By Ashley Oliver
The theme spearheaded by Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan, was atonement of the black community. However, 20 years later the focus is on black youth empowerment through education.
On Oct. 10, thousands of people gathered on Capitol Hill to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March. Among the throng of pedestrians in attendance of the historical event were 38 students from York College and St. John’s University. In stark contrast to the 1995 march, led by Farrakhan to declare justice for equal rights, this congregation set precedent to the original marchers teaching the youth about unity.
Some officials attribute a lack of unity within the black community to negative stereotypes perpetuated on media.
“I want to see the youth put our organization skills that we created in 1995 put to work,” said Khalil Gibran Muhammad, the Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. “The only way they’re gonna get there is if the youth are taught to love their culture on mainstream media and schools.”
Farrakhan added, “If we don’t prepare young people to carry that torch of liberation to the next step? The youth need us so they can understand how beautiful black really is.”
But some of the original marchers believe that this march should be a warning to the black community about progress.
“Twenty years and our youth are killing each other,” said 61-year old Baltimore Native Xian Goorisha. “Before we left the march in 1995, we made a commitment to not only atone but to be good parents for our children. Unfortunately, we ain’t make it yes as a whole.”
64-year old Abdul Maalik Ulmulk from Philadelphia added, “Animals is what some of our youth are perceived as. It’s not only mainstream media, it has come a reality and they think it’s cool.”
The theme of this year’s gathering was ‘Justice or Else’. National civil-rights organizations hope that the rallying will draw attention to unlawful murders within the black community.
“Justice means not just us,” said 65-year-old James Wilson, an original protester. “Everyone has a right to dignity, but the consequence is going to happen when words aren’t enough.”
While many of the protesters blame the government for not promoting black unity, some believe that the black community should blame themselves for feeding into the propaganda that the media portrays and being slaves of Corporate America.
“There’s a lot of propaganda in the media,” said Boston resident 31-year old Kirk Ridley. There’s also a lot of negative cultures that we pick up through the media. It’s not just talking anymore. If we have to disrupt revenue so be it. There’s other ways than violence to start a revolution. And right now, it looks like hitting them financially is probably the most efficient way to do it.”
But York College’s Student Government Treasurer, Janna Rodriguez, believes black youth have become more unified since 1995.
“Black teenagers and minority groups have sparked many important social movements,” said Rodriguez. “A lot of young children participated in the Million Man March in New York last year, too.”
Some protesters said with proper guidance from the elders in the black community, children would be more proactive in their communities.
“I blame the parents,” said Ulmulk. “At the first march, we promised to atone and become better fathers and set an example for our children. But we can’t blame society. It’s inevitable that some children will fight with each other and follow media, but we have to set the example.”
York’s African American Studies Club president, Roberto Brutus, said, “Even if there aren’t a lot of youth involved, there are still some who take action. The youth that are involved can set the example for the rest of us. Not only black people, but for every race for a better future.”