By Blair Young
Thousands of people convened on the National Mall in Washington D.C. on Saturday, October 10, to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Million Man March with the Justice or Else rally.
Although the attendance was not as massive as twenty years ago, it did offer a level of diversity that was not found at the first march.
The overwhelming amount of younger people, most of them 35 and below, came to voice their displeasure with the current situation of being a young black person in America. The crowds also had a large contingency of women, which was one of the major criticisms of the original march.
Reverend Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam and main organizer of the event, gave a powerful speech to the many people attendance in front of the Capitol building. At its peak, the crowd stretched well past the Reflection Pool to about halfway to the Washington Monument; in comparison, the 1995 march had a crowd that reached to the monument.
The attendance figures of the first march have always been disputed, but an independent study in 1995 put a ballpark figure around 800,000. Since the first march, the National Park Service no longer provides crowd estimates for events on the National Mall. The actual figure from this march may not be known for weeks, but what is known is that the target audience was reached.
Young people heeded the call to action and made up the majority of the audience. Morgan State was represented well with four buses full of students to add to the multitude of other HBCUs in attendance. Many families were also in attendance with a lot of them having young children.
The biggest surprise had to be the amount of women that attended the rally. The original march was accused of being exclusive and sexist, so much so, that the Million Women March was held two years later.
Brother Malik, a member of the Nation of Islam, was working one of the many security checkpoints. “It was great to see the turnout of all the sistas today,” said Malik “we didn’t want to exclude anyone this time.”
Many celebrities also took part in the rally. Will and Jada Pinkett Smith made a $150,000 donation to the effort. Other celebrities such as J.Cole, Dave Chappelle, Common, Snoop Dogg, Sean Diddy Combs, and Young Jeezy, were spotted in the crowd. Surprisingly not in attendance were prominently visible black political leaders such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. President Obama, who attended the march twenty years ago, was in California for fundraising activities
A large contingency from Latin and Native American groups also attended the march and had a group of speakers that discussed the issues that affect them as well as the black community. This created a sense of unity among different cultures that became one of the major themes of the day.
All the speakers discussed how solidarity was the first step to achieving our goals. The message was clear, oppressed people must stop destroying each other and focus on the true enemy.