On Saturday, October 10th, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan organized the "Justice or Else" rally to mark the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March. I was unable to attend the original march in 1995 because I was only in middle school, and it was on a weekday. My parents weren't about to take me out of school to go to Washington, DC as a kid (they would always assume that DC, or any big city, was a very dangerous place back then). As an adult, however, I was very excited to attend, so I made sure to clear my schedule and trek down from NYC to DC to be apart of history.
I started my morning around 8AM, drove to the Greensboro Metro Station on the Silver line. I arrived at the National Mall around 10AM, when the program was beginning. As I was walking toward the Capitol, I noticed that a great portion of the National Mall's lawn was under construction and fenced off. The Capitol itself was also covered in scaffolding. Note: Many people are posting a photo from the 1995 Million Man March, assuming it's from the Justice or Else rally. Check the photo closely...if you don't see a block of the lawn unpopulated due to construction, or the Capital covered in scaffolding, it is an old photo.
I ran into a couple friends as I was making my way to the front, and taking in the sights at the same time. Eventually I got tired of walking, and I found some lawn, planted my feet, and stood for a couple hours and enjoyed the program. By time it was time for the key note, I was wishing I brought a lawn chair with me. Since I didn't have one, I sat on the grass, and pulled out my jacket to put behind my head as I laid down and relaxed much-like many people around me.
The overall message of the rally was calling for unity and institutional reform in social justice issues affecting the black and brown communities. What I found fascinating is that the rally was not just about black people. Throughout the day, many leaders, including Farrakhan recognized the members of the hispanic community who also face daily injustices, as well as the Native Americans who are the "rightful owners of this country."
Admittedly, I was a little apprehensive about hearing the Honorable Minister speak because I had heard so many negative things about him in the past. From what I understand, however, at age 82, he has evolved very much and his message and stance on many topics seems to have changed. After this two-hour key note, I left feeling empowered, fired up, and unified with all of the black and brown people in attendance.
So, where do we go from here? What did you think of Farrakhan's message? What are our next steps?