Now that the 25th anniversary of the Million Man March is firmly in our collective rearview mirrors, let me reflect nostalgically about that great day, which was more than a year in the making for me.
It all began at a speech given by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan to an overflow crowd at New York’s Madison Square Garden in late 1993. At the conclusion of his address, the Minister made an unusual appeal. It was to the women present, which included, Dr. Betty Shabazz, the widow of Brother Malcolm X.
The Minister asked the women for “permission” to hold a series of rallies around the country, just for the brothers. His “men only” rallies would call Black men to account, to stand up and be the men Almighty God (Allah) intended us to be. To take responsibility for our duties as fathers, husbands and brothers.
Minister Farrakhan went on to Boston, and at one of his speeches, he said that Allah put it on his heart to call for a march, a march of 1 million Black men in Washington in 1995, to repent and to atone.
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land,” the Minister quoted 2 Chronicles, the seventh chapter and 14th verse. He repeated that verse often in speeches to packed audiences to men only, all over the country in the lead up to the march which was set to take place, not on a weekend, but on a Monday, Oct. 16, 1995.
As thrilled as I often become when I listen to the Minister speak, it was at his men’s only address at the D.C. Armory when I first recognized that the March was going to be really, really big!
After the lecture, charity was being collected, and the big donations were being acknowledged. “Thanks to the men from Andrews Air Force Base for a donation of $1,000,” the announcer said. Say what?!
I was shocked. You see Andrews (now officially Joint Base Andrews) is the super-secure military installation where the U.S. president’s and the official fleet of U.S. diplomatic aircraft is maintained. A delegation of men — all of whom carried the very highest security clearances just to be stationed there — a group of men assigned to that most elite military base in the country, were proud to make a sizeable donation to the cause, and importantly, were not ashamed to announce their affiliation publicly.
I knew then and there that the call for the Million Man March resonated proudly, not only in my heart, but in the hearts of Black men on every level, everywhere in these United States, and that the March was destined to be a crowning success.
Brothers were ready!
In addition to trumpeting my support for the March in the months to come in The Washington Informer, I was able to help explain the event in some white, corporate-owned media outlets as well: The Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor Radio, USA Today, and The Washington Post, among them. You see, this march, for the first time in more than 50 years, was built not only on the “body” of Black discontent, but it had a Black “head.”
“This demonstration for the first time was a ‘Black thing.’ It took hold via a new, all-Black infra-structure of financing, organization, and information dissemination,” I wrote in the pages of The Post on Oct. 8, 1995. Farrakhan was blessed by The Almighty.
“Rather than continue to lament that disparity, this march sought to change it by empowering a new grassroots Black leadership. It latched on to the same source of discontent that drove the now-defunct civil rights movement: unequal treatment of African Americans. But rather than challenge white leaders for control of the civil rights groups that whites helped found, the Black organizers of this march replaced the integrated head on the civil rights movement’s Black body with a Black head.”
It was the largest demonstration of Black solidarity in this nation’s history! It was 136 years to the day that John Brown and 21 others, including five Black men and three of his sons attacked the U.S. arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, lighting the fuse of the Civil War which would end in the abolishment of slavery.
On that brilliant October day in Washington in 1995, another fuse was lit, igniting the greatest, peaceful revolution in U.S. history. It was the beginning of the Third U.S. Reconstruction.
Long live the spirit of the Million Man March!