WASHINGTON, DC — I stood on the National Mall Saturday with tens of thousands of African-American men and women and witnessed the evolution of a movement.
On the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March, the mantra that echoed across the Mall had changed dramatically since the original rally in 1995. Gone were the passionate public affirmations to uplift our communities, respect black women, and rebuild our neighborhoods.
Those critical pledges – which are still as relevant today as they were in 1995 – were not totally abandoned Saturday, but were momentarily replaced with a provocative modern-day narrative that resonated with many exasperated African-Americans: “Justice or Else.”
As the author who wrote the first book about the Million Man March, I saw a profound shift from public promises in 1995 to a firm demand for justice, racial equality and the end of racial profiling in 2015.
This was a much stronger stance than in 1995; today’s movement is a collective surge of emotion that comes from deep frustrations: fatal interactions with police; a government that overlooks and undervalues black men; and a constant show of disrespect for Barack Obama, the nation’s first Black president. Perhaps we need more mass gatherings to express our shared anger and pain.
Bill Murrain, a lawyer from Conyers, Georgia, traveled to Washington, D.C., for the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March and stood side-by-side with his five sons, two son-in-laws, and five grandsons.
As a civil rights attorney in the 1960s who rallied for social justice, Murrain said he was reminded of his racial confrontations with police in places like the Mississippi Delta, Stockton, California and Benton Harbor, Michigan.
And 20 years after the Million Man March in 1995, when Nation of Islam Leader Minister Louis Farrakhan called for black men to gather with a pledge to uplift their communities, much in America has changed.
“It pains me greatly that in these days, in these times, we must still respond to the cry that “BLACK LIVES MATTER,” Murrain said. But he added, “Our quest and our charge, having been here today, is to recognize that it is our responsibility to strive to assure that our good days must increasingly outnumber our bad days.”
Since the Million Man March in 1995, life for many young Black men has gotten progressively worse.
The Million Man March – 20 Years Later, Its Ideals Are Still Valid was originally published on blackamericaweb.com