by Bryan Carter
On Saturday October 10, 2015 in Washington, D.C., “Justice or Else” the words that unified African Americans and people of color all throughout the United States. Led by Minister Louis Farrakhan, “Justice or Else” was created to bring together men and women of all backgrounds that have been potentially brutalized by the hands of police or the American Government. The rally was held to openly voice the problems facing people of color, and particularly aimed at the digital generation, because those of the old school are phasing out. The younger generation must inherit the will of fire to ensure better days now and in the future.
I left out the house around 2:30 a.m. to make it to 30th Street Station by 5 a.m. 30th Street happened to be our meeting location for departure to the 20th Anniversary of the Million Man March. On my ride towards the rendezvous point, I contemplated my expectations. From what I read and heard about Minister Louis Farrakhan, he’s inspiring. When I hear him, I take something back that fortifies who I am and what I want to bring to the world. I expected to be inspired; I wanted to be like, “Wow, he really put things in perspective for me today.” I expected to gain some sense of direction about what “Justice or Else” meant, insight for my life as an African American male in 21st Century USA and more importantly, a sense of direction. I kept an open mind about my experiences attending the 20th Anniversary of the Million Man March.
For the day, our team consisted of photographers, writers, and cool kats wanting to experience the 20th Anniversary of the Million Man March. We arrived in Washington, D.C. around 8:30 a.m. and drove around for a while before finally finding parking on 7th Street and Independence Avenue. It was a brisk Saturday morning, a sour indication for my body to wake up. Our walk towards the general meeting area (7th Street and Madison Drive) greeted us with many hues of brown and black faces. No matter where you looked, there were men and women dressed in representative clothing of Black Lives Matter, and images of countless African Americans victimized by police brutality. Even the smiles extended the idea that people were genuinely happy to be here and see each other. Almost immediately, I wanted to dart off and get into my groove.
I was taken aback by the number of merchants outside selling “Justice or Else” memorabilia at the corner of 7th and Independence . I’m still making sense of it, because in today’s time I feel people are looking more to cash out rather than actually help when it comes to African American-based celebrations. As our team traveled towards Madison Drive via 7th Street, we saw droves of people of every color and possibility every stride of life. People were excited to be out here, but there was also a sense of questioning as well. I myself questioned the very meaning of this interaction. Here we have a man who campaigned in person all throughout the United States for a solid year (the earliest indication going back September 21, 2014) to gather people of color, more specifically African Americans, in one place to say something about the injustices faced since the killing of Trayvon Martin in February, 2012.
“What are we celebrating,” echoed throughout my mind for the remainder of the day. I found myself questioning each interaction critically. Maybe I was being too harsh or straightforward about what I wanted to receive from this event. As the team and I arrived at 7th and Madison, an organized protest of young and old faces chanted “Black Lives Matter” while heading towards the National Art Gallery. When we arrived on the scene, we witnessed the concrete power of what happens when people believe; they gather and prove a point. My reservations were taken back for a moment. Here I am, wanting proof, some form of confirmation about what’s going on and like a train it hits me. Seeing my peers come together proved that the idea - the lives of African Americans, the lives of my niece and nephew, Black Lives all across the globe - very much matter. Each and every Black body that’s been desecrated since the union of African ancestry and slavery possessed families and loved ones that yearned for them to come home. People of color are not immune to the emotions of man. In the 21st Century we must still prove and fight to justify why our lives matter in the narrative of the world.
It had not dawned on me that I didn’t notice major media outlets, except for Revolt TV and OoGeeWooGee, in attendance. However, I did notice teams of media people set up with their cameras, microphones and gadgets taking note of the anniversary. Surprisingly, most of them were college students from Howard University and Virginia State. I shrugged off the idea of questioning why major media outlets were not present at this event. Then, I began hearing attendees discussing tragedies involving people of color and the correlation between national coverage. It didn’t strike me until I thought about it. How is it that Trayvon Martin, Eric Gardner, Michael Brown and the countless Black bodies that sell stories, make it to the covers of every other media outlet, yet this particular celebration is ignored? The Million Man March of the past was a historical event that took place back in 1995. In 2015, after 20 years, was this not worth being national news? How is it that the Pope, another spiritual leader, was repeatedly pushed across national headlines, yet Minister Louis Farrakhan, a Muslim, was not? Is it because of his views, the “growing problem” called Muslims in this country or the idea of not being associated with someone many considered too radical? There are many ways to interpret why the 20th Anniversary of the Million Man March was placed on the media blackout list. Any reason will not be justified for the dismissal and mediocre coverage of this event.
Throughout the day, I traveled, took pictures, conducted a few interviews and dissected what the day meant for me. After acknowledging the lack of major media present, I resolved myself to be accountable for Our Story. Overall, my expectations were not met. I was not inspired by Minister Louis Farrakhan. I did not gain a sense of direction, I’m still a bit puzzled about what “Justice or Else” means, and I’m still sorting out my reasons why I attended. However, after much dialogue with my peers, I came to a few conclusions! The first of these conclusions came from drawing upon what I witnessed, what I gathered, and how that related to my overall goal. This was a big networking party that brought people of color from all over, showing that there’s work getting done to forward the legacies of so many who continue to lay down their lives for what they believe is justice. This was proof that people of color are capable of coming together without negativity ensuing . Maybe the answers to my expectations require much more thought and reflection. We cannot expect each answer to come out and attack us, how I usually expect to learn something. Maybe that’s what this was for; a life lesson, celebration and networking event all wrapped in one to pose the question, “What will you do with what you have?” Or maybe, this was life challenging me in a way I’m still very uncomfortable with.
When another person or entity directly influences the portrayal of a people without their input, their cultural importance is determined at any time. If you want something done right, you must shoulder the burden of being responsible of bringing it to life. This is about accountability and the reason why you move forward. So many people have a problem with the lack of acknowledgement for the 20th Anniversary of the Million Man March being blacked out. If we’re unwilling to do what must be done to take anything to the next level, then our efforts have failed. This same struggle goes for anyone. We must create systems and structures that sound off on the things we want to hear and give visuals to the things we want to see. It is up to you to tell the story of the world and determine who will be apart of it. The media blackout of the 20th Anniversary of the Million Man March is another reminder that African American and minority-based media outlets must acquire the resources to adequately tell stories. It also highlights the importance people of color play in the media. People of color can sell tragedies, yet their successes will not be marketed in the same regard? So now, it’s Justice Or Else… we effectively campaign for real change, we discuss, we plan, we figure out a solution or we sit back and do nothing.
For additional coverage
Justice Or Else http://www.justiceorelse.com Revolt TV www.revolt.tv CNN www.cnn.com OOGEEWOOGEE www.oogeewoogee.com The New York Times www.nytimes.com The Washington Post http://www.washingtonpost.com