inister Louis Farrakhan’s voice ripped across the National Mall, echoing from the capitol building to the Washington Monument as thousands stood together, watching his speech projected on large screens.
Some wore shirts that said “I can’t breathe,” referencing the death of Eric Garner.
These people—families, couples and individuals—flooded down to the mall for the Justice or Else rally. The masses gathered to listen to Minister Farrakhan speak about justice for minorities including Hispanic Americans and Native Americans. It was the 20th anniversary of the original Million Man March, which took place Oct. 16, 1995. This is not to be confused with the 1963 March on Washington, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his infamous “I Have a Dream” speech.
Many wondered whether this march was different from the last: whether the rhetoric has changed, or the faces in the crowd hold a different expression This time, the Million Man March amassed women and men, including many from younger generations.
James McKinney, a Vietnam War veteran, said that he served in the military for 20 years. He attended the Million Man March in 1995. Comparing that rally to this one, he said “I never thought I’d see so much youth. The majority of the people here are youth. In those days 10 years ago, it was fathers and their sons.” He journeyed from New York City.
Minister Louis Farrakhan spoke directly to the women in the crowd.
He decried the word bitch, saying to the audience that, “your language must change as to how you address yourselves.”
He also condemned cowardice, saying that some of the older generation are not worthy of passing the torch on to the younger. “To the young that are here, we honor you,” Farrakhan said to the crowd, eliciting cheers.
Alim Muhammad, a 67 year-old Marylander, feels that not much has changed since the rally 20 years ago. “Unfortunately the issues are pretty much the same,” he said. “So I think there’s a little more focus on justice and police brutality , incarceration on a mass level.”
He noted nothing more than a superficial change in title, “I think the focus 20 years ago was a little broader, a little bit more philosophical. You might recall that the theme of the million man march was atonement, reconciliation and responsibility.”
Coinciding with the other individuals who attended both rallies, William Freeland, a 71 year-old from Philadelphia, agreed with the general consensus that not much has changed between the last rally and this one. “The changes was in the White House. That’s the only change,” he said
There is certainly one way that the march has not changed. Attendees fought obstacles and came flooding in from around the country to attend. One man drove illegally from Pennsylvania to be at the rally “We drove here, no license or nothing.” He said. They stood at the edge of the crowd, watching Farrakhan on the jumbo screen.
Terela Shields, 26, stood with his friend Tommy Lewis, 28. They were both wearing black t-shirts that read, “True Kings”. Lewis explained “Everybody’s a king. Everybody’s true queens.”
As Farrakhan’s words echoed in the background, Shields said, “Love, it ain’t even the words. Anybody can say what he’s saying, it’s the love he’s got behind that. You know when it’s real, you know when somebody’s telling the truth.”
Shields said he thought it was important for him to be at the rally because “black people, we’re taught to hate ourselves, [we] grow up not loving each other … Grow up in poverty, see terrible things at young ages, this is new. This is love.”
After Minister Louis Farrakhan spoke for an hour, many began collecting their coats, gathering their children and heading towards cars and train stations. Some seemed satisfied, others seemed unfulfilled, like they might have been looking for something more.
Featured Photo Credit: A number of young men began a dance. Led by Devontae (left), Sincere (right) and his other friends began an intricate series of jumps, claps, and punches. (Julia Lerner/Bloc Reporter)
Raye Weigel is a sophomore multiplatform journalism and English major and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.