On Saturday October 10, 2015, I had the privilege to travel to Washington, DC with a busload of twenty-seven people to commensurate the 20 year anniversary of the Million Man March. The after-school program, which I am the Program Director, Young Scholars in Service @ Connexions: A Community Arts Based School in West Baltimore sponsored the excursion. Like a million plus men twenty years ago, I attended the original march. And I have repeatedly stated that the Million Man March in 1995 influenced me to become an educator and serve my community in a greater capacity. But my excitement to attend this march this time wasn’t for personal gain or gratification, rather, I wanted to see how the march would impact the lives of the young people who would be in attendance with us.
The youth who traveled with us were awaken as early as 5am in the morning, to arrive at our bus departure location in West Baltimore to begin traveling to DC at 6:15am. We wanted to arrive as early as possible to avoid traffic and to also position ourselves close to the stage. As we boarded the bus, I was trying to gauge the temperature of our youth. Were they excited? Were they nervous? Were they still sleepy? What’s the mood of our young people?
Our children were prepped for the trip to Washington, DC in advance. We had several people, myself included, speak to students to get them excited about attending 10-10-15. But unlike the first march when Minister Louis Farrakhan himself traveled from every major city to every other major city to galvanize the people support with one consistent message from his voice, this time many spoke and the message was not as consistent. So the expectation of the day’s event was not thoroughly understood and left for interpretation.
Nevertheless, we went to the march and became part of a historical moment. We peacefully stood in solidarity with hundreds of thousands of people. Side by side stood men, women, and children as attentive as soldiers. And we listened to speaker after speaker. Personally, I was inspired and motivated by all who spoke, to return home to continue to do the work necessary to improve the conditions in the community I live and serve in. However, as I stated earlier, this moment wasn’t about me. Instead, this was more about our youth. So when we returned to Baltimore, I asked our young people in tow to share with me their feelings and thoughts in writing, about their experience. I collected papers yesterday and today I’d like to share with you words from the mouth of a child:
“Saturday I went to the Million Man March. I mainly went there because I heard celebrities would be there and there would be free food. My peers told me that it would be a historic march and we would be part of history. I had a few doubts, thinking if stuff hasn’t changed for a long while then this march wouldn’t change things. However, I tried to hold judgment, hoping that maybe, just maybe this march would actually change things for the better. So I went to the march Saturday with some other students. We got to DC and listened to the speakers at the march. The speakers talked about the many issues facing black people and Native American and Latinos. They talked about MANY injustices that have happened against black people, some of which I didn’t even know about. I stood and listened to them speak. None of their words stuck with me and I just became bored. After the whole speech, I was overall disappointed. In my opinion, they just repeated many of the things they have said throughout the many months and years. Look, I understand African-Americans have gone through hell and back to get where they are today. I understand that they have been horribly mistreated. But nowadays when I hear people on TV speaking about the mistreatment of black people I really don’t pay it much attention. I feel like all they do is talk about issue after issue without talking about a solid, strategic solution to solve the problem. That’s what it felt like Saturday at the march. They talked about issues, they talked about how people have succeeded doing this and that, but never did the present a solid plan on how to make things better.
They talked about how black people need to join together, stop hating on each other and be at peace with each other. So let’s say black people really do join up in unity, then what? Are they going to protest? Join together for another speech? What is the plan? I’ve seen people protest and making speeches, but where does that get us? I understand it is meant as a way to be seen and heard by all, but I feel like they resort to protesting and speeches instead of coming up with a real plan that targets the people who can really make change in this country. I’m talking about a plan that brings change through a strategic nonviolent way. I’m sick of seeing all this protest and not seeing any significant results. I feel like there is a way for black people to get what they want. There is always a way to get what you want, you just have to sit down and really think of the best way to do it. Until that really happens we will be stuck in the current state we are in. I don’t believe the issues facing black people will ever end in the world we live in, it just doesn’t seem possible. However, I believe there are measures we can take to temporarily solve our current problems until the next problem arises. I don’t know all the fact about the race problem in our county and I’m sure I’m missing a bit of stuff, but this is just how I see things through my eyes.”