and Nisa Islam Muhammad – Final Call Staffers
WASHINGTON – History making and the “right thing to do at the right time” was how many viewed the formal announcement of the Justice Or Else gathering scheduled for October 10, marking the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March.
Joe Certaine, former city of Philadelphia managing director and chair of the Local Organizing Committee working to get people to the Nation’s Capital in the fall, viewed the press conference and remarks by Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan, convener of the gathering, via webcast.
“The wanton killing of Black youth and increasing poverty and hopelessness have left us no other choice, but to return to D.C. and demand justice,” said Mr. Certaine.
The event scheduled as a press conference turned into an inspiring church service with a serious message about “our struggle for justice,” said Tahirah A. X Austin, a graduate student in public health at Arcadia University. That was partially because the press conference happened in a church, but not just any church as Pastor Bill Lamar told the audience. Metropolitan AME is a nearly 200-year-old edifice where former slave and freedom fighter Frederick Douglas took up membership in the 19th century.
It was especially significant as Rev. Jamal Bryant noted, because fewer than 14 days earlier, nine Black men and women were slaughtered at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. These two AME churches are among the oldest in the country.
“This is not a plea, this is not a petition, this is a demand for justice,” observed Dr. Benjamin Chavis, executive director of the original Million Man March and current president of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, which is comprised of 200 weekly Black newspapers.
Concerning words by Min. Farrakhan, convener of the upcoming gathering and the Million Man March, Dr. Chavis supported the Minister’s call for a 2015 no holiday spending campaign.
vThe former leader of the NAACP said, “I think that’s a part of the fulfillment of the justice demand. It’s not just about boycott it’s how we spend our money. We have to learn how to invest in our own businesses and invest in the development of our own banks.”
Before a packed house at the historic Metropolitan AME Church in downtown Washington, Minister Farrakhan talked about the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March gathering and bringing together all people who seek justice–but there can be no justice if Blacks do not receive justice, he said.
“We know what justice is: it’s fair dealing; it’s the law that distinguishes between right and wrong,” said Min. Farrakhan.
The Reverend Willie Wilson, pastor of Union Temple Baptist Church and an organizer of the 1995 March, shared how 20 years ago, God showed what can happen and what can be done when guided by divine direction. “This time around, with the unity of all these ethnicities, all these races and all these people who are crying out, we expect that we can multiply what we did 20 years ago to make a great difference in this nation,” he said.
Rev. Bryant, of Baltimore’s Empowerment Temple, spoke during the announcement of the Justice Or Else gathering. “We are no longer looking for symbolic victory. We are looking for substance. We are not terrorists, we are citizens who have been terrorized,” he said.
Rev. Bryant, who is also engaged in planning and organizing for the upcoming gathering here called the announcement “absolutely amazing. It was worth 20 years to get here. It was a whole lot for an ecumenical diverse community. I think we have our marching orders and we’re clear on why it is we’re coming together on Oct. 10,” he said.
While many think the Million Man March was organized by just men, Cora Masters Barry, then the first lady of the city, organized women to add their support and help to the 1995 march and will be doing the same thing for the upcoming rally.
“It’s always inspirational and educational hearing the Minister. It’s always life changing too. I think it brought all of us together, the Nation of Islam and Christians in a way that’s never been done before and it’s prophetic that this meeting was here at this church. It was planned way before the South Carolina massacre happened. “God knew before we knew that this was where we needed to be.”
During the announcement Minister Farrakhan said he would pair young community activists with young activists in the Nation of Islam.
“The Minister is one that has always invested in the future. In fact 27-years-ago he invested in me as a young 20-year-old up and coming brother in the Nation of Islam. It’s no different today. It’s beyond the walls of the Nation of Islam. He sees the value of our youth and our young people as future leaders,” said Carlos Muhammad, who leads the Nation’s Muhammad Mosque No. 6 in Baltimore. “That’s what he’s saying as a man who sees his life fading; he wants to do all that he can to make sure that our people will be OK. As we can see this time around there are very powerful, influential young people that are doing great things that have come to the side of Minister Farrakhan to fulfill this vision of Justice or Else.”
Dick Gregory, the well-known satirist and activist, welcomed Minister Farrakhan’s analysis of what’s happening in America. “It was good and on point. It was right on point. Like he said, we have to look at what’s happening, look at everything they tell us. For instance, how did that young guy (alleged Charleston shooter Dylann Roof) get a Rhodesian flag? I don’t know where to get a Rhodesian flag. So why did we buy into that? There were security cameras at the church. Who cut them off before the massacre?”
