I had heeded the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan’s call for black men to attend the Million Man March, a day of reconciliation and atonement. They came from the four corners of earth, wealthy and poor, fathers, husbands, grandfathers and young men. Despite media demonization of the event, we made the mass pilgrimage to the capitol to hear some of our generation’s greatest speakers.

As a 16-year-old high school student, I stood with the many other attendees listening to black women like the late Dr. Betty Shabazz, Rosa Parks and Maya Angelou speak to fathers, husbands and sons. Civil Rights leaders such as Rev. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson spoke on the need for us to take home the spirit of unity and reconciliation. We stood there for hours listening to countless speeches from some of the greatest leaders of our generation. The closing speaker, Minister Farrakhan, delivered a fiery speech which has stood with me to this day. Minister Farrakhan urged to the crowd to repeat after him a pledge which millions of black men repeated. The pledge, known as the Million Man pledge, urged us to return home and be better fathers, husbands and sons, to end the cycle of violence that plagued our community. The march ended with all of us strangers embracing each other hugging, shaking hands, and some brothers even wept. We all went our separate ways vowing to uphold our pledge. Not one fight or public disturbance occurred; we all left peacefully, just as we arrived.

I returned home to New York determined, with a new spirit like a fire burning within. I walked proudly into my high school with my “ One in a Million” pin and Million Man March t-shirt. I talked to anyone that would listen about the spirit of unity that I experienced and the solutions that could help improve our communities. I urged my peers to pay attention to those who spoke out against the gathering for many of them were not in attendance and offered no solutions to problems we faced in our community. Most people just listened and were receptive, but others would simply ignore me. I was even told I wasn’t “full black” and had no right to speak on black issues, to “go hangout with Indians and Hispanic folks.” This made me think not only was there a lot of work to do in the black community, but in all communities of color. Although we lived in the same neighborhoods and faced the same issues of police brutality, poverty, drugs and violence, we were not united.

A week after the march, a local newspaper discussed how Native Americans felt about the professional baseball team, the Cleveland Indians, mascot. Native Americans were protesting over Chief Wahoo, the team’s mascot during the World Series. The editorial asked what the New York community thought about the mascot issue. Unlike some African Americans who claimed native ancestry, I was raised knowing my family history and culture. My people are commonly referred to as “Black Indians.” Although I am multiracial, my grandparents always tried to acknowledge being Native because the same blood that flows thru them flows thru me as well. So I decided to write a letter to the paper. I wrote how “Indian” mascots were demeaning and how these images and symbols were racist and disrespectful. To my surprise, they printed my response as well as the responses of supporters and no supporters of mascots. Everyone in high school to everyone in my neighborhood must have seen that article because I couldn’t go anywhere without someone telling me they had seen me in the paper.

I became more active in activist circles, attending rallies and community meetings. I read every book from MalcolmX, Huey Newton and Richard Wright. I attended workshops for youth where they explained to us the things that we should and should not say if we got stopped by police. Police brutality was a hot topic then, as it is now. In 1994, a year prior, the police had shot and killed 14-year-old African American Nicholas Heyward, Jr. for a toy gun. I attended a rally for a Latino man Anthony Baez, who was choked to death after his brother’s football accidentally hit a police car. I myself had been harassed by police on several occasions.

My parents didn’t approve, especially my father, who had been involved himself in the Civil Rights Movement in the South and witnessed some terrible things. Like most parents, he was concerned for my safety but I couldn’t stop, I was hooked! For the next 20 years I would become involved in various issues, not only in the African American community but Latino and Native American as well. I’ve strived to keep that promise, that oath, that I took 20 years ago in 1995 — to do something positive and be a force for change.

With the 20th anniversary of Million Man March, also referred to as Justice or Else, approaching, I urge people that are able to attend this gathering to do so. This anniversary is a historical gathering bringing Latino, Native American, Asian, and whites together in a spirit of solidarity to address serious issues in our communities. We can no longer sit around and pray that change will come, we need to get out there and demand it.

It’s time for us to hear the voice of our country’s indigenous peoples. Although their cultures might differ from other groups, Native peoples face many of the same issues as other people of color. Police brutality not only affects African Americans and Latinos, but Native Americans as well.

The recent killings of Native Americans like activist Rexdale Henry, Sarah Lee Circle Bear and many others are stories that rarely get national media coverage. Many Native communities are the poorest in the nation, yet corporations make billions of dollars off their land and resources. Not to mention that Native people who are indigenous to this land are still treated as second class citizens mocked in films and sports, and this country still has two holidays that celebrate the massacre of indigenous peoples.

On October 10, 2015, we stand in solidarity with millions of others demanding justice for all.

Let this gathering transform your life and spirit the same way the Million Man March did for me and so many other brothers that attended. So if you attended 20 years ago — jump back on that bus. And if it’s your first time, come on down and let’s be unified in our call.

Seven Williams is a community organizer from New York City, currently living in Washington, D.C. He’s been working with African American, Latino and Native American youth for 15 years. He received his bachelor’s degree in media production and film from Northern Arizona University. He’s been involved in youth conferences and workshops using film and hip-hop as a way of encouraging young people to express themselves. He’s also an independent filmmaker.

Will you be attending the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March? Let us know in the comments below!