“Justice Or Else” March: Perspectives by local activist Yusef Harris

Thousands gathered to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. (Monica Morgan/The Final Call)

Thousands gathered to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. (Monica Morgan/The Final Call)

Nashville activist and entrepreneur Yusef Harris attended the 1995 Million Man March and returned to Washington, D.C. for this year’s anniversary march, “Justice or Else,” as well.

“The 20th anniversary of the Million Man March celebrated on October 10, 2015 was a much enthusiastic and well-attended event,” Harris told the PRIDE. “Over 500,000 people from around the country participated in the day-long historic occasion. Children, college students, and many young people made up a large percentage of the participants.

“The tone for the recent March was in part a reaction to the nationwide brutality by police officers against Black males. Demonstra-tions across the country arose protesting against local police departments and as a result Black Lives Matter organizations were formed. As the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March was approaching it was perfect timing for the March organizers to embrace the national unrest as part of its platform. Thus, cries of ‘ I can’t breathe ‘ , ‘Black lives matter ‘ and many other slogans gave rise to the theme ‘Justice or Else ‘

The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan addresses thousands gathered for the “Justice or Else” rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. (Rob Roberts/The Washington Informer)

The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan addresses thousands gathered for the “Justice or Else” rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. (Rob Roberts/The Washington Informer)

Mayor Muriel Bowser welcomed everyone to the nation’s capital, saying “Washington welcomed this march to make sure that every voice could be heard. Our administration has been focused on growing pathways to the middle class, productive avenues for our youth and returning citizens.”

“We are here continuing the legacy of the Million Man March. We gather today knowing much is at stake,” said Tamika Mallory, an event co-convener for the event at the Washington National Mall. “Let us remember the words of Ida B. Wells: ‘The ones who commit the murders write the reports. We are here today to say we choose differently.’”

Harris said, “the theme “Justice or Else” was consistently hammered home throughout the many speakers leading up to the main address by a defiant 82-year-old Minister Louis Farrakhan. One of his key points was the need for strong leadership within the Black community and the importance of respecting Black women. While the crowd was very attentive to his address and the several dozen speakers, the atmosphere was a little different than it was 20 years ago. Participants were given views of Garveyism and Black nationalism as a solution to fight injustices and as a way to build a strong foundation for BLACK EMPOWERMENT.

“For most people this was their first time being at such an event and although there was excitement, the emotion and intensity exhibited during the march 20 years ago was lacking among the participants. Twenty years ago the theme was “Atonement” and a focus on self help. The attendance was 99% Black males and a strong sense of the brotherhood was displayed and promoted.”

Harris is the proprietor of Alkebu-Lan Images, Inc., Bookstore, operating for almost 30 years at the corner of 28th Avenue North and Jefferson Street in the heart of North Nashville.

The store, located between TSU and Meharry Medical College and Fisk University offers educational materials, clothing and artifacts designed to inspire and celebrate the African American history, heritage, and culture.