*On Saturday, thousands … mostly black men … and women gathered on the National Mall to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March and call for policing reforms and changes in black communities.
Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who spearheaded the original march, lead the anniversary gathering at the Capitol called the “Justice or Else” march.
On the lawn outside of the Capitol, Farrakhan said people must appreciate and love themselves more. He especially extended this message to women.
“You should never call another woman a bitch,” the Chicago-based minister said. “Get that word out of our language.”
He also touched on the issue of abortion. He told women that they have the right to decide what happens with their bodies, “but it would be so tragic if the next Sitting Bull was aborted,” or if Malcolm X, Martin Luther King or Jesus “was flushed away.”
Farrakhan said his own mother tried to abort him three times unsuccessfully. He also urged people to stop using limiting labels to describe themselves.
“If I ask you your nationality, you’ll point to some little spot on the map that you think defines you … ‘I’m from Georgia’ – well good for you. ‘I’m from Jamaica, mon,’ ” he said, drawing chuckles from the crowd. “You are defined by the nature in which you were created.”
Attention is also focused on the deaths of unarmed black men since the shootings of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012 in Florida and 18-year-old Michael Brown in 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Deaths of unarmed black males at the hands of law enforcement officers have inspired protests under the “Black Lives Matter” moniker around the country.
The original march on Oct. 16, 1995, brought hundreds of thousands to Washington to pledge to improve their lives, their families and their communities. Women, whites and other minorities were not invited to the original march, but organizers say that’s not the case this weekend.
The National Park Service estimated the attendance at the original march to be around 400,000, but subsequent counts by private organizations put the number at 800,000 or higher. The National Park Service has refused to give crowd estimates on Mall activities since.
President Barack Obama, who attended the first Million Man March, will be in California on Saturday.
Life has improved in some way for African-American men since the original march, but not in others. For example:
—The unemployment rate for African-American men in October 1995 was 8.1 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In September it was 8.9 percent.
—In 1995, 73.4 percent of African-American men had high school degrees. In 2004, 84.3 percent did, according to the Census Bureau.
—Law enforcement agencies made 3.5 million arrests of blacks in 1994, which was 30.9 percent of all arrests, the FBI said. (By comparison, they made 7.6 million arrests of whites that year, which was 66 percent of all arrests.) By 2013, the latest available data, African-American arrests had decreased to 2.5 million, 28 percent of all arrests.
Also today, anti-Muslim protesters plan to demonstrate at mosques around the nation.