20th anniversary of the Million Man March

Let’s help create a better future for him

[Publisher’s Commentary]

On the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March the numbers have not disappointed — Sisters and Brothers showed up again.

There’s no official count yet by the photos circulating so far indicates that once again a million Black folks may have responded to the call for African Americans to demonstrate that they are capable of taking their destiny into their own hands.

Corporate media will downplay the numbers as was done in 1995. Take The New York Times’ story about today’s anniversary march. Somewhere in the body of the story, the Times reports “The park service said that there were around 400,000 attendees, while other estimates put the number around 800,000,” yet the Times own story then leads with: “Thousands gathered on the National Mall on Saturday to demand justice for the black men and women who have been killed at the hands of the police…”

As was done 20 years ago the call was made by Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan who still shows remarkable energy and determination at age 82.

Farrakhan also addressed an issue that has remained a sore point for many Black folk for decades — the alleged role he may have played in the assassination of the brilliant Malcolm X who was described at his funeral by the late Ossie Davis as “our own Black shining Prince.

Farrakhan called on the FBI to release all documents in its file without any redactions related to the Malcolm X murder. It’s well known that the FBI has under surveillance Malcolm X for years and there have also been questions about what role the New York Police Department (NYPD) may have played in his killing.

On February 21, 2015 The Black Star News published an article based on a story that the well-known journalist Jimmy Breslin may have been tipped off by police that something was about to happen to Malcolm X on the day that he was killed and that Breslin was to make sure he attended what turned out to be the former NOI minister’s last appearance.

The circumstances behind Malcolm X’s murder remains murky. Nevertheless NOI Minister Farrakhan felt it was important enough for him to address any lingering suspicions about what he himself knew about the killing.

The Black community faces tremendous challenges today as it did at the time of the original Million Man March in Washington, D.C., and long before that time.

The fact that more than a million African Americans consider it important enough to show up as a collective is a strong statement to the entire nation and to the rest of the world.

The real work however starts the day after.

Unemployment rates in the Black community remains at critically national emergency levels at 9.2% for September 2015. This is more than double the rate of unemployment in the White community which stood at 4.4%

For the age groups 16 to 19 years, unemployment in the White community was 13.9% in the Black community it was an incredible 31.5% — and this is one of the most vulnerable age groups.

Some things won’t change unless the victims intervene. 50 years ago White unemployment was 5% while in the Black community it was 10%; and the real numbers are several times higher than official figures.

There are many other ugly numbers about inequality in the United States.

A Pew Report found net-worth of White households at $141,900 was 13 times higher than that of Black households at a mere $11,000. 

The national establishment solution to the crisis in the Black community has been simple — incarceration.

One report shows “African Americans now constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population” and “5 times as many Whites are using drugs as African Americans, yet African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of Whites” and “African Americans represent 12% of the total population of drug users, but 38% of those arrested for drug offenses, and 59% of those in state prison for a drug offense” and “35% of black children grades 7-12 have been suspended or expelled at some point in their school careers compared to 20% of Hispanics and 15% of whites.”

So what do we do during the in-between periods between the next Million Man March?

African Americans as a collective must continue to agitate and fight against discrimination in hirings and in public spending on schools, and against police brutality  through elected representatives and through direct mass action that can be mobilized by organizations such as Black Lives Matter.

At the same time each and every Black person who has skills that they can teach others should come back to the community and share that knowledge.

I have been a journalist for more than 20 years ago now. Journalism — the ability to see what’s worth becoming a story, especially when it’s ignored or distorted by corporate media, and the skill to report it properly and write or present it in a compelling way — can be a very empowering skill.

In many ways discrimination in the public and private sector, including on matters such as police brutality, are often masked, concealed, or downplayed by corporate media. This can only be changed by the victims.

Those of you who followed the corporate media coverage of the murder of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, and many other cases know what I’m referring to.

In each and every one of the cases the victims were turned into the perpetrators. As Malcolm X famously said during the Oxford Union Debates, media can turn devils into angels and vice-versa.

In the cases above the strategy was intended to criminalize the victims and generate hostility towards them or outright contempt from potential jurors — very effectively by the way.

Trayvon Martin instead of a murder victim suddenly became a pot-head because marijuana residue was allegedly found in his bag: as if this would justify his murder by George Zimmerman.

Eric Garner allegedly sold loose cigarettes and resisted arrest; when the video of the lynchhold shows that he did neither. The New York Times first article about the murder never even mentioned the lynchhold but referred to his weight to give the false impression that he died because he was overweight.

Michael Brown suddenly became a cigars-thief; and The New York Times most shamefully in an article reported that he was “was no angel.”

Sandra Bland who was violently arrested by a Texas highway policeman became an “aggressive” and “angry” Black woman.

The corporate media stories serve as the “pre-kill” before the actual execution which in some of the above cases ended up with: the acquittal of George Zimmerman; the non-indictment of Officer Daniel Pantaleo; and, the non-indictment of Officer Darren Wilson.

Black communities throughout the U.S. must break the media monopoly and distortions.

Social media is playing a critical role. Had it not been for the video showing Pantaleo killing Garner with a lynchhold the whole world may have swallowed the police PR-spin published in the initial New York Times story — even though the killer cop was not indicted.

Had it not been for the video of the execution of Walter Scott by Michael Slager the whole world could have swallowed the lie that the Charleston, South Carolina, Police Department initially peddled.

Some of the video nowadays become available due to demand by the public.

Had it not been for video of Sandra Bland being manhandled in Texas we would have ended up with a rosier pro-police account.

It’s also because of video that we know how Tamir Rice, Oscar Grant and Eric Harris and many others have been killed.

What’s now needed is a platform for every African American community to be able to tell its story.

People who have journalism skills must go into the communities and share this skill. About four years ago I started conducting a free workshop called Guerrilla Journalism in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy section. Anyone is free to walk into the workshop and we now have anywhere from 15 to 25 people attending a typical workshop. We learn basic reporting and writing skills. We critique the works of each class member. We critique articles from the corporate media.

Class members have become decent reporters and writers and in fact we recently launched a Go Fund Me campaign with the objective of launching a grassroots-based media outlet which we intend to do before the end of October.  I will be more than happy to partner with other serious-minded folk around the country who want to launch their similar community-based media outlets.

Several of our class members also attended the Million Man March 20th Anniversary March today.

Why do I bring all this up?

Because people with different backgrounds, skills and expertise can also go into their communities and start training people through workshops similar to the one I launched for Guerrilla Journalism but focusing on different skills. 

Financial and banking experts can teach financial literacy and show people how to pool finances for beneficial projects; lawyers can teach people about their rights especially when they become ensnared in the criminal justice system; accountants, scientists, artists, teachers — all of us can help educate and empower our communities.

Million Man Marches are excellent statements of willingness. The real work starts when we return home to our communities.
What do you intend to do tomorrow?  

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