I’m aware that this post is several days late, but it’s honestly taken me this amount of days to process what went down at the 20th anniversary of The Million Man March. This year’s theme was Justice Or Else! and had representatives from almost every oppressed group across the globe give a 7-10 minute speech on what it means to have justice in this day and age.
The Million March was organized by Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan and was intended to promote unity, love, personal responsibility, etc.
Just imagine being in the beautiful city of Washington, D.C. surrounded by beautiful black, brown, and indigenous people all anxious to hear what the honorable minister had to say. That experience alone was something I will never forget.
…However, given that this was my first encounter with Farrakhan, of course I have some critiques about what was said.
What I Liked
- As I stated, I LOVED seeing the different people who represented oppressed groups in the Americas. Everyone from Native Americans to Haitians and Dominicans to the families of Sandra Bland and Trayvon Martin to founders different social justice organizations were present.
- Rumor has it that 20 years ago, WOMEN were banned from attending the march… While some came anyway, that rubbed many women the wrong way. This year, many women were not only in crowd attendance but spoke phenomenally as well. One of my favorite quotes: “Imagine how powerful we would be if we brought the sisters with us all along”
- A quote from Farrakhan: “What good is life if we are not free?”
- I liked that Farrakhan had every woman that was there (who was pregnant) place a hand over her stomach and he said a prayer for them. He prayed that they would bring their child to term and that the child would be a warrior for change.
- I liked that he shunned men who committed atrocities such as rape towards women and girl. He said that you are worthy of death if you do that.
- Another quotable from Farrakhan: “A fearful people can’t be free. A fearful people will bow down when it appears that the enemy is so strong when we are so weak.”
- I expected Farrakhan to condemn LGBTQ+ people, but he didn’t. In so many words, he said that we all sin in some type of way, and that no one is exempt from “sin.”
- In reference to how Malcolm X and MLK didn’t have a lot of money in their lifetime because they were NOT sell outs, he said: “Great ones don’t amass wealth to leave to children. Great ones amass wealth to leave to institutions after they are dead and gone.”
- Farrakhan said that our young people will not listen to those made in America, by America. He said that we need leaders that are willing to sacrifice their lives for a better future.
What I Didn’t Like
Now, while being apart of history was cool and all, I did have many moments during the speech that made me wonder what Farrakhan was talking about…. He was all over the place, and to be honest, the entire speech was underwhelming at best. With Minister Farrakhan being an 82 year old man, I didn’t expect his worldview (especially about women) to be progressive. Unfortunately, I was right.
- While he acknowledged the LGBTQ+ as family, out of all the people who spoke before him, To my knowledge I saw no queer people represented, speaking about the oppression they faced. If a system cannot fail who it was never meant to protect, then how can a movement help those it purposefully excludes?
- Right after Farrakhan said a prayer for all the women pregnant, he told a seemingly painful story about how his mother tried 3 different times to abort him. He said women shouldn’t abort because they have no idea who their child could become; but I am a firm believer that every woman is not meant to be a mother. Every woman does not HAVE to be a mother, and that the topic of abortion should not include any man or woman who did not have anything to do with her pregnancy.
- Somewhere in the midpoint of his speech, Farrakhan described how Thomas Jefferson was the most brilliant of the Founding Fathers. He talked about how Thomas Jefferson said that slaves should be free and that the US government should give them land, etc. While Farrakhan praised him, I couldn’t help but to think of Sally Hemmings, a slave woman that Jefferson basically had as his sexual conquest. I don’t care how brilliant Farrakhan thinks Jefferson is, a man like that does not deserve my admiration.
- He briefly addressed his accusations about him getting Malcolm X killed. While he denied it, he did say something very sketchy. He said “We were angry that Malcolm spoke out against his teacher (Elijah Muhammed) and his persona life.” … To me, that translates to the notion that I think many older black people share: “What happens in this house stays in this house” and that is problematic. No wonder many think that Farrakhan had something to do with Malcolm’s death, hell I would too.
- During the latter half of his speech, Farrakhan had some words to say about women. A few of the ladies in the Nation came upon the stage, and looked absolutely radiant. But, Farrakhan ruined that time of admiration by saying: “When woman are clothed, they earn respect. If you put this woman next to a woman who was in a mini skirt and low cut top, which woman is more likely to get talked to like “Hey baby?” Not our women. And if they do, they will soon regret it.”
COME ONNNNNN FARRAKHAN! -_-
I am not a fan of performing certain behaviors just to please men and “earn respect.”
A woman’s clothing should not give men the right to determine her worth. Women who are completely covered are just as likely to face street harassment, rape, sexual assault and discrimination as a woman who is not covered. And if more men understand that, I hope that respectability politics would end!
6. “Women are starting to lead more and show more strength” … Farrakhan. Women have ALWAYS been leading, where have you been bro? From Ida B. Wells to Betty Shabazz, to Rosa Parks, we’ve always been the strength to keep any liberation movement going. We didn’t just wake up in 2015 and decide we wanted to be vocal, but maybe this IS the year you started to pay attention.
What exactly is the “Or Else?” So now what?
Despite the many eyebrow raising things I heard at the rally, I am glad I got the opportunity to go. To see so many people gathered in one spot peacefully was truly a sight to see. It’s a shame that no major news outlet wanted to cover it besides C-Span.
I like how Farrakhan said “If this is a day where we come together and then go back to doing what we’ve been doing, then this is a day of vanity.”
Marches and rallies are a great symbol of unity, but that is not where the work should end or begin.
An organization at my school called The Black Male Roundtable (BMR) hosted an open discussion where we discussed how do we move forward. While the answers varied from “not participating in Christmas” to “getting involved with city council” One thing is for certain: We are ready to DO something. We are ready to become these warriors of change and make the world a better place for those who may come after us.
- What are your thoughts on the Louis Farrakhan?
- Did you attend this year’s Million Man March? What did you think about it?
- What is the next step to move forward?
- Did you or anyone you know attend the march in 1995? What are some of the differences?