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D.C. rally stresses unity and Black power

Published Oct 19, 2005 12:03 AM

Millions More Movement, Oct. 15.

The Millions More Movement held an important all-day rally Oct. 15 on the National Mall here that attracted an overwhelmingly African-American crowd numbering more than 1 million, according to organizers. The main demand put forth by the rally organizers and supported by the masses there was “Black power!”

Not one U.S. flag was prominent in the crowd, but the colors of the flag for U.S. Black liberation—red, black and green—could be seen everywhere.

Oct. 15 rally.

This MMM rally was first announced a year ago as a commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March on Oct. 16, 1995, held at the same site. That event attracted at least 1 million, mainly Black men, and was initiated by the Nation of Islam.

This 2005 event, also initiated by the NOI, was more inclusive in terms of embracing women, the lesbian, gay, bi and trans communities, as well as Latin@s, the Indigenous and other nationalities, all of whom were reflected in the crowd and speakers. The crowd that filled the mall from the U.S. Capitol steps to the Washington Monument included young people, the elderly, organized and unorganized workers, and families.

The speeches were focused on a variety of issues: the prison system and the plight of political prisoners—especially Mumia Abu-Jamal, Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin (formerly H. Rap Brown) and Leonard Peltier-police brutality, reparations, voter disenfranchisement, LGBT oppression, immigrant rights, economic and political empowerment, education and health, the role of art and culture in the struggle for social justice, and much more.

While the 1995 rally primarily pushed for atonement, especially among Black men, the theme of the Millions More Movement rally was qualitatively different in its political message, due to two main issues: Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq war. These two issues were common themes, interwoven in many of the talks and cultural presentations throughout the day, especially indignation over the government’s handling of the hurricane. Many of the talks took on a strong anti-U.S. government, anti-Bush theme.

Louis Farrakhan speaks
at Oct. 15.

Farrakhan offers program
of unity

The main presentation at this rally was given by the MMM’s national convener and NOI leader, the Hon. Minister Louis Farrakhan. The crowd anxiously awaited what he, more than any other speaker, had to say. And he said plenty.

Farrakhan began his wide-ranging 80-minute speech with the hope that Black people, along with Latin@s, the Indigenous and the poor, would unite to build a strong struggle. He stated, “I can’t guess how many of you are here today ... whether there is a million... less than a million or more, it is not the most important thing ... creating a movement of our people is important.” He expressed his appreciation to the “unprecedented” number of Black leaders from different political backgrounds and faiths who had come together to speak “with one voice.”

He stressed that the failure of the U.S. government to answer the needs of Black people and the poor was exposed by its lack of response to Hurricane Katrina. He recommended that the Department of Homeland Security, along with its emergency management agency, FEMA, be the target of a class-action lawsuit by Katrina survivors, who should be fully compensated for everything they lost due to “criminal neglect” on the part of the government. The lawsuit, he said, should be based on facts and not hearsay, in terms of what the government did and did not do to rescue people of color off rooftops in New Orleans. He also called for an investigation of what really happened to the levees.

The NOI leader spoke poignantly about the 2,500 children, mainly of color, who are still missing from the Katrina catastrophe and the pain that their families are still going through.

‘Organize street by street’

Farrakhan urged everyone to go back home and organize—street by street and house by house—to build a movement that can be ready before another disaster. He warned, “Organizing is serious and there are those who don’t want to see us organized. The poor are supporting the rich, who hate anyone who can stimulate the conscience of the poor. Are you sure you want a movement? Then be ready for severe opposition.”

He then presented a proposal to set up a number of ministries. Pointing out that Black people make up a significant percentage of the population, he said the funds could come from an equal percentage of the tax dollars, much of which go to the military budget.

A Ministry of Health and Human Services should truly take care of the health needs of the people. Farrakhan praised the Cuban government for offering to send 1,500 doctors to the Gulf Coast region to care for the Katrina survivors. The offer, to this day, has been ignored by the Bush administration. He also thanked the Venezuelan government for offering support to the Katrina survivors—also rejected by the White House.

Cites Cuba’s offer of scholarships

He also praised President Fidel Castro of Cuba for offering 500 scholarships for working-class people from the U.S. to study medicine in Cuba, with the stipulation that, upon the completion of these studies, they come back to the U.S. to provide health care for the indigent.

In response to the suffering of Black farmers in the U.S. who have become dispossessed from their lands by racism and rich agribusiness subsidies, Farrakhan motivated the need for a Ministry of Agriculture. He also stated that Native people, much of whose land had been systematically stolen in a genocidal manner by the U.S. government in the interests of westward expansion, still have land in reservations that could be leased by Black farmers, for their mutual benefit.

A Ministry of Education would be necessary to help unite all Black educators because, according to Farrakhan, the “Western system has run its course” and is no longer worthy of educating children.

Farrakhan stated that a Ministry of Defense is vital because “our young people are fighting in the wrong war—either against each other at home or in an unjust war in Iraq and Afghanistan.” He said they should be brought home to defend their communities. “You don’t need to be in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said. “You need to be in our neighborhoods stopping the police from shooting us down.”

Farrakhan connected the need for a Ministry of Arts and Culture to the mass influence of the leader of the Chinese revolution, Mao Zedong. Farrakhan stated that Mao’s ideas were very much reflected in Chinese culture because Mao took a great interest in the creative ways that political ideas could be broadly expressed.

Farrakhan said that Africa and the Caribbean are in need of factories and that forming a Ministry of Trade and Com merce could assist in this endeavor. He also stressed that trade alliances should be formed between Africa, the Caribbean, Central and South America to help strengthen these economies. The struggle for reparations, he said, goes beyond the U.S. government making an apology for the slave trade and for slavery. Reparations also mean canceling all debt of developing countries and providing the means to build infrastructure.

Continuing in this vein, Farrakhan reminded everyone that one of the reasons immigrants from Latin America are forced to come here to find work is because the U.S. stole lands from Mexico that are now Arizona, California, Texas and other states.

Among the many other speakers were Clarence Thomas and Chris Silvera from the Million Worker March Movement; Dr. Dorothy Height of the National Council of Negro Women; Indigenous leaders Russell Means and Vernon Bellecourt; Congress woman Sheila Jackson; Haitian singer Wyclef Jean; Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson; Viola Plummer of the Dec. 12 Movement; Damu Smith, Black Voices for Peace; and comedian and social activist Dick Gregory. The entire rally can be viewed at www.millionmanmarch.org.

In a videotaped message played to the crowd, the president of Cuba’s National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcón, expressed the Cuban people’s solidarity with Katrina survivors and all the poor in the U.S. He also spoke about the case of the Cuban 5, who were imprisoned for fighting against terrorism while the U.S. aids and shelters real terrorists like Luis Posada Carriles.

Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson spoke via video satellite to express his solidarity with the poor and oppressed in the U.S. His country gave asylum to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide when he was kidnapped from Haiti by the U.S. government in February 2004. Aristide is now in South Africa.