By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide
Plans are underway to observe the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March (MMM) on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on October 10, 2015.
The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam (NOI) which organized the event two decades ago, has been touring the nation talking to local organizing committees (LOCs) and developing support for the event.
On August 21, Farrakhan reached out to the nation’s Black-owned media through a teleconference to over 50 reporters and publishers representing the National Newspapers Publishers Association (NNPA). NNPA is the official association of over 200 Black-owned newspapers across the nation, including the New Journal and Guide.
Farrakhan answered a number of questions from the reporters about the positive and negative outcome of the event 20 years, the role of the Black press in promoting this year’s anniversary, the role of the current civil rights movement and what needs to be done to secure economic, social and political justice for Blacks.
This year the theme of the MMM will be “Justice or Else” which will emphasis economic, political and civil rights for Blacks and other oppressed groups.
Farrakhan said it is being directed toward the U.S. Government, “ to encourage it to address economic, social and judicial ills which are impacting Blacks and other minorities in America.”
Twenty years ago, the theme was “Atonement, Reconciliation and Responsibility.”
Twenty years ago over one million Black men mainly and women attended the event, to symbolize the need to address many of the social, political and economic issues facing the Black community.
The anniversary coincides with the rise of the current civil rights movement, prompted by the fatal shootings of unarmed Black men by police, issues with urban public education, rising costs of college education, and the erosion of the Black family.
Farrakhan said on the day the event was held 20 years ago, he was impressed with the show of unity and peace.
“I came down those steps of the (U.S.) Capitol … seeing all of those African-American men standing shoulder to shoulder (as far back as) the Lincoln Memorial,” said Farrakhan. “Many were gang leaders.. and I asked them not to bring weapons with them.”
“You could see the power of peace,” he continued, .”.. for 14 hours, there were no arguments, no smoking … no drugs, no crime.”
Months after the MMM 20 years ago, Farrakhan said there was an upsurge in Black men recommitting themselves to their communities and their families; registering to vote which helped Democrats in the 1996 presidential election; and attending religious services.
Farrakhan said civil rights organizations such as the NAACP and the Urban League saw a surge in membership.
“They were asking.. how could a Muslim have so much influence, to call that many people together,” Farrakhan said. “The government did not want to see it or other benefits from our unity … which would kill White supremacy.
Farrakhan said on the day the MMM was held, the U.S. Congress was considering legislation to impose mandatory minimum sentences for crack and powdered cocaine use and distribution.
The laws were backed by the Clinton-Gore Administration. They led to a wave of mass incarceration of mostly poor Black men and women; a policy the nation is now reconsidering.
Former President Clinton recently apologized for the impact the laws have had on the Black community especially.
Farrakhan suggested that much of the post Million Man March goodwill unity and involvement has been replaced with high rates of Black on Black homicides and lose of ground economically and educationally.
He said he hopes the message of the second MMM will encourage a reversal of these trends.
“We must take the responsibility to end the fratricide,” he said. “We must end the criminal activity in our community.
At the same time he said that closing of factories and schools and the inability for Blacks to create jobs “to strengthen our community,” has had a negative impact as well.
Farrakhan said he applauded the Black Lives Matters Movement which has revived a Civil Rights Movement led by Blacks a generation ago.
He praised the young Black activists who have promoted and developed the concept.
“It has caught on like wild fire,” said Farrakhan, “When God gives anyone an idea it goes from one to all. But Whites who have joined the movement … want to change the language to ‘All Lives Matter.’”
“They do. But until Black lives matter, then all lives will not matter,” he continued. “No one should rob the young sister (who conceived the Black Lives Matter idea) because God is using her.”
Farrakhan said that Blacks should establish a “renewed love and respect for each other” to give credibility to the idea.
Farrakhan called for an end of the squabbling among Black leadership, noting, “We are easy to forgive White slavers and the pain they heaped on us for 400 years. But it is so hard for to forgive each other.”
Farrakhan was asked how the Black Press could stay engaged to promote the upcoming anniversary march.
“We should look at the narrative of the theme .. “Justice or Else,” he said. “Look at the quest for justice for Blacks, Native Americans, women … and the struggles of veterans and others who feel deprived.”
“The Black press should encourage us to unify,” he continued. “To add our voice to the struggle … which will take on a new dimension after October 10 … because we have much work to do to renew the Black community economically.
As the leader of the Nation of Islam has done for decades, Farrakhan said Blacks should redirect, a portion of the $1.3 trillion they inject into the U.S. economy each year to uses in their own community, including buying and advertising in the Black newspapers.
He said we should buy land in our community to create agri-businesses, to feed and clothe people and build schools and factories.
Farrakhan said in 1968 Blacks devoted some $30 billion into the U.S. economy, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. began to talk about economic justice and equality.
He noted it was that same year on the eve of his death, on April 3, that King was in Memphis supporting Black sanitation workers “who wanted fair treatment and decent wages.”
“Dr. King was not just a dreamer,” said Farrakhan. “His dream was a nightmare for those did not like his idea of strengthening our people.”
“$1.3 trillion is a lot of money,” Farrakhan said. “Ten percent of it is $300 million which could be used to build hospitals, factories, and support our Black colleges, so they would not have to water down their teaching.”
On politics, Farrakhan said that “the Black vote is very powerful and we should not be cast it foolishly.”
“The candidates must speak to justice,” he said. “I cannot vote for Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Sanders until they say what (they) will do to save America …”