(TriceEdneyWire.com) – Though the National Park Service no longer gives crowd estimates, some who attended in 1995 said the crowd stretched over the National Mall was comparable to 20 years ago. PHOTO: Travis Riddick/Trice Edney News Wire
(TriceEdneyWire.com) – Two decades after 1.2 million Black men assembled in a blanket of humanity that spread across the National Mall from the U. S. Capitol to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the man who convened the largest ever gathering on the Mall reenacted the Million Man March of 1995 with a new message and largely for a new generation.
Saturday’s ‘Justice or Else’ rally, featuring Minister Louis Farrakhan, drew a lineup of activists, people of faith, and families of police killing victims who, for eight hours, outlined the conditions under which African-Americans, Native Americans, Latinos and other oppressed and marginalized groups exist. To a crowd comparable to that of 20 years ago, Farrakhan – setting aside prepared remarks – spoke on a number of topics ranging from police shootings of unarmed Black people to the mistreatment of Native Americans to the manner in which many disrespect each other and themselves.
Mainly, he reminded the nation that America was built on the backs of Black slaves whose ancestors remain oppressed. He called for people of color to redirect the pain of oppression by withholding their money at Christmas in a massive economic boycott. He said Black people spend billions between Thanksgiving and Christmas, with the majority of the money handed to merchants on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.
“Our people have been deprived of the precious essence of life,” Farrakhan said. “Down this Mall, there used to be slave pens. A little yellow house where the man depicted in [the movie] ’12 Years a Slave’ was held and severely beaten.”
He continued, “I feel the pain of the ancestors, the pain of those on whose shoulders we stand. The young generation has arisen. I see the faces of the young. We who are getting older, myself and my generation, what good are we if we don’t prepare young people to take the torch the next step?” He told the youth, “We see you. We honor you.”
The march took place against the backdrop of persistent, youth-led protests against killings by police of primarily unarmed Black men, women and children. In what many are calling a new era of civil rights, millennial activists in states across the country, including those from the popular Black Lives Matter movement, have been agitating for broad, systematic changes in law enforcement and the criminal justice system.
National Action Network Executive Director Tamika Mallory, among the youth who spoke, said although the spirit of Saturday’s march – that of unity for justice – was basically the same as 20 years ago, she recognized that 20 years ago was also about “atonement, reconciliation and responsibility for the Black man.”
However, she stressed that the increasingly visible and heightened protests against the degrading of Black youth, vividly displayed through social media, has created unique circumstances that require an intensified demand of the powers that be.
“The time for games is over!” she said repeatedly. “Twenty years ago, Tamir Rice’s story would have fallen on deaf ears and would have been left to the pages of a falsified police report rather than broadcasted for the world to really know what happened to him. Twenty years ago, Sandra Bland’s bravery would have never been known to us. We would never have questioned what happened to that sister. Twenty years ago, Mike Brown’s body, being left on the street for four and a half hours, rotting in the sun, would only have traumatized that community instead of waking up the people as they did. Twenty years ago, Eric Garner’s last word would have just been whispered to his killers instead of shouted to all of us to make us wake up. We can’t breathe, brothers and sisters. Oscar Grant, Rekia Boyd, Freddie Gray, Ayana Jones, Maya Hall, Megan Hockaday,” Mallory listed the names of those killed by police. “Let us remember the words of Ida B. Wells: The ones who commit the murders write the reports!”
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