Florida Courier photojournalist Duane C. Fernandez Sr. was among the massive crowd at the Oct. 10 anniversary of the Million Man March.
BY DUANE C. FERNANDEZ SR.
Oct. 10, 2015 is one day I will never forget. The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam had invited people from all over the world to descend on Washington D.C. that day and respond to the injustices in our country.
This call for justice was for African-Americans, Latinos, Mexicans, Native Americans, justice for women, justice for poor people, justice for veterans and justice for the incarcerated all come together for the injustice in America.
I traveled to Jacksonville from Daytona Beach on Oct. 9 where I met with a group going by bus to the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March in Washington, D.C.
After arriving in Jacksonville, I was greeted by a team of men – Audre X. Neal, Stephen Johnson Muhammad, Derrick Muhammad, Raymond Stiles Shabazz, Raymond Muhammad and Jamal Muhammad, who were the coordinators of the trip.
There were several older men who had gone to the first Million Man March 20 years ago.
One reminisced about that march, held on Oct. 6, 1995, and about its success. It was expected to be a failure and to cause trouble with so many Black men gathered at the National Mall. It didn’t fail and there wasn’t the trouble that so many had anticipated.
Our trip from Jacksonville started out with prayer by Brother Jamal. While more than half was of the Muslim faith, there were others – of all ages – who were just wanted to observe history in the making.
In Brunswick, Ga., 16 more people were picked up and we headed on to D.C. The entire journey took 16 hours, but it was worth the long ride. During the trip, we watched videos about the Nation of Islam and Minister Farrakhan’s travels around the United States and around the world.
When our coach arrived in Washington at 8 a.m. Saturday morning, I could see the vendors were setting up shop with T-shirts, hats, blankets, books, buttons and water bottles. Just about anything you could print and sell was visible.
Muhammad’s son speaks
When our group left the bus at Seventh and Lincoln Street – about four blocks from the Capitol.
There were many speakers on the schedule on this day. Most gave a detailed account of injustices – either to themselves or to someone they knew or represented or a whole class of people affected by a bad decision.
While photographing the event, I noticed a heavily guarded man sitting by himself on the front row in front of the podium. After learning the man’s name, I asked if I could interview him.
I was given access through a roped-off area to interview Student Minister Rasul Muhammad, the son of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
He talked about the significance of the event and how the Million Man March in 1995 was about reconciliation as husbands and families of men.
“Today, Justice or Else (the theme of this year’s march) is a different kind of thing. It’s not even a march. Going back to 1963, the Civil Rights Movement. Justice is a demand. It’s a demand on our federal government, a demand on our state and city government. It’s also demand on our police departments or else we will die unless we begin to treat each other in a way that we want to be treated.
He remarked that Oct. 10 was a great day and it should not be judged by the numbers. Minister Muhammad added, “As Malcolm X said in the 1960s when he was asked about the attendance of rallies, ‘those that know don’t say and those that say don’t know.’’’
Respect for women
After that interview, I headed to the media platform and waited to hear Minister Farrakhan speak.
His focus was on the respect of our women and the treatment of women of all ethnicity. The Minister also spoke of the futility of waiting around for someone to give you a handout as though we are still slaves.
A statement by him that resonated with me was, “We as a people should strive to get our own and stop looking for a handout.’’
When I returned home to Daytona Beach on Sunday, I was grateful for the opportunity to witness history and to be among those who are pushing for change.
I will always remember how people of all races came together as one to fight for injustice for all, putting their differences aside to unite as one voice for every person who has had injustice in their lives.
Duane C. Fernandez Sr. is working on a book that chronicles the photographs he has taken covering various historical events, including the Trayvon Martin case and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.