This is why I'll walk in the 20th anniversary Million Man March
On October 16th, 1995, I’m pretty sure I was still mad at Michelle F. for passing around the poem/heartfelt love letter I wrote to her to her 6th grade homeroom class, and then proceeding to send her delinquent boyfriend to find me and my whoop my ass. I played it off real cool when he stepped to me and asked me if I was Joel. I said, “nah.” Crisis averted. He also wasn’t very smart. However, on that date, hundreds of thousands of men — fathers, sons, brothers, artists, lawyers, doctors, garbage men, and more walked to National Mall in Washington D.C. to celebrate brotherhood.
Heck, Spike Lee made a film about it. I wasn’t yet hip to a lot of things. Not hip to Minister Farrakhan, hadn’t read Malcolm X’s autobiography yet, still didn’t understand why they played elevator jazz music during the “sex” scenes on Red Shoe Diaries, but I knew that the march, dubbed “The Million Man March” meant something. And I also felt a very true pang inside of myself that told me if the opportunity ever presented itself again and I was of legal consenting age, I would go.
Fast forward 20 years later and the time is upon us. I’ve grown a lot closer to my blackness over the years (please don’t ask me what that means; it changes every day) and the longing for fellowship amongst brothers who not only share my complexion but also the struggles and triumphs of living with it has only grown. The desire and the yearning to commiserate, build, cry, hug, laugh with and share thoughts and hopes and dreams and values and failures in a peaceful, loving environment is real in the field for a brother such as myself.
I also look forward to having the memory — the same memory I had heading to Rockefeller Center to watch Obama’s inauguration on the big screen, to be able to recount to my magical little one the moment in time her daddy walked with men in solidarity and learned more about what being black, and being a black man in America, means to a little black boy who’s father fought and suffered in Vietnam. A boy who watched his single mother work the night shift in order to help her youngest with math problems and sentence structure. A boy lost in the world full of concrete, shell casings, sirens and body chalk renderings.
I will tell my princess that her daddy wanted to walk for her and for the men around her who never had the chance to or stood a chance to, who forgot how to, wish they could or someday will. I want to march with them in mind, their hearts straddling the fabric of my back pocket, hugging onto the freedom of being able to tell the ancestors I understand why they too walked and marched and fought and died for the rest of us to not have to do the same.
So I will walk. And I will smile until my cheeks burn a hole in the sun. Hope to see y’all October 10th, 2015. I’ll have a hug ready.