IN REVERSE: Two Decades After Million Man March

Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.
– Kofi Annan, former Secretary General, United Nations

 

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from Tel Aviv Israel, Ofir J Rock with Desert Dance 

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Hail Mary 2 Decades After the Million Man March
October 16, 1995 Capitol Mall, Washington DC Million Man March

“What’s the next move ? Since then a new generation has grown up,they need directions. Where have all the men gone?”  –  Question posted by a Facebook reader under a post via The Grio with the above photo captioned On this Day in History
IN REVERSE: Two Decades After The Million Man March
written & edited by Kendall F. Person

I boarded the flight in Kingston, Jamaica and six hours later touched down in my nation’s capitol, Washington D.C.  Once into the fairways, the noticeable difference was instant, and if a person did not know, they would have been inclined to ask if something was going on. It was not just the overwhelming presence of African American men, nor was it simply the feeling that I was about to be a part of history, that drew me in, but rather the awareness of being inside a revolutionary change. But the United States is the 4th largest nation by area and 3rd most populated country on earth, so change to me, growing up on the west coast, far removed from any Mason-Dixon line, born after the Civil Rights Era, learning of Jim Crow through family stories and  history books, and never embracing the thought, that I was limited as to what I could achieve, and raised under the parental guidance of education or bust, change to me may be very different than change to another African American man, and the idea that we all think or react alike,or are in need of the same things, is a premise that should have long since been put to rest But for some reason, that eludes many to this day, when the Nation of Islam’s Minister Louis Farrakhan called, more than a million of us came.Million Man March

A new generation has emerged and the staggering advancements in technology has them entering a brand new world. In theory, and I would like to think in practice as well, young men born in or becoming citizens of the United States of America would stand on equal platforms if stripped of their personal identities, leaving only the color of their skin. But then the Birther show reemerges,  reminding us that the old guard, in some places, still stands, and  then a chain of violence erupts in Chicago thrusting us back to  the late-1980’s when violence in Black neighborhoods, nearly ripped the fabric of family and community from beneath us, and then another shooting of unarmed Black man, this time the video is clear, he was shot with his hands up in the air. Then with each peril, the cultivators of lies get top billing, giving the world a view that America is still a racist cesspool, which is simply not true,  and giving people like Carole Spicer-Groomes of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania reason to riddle this question, “What’s the next move ? Since then a new generation has grown up,they need directions. Where have all the men gone?” 

million man marchImmediately following The Million Man March, controversy regarding attendance blasted off, overshadowing all else, specifically, the need to comprehend, to recap, to ponder the reasons why we were there. Without question, the event was an unparalleled success. Well over a million Black men stood for eleven hours together, under the mild autumn sun, collectively awaiting an answer, but one would never come. Not that the multitude of speakers and entertainers did not deliver and excite. And there may have been some disappointment in Mr. Farrakhan’s decision to cover a magnitude of issues in a speech that was much too long, but because unlike the Civil Rights March led by Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1963, there was no national unifying monster, like the right to vote, to pursue and obtain an equal education or even the right to sit at the front of a bus.

I am Black and I am an American, proud in equal parts of both. But being measured by either, in a techno-savvy age, when the whole wide world is within reach, is confining, limiting, and rather we know it, believe it or accept, it can also be suffocating. October 16, 1995, was important individually as to why we went, and trying to give it a group demographic perspective, two decades later, is not only unfair to the March itself, but does little to solve the issues in our own families, neighborhoods, schools and communities, that our happening now. The United States is a multi-racial society. We maintain  a global leadership role, we operate some of the most respected institutions of higher learning, and we landed on the moon decades ago, yet we still struggle with the issue as to why we allow and place so much emphasis on color; and we still are challenged by the notion, that each man is responsible for himself, and that each family must produce role models within their clans, and that each community is better when working together in supporting our children: to unlock the power of, then unleash their potential, and that each state serves as a resource for growth, and that this one nation, under God, indivisible stands tall for liberty and justice for all.million man march

Ms. Spicer-Groomes, I applaud you for your nerve and willingness to ask such a tough question in a public forum like Facebook, and you certainly deserve an answer: The men have not gone anywhere. They are in Philadelphia working hard, raising families, building businesses and trying to make a difference. They are in Sacramento developing programs, building futures. They are in Detroit and Atlanta and Providence and Denver and in Washington D.C., but all do not commandeer the microphone or a guest spot on t.v. They are white and black and latino and asian and arab and Christian and Muslim and young and old, but the voices of reason are often out shined by the violence and indecision, that sometimes we prefer to see. And maybe if we believe that nothing has changed, we are not forced to look internally, questioning ourselves, “Am I doing my part?”  The Neighborhood is a loved and respected source, and even though our numbers are noticeably growing, we are still a small voice. But we throw a Hail Mary anyway, for it matters not the size of our contribution, only that one is made. And one day, who knows, our small, peaceful voices united together, may lead to wider discussions and solutions not based on race.

– an editorial from thepublicblogger

 

 

 

 

 

cover photo million man march courtesy of steadystevie_wssu

42 comments

  1. I have that picture on my instagram page. I was in the crowd as an 8th grader, and it was the craziest, wildest and now looking back on it… one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen.

    Like

  2. Thanks, Kendall for sharing this. We must never allow this important landmark to be forgotten though that is a worry that is unfounded because it never can.

