BSU Students Mark 16th Million Man March Anniversary
By Jasmine Stewart
BSU students travelled to Philadelphia Oct. 9 to commemorate one of the largest demonstrations in American history, the Million Man March. The historical event originally took place on the National Mall in Washington on Oct. 16, 1995. Students along with other members of the black community gathered in the downtown Philadelphia Convention Center to hear a message from the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan.
Bowie State students along with Howard University students received VIP treatment being the only historically black colleges and universities in attendance. Students from both universities took the opportunity seriously, honoring their institutions by behaving politely and respectfully in the front while receiving a powerful message as many cameras swirled and took pictures.
Alex Payton, president of Black Male Agenda at Bowie State University, which is a culmination of the ideas and vision of The Million March, received the honor and privilege of being seated at the stage with those who participated in the success of the Million Man March and Minister Louis Farrakhan. Before the minister took to the stage, the group of Bowie State students was reminded of the trials and sacrifices that were abound during the planning and preparation of the event.
Marion Barry, former mayor of Washington, shared with the convention center audience how his council consistently fought with him because they did not agree with the viewpoints of the Million Man March. Other speakers extolled the work of the many women who helped shape the movement, including the late civil rights and women’s rights icons Dr. Betty Shabazz, Rosa Parks and Dr. Dorothy Height. Bev Smith, influential broadcast journalist formerly of the BET network, used the influence of the network and her show to share the monumental moment in African American History.
The original demonstration of “Atonement, Reconciliation, and Responsibility” took place when many of the Bowie State University students were very young although, their parents, grandparents, and professors may have heard the call to action that inspired 2 million men to actively work to reduce black on black crime, drugs in the black community, and unemployment among black men as well as improve equity and empowerment of all African-American people.
Being in the presence of the people who were there in support 16 year ago was an experience that was unmatched, said several BSU students in attendance. The amount of passion for active change was exhilarating. The vision and spirit of the Million Man March has never died even as new advances on the same issues have arisen. The responsibility to unite and uplift the African-American community now falls on the shoulders of a new generation.
Farrakhan’s message was very passionate about the younger generation’s continuance of the legacy of black leaders who came before. He also encouraged the young African-American men and women in the audience to create their own legacies by taking responsibility for the issues in their communities, helping one another in a spirit of unity, maintaining an uncompromising integrity and instilling qualities of a prosperous community for younger generations to come. The Million Man March was the wakeup call. The 16th anniversary was an occasion to remind young African-American to be the change they want to see in their world.