Vanguard Television Studios and Classic Hip Hop Nation commemorated the 27th anniversary of the Million Man March with a special film screening and panel discussion. Titled “The Million Man March: The Untold Story,” the event featured a screening of never-before-seen footage from the March, followed by a panel discussion featuring hip-hop artists, activists, and scholars. The discussion focused on the ongoing war against hip-hop and Black youth and how this battle is connected to the fight for racial justice.
Through this powerful event, which was streamed online on October 15, Vanguard and Classic Hip Hop Nation helped to keep the spirit of the historic 1995 Million Man March alive while also examining what is happening today.
Held in Washington, D.C., on October 16, 1995, the March was attended by an estimated two million Black men, making it one of the largest gatherings at the nation’s capital. The men responded to the call of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan with the theme of atonement, reconciliation and responsibility. In the years since, there has been much debate over the significance of the massive gathering and what it accomplished.
The film, “The Million Man March: The Untold Story,” was shown during the live stream and offered a comprehensive look at the March from the perspective of its organizers and participants. Through interviews and archival footage, the film provided insight into the motivations behind the March and the challenges faced in putting it together. Additionally, the film explored the impact of the March on those who took part, both in the short-term and long term.
Minister Farrakhan, who was interviewed in the film, provided historical analysis and context that helped to explain why the March was such a critical moment in American history. The film candidly explored the controversy surrounding the March and provided insights into the goals and motivations of those who participated.
“This is part of the war on young Black men and now women. We are party to the war and don’t know we are at war,” he explained in the film.
The Minister, National Representative of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, described himself as, “on top of the mountain sounding the alarm as a watchman because the rest of the watchmen are asleep on the job.”
He stated, “Nobody warns our people of the wicked intentions of the government of the United States on them. That’s why the Nation has to survive, and that’s why the truth has to be told. But how can they know the truth except for somebody strong enough to tell it … this is the untold story.”
After the film screening, a three-hour panel discussion on the war against hip-hop and Black youth followed. The discussion was moderated by A-Tone: The Hip Hop Historian and panelists included Easy AD, Angela Muhammad, Shahid Allah, Grandmixer DXT, Kool Kim, Chuck D and DJ RBI.
“In 1972, hip hop was founded at the same time as the Theology of Time was presented by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, when the first alarm was sounded. The enemy saw the rhythmic tones and lyrics as a way to pull us out of ignorance, and the war on hip hop began,” Shahid Allah said in the opening. The Theology of Time was a 1972 lecture series by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
“It is fascinating how much power music has. It can influence people’s moods. This is especially true when it comes to hip-hop music. Hip-hop has raised awareness about social issues, promoted positive messages, and brought people together. However, it can also be used to promote negative messages, as witnessed by the rise in the prison population, poverty, even the artificial beef between East Coast and West Coast,” said Easy AD.
“Our enemy knows how to kill generations. Change is spiritual as well as physical. The question to ask is, what have I done for someone else today? Hip-hop health’s next level is not eating every day. It’s time to wake up and see the truth. We need to take back our power and create our destiny. Change starts with each one of us. What will you do today to make a difference?” he asked.
Kool Kim, one-half of the early 1990s rap duo UMC’s, explained that today, Black youth are still under attack. “We are under attack. We are victims of sedition, propaganda, and manipulation. The Black Panthers were marginalized because they were poised to become heroes in the Black community. Hip Hop has been targeted for the same reason,” said Kool Kim, now known as NYOIL.
“We must know what business we are in. That allows us to develop an appropriate strategy. We lack the infrastructure and system to engage. We don’t know what business we are in. We don’t know what we are fighting. We have no control and no institutions. Hip-hop can lead the charge. Brand Nubian rapped: ‘Smoke crack is no joke.’ We must develop solutions. We need to develop good culture, good art, and good music. If you build it, they will come. Go and engage, ‘move as a team, not alone; welcome to the terror dome.’ Community-based work is a full-time job. Words are great, action not so much,” said Kool Kim.
Sister Angela Muhammad reminded the viewing audience that war is being fought against Black males and females.
Chuck D of the iconic hip-hop group, Public Enemy, recounted how publications like Source magazine influenced the music by using the term “happy rap” to define conscious music. “They made the lists, becoming opinion makers. We allowed them to dictate the music. In the beginning, there were spells. How could they allow those spells, the power of the word, to be used for our growth? They couldn’t have it,” he explained.
“We are at war, but we don’t know it. We are partners in our self-destruction. We must turn ‘me’ into ‘we.’ If there is one message from Minister Farrakhan, it’s ‘organization.’ I can’t be an individual out here. We must be organized if we want to survive. The numbers don’t matter; it’s quality over quantity,” Chuck D explained.
“We need to be smart and strategic in our war against our enemies. This is the only way we will win. Minister Farrakhan recently gave me some excellent advice. He told me that if I wanted to be successful long-term, I needed to focus on building protégés. In other words, I need to identify and nurture talent so my organization can continue growing and thriving even after I’m gone. This is sound advice, and I intend to follow it,” Chuck D said.
RBI spoke on the importance of intergenerational unity. “To build bridges and set boundaries between adults and youth, we must communicate. We need to believe in something and get it funded. We have to power small organizations. Doing these things can create an environment where respect and communication are the norms, and young people feel valued and supported. Only then can we hope to build the bridges that will help us all move forward together,” said RBI.
There was also a discussion on the importance of understanding history and the dangers Black people faced then and now.
“The Crips came out of the Black Panthers. They protected Black communities as the Bloods did the same. Then the crack epidemic came, and they were pitted against one another. The pieces all fit together—chemical warfare. We have to know their history to snuff it out. We have to name names and warn our children. This is part of the solution. We are at war and need to be security minded. Be careful of what you put into your mind,” said Brother Shahid Allah.
“We live in a system where the rules have been written for us. Nothing changes. The system turns us back to square one; we react to events and go home. You have to respond, not adjust. We are a special people. Hip-hop is in our DNA, our consciousness. It has been there from the beginning,” said DXT. For more information on the film, “The Million Man March: The Untold Story,” visit www.vanguardtvn.com and visit Vanguard Television on Facebook.
—Michael Z. Muhammad, Contributing Writer