BROOKLYN, N.Y.—Heavy rains failed to quell the hundreds of men of color from the five boroughs of New York City as they trekked across the Brooklyn Bridge in unity and solidarity to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Million Man March and the formation of a new coalition to help heal the community.
On October 16, as the men gathered in Brooklyn in Cadman Plaza Park at Juneteenth Grove, the skies opened. The rain began to fall hard. Yet rather than dampen the spirit; it seem to liven it as those in attendance had taken off work, sacrificed, and were determined to make their mission heard. Following the solidarity walk across the bridge, the program culminated in Manhattan at Foley Square, the site of the 18th century African burial grounds.
July 13 was a sorrowful day in Brooklyn, said Fruit of Islam Student Captain Richard Muhammad from Mosque No. 7 in Harlem in an interview with The Final Call. On that day, one-year-old Davell Gardner, Jr. was killed, collateral damage from a drive-by while attending a cookout with his mother. “It was out of this tragedy the concept of the 500X5 initiative was born. Initially organized by A.T. Mitchell head of Man UP and Gilly Delgado, Bronx head of PURE and myself,” he said.
“As we organized, we started on Zoom, and today’s march represented the first time we all met in person. I’m so proud of the men and leaders who came out regardless of the circumstance and challenges presented today,” added Student Captain Muhammad.
“Our march just like 25 years ago was on a weekday. Men took off from work and came out in the cold and rain, and that is the type of mindset that is needed if we are going to really make an impact in our community. We are going to need that level of dedication, and I take today as a good sign as we move forward,” he explained, speaking about the 1995 Million Man March called by Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan. Nearly two million men came to Washington, D.C., under the theme of atonement, reconciliation and responsibility.
A.T. Mitchell told The Final Call, the men wanted to coalesce as men of color from different backgrounds, organizations, and religions. “Today we have come together on the same page as we were 25 years ago with an action plan, so our goal is to go back into our neighborhoods to make them safe and build again, focusing on placing men of color on the front line,” said Mr. Mitchell.
“We call for 500 good men from the five boroughs of New York City to come together and make a difference. The men here today answered that challenge,” he added.
“We are calling for Black men to be accountable and give leadership to our young brothers. We are here to say today has to be the day that we say to ourselves collectively that we will begin to organize and provide community leadership and direction,” Malik Calendar from the December 12 Movement told The Final Call.
Max Thomas from Brownsville said he was at the Brooklyn gathering to support the anniversary of the Million Man March representing his organization Elite Learners Inc. “I’m supporting. We are advocating for more resources to benefit the community, stopping the violence. We want it to be known that we are men and want to be treated as such,” said Mr. Thomas.
For Kenny Carter, a member of Fathers Alive in the Hood (FAITH), a Queens-based anti-violence initiative, what was taking place at the anniversary celebration was a supreme act of love. “We are out here to join up with the brothers from Brooklyn, Bronx, Staten Island; part of being a man is having the ability to respond when called, and we are responding, he expressed to The Final Call. “We want to show love, because love is an action word. It’s raining out here, cold and windy, but love conquers all things, and right now, we are showing without fear, and we are here because we love our people and our community. This demonstration is an act of love,” he said.
As the program portion moved to Manhattan and Foley Square, the deluge of rain continued to beat down on the participants. Under a slew of umbrellas, the speakers spoke undeterred with enthusiasm, each embodying the Million Man March spirit from Brooklyn Borough head Eric Adams to 20-year-old Destyn White. The day ended most eloquently by Student Minister Henry Muhammad from Muhammad Mosque No. 7C. “We pledged on that day that we would go back to our communities and organize,” Minister Henry Muhammad told those gathered. “The one thing the enemy is afraid of is our organizing. We have to see each other as the flesh of each other’s flesh and bone of each other’s bone. We have to renew our vows to each other and our community. Everybody out here has been boots on the ground putting that work in. Now we are standing here on our ancestors’ shoulders where they were buried, declaring to God we will not stop. What we showed is we can do this by ourselves. It’s our time!”
March organizer Gilly Delgado told The Final Call, “Given all the obstacles that came our way; this was a success; because if the sun had been shining, we would have had thousands. We made people aware of our movement today. We hit them with a jab and snuck in an overhand right.”
We hope to make the coalition of 500X5 a household name, he explained. “We may pull up on 125th Street a thousand deep and just chill like that. We are not going to stop until we fix our community. The same way you give resources to other countries, give it to us,” Mr. Delgado said.—Michael Z. Muhammad, contributing writer