Growing up in the early 90s life was simple. My days were filled with routine and rarely did anything occur outside of what I considered normal. However, certain events occurred that impacted me as a youth; I saw another world outside of Super Mario Bros and The Cosby Show. I remember watching footage on primetime television displaying Rodney King getting beaten by four white police officers on camera. You would have assumed that justice would have been served and the officers involved would have received the punishment they rightly deserved, but instead they were found not guilty on virtually all charges. It sparked riots throughout Los Angeles and led to sheer chaos. At this point, my image of white people and policemen began to change. I was provided a front row seat to the mayhem as it all unfolded before my eyes on television.
The portrayal of black men by the media became an image engrained in my mind.
My perception was greatly influenced by movies and music. No one could tell me I wasn’t supposed to have gold daytons and a 5.0v like Caine. I would have to sell crack cocaine like Nino Brown to be wealthy and gain respect in the ‘hood. It was important to watch out for n*ggas like Bishop, chasing greed and respect. Being a child, how could you separate real from fake? It was all real in my eyes.
Concerning the music, it was as though every black film had a DOPE soundtrack to illustrate itself by song. In 1994, the Jason’s Lyric soundtrack came out and included a song by a collection of black men. The song was called, “U Will Know” by Black Men United. It was a message of peace and unity in response to the rapid homicide rate created by black on black crime. It wasn’t just a song to me. It presented me with a different perspective on life from,“Your Body’s Callin” or “Knockin’ The Boots.” It was a positive message from black men. Not long after, I heard something about a Million Man March being held in Washington, D.C.
October 16, 1995: I watched on television as a sea of colored men assembled on the National Mall. I wanted to understand what it was about and what was being discussed. I truly felt I needed to be there for some reason. Spike Lee came out with, “Get on the Bus,” which depicted the event, but I still was left with an uncertain void.
When I heard news about the 20th Anniversary of the Million Man March, I had to go! I wanted to feel the essence of the movement as it was presented to me years ago. On the brisk Saturday morning of October 10, 2015, fellow members of CommonTruce and I walked out onto the mall awaiting inspiration and the seeking the answer to, “Justice or Else.”
Several individuals spoke prior to Minister Louis Farrakhan and even though they were of different backgrounds, they all maintained one common focus: the desire to move forward. They expressed wanting to be unshackled from present conditions by being ushered into a new way of life. Not only did they want this for themselves personally, but also for those who could identify with their current struggle. I sat and heard each speaker present points reminiscent of the prior speaker. As I looked up, I could see a crowd of strangers, young, old, tall, short, male and female, gathered amongst me in peace and unity.
As Minister Louis Farrakhan began to speak, I tuned into every word he spoke. Overall, he was forthright with his thoughts. He spoke about a torch being passed on and preparing the younger people for liberation. In addition, he challenged men to respect women. However, he often deviated from the main topic that brought me out that morning. He justified the actions of Elijah Muhammad and promoted the Nation of Islam. The Minister brought out his faithful ladies, fully covered, as a showcase to appeal the men. He even discussed all of the perks of dealing with an Islamic woman, emphasizing that they are taught to cook. He spoke about Jesus being introduced by the “white man” and Santa Claus. But what did any of that have to do with, “Justice or Else?”
I didn’t want to be a part of an event; I wanted to be part of a movement.
I was left to answer, “or else” on my own as I gathered my thoughts.I feel the answer is up to you as an individual. We can’t depend on our leaders, church officials, or government.
Though it’s not easy to change the mindset of a race of people or the direction they are headed in, it’s truly up to each of us to foster the change we hope for.
This is the reason why I started CommonTruce. Its mission is to promote communication between men and women. It’s to be active in our communities by doing what I can to help others. It’s about providing education to our young boys and girls assisting them, mentoring them so that they can become productive men of color. It’s my answer.
So I ask you, what is your answer to “or else”?