    It is a post worth sharing even further and I ask your indulgence to do so. I think I like your neighborhood; will visit often.

    Thanks for following emotanglobal. Best wishes.

    Like

  3. I think that each of us must answer these questions for ourselves. As a Black man and a writer, I pursue my role in three areas: first, by writing and talking about how class remains an obstacle in our society, black, white, and brown; second, by taking every opportunity to stand in solidarity with women, black, white, and brown; and third, by writing and talking about a need I see for us to build our ability to act by each becoming more *mentally* healthy. This last one is especially important. Inequality of all kinds damages us emotionally and psychologically, and until we work to heal that damage, blind spots and divisions will get in the way of our battling inequality effectively. Those are the three areas where I want to make contributions.

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  4. Hello my good friend.
    Such a strong ending to a powerful reminder of the reason for that one day that will live on in each of us, even though a good many of us were barely a twinkle in our own parents eyes.
    A sandcastle on the beach is built by bringing together one grain of sand after another in unity to give the structure a solid base for foundation, and more groupings of sand bound together one at a time until enough individual grains of sand put together for one cause, one purpose to create something beautiful because they, just as the million men on that day, bound together for one purpose, one cause, creating something of true beauty:
    Unity among Man, Woman, and Child.
    It does/did not take one person to bring together all of the people that day, or even today. It takes/took a belief of equality of everyones differenecs, just as each individual grain of sand dose to build that sand castle, no two grains are alike, just as no two people are alike, but yet we are all the same!
    Sand is still sand, but together it can create something beautiful;
    People are still people, but as MLK describes, we are all beautiful and of one kind, a human race. That has always been my interpretation.
    Thank you for another wonderful and touching post.

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    • Kip – I often say that while I may present the topic, the real wisdom and knowledge and learning and sharing can be found down here in the discussion forum, and your voice confirms that I am right. Thank you for unifying words and thank you for being such an important part of The Neighborhood.

      Like

  5. You speak the truth my friend and you speak it well. We only have one world and one life. We can make a difference, make things better, if we just believe in each other.

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  6. A fascinating post with a positive message that is as pertinent here in the UK as I’m sure it is in the US. I feel richer for having read it.

    My mother, sadly no longer with us, raised us to look beyond a person’s colour, but never to deny it or pretend to ignore it. My mum’s family adopted a 9 year old Nigerian girl, Gillian, in the late 1950’s, whom I grew up knowing as Auntie Gill. Mum’s other sister, Maggie, had emigrated to Australia when I was two, so I didn’t really know her as anything other than a signature and smiley photograph at Christmas. I saw a Gill and her husband, Bill, plus their excellent kids Josh and Helen, three or four times a year – often staying in their beautiful town house in Scotland during the summer holidays. Gill is my brilliant Aunt. She is black. She is also outspoken, outrageously clever and very witty. But most importantly, she is incredibly kind.

    When Mum got really ill, her sisters gathered around her. Maggie came over from Perth – my mum’s doppleganger with a twangy accent. Gill came down from Glasgow and stayed over at my little sister’s house. To see all three of them back together, albeit under pretty grim circumstances, was just beautiful. These three women, all distinctly different in so many ways, bound by something far more significant than skin colour, eye shape or hair texture. They were bound by a fierce love. Sisters, one and all.

    Sending my very best wishes, Kendall.

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    • Adam – Adding your own personal, emotional and triumphant story of love over color, family over race, in The Neighborhood forum, supports so many of the ideas I hoped to get across in the context of Hail Mary. We have collaborated together on a story (Skeletons), we are loyal readers of one another’s work, we often, without knowing, touch on similar topics, and no problems in challenging or complimenting one another’s words. Yet we live on different sides of the Atlantic Ocean, have different belief systems in faith, and are opposite in color, but none of that mattered to our forging a friendship, that if we had confined ourselves to a box, may have never taken place. Always good hearing from you, my friend. Hope you and your family are having a beautiful day. – KP

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Awesome post! I ask myself all the time, what’s next? I am finished my Master’s, in a solid career, active community volunteer and leader, active Churchgoer. I think my generation yearns for the need to please and self-satisfaction. I know me personally, seeing my parents literally break down barriers to build paths of opportunities makes me ask this question almost weekly. I am learning to be still and accept my moment before it’s all gone.

    Thanks for the post!
    Have a good evening.

    Jasmine

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    • Jasmine – It took me some time to understand what my contribution was and even longer to comprehend that making the contribution was bigger than me. Thank you for adding your personal journey, that I know will inspire others. You are appreciated. So good to have you in The Neighborhood.

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  8. Nicely written. I am unworthy of the task of proffering any easy or all encompassing answer. But I know that men are being silenced and their masculinity besmirched in what is now a gynocentric society that is increasingly hostile to men and boys, and dismissive of their current and future value in effecting positive change within the global community.

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    • But you are worthy of adding your voice to the discussion, which you have done so beautifully. Not one of us can solve the riddle that has affected society for so many years, alone, but collectively, the answer is out there. Thank you, Chris for making your contribution. You are appreciated. So good to see you in The Neighborhood.

      Like

  9. Another beautifully worded post! I hope you don’t mind, I reblogged it. I am completely on board with looking beyond race and religion, and focusing on solutions and progress. Blessings to you and yours.

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