On Monday, Oct. 16, it will be 25 years since the Million Man March was held on the National Mall in the nation’s capital in 1995, but it feels like yesterday for many of the million-plus Black men who gathered there as they reflect on that day which stood still to them. How far we have come from witnessing what march organizer Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. described as a gathering of “Black brotherhood, camaraderie, solidarity and commitment to improve the quality of life of the Black family and the Black diaspora.” Even the naysayers who distrusted Minister Louis Farrakhan’s call for the march couldn’t help but feel a burning sense of pride after hearing the commitment made by those Black men present and others who were there in spirit.
On what was called the “Holy Day of Atonement, Reconciliation and Responsibility,” the peaceful crowd of Black men from across the country stood for hours listening to speakers, both men and women, until finally, it was their time to speak out loud, voicing their commitment in the form of a pledge. Each one of them raised their right hand and, in unison, pledged to improve their lives and the lives of their wives, children and families. They vowed to love each other and themselves, to build their communities and to avoid violence and abuse against their wives and children. They swore off the “B” word, as well as drugs, and promised to support Black businesses and institutions, including the Black press and Black artists that “show respect for themselves and for their people.”
When the march concluded and the thousands returned home in cars, buses and planes, the condition upon which they left the National Mall was stark. It was spotless. And while some praised the event, others asserted that barely any good resulted from the historic event. Organizers claimed that over 1.5 million Black men registered to vote for the first time and that the number of Black children adopted by Black families rose significantly.
The increasing number of violent deaths and extreme incarceration of Black men were factors that led Minister Farrakhan to call Black men together en masse. George Floyd, whose violent death came at the hands of police earlier this year, was 25 at the time. Many others who’ve also been killed following encounters with law enforcement weren’t even born. Minister Farrakhan knew that a call for unity, not violence, was a productive way to address America’s attack on Black men. Remembering that day is a step towards bringing them together again in brotherhood and solidarity.