiving knowledge from us, their sons.
As Minister Farrakhan came to the microphone to speak, I took notice to how many Muslims came out to hear him speak. For those who aren't aware, there is a difference between the Nation of Islam (NOI) and Islam (the religion). From what I know, some Muslims don’t have the best things to say of Farrakhan and the NOI. However, seeing the massive amount of Muslims in attendance was amazing especially after the DC Mosque received threats just days prior, and talk of a possible anti-Muslim protest in DC that has surfaced recently.
One thing I did like about Farrakhan, and this goes back to elders interacting with youth at the march, was Farrakhan’s understanding that his time to pass the torch was coming. So many times leaders in our community never know when to let go and when their time is up. The Minister’s speech gave me the feeling that he understood that the future is coming and his time is limited.
He seemed at peace with the idea.
Like the older people talking to the youth in the crowd, Farrakhan seemed like he was talking directly to my age group. Preparing us for the future, and asking where our leaders were, I respected that.
Now, let’s get into the real speech.
I could go into detail with everything that Minister Farrakhan and the speakers that came before him said, but I'm not. Why? Understand that there were good, beautiful messages, (excluding a few biblical references and historical points I found to be incorrect), but they weren't anything I hadn’t heard before. They probably weren't anything you haven’t heard before either. Minister Farrakhan, who is known to be very “out there” or “over the top” to most, kept it very calm, and to the point. He really didn’t say anything spectacular that my father hasn’t already told me.
For some, they may not have had the luxury of having someone to share these important ideals to them growing up, so they may believe the speeches to be more enlightening than I found them. For others, things may still not be hitting home, so it was important that they hear the message again. To me, it was just hearing the same message once more, in a new setting.
For me, that was okay.
We don’t need eye-opening revelations; we need to act on the facts we already know. Because honestly, we are just repeating ourselves now.
As I hopped on the green line I found myself thinking, “Damn, I'm really happy this was peaceful.” I read somewhere there was a total of two arrests, nothing too serious. Now, that is two arrests too many, but I know if people were down there acting crazy the news would’ve had a field day with the same narrative of Blacks in this country, “They can’t do anything right.”
I left with the same feeling felt after the Hands Up Don’t Shoot rally, the Freddie Gray rally, and many others. The feeling of “What are we going to do?” The reason I said the speeches were not spectacular was mainly because they didn’t give me an answer to that question. Not that I was looking for an exact, direct answer, but I personally feel that we go to these gatherings and we are so into the cause at that moment, but after that…back to normal.
We must act now! We can’t wait until the next Freddie Gray or Eric Garner to come and flood into D.C., fight for a week, move on with life, then repeat the process again. If some good arises from this and this really becomes the true guidance and leadership we need, then I’ll take back my statements and I’ll say the speeches were spectacular because it sparked what we need. But this can’t just be another rally in the midst of many. I don’t want to be on the National Mall marching with my son twenty years from now for the same issues my dad marched for in 1995.
Overall, I wish everyone could’ve been there to see that a lot of people feel the same way you feel. This fight isn’t impossible, and you as a person of color, do have a lot of support from your community. There really was a community feeling of “we are one” on October 10, 2015, and knowing that we aren’t divided is important.
What are we going to do now? There is nothing left to march and speak about. They are all reminders at this point. Reminding us that the same problems, and maybe more, are upon us.
I'm tired of being reminded these problems are here, it’s time to get up remind the world of Black Power!