I’ll never forget the day of the Million Man March, 11 years ago today. I was in my 4th year of college at the University of Michigan and it was only on the day itself that I realized that my tendency toward letting my school work pile up was a poor excuse for missing part of history.
Of course, I’d decided I couldn’t go anyway because I found the "men only" nature of the event to be silly, potentially divisive, and disrespectful of my Nubian queens. At the very least we could have doubled the tally for a 2 million person march, right?
I watched the television coverage with my fellow Afro-centrists at the Black Student Union. Here is what I remember:
- As we expected, the journalists claimed that at the start of the march, the actual number of marchers was far less than a million, more like 500,000. Of course, we knew this was a c-o-n-spiracy. :)
- There was a 12-year old (or younger) kid with a dashiki who spoke like he was 20 years older and commanded us to rise up like he was Malcolm. I wonder where that brotha is today?
- More agreement among us viewers that we had easily exceeded a million.
- I was trying to understand why some women spoke at the event, yet they were discouraged from attending. Odd.
- I gave much props to Benjamin Chavis (pre-Muhammad) because he was down with hip hop and he had revolutionary credentials (my favorite combination). Little did I know we’d later learn about a mistress and get ourselves a classic rise and fall and partial redemption story later on…
- Why did Minister Farrakhan have to be soooo.. well… boring! He took way too long to get to the point, and the supposed etymology / deconstruction of the word "atonement" into "at, one, ment" was just random. Bruh, you’re supposed to tell us why we’re here and how we’re supposed to be different after going through this atonement process.
- Ok, the whole William Lynch thing sounded fake to me even then. Not exactly written in what I would imagine to be antebellum vernacular, not to mention the overly self-conscious diabolical smugness ascribed to the slaveholder — their crimes speak for themselves. Did Farrakhan really believe that Black people needed contrived melodrama as admonishment to turn our energies from inward conflict toward solving our problems?
So now I look back and ask myself what was accomplished. I think for anyone who went, the experience had to be powerful, and probably there were many who were changed once they realized the responsibility and potential of their lives. So maybe those individual changes continue to ripple through our community today, motivating us to strive and seek redemption for our people as a whole.
But the effect is smaller than I would have hoped, and I hear less about the march today than I would expect for such a significant event. I think we have several stages to go through before our culture reaches a level of organization and unity that would permit us to act purposefully as a collective to control our own destiny.
Anyway, until recently, Detroit had over a million Black people, so every day there was a march of a million. Maybe we can get Jesse or Obama or Mandela or Al or somebody to come down to the D and get the city marching until we find whatever the answer is for undoing these last few centuries.