The Million Man March was the gathering of millions of African-American men in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 16, 1995. These men were standing in solidarity, exchanging knowledge and ideas. The Million Man March celebrated their 20th anniversary this year, and had their march Oct. 10 in Washington, D.C. Men from all walks of life — including celebrities like Snoop Dog Sean, Puffy Combs and Common — all came out to pay respects to the Million Man March anniversary. All of that diversity, knowledge and power in one place is extraordinary, to say the least. According to USA Today, they also discussed police brutality and bringing about a sense of unity amongst men of color, as well as the making of a blueprint for how each of us can help make our community better.
The Million Man March was also a spark of a new movement called Justice or Else, which was the theme of the Million Man March this year. Justice or Else says, “We want justice. We want equal justice under the law. We want justice applied equally regardless to creed or class or color.” This movement is the demand for justice and what further steps need to be taken when justice isn’t given.
This movement deserved way more attention than it received. It ultimately talks about the unity of our race when we don’t receive the justice that we deserve. I am in complete agreement that justice shouldn’t be dependent on the color of an individual’s skin. This movement not only embodied the African-American race, but also Native Americans, Latinos, women, veterans, the poor and the incarcerated. This movement brought oppressed groups into one space and they all sat at one table, yet this event was completely ignored and overlooked, and one can only ask, “Why?”
One thing that I pride myself on is the acknowledgment of triumphs as well as the bad things that happen in my community. I don’t speak only when bad things happen to let my opinions, outrages or concerns be heard. I speak to congratulate, to give support and awareness to things that are occurring, particularly in racial communities. This event was a definite triumph for not only the African-American community, but for other racial groups who experience racial oppression. It gave all of us an option of moving forward together as people of color to receive justice.
I have been asked about the article one of my colleagues wrote about white privilege, which was printed right around the same time as the Million Man March, and I have yet to respond simply because I felt that there were other, more pressing issues taking place on a larger scale. I’m neither shocked nor am I surprised by what she said — she is very much entitled to her opinion, whether it was backed with facts or purely by feelings. Her article caused such a stir — I’ve seen it on Facebook several times and I also had the chance to read a few of the comments. I had a discussion with a group of friends regarding this subject, and one thing that was said is that as a person of color, it is not your job to teach anyone outside of your race about how your life is. In the position a lot of us are in, at an institution of higher learning, if you really want to know about something or understand something better, there are innumerable sources that can assist in becoming better educated. I am not here to teach, I am here to bring awareness.
The exchange of knowledge and resources to your fellow racial members, however, is your job. I didn’t harbor on the article because it was something that I felt a lot of my African-American peers would all communally say was wrong based on facts. There was and is no further reason to beat that horse to death. But what I will say is the ignoring and non-recognition of an event of such magnitude, like the Million Man March and the Justice or Else movement, is unacceptable.
We gave so much energy to something that was really undeserving, like the white privilege column, and didn’t promote the idea of collegiate learning because it was not backed by facts. I am a promoter of collegiate knowledge, and when my friends and I get together, the majority of the time I listen silently to understand the sharing of factually-backed knowledge that I wouldn’t have heard of otherwise. This should be a main focus and something that each and every one of us should strive to do — to share knowledge — not wallow in our feelings, but rather pay attention to the facts. Giving energy to trivial discussion is, in my opinion, an act of injustice to yourself, what you stand for as an individual and how you present yourselves as a group.
The Million Man March should’ve been a huge topic of discussion, and honestly could’ve been an opportunity for ample discussions about some of the topics that were bought up. Why didn’t anyone ask about the criteria or the guidelines for how Justice or Else is under? This movement and march encompassed ideas and thoughts made by African-American youth, and was backed up by some of our community’s most prominent leaders. It isn’t enough to talk about an issue — you have to make up ground regardless of how small those steps may be, and this event could’ve helped the process of taking those steps. And when you pay substantial attention to things that aren’t beneficial to the progression or bettering issues and conditions, it’s a hindrance to everyone. So gain some knowledge and share that knowledge amongst one another. It is counterproductive to give energy to negativity when there is always something positive that could benefit from that same energy. Give support, do your research and know things for yourself.
At the end of the day, regardless of past historical treatments — oppression, degradation and structured racism — we as African-Americans don’t have the opportunity to say the past is the past and therefore I have no responsibility for anything that happened back then. When we speak, we have the burden of speaking for everyone, and the way we represent ourselves is reflective of us all. Don’t half-step because you chose not to be aware of what was and is happening around you on a larger scale. It is almost human nature to respond when something provocative happens, but don’t miss out on supporting events and movements that hold cultural and racial substance for so many and could help the progression of so many individuals and races as a whole.
Collegian Columnist Chynna Fayne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ChynnaFayne.