BY ELLICE ELLIS, OPINIONS EDITOR
Hundreds of thousands of Black men, women, and children gathered on the National Mall for the “Justice or Else!” rally on October 10. The march was organized by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, leader of Nation of Islam, to mark the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March that took place in 1995.
Farrakhan praised the young protesters behind the Black Lives Matter movement and called for institutional reform within the healthcare, justice and education systems. The march was increasingly more progressive than it was in 1995; it included social media efforts, a website, www.justiceorelse.com, and increased representation of women, Native Americans, veterans and other underrepresented groups.
However, some intolerance was shown when Minister Farrakhan spoke on abortion. “It is your body, you can do what you want with it,” Farrakhan told the crowd. But as he reflected on his own mother’s struggle with abortion, he added it would be dismal if the next great scientist or leader’s life was cut short due to abortion. He also completely ignored the plight of LGBT people in the struggle for equal justice.
Speakers at the march linked the ongoing struggle of the Black community to several modern-day incidents. The families of unarmed African-American men and women killed in encounters with police and civilians encouraged the crowd to continue to speak out against police brutality and unlawfulness.
Sybrina Fulton is the mother of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old Black American who was fatally shot by George Zimmerman, a so-called neighborhood watch volunteer. She spoke at the march, saying, “We will not continue to stand by and not say anything anymore.”
On Saturday, there were many young adults in attendance. Rappers such as J.Cole, Snoop Dogg, and Common were few of the many celebrities in the crowd as well.
Senior Bakari Sibert was among the thousands who were carrying signs and listening to speeches from activists of all walks of life on the breezy fall day.
Sibert, who is the founder of Wilson’s Black Student Union and attended the march with other Wilson BSU members, believed that “it would be beneficial for the group to see a form of black activism that has been refined over the years.”
“It’s important for the group to know that there are others that are trying to make the world a better place for us,” said Sibert.
Signs of support for justice in the Black community were resounding. Numerous T-shirts said “Fists Up, Afros Out” and posters read “We Can’t Breathe,” a phrase that came about after the killing of New York’s Eric Garner by police.
“Most of the shirts and signs represented a well needed awareness in the African American community,” said Wilson senior and photographer DeWayne Johnson. However, he was disappointed in those who were “posing as if the Million Man March even meant anything to them.”
He noted that many of those present “would take a picture of themselves at the event and then leave right after. They didn’t even listen to Farrakhan, the preachers, the parents of Trayvon Martin or anything.”
Whether poser, activist or concerned citizen, the organizers of the march welcomed all on Saturday, saying they expected hundreds of thousands of participants. The National Park Service estimated the attendance at the original march to be around 400,000, which was disputed at the time by Nation of Islam and private organizations who put the number at 1 million people or more.
The National Park Service has refused to give crowd estimates on Mall activities since, but with numbers or not, the masses that flocked to the event yesterday proved to many present at the original Million Man March that the feeling of unity is still alive.
PHOTO BY DEWAYNE JOHNSON