Twenty years after the Nation of Islam-sponsored Million March Man, which attracted more than 800,000 Black males and their supporters from all walks of life, an anniversary march showcasing a massive sea of humanity was held Saturday in the nation’s capital to demand social justice – such as policing reforms – and change in the Black community.
Spearheading the march – just as he did on Oct. 16, 1995 – was Minister Louis Farrakhan, who over the past year, steadfastly championed the cause for justice and equality for the highly anticipated event themed “Justice or Else.”
Dressed in a gray suit and a matching trademark bow tie, Farrakhan, 82, took to the podium on the National Mall early in the afternoon to address the crowd, which included Native Americans, Hispanics, and a sprinkling of celebrities. He held the crowd captive in an uncompromising message imploring the U.S. government to respond to a slate of “legitimate grievances.”
“I am honored beyond words to be here standing on this roster in front of this hallowed building in front of I don’t know how many, [and] I’m not going to guess. But I thank almighty God Allah for every single one of you who decided to answer the call to demand justice or else,” Farrakhan said in his opening remarks. “I want to say how happy I am to be a part of such a great showing of unity of the Aboriginal people of our planet. I want our Native American family to know how favored they are to have their own leader standing before his people . . . They are the original owners of this part of the Earth, and we honor them with the honor that they are justly due.”
During a speech that lasted more than an hour, the controversial religious leader mentioned the efforts for social justice of the late D.C. Mayor and Council Member Marion Barry, as well as parallels between the late President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. He also talked about his mother’s three failed attempts to abort him, being poor and the opportunities that can come from living in poverty.
“We are still trying to get civil rights while at the same time we are denied the human right of self-determination,” said Farrakhan. “I don’t think I’m encroaching on any American by standing on the ground that was paved for with the sweat and the blood of our ancestors.”
Farrakhan admonished both men and women who called other women the B-word, reminded the crowd how everything begins with a “simple seed” and said where they come from does not define them.
He went on to note that “fear” is one of the biggest problems facing many of those who showed up for the march.
“Knowing God – not talking God – is what takes fear from your heart,” Farrakhan said. “A fearful people cannot be free. … This is not a moment; this is a movement,” he said of the march. The movement begins to die the moment those who leave the movement take money as a bribe to stop hurting.”
President Barack Obama attended the first march but did not attend Saturday’s event due to a previous obligation in California.
And while the National Park Service provided conflicting estimates of the number of people who attended the 1995 march, the agency has since refused to give crowd estimates on Mall activities.