Oct. 16, 1995 was the first year nearly a million black men came together at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in the spirit of brotherhood to declare their right to justice and encourage unity. Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, led a pledge for the need of atonement; the Nation of Islam commemorates this pledge every year on its anniversary, the Day of Atonement.
The pledge was a commitment “to be responsible and active in improving the black community.” That day, not a single violent action broke out and the community came together with love and black pride. For 18 years, black Americans have come together to lift each other up and improve their lives, but this doesn’t seem to translate into consistent behavior.
Black Americans live in this double-conscious state of mind every second of their life, a concept first put forth by W.E.B. Du Bois. We question our own actions, thoughts and skin color, and struggle to be accepted in an unaccepting and judgmental world. The year after the march, many said there was no evident change in the black community after their promises “to support their families, refrain from violence and physical or verbal abuse toward women and children, and renounce violence against other men, except in self-defense.”
How can our community expect these promises to carry over into everyday life when we don’t have constant encouragement from each other? It’s one thing to not have the support from your own brothers and sisters of color, but it’s another when you encounter constant reminders that you are not adequate enough, that simply because you wake up every morning with a darker pigment that you have to work twice as hard, to be twice as smart as your white counterparts, to receive equal pay or respect.
In ’95, there was controversy regarding Farrakhan’s ideals, but not much was said about the message. Farrakhan was called racist and sexist for excluding certain groups. This day was a call for black men across the country to come together to build and uplift each other. This was not the time or the place to include anyone else, other than those millions of black men that get the stereotype forced upon them every day that they are unworthy, unsupporting, thieves, liars, drug dealers or addicts, beasts and bad fathers who belong in jail or off the street.
Take your opinions and your animosity elsewhere. These men don’t need it — especially from black women. Support our men on this one day of the year where they can come together and better their families and their own lives.
Oct. 10, 2015 commemorated the 20th anniversary of the original Million Man March. The theme was “Justice or Else,” to demand justice from discrimination and racism for Native Americans, Latinos and black Americans. We demand justice from the nation we built.
Du Bois told us, “The system can’t fail those it was not designed to protect.” Ida B. Wells told us, “The ones that commit the murders write the reports.”
So what does the “or Else” mean? It is not a call of violence. It is holding those whose actions are unjust accountable, “or else.” It is calling out the government to uphold their standards of equality, life and liberty, “or else.” It is forcing an end to nationwide hypocrisy, “or else.”
The anniversary march was disappointing at first. Here we are, yet again, trying to demand justice, trying to garner attention, trying to get people to hear our cries, yet the passion for cause was not the same as I’ve seen with other marches.
I’m not sure if it is this generation’s mentality, but the crowd certainly did not seem as empowered or exuberant as I was expecting. I even questioned my expectations by assuming my perception of black rallies and protests was based on what little I’ve seen covered through the media.
It wasn’t until Farrakhan came out that the crowd’s demeanor really changed. Everyone was hanging on to this man’s every word. Farrakhan spoke of moments that every American, black or white, should be aware of.
One particular point Farrakhan referenced multiple times was Jefferson’s role in slavery and the emancipation of black Americans. People can say many good things about Jefferson and argue his role in black history, but his words in his “Notes to Virginia” completely contradict these arguments
To compare the minds of blacks — a color Jefferson calls “unfortunate” — to those of the Greeks by stating, “Among the Romans, their slaves were often their rarest artists … but they were of the race of whites. It is not their condition then, but nature, which has produced this distinction,” is unforgivable. He suggested that blacks are inferior to whites both in body and mind. Not to mention that he owned, assaulted and raped his slaves during his lifetime — and yet we venerate this man, calling him a “Founding Father.”
I anticipated that Farrakhan would call out Jefferson for his words and deeds, yet he offered nothing but praise. There were other messages I questioned from Farrakhan, which is perfectly acceptable as one must learn to question everything and anything — but I was beyond honored to be able to hear such a profound and wise man speak.
It is important to take the information and form an opinion based on your own knowledge and experiences. Never take everything you hear for face value or you will quickly be led astray.
The people who left the march this year will hopefully take the words of Farrakhan and message of “Justice or Else” seriously. The or “else,” is enough is enough. The or “else,” is sick and tired of being sick and tired. Our mission for the next generation is to prevent history from repeating itself. Educate and encourage the next generation and set them up for success to be great leaders. Otherwise we will be here having these marches and rallies and protests for nothing but show.
Opinion Editor, Monica Houston
Monica is a transfer student from Norfolk State University studying English. Her dog, Furby, is an in-office celebrity and frequently attends production and meetings with Monica.