The Black Lives Matter movement was born out of the tragic losses of Black men and women, since last summer, due to police brutality. It’s been more than a year, now since the choking death of Eric Garner in Staten Island, NYC, the shooting death of teenager Mike Brown in Ferguson, and the cases of John Crawford in Ohio and Ezell Ford in LA. After various demonstrations organized and carried out by Black folks and allies, Department of Justice investigations and policy changes, people of color continue dying at the hands of the state, hands that are supposed to protect and serve.
Let’s face it, Black folks can only march with picket signs and chants for so long with no results. Always one to be outspoken in favor of the Black community, Minister Louis Farrakhan, revered (and feared) leader of the Nation of Islam is, once again, stepping up. In observation of the 20th anniversary of the monumental 1995 Million Man March that he spearheaded, Minister Farrakhan and supporters will hold a rally in the Washington, DC on October 10th, provocatively labeled “Justice or Else.” When scores of oppressed people converge on the National Mall, the police killings that occur every 28 hours will be addressed, but so will other issues, such as Blacks experiencing twice the unemployment rate of Whites, 60% of the prison population being Black and Latino and 45.3 million Americans living in poverty.
We got a chance to sit down with Justice or Else’s official New York youth representative, Leonard Muhammad to get a better perspective on what to expect on 10-10-15, and also what Justice or Else is at its core. If you plan on attending, or were on the fence, Muhammad’s words should provoke an informed decision. Read below.
What is your position with Justice or Else?
I’m in New York. My job is to get the youth out at this march, so I’m talking to rappers, gangs, Bloods, Crips, GS9’s, Latin Kings, North Jersey, South Jersey. I’m out at colleges meeting with frats. Omega Psi Phi nationally endorsed it. I’m meeting with the Divine Nine in West Chester. Wherever I can, my job is to get young people in the New York City area out to the march. The Minister understands the authority of the younger generations. He said we’re the greatest generation ever to be born, not because we’re the wisest, but because we’re fearless. Our parents and grandparents feared things. We don