It was 14 years ago that nearly two million Black men stood on the mall of the U.S. Capitol pledging before the world, to each other and to God that it was time for a change. Black men from all walks of life came to Washington D.C. on October 16, 1995 to atone, to reconcile and to accept the responsibility to become better men for the benefit of self, our families and our people.
An unprecedented sign of unity, and the catalyst for other marches using the “million man theme,” the march was a unique display of brotherhood that captured the imaginations of literally millions of people from around the world. Opinions of the Black American male changed instantly, and those believing that Black men were a burden upon society were forced on that day to take a second look.
A sign of what is possible when we decide to put our hearts and minds toward a given endeavor, the march still inspires those who witnessed the power and unity of that day. From Black child adoptions to voter registration and the rekindling of a new assertiveness, the march showed a side of the Black man that for years had been hidden beneath stereotypes, media propaganda and ignorance.
An entire generation has been born since the Million Man March and those who were only children at the time are now adults. Though, today, we grapple with many of the same issues the Black man faced 14 years ago, answers to these problems can still be found in the “Eight Steps of Atonement” that came out from the march.
For example, when an offended party “points out a wrong”, if the offender takes the grievance to heart, a second step calls for an “acknowledgment of that wrong.” Once accepted and subsequently “confessed,” an act of “repentance” or contrition can lead to “atonement,” the step where repairs are made and reparations for damages are offered.
With efforts having been made to restore that which was harmed, the stage is then set for entering into the process of “forgiveness.” Though difficult, once the offended person or persons learn to overcome their feelings of resentment, it is through the seventh step that “reconciliation” begins to replace discord and enmity.
In order to engage in conflict resolution and move toward a more “perfect union,” parties accepting the eight steps will find the process both a liberating and empowering force that builds rather than destroys. The self-hatred that manifests itself in jealousy, envy and so-called Black on Black violence can perhaps be overturned in favor of unity and brotherhood. When the eight steps are internalized and carried into practice, a peaceful environment emerges and the principles of atonement, reconciliation and responsibility allow for new ideas and opportunities to arise.
The building of a true community requires more than just bricks, concrete and steel, it requires the inclusion of people who have recognized their full potential and are striving to fulfill it. The ideal community recognizes the gifts every individual brings to the table and incorporates them into the whole of its make. Not unlike the cell of life which together with others makes tissues, organs and organ systems, properly guided individuals, united in purpose, make for the dynamics behind strong families, communities and nations.
The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan teaches us there is nothing wasted in the growth and development of the human body, and likewise no human being should be wasted in the growth and development of a community or civilization. While the Black man has been taught he holds little value in this world, as he awakens to the time and what must be done, his emerging consciousness will renew his faith in himself and bring forth a new reality.
If “faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not yet seen,” then faith is the basis upon which our community must be built. More than just a church, a mosque or a synagogue, our community must encompass all facets of life where all of us, regardless of land, language or label, can live in peace together. A community that is at peace with itself is a community that has been empowered to grow. Since “self-improvement is the basis of community development,” in order to build, let us now take a close look at self and rise to the occasion.