Thousands of people gathered on the National Mall in Washington D.C. Saturday for a "Justice Or Else!" rally marking the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March. Both rallies were organized by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
The 1995 march was a day for black men to gather together and pledge self-reliance and commitment to their families and communities and to "convey to the world a vastly different picture of the Black male," the flyers advertising the march read.
This year's Justice Rally, while a commemoration of the initial march, was also a protest against the abuse and killing of black men by white cops, among other racial injustices, the website for the rally explained.
Justice is the birthright of every human being. Justice is a prerequisite to life. We cannot live without justice and where there is no justice there is no peace. ...
The widespread death, rising racism, mob attacks and police brutality on Blacks coupled with economic deprivation and stark poverty, requires that something must be immediately done to address and correct the condition.
The failure of the U.S. Government to give justice to its former slaves require that we present ourselves in unity to make the demand for Justice or Else!
Minister Louis Farrakhan speaks during the rally in 2015 (left) and in 1995.
Farrakhan, now 82, spoke to the crowd of thousands from the same place he did in 1995. He echoed many of the same themes, of unity, institutional reform, and, controversially, the importance of black people being "respectable."
"We who are getting older... what good are we if we don't prepare young people to carry that torch of liberation to the next step?" Farrakhan said in his speech Saturday. "What good are we if we think we can last forever and not prepare others to walk in our footsteps?"
Farrakhan focused particularly on the young people of the Black Lives Matter movement, calling them future leaders of the Black American community.
"These are not just young people who happened to wake up one morning. Ferguson ignited it all," he said. "So [to] all the brothers and sisters from Ferguson who laid in the streets, all the brothers and sisters from Ferguson who challenged the tanks, we are honored that you have come to represent our struggle and our demands."
A number of celebrities attended the rally, including comedian Dave Chapelle, rappers Snoop Dogg, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, and Young Jeezy, among others.
Protestors chanted the song "Alright" by Kendrick Lamar as they marched to hear the speeches at the National Mall.
Many black and Native American activists gave speeches throughout the day, as well as a few of the family members of unarmed black people killed by police.
The sister of Sandra — a woman who died in police custody after a routine traffic stop — gave a speech, asking the community to "Say her name," and remember the women killed by police violence. Civil rights leader Benjamin Chavis, who also attended the first march, spoke of a young man who attended the march in 1995 who is now our president.
The first march on October 16, 1995, drew mostly black men to D.C. from all around the country. There were more than 12 hours of speeches calling on black men to take responsibility for improving their families, their communities, and themselves. In 1995 Farrakhan called specifically on black men to "clean up their acts" and become better husbands, fathers, and neighbors.
This year the crowd was much more diverse, both racially and by gender. Farrakhan spent a great deal of his speech on women, first telling men to respect their women and treat them well, then telling women how to gain the respect of men.
"These [women] are warriors, these are scholars," Farrakhan began, as he motioned for a number of women belonging to the Nation of Islam in hijab to stand in front of his podium. "But they know how to cook, they know how to sow, they know how to rear their children."
He went on to motion to the women and ask the audience, if a woman came up and stood next to these other women in "a miniskirt and a low cut dress that's beckoning nursing babies, which one of these sisters would somebody say, 'Hey baby'? ... When women are clothed, they earn respect ... If you don't have a husband, keep it covered."
U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis, D-Illinois, who also was present in 1995, said the rally was a reflection of how far he U.S. has come in the past 20 years, and how much farther it has to go.
"We will march on so over-aggressive law enforcement procedures will not be the order of the day," Davis said. "We will march on until every child has access to high-quality education. We will march so that every citizen will know that they can get health care."
"Today's gathering is a reaffirmation of the faith that the dark past has taught us and of the hope the present has brought us."