“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion.
People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart that its opposite”.
– Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013
Channelling the energy of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, thousands of black Americans and representatives of ethnic groups gathered in Washington yesterday – to mark the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March. This year’s motive: renewing demands for justice reform and greater civil rights.
The anniversary event that took “Justice or Else” as its theme, put the occasion in historical context. Analysts and speakers at the event voiced how the same issues being fought today, have been fought since 1948.
With an air of a family reunion — young children ran about waving red, black and green Pan-African flags that their parents bought from vendors lining the Mall — the day’s feelings were mostly focused on changing the justice system in America.
The feeling was echoed by the day’s keynote speaker, Louis Farrakhan, head of the Nation of Islam and leader of both Saturday’s rally and the original one in 1995. When he came to the podium, people sitting on the grass jumped to their feet. Camera phones were raised and the crowd quieted.
Mr Farrakhan spoke about politicians who did not act in the best interest of the people, hypocrisy when it comes to human rights and other “hard truths” that he says are necessary to acknowledge in order to keep the #BlackLivesMatter movement alive.
“The demand for justice demands integrity…selflessness, and is bigger than all our lives; so the demand for justice must give us the will to wish to sacrifice our lives, because the many are greater than the one.”
In a speech that lasted two-hours, Mr Farrakhan called on the black community to take more responsibility for black-on-black crime and killings. The 82-year-old called for the federal government to take a closer look at the recent string of police killings of unarmed black men and women.
Special highlights were made for victims of police-killings like Eric Garner (who inspired the #BlackLivesMatter movement), Sandra Bland, Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin, in an attempt to demand change to the system.
Hip-hop recording artist Kendrick Lamar’s post-depression anthem ‘Alright’ was chanted at the event – with thousands of protesters joining in on a rendition of chorus line “we gonna be alright” in Washington.
Barack Obama attended the original Million Man March prior to being elected America’s first black president in 2008, but the US leader was in California during this year’s protest.