Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan (Courtesy of BET)
Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan (Courtesy of BET)

Long live the spirit of the Million Man March!

Long live the spirit of the Million Man March!

Long life, good health and continued success to Minister Louis Farrakhan, who led those of us who participated in the March to an astronomical achievement Oct. 16, 1995, that day 24 years ago.

The Million Man March, held on a Monday — not a weekend — when nearly 2 million men answered the call, was a vivid demonstration of the collective power of Black men, a power that had been dormant among us for centuries.

The Million Man March was the largest protest event in Washington history. Sure, there had been large protests before, but none that were organized and led from top to bottom by Black people. Some earlier protest events were directed, manipulated, and even cancelled at the direction of white folks, like the labor movement, and like President Franklin Roosevelt, and even New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia.

This march had not only a Black “body” of protesters, like in the past, but had a Black “head” directing the actions of the mammoth, heretofore sleeping giant of Black Consciousness. Long live the Spirit of the Million Man March!

That day, with hundreds and hundreds of thousands of unpredictable Black men in town official Washington was shut down, but there was not so much as one single criminal arrest in the District that day! We were on our best behavior. The National Mall was cleaned up afterwards, so that there was not a scrap of trash left behind. The Million Man March was a demonstration of the inner and outer goodness residing in Black men.

That following year, hundreds of thousands of Black people were registered to vote. During that same period, more than 25,000 Black children were adopted from sometimes cruel foster care, into permanent, loving homes. Who doesn’t celebrate those great accomplishments among our people?

But because of their enmity for Min. Farrakhan, white people try to heap contempt on him, just because he represents the loosening of the shackles of white dictation of Black thinking and behavior. But I know, and declare without fear of successful repudiation, that Louis Farrakhan is a good man. He is not an anti-Semite. He is not a race hater. He does not teach hatred of Jewish people. He does not teach hatred of white people.

I watched Louis Farrakhan organize and lead to a deliriously successful conclusion, the Million Man March. He crisscrossed the country, speaking to men-only audiences for months before the march, calling the men to unite, join organizations to do good in our communities, and to take responsibility for ourselves and for the destiny of our people. The men did just that and the March was successful, and it continues to bear fruit among our people. Long Live The Spirit of the Million Man March.

I have seen Louis Farrakhan in so many different environments: at the table of The Honorable Elijah Muhammad, even serenading Mr. Muhammad with a concert on his violin. I watched him rebuild the Nation of Islam, literally brick by brick beginning in 1978, three years after Mr. Muhammad departed from among us. During his early ministry, Farrakhan even came to Washington and spoke every Wednesday for six months at the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA, to help re-establish the Nation of Islam in D.C.

I have seen him in good health and under medical affliction, and now, looking at him seven months from his 87th birthday, he looks like a much, much younger man.

And I was blessed to travel with the Minister as a reporter, literally around the globe on three World Friendship Tours after the MMM. Tours, which took us to dozens of countries on six continents — Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, South America, and North America — as well as to the Caribbean and some of the Pacific Islands. He was greeted like a head of state and received with honors and pomp and circumstance by none other than South African Nelson Mandela and by Cuban Fidel Castro and Palestinian Yasser Arafat, among others.

There is one other anniversary, and an additional hero, whom I embrace because of something that happened on Oct. 16. It was 1859 and my favorite U.S. military hero, Captain John Brown, led an assault on the military armory in Harper’s Ferry, in what’s now West Virginia. Brown’s was literally the first shot in the Civil War, when hundreds of thousands of Black men rose up and rushed to join the U.S. Colored Troops, fighting and dying for their freedom, to loose the shackles of slavery.

Long live the spirit of the Harper’s Ferry Raid. Long live the spirit of the Million Man March!

Askia Muhammad

WPFW News Director Askia Muhammad is also a poet, and a photojournalist. He is Senior Editor for The Final Call newspaper and he writes a weekly column in The Washington Informer.

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