On Saturday, October 10, Black men and women from around the country converged upon the National Mall in Washington, D.C. for the “Justice Or Else!” March. Marking the 20th anniversary of the historic Million Man March—the largest public gathering in the nation’s history–Minister Louis Farrakhan once again made the call, inviting young activists and their elders, and a diverse assemblage of races, faiths and philosophies, geographic locations and socioeconomic levels to Washington.
The Minister has called for a “war on two fronts”—demanding that the U.S. government address Black suffering, and calling upon the Black community to take responsibility for its own internal violence, fratricide and disrespect for Black life.
Minister Farrakhan simultaneously invoked the spirit of Dr. King, who said the moral arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice, as he recalled the names of those Black bodies lost to police violence, as well as Black lives taken by other Black hands.
On October 16, 1995, 1 million Black men stood up to be counted in a show of unity, in the name of atonement, reconciliation and responsibility, to account for their failures and to commit to becoming better fathers, sons, mentors and leaders in the community. Two decades later, however, “conditions we face and rising levels of tyranny and oppression have brought us to another point in our sojourn in America,” the Minister said in an official statement, noting the violence facing Black people, the mistreatment and disrespect towards Latinos, and the poverty of the Native American community. He also addressed the struggle by women for full recognition, the ignored, broken soldiers who return home from wars based on lies, and poor whites who “have no voice as a cruel oligarchy rules on behalf of a small group of individuals.”
“America has now entered the time of divine judgment,” Minister Farrakhan said, addressing the multitudes from the Capitol steps on Saturday. “Let me be clear. America has no future for you or for me. She can’t make a future for herself, much less a future for us.”
In his two hour address, the Minister made mention of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, giving props and passing the torch to these young Black activists and referring to them as the “future leadership.”
“We who are getting older… what good are we if we don’t prepare young people to carry that torch of liberation to the next step?” he asked the crowd. “What good are we if we think we can last forever and not prepare others to walk in our footsteps?”
He specifically referenced Ferguson.
“These are not just young people who happened to wake up one morning. Ferguson ignited it all,” he said. “So [to] all the brothers and sisters from Ferguson who laid in the streets, all the brothers and sisters from Ferguson who challenged the tanks, we are honored that you have come to represent our struggle and our demands.”
The Nation of Islam leader blasted the U.S. for its hypocrisy in challenging human rights issues in other countries. He reserved his deepest criticism for the Republican presidential candidates.
“They are like the pretty girl showing her wares for someone to buy her,” Farrakhan said. “Who wants to be a whore?” he asked. “You think people who put their money behind you don’t expect something from you?”
Farrakhan also made the call for 10,000 Black men and women to stop the violence in the community.
“I want 10,000 names that we can train ’cause we got to stand between the guns,” he said, referring to the killing of unarmed Black people by law enforcement and the violence within the Black community.
Among his other instructions to the gathering were to focus on Jesus rather than Santa Claus this Christmas, and to combat the promotion of white supremacy in their children’s schools.
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“We are here continuing the legacy of the Million Man March. We gather today knowing much is at stake,” said Tamika Mallory, event co-convener, as reported by The Final Call. “Let us remember the words of Ida B. Wells: The ones who commit the murders write the reports. We are here today to say we choose differently.”
Responding to predictions by conservative media that the gathering would lead to violence, Mallory said, “We are not the violent ones. We are being murdered. We are here to provoke peace.” She added: “To my friends who called me who are scared, step aside. We didn’t come to Washington to play games. Go back and tell your brothers and sisters that the time for playing games is over.”
U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Illinois), who attended the historic march two decades ago, called the gathering “a reaffirmation of the faith that the dark past has taught us and of the hope the present has brought us.”
“We will march on so over-aggressive law enforcement procedures will not be the order of the day,” the lawmaker added. “We will march on until every child has access to high-quality education. We will march so that every citizen will know that they can get health care.”
Benjamin Chavis, who served as National Director of the Million Man March Organizing Committee in 1995, noted some progress was made in 20 years, as an Illinois state senator has since become President of the United States.
“But you and I know we’ve got a lot more progress to make,” he said. “There’s too much injustice, too much inequality, too much mass incarceration… too (many) situations in our community that need addressing, and that’s why we’re here today.”