The Million Man March turns 20: The new rallying cry is 'Justice or Else'
WASHINGTON, DC— They poured in from all across the country, a trip that harkened back to decades earlier when on the heels of the crack era and the churn of the war on drugs the Minister Louis Farrakhan called on a million black men to gather in the nation’s capital. It was a call for black men to atone, reconcile and take responsibility in their homes and communities.
This time the call was much wider, to men and women, black, Native, Hispanic and America’s marginalized. And the focus was less internal than external, a figurative call to arms against forces that many, including Farrakhan, believe have literally gotten away with the murder of non-whites.
The 20th anniversary of the Million Man March was commemorated on Saturday under the banner, Justice or Else.
While there were no official estimates of the crowd as of Saturday night, the unnumbered thousands flowed from the Capital steps and down the National Mall like a wave of humanity rolling over and through a busted levee.
Little boys and girls waved red, black and green flags, a symbol of unity among the African Diaspora. Some Native Americans came dressed in their traditional garb, lauded by Farrakhan as the descendants of the original owners of this land and the victims of perhaps the largest mass murder experienced on what is now American soil. A group of Mexican-Americans took to the lectern and expressed solidarity with the call for wider justice for people of color.
The family of unarmed young men and women who were either killed by police or died in police custody stood on the stage before the crowd, including Sybrina Fulton the mother of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown Sr., the father of Michael Brown Jr.
Speaker after speaker said now is the time to push, now is the time for the beleaguered to rise. At times a low ripple of applause or a collective murmur of approval bounced through the crowd.
Yet, around 1:30 p.m. as Minister Louis Farrakhan began his speech, the final speech of the day, the massive audience was stock-still and quiet.
He said the very ground the rally was being staged on once housed pens where enslaved Africans were held and talked of black folks shaking off the yolks of slavery, including their former masters last names. The Minister spoke of a freedom begat to the fearless, unbought and uncompromised by corruption and greed.
He called for community elders to support younger activists, including those from Ferguson, Missouri who rose up and sparked national rebellion in the wake of Brown’s killing their last year. Farrakhan said those young activists “ignited it all.”
Among other pronouncements the minister called for 10,000 “fearless” black men to return to their communities and act as barriers between the community and bullets fired from other blacks as well as those fired by “rogue” police officers.
In this last note, he struck a chord that strummed directly to this crowd who came to hear a plan of action around justice.
“America has now entered the time of divine judgment,” Farrakhan said, as a low rumble spilled from the rapt crowd.
Above, photographs taken by Carlos Javier Ortiz capture the renewed call for justice in Washington D.C.