Seas of African American men and women stood on the National Mall waiting for the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan to mount the glass enclosed podium on October 10, 2015 with a clarion call for unity and self-determination. Twenty years after his first call for justice, where the largest gathering of black men US history convened, the reprise of this anniversarial Million Man March carried a theme intense and most poignant, “Justice or Else!” Or Else what, Min. Farrakhan?
Our anticipation was high, even as we traveled from the Appalachian mountains of Asheville, NC to Washington, DC. The teen men on board the 54-passenger charter bus sat in seats of naivete not really grasping the historical weight of the moment, yet as anxious about the opportunity to travel out of Western North Carolina to the nation’s capitol as those aboard their senior, who with wisdom and age discerned the importance of the times and the need for a bold messenger unafraid to cry loud the demands of African-Americans. Justice Or Else! Or Else what Min. Farrakhan?
As we travelled throughout the night the excitement from the young travelers on board soon dissipated and sleep prevailed. In hours from our midnight departure, the bus was finally quiet. With only one stop for breakfast we arrived at our destination; crowded city streets thick with a beautiful medley of melanin, unity and pure of brotherhood.
With little interest in the cities usual attractions, we managed to scurry past the Vietnam Veteran Memorial, Washington Memorial and everything in between, finding common reason to entrust our time to a 30-foot centerpiece southwest of our journey’s end. The fourth monument honoring a non-president and the first man of color, necessitated group pictures and selfies. The likeness of Dr. Martin Luther King emerging powerfully from two large boulders. One would imagine that we found of the object of our seven hour long anticipation, but it was time for us to move on. Farrakhan would mount the rostrum at 1 pm. So we hustled to get there and to be as close as we could, so as to feel the vibrations and fresh winds of knowledge, divine instruction, less our sojourning be in vain.
Many in our group complained in hunger. We would have to stop at some point to eat, but the closer we got, purpose overruled hunger and the crowd thickened. The complaining ceased. We made it!
Members of our group were disconnected, lost in the crowd, yet amongst brethren and kin all we comforted!
With our backs to the Lincoln monument; a stance figurative and literal, so symbolic to our disdain of the superpower who legalized our enslavement and current bonds. We set our face and affection towards the east from whence our fathers came hundreds of years hence. Justice or Else! Or else what Min. Farrakhan?
Some patiently waited with child-like quandary, glued to the monitors placed like milemarker on the west lawn to aid all in seeing and hearing the great words of reclamation. Others wandered beyond on the National Mall, onto the streets where vendors and street merchants sold T-shirts, buttons, hats, bean pies, The Final Call and other memorabilia. All vagabonds of a sort until the announcement of Farrakhan’s arrival. And as the lightning cometh out of the East and shineth even unto the West, so he stood, 82 years old and more astute than ever, the warmth of wisdom was inspiration, but direct.
Everyone gathered like pastured sheep drawing close to it’s masters voice in the same place where a many black Americans stood in solidarity with Martin Luther King in 1963, coming to “cash a check…a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.” The same place where President Barack Obama, the first African American president, twice stood and recited the oath of office and gave an inaugural address.
The Nation Of Islam’s leader stood in authority and with a public message, a public cry for justice. “Justice is the birthright of every human being. Justice is a prerequisite of life,” he firmly stated and as he continued to set the tone and purpose of the day he honored also, the struggles of Latinos, Native Americans and other Indigenous communities.
Oscillating between the Holy Bible and the Qu’ran he spoke about Judgement on America because “the wicked have denied the people that great principle of justice and fair dealing in an equitable manner…..whatsoever a man soweth, the same shall he reap.” Justice and Judgement was the cry of his speech that lasted over two hours long. And he made a point to state his demands:
We want justice for the Native American Indians.
We want justice for the Mexican and Latinos.
We want justice for Women.
We want justice for the Poor.
We want justice for the Incarcerated.
We want justice for the Veterans.
We want Land.
Justice or Else!
“How long are you gonna live under tyranny and continue to pass on the legacy of cowardice to your children?” he asked. Then he told the crowd that Justice or Else! will become a rallying cry but it also serves as a threat!
A diverse group of onlookers cheered in the crowd; clergy, grassroots activists, street organizations, educators, gang interventionist, homeless activists, entertainers and 54 individuals from our Asheville community, young and old, three young women and 51 men.
Photos by Tony Shivers