As a nod to the original Million Man March 20 years ago, this year’s march was held on the National Mall. The media coverage of the event (not including self-reporters and independent journalists like ourselves) was scant to nil. The peaceful and unproductive event felt like a sort of time warp. It was beautiful to see OGs like the bow-tie garbed fruit of the Nation and the legacy leaders of historically black frats. Hearing students bark “H-U! You know!” kept bringing a smile to my face. There were also some plain old-heads there, too. Seeing Black Panthers and listening to the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan speak was like hopping into the DeLorean. Farrakhan’s speech lasted over two hours, and his rhetoric was messy and outdated. He harangued about African Americans having the last names of their slave masters, Thomas Jefferson trying to free the slaves, abortions, and the Nation’s controversial relationship with Malcolm X. Once he started talking about Malcolm my friend and I started marching toward the exit—I wasn’t going to sit on the Capitol lawn and listen to him lie to me.
Farrakhan’s antiquated speech was the climax of a largely unproductive event. I left the March unsure of the event’s goal. Although the “justice or else” mantra was continually used to rally the crowd, we weren’t instructed on what to do if justice wasn’t delivered. We weren’t given a timeframe for justice. Are we demanding “justice—before our first black president’s term expires—or else?” We could be demanding “justice before next Tuesday or else”—none of us had any idea.
Throughout the event, different organizations were peddling for donations. If we had gone to the hood, and gathered around a Safeway or an Aldi we could have seen tangible immediate results from the money spent. The money collected could have gone directly into buying impoverished minorities fresh protein and produce. Farrakhan could have channeled his inner Frank Lucas and passed out turkeys. Our donations would have gone to good use right in front of us. 100% of the proceeds would have benefited the people who needed it most. We could have provided food that shelters and pantries struggle to provide their clients with—meat and fresh vegetables. What if the Nation had handed out their famous bean pies to food insecure kids in DC’s Northeast and Southeast ghettos?
Even the location of the March could have provided more enforcement of the event’s goals. How much more powerful would it have been to host the Million Man March in the hood? I understand the relevance of the National Mall for the Million Man March; however, if the March was intended to show solidarity with vulnerable Black men’s plight, then hosting the March in the ghetto would have better enforced the goal. Men of color in impoverished urban communities are entrenched in violence and crime. Their environment provides a gateway for others to view them as the quintessential ‘dangerous Black male’ stereotype. They are impacted by unemployment, ineffective school systems, and police brutality more than others. They are especially susceptible to injustice because they are underserved and under resourced. These are the men who need to know they have one million people marching to support them. They need to see Panthers, frat leaders, religious leaders, students, and professionals supporting them. They need to see other black men who are standing up for themselves, as well as each other. They needed to know we were marching for them… And we didn’t even march near them. We should have marched to them.