Twenty years ago Dr. Louis Farrakhan called more than a million black men to Washington D.C. for the Million Man March. The focus of the October 16th, 1995 gathering was a demand for justice and a call for each individual man to take on the mantle of responsibility for his own family and for the larger black community. Three overarching themes of the gathering were “atonement, reconciliation and responsibility.” The march was an unprecedented showing of common goals, vision, and values, with black men from diverse economic circumstances and both religious and non-religious backgrounds. The many notable speakers included Dr. Cornell West and Rosa Parks, and of course Dr. Farrakhan himself.
A corollary event, called the “Day of Absence” was organized by women leaders providing those unable to attend the march itself a way to support the movement by staying out of school and workplace to participate in teaching and worship opportunities all over the country.
The Million Man March has never been seen through one universally supportive lens, and many black women felt that its focus on black men to the exclusion of women was damaging to the community and to the larger movement of racial equity. Partially in response, but with its own aims and objectives, the Million Woman March took place 2 years later in Philadelphia, with speeches by Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and California Congresswoman Maxine Waters.
“We want justice! We want equal justice under the law. We want justice applied equally regardless to creed or class or color.”
– Justice or Else
This October, Dr. Farrakhan again calls on black men to respond to his call to action, in what he has named “Justice or Else.” Some of the ideas are similar, but there is broader participation across the community, and the event is not restrictively gendered. Organizers and activists across the country are mobilizing around the idea, with the date October 10th, 2015 set for the actual event of a massive march in Washington D.C.
From the Justice or Else website:
“Failing Education: The school-to-prison pipeline is a real issue with all the data to prove it. With poor learning execution in public schools and increasing school closures, our children are unknowingly marching themselves into private prisons, which are trading on the stock market, and hinge and prey on their failures and mistakes. Let’s change this!
Unjust Killings: From the slaughter of Native Americans to the unjustified lynchings of Blacks, the only thing “new” are the methods and uniforms of the perpetrators. The results are yet the same. Let’s speak for the Mike Browns, Trayvon Martins, Oscar Grants, Tamir Rice and thousands of others whose name go unknown and stop this madness.
The Troubled World: The poverty, the hunger, the nakedness, the squalor, the disease, the violence, the hatred, the racism, the materialism, the nationalism, the idea of greed and lust and immorality and vice that is sweeping, not just America, but the whole world, says that our religions, all of them, have failed.”
Join us this evening, October 8th, at 7:00pm at Rainier Valley Cultural Center for a panel discussion and community conversation on the Million Man March, what it meant then, what it means looking back on it today, and what the new/continuing movement means. The event is part of the ongoing series, Dismantling Racism: A community Forum for Southeast Seattle, co-sponsored by Rainier Valley Historical Society, SouthEast Effective Development, and South Seattle Emerald.
For some additional perspective, 15 years after the original Million Man March, read this article by Mychal Denzel Smith, “The Million Man March 15 years later: A movement or a moment?”
For background at the source, read the Nation of Islam’s description of the original Million Man March.