On October 16, 1995 the streets of Washington DC were filled with black and brown bodies gathered at the National Mall. Organized by local chapters of the NAACP and the National African American Leadership Summit, an estimated 400,000 to 850,000 people were in attendance. At the same time, women were organizing the Day of Absence, where African-Americans were encouraged to stay home from work and school.
The purpose of these demonstrations was to express discontentment with the way politicians in the 80s and 90s largely ignored black issues, and even subjected the economic troubles of the black community onto the community itself. Community leaders also focused on promoting a more self-sufficient black community, as well as promoting voter registration. It was the largest civil rights demonstration in American history. Many attendees report the sense of community that could be felt at the event. It was a reminder that even though people were no longer being actively segregated from schools or restaurants, there was still a lot to be done to achieve political equality and economic stability for the black community.
Growing up, my mom mentioned this event when talking about important civil rights events and figures. I’ve always seen this event in particular as a show of the resilience and strength of the black community as well as the ability of human beings in general to organize around injustice. After researching the event, and seeing the unity and sense of community that the event spurred, I cannot help but wish that there was a catalyst such as that in modern times. It seems now more than ever, people cannot seem to get behind one set idea or ideology. In the 1960s through 1990s, civil rights movements were strong and had a clear goal set out. It seems that the politics of the 21st century are defined more by class divides, a much more complicated subject with so many multifaceted ideas and systems being thrown out. The problems of today are not even clear. Many would put today’s system of economic and racial inequality on different factors whether it be capitalism, or lack of regulation, or just individual faults. Political parties are plagued by in-fighting and it seems there is no clear direction of change for the country.
Looking back at the million man march serves to truly remind Americans that it is possible to organize to make society better. In a climate like this, where wealth gaps are widening and citizens are disgruntled on all sides with the state of the government, people can look to events like this to inspire them to join together for what they want. When individuals are upset with the way they are living, they can always find others who will help them bring attention to their cause. The million man march shows us this.