“When you’re sitting in a study circle that close, how can you have all those guns and no one sees them? He reloaded five times and no one grabbed him? When I don’t see what’s going on, I have to take the word of those that tell me, but we have to look closer,” said Mr. Gregory.
The standing room only crowd in the church stood, applauded and cheered throughout the announcement and many shared how they would get involved to help make Oct. 10 a success. “The message at Metropolitan AME Church in Washington, D.C., was the beginning of the answer to Justice or Else. From this meeting I am in love with the way Minister Farrakhan united Christians and Muslims. As a result I will be a great support and help to make sure this day comes through on 10-10-15 and more days, until our people can see the days when justice will be served. Count me in as one of the 10,000 fearless saints,” said Abdul Khadir Muhammad, who oversees Muhammad Mosque No. 4 in the District and serves as a Nation of Islam regional minister.
The local mosque and its minister worked hard to get people to turn out for the 11 a.m. announcement in a highly congested part of the city. The church was packed and at times the line to enter stretched a full city block.
Tyeisha Blair, an accountant at the University of Maryland, believes the call for economic withdrawal of Black dollars was right on time. “Definitely boycott Christmas, not just Black Friday. I definitely believe this should continue after Christmas to show that we are serious,” the Baltimore native added.
Eric Muhammad, a Baltimore native who lives in Philadelphia and the executive director of Real Works, said, “It’s time to put your money where your mouth is. I think the Minister’s call (for a boycott) will allow people to know how serious we are when we pull together the collective energy of our dollars.”
Mr. Muhammad works with the arts community, including hip hop and spoken word artists, and was enthused by the Minister’s many recent meetings with different hip hop artists and celebrities. “We’ve been given our marching orders. Speaking on behalf of artists, we’ve been given the responsibility to get this message to the people,” said Eric Muhammad.
“I’m totally inspired by the Minister’s speech. I blew off a whole day of studying to come hear him speak,” said Jennifer Laskin, a Washington, D.C., resident and recent law school graduate studying for her bar exam. “I’m super excited about the march, I think it’s overdue and I feel very privileged I can be there with you all.”
Karen Addidi, a social worker from Washington, called Min. Farrakhan’s leadership of the Oct. 10 gathering and his message “very appropriate in a time like this.”
With increasing “police brutality and racism, I think this is going to have a big effect on America,” she said.
“The Minister was right on point for this day and time where racism and police brutality is out of control. We need this 20th anniversary of the Million Man March to set it straight: Justice or Else,” added Sharon Scott.
Thirty-something-year-old activist Farajii Muhammad, who hosts “Listen Up” on WEAA 88.9 FM at Morgan State University in Baltimore, said, this is “a march of my generation. It is our hope in Baltimore, in particular, but all across the country we are going to do what it takes to organize young people to this cause regardless of race, regardless of labels, or anything that may become divisive in our efforts. The struggle for justice is an unending struggle, but we’re going to bring it to America loud and strong.”
Hala Badri, president of the Sudan-American Foundation for Education and Empowerment, was impressed by the quality of people who attended the press conference. They were very “knowledgeable people, and they only add to the quality of the persons representing this movement like Minister Farrakhan,” she said.
Sydney Nene Mariah attended the press conference and wrote on her “The Justice Foundation” Facebook page about the diversity of the people who were present. “Our need to unite and fight back transcends religious boundaries. As you can see, Black Muslims, Christians, Rastafarians and other politically conscious Blacks are uniting. Smart move, because the one killing us asks not to whom we pray,” she wrote. “I hope everyone reading this attends in October because the hour of change has long past and we are coming from behind.”
Big Wolf, a street organization leader, “got a pretty good feeling (from Min Farrakhan’s speech), you feel me? I’m glad I came.” Concerning the march he said, “I’m with it. I’m Blood so I’m going to be there.”
Nation of Islam student minister Robert Muhammad came down to Washington from Muhammad Mosque No. 35 in Wilmington, Delaware said Min. Farrakhan “took us on a tour through the scriptures and made them relevant for this day and time,” he said. Everyone needs to go forward and make their word bond to help the Minister with the Oct. 10 gathering in Washington, Robert Muhammad added.
“I can’t leave this earth not knowing whether or not (my two daughters) are going to have a future. But knowing the Honorable Minister Farrakhan and what he represents I can die easy knowing a future for them is guaranteed,” he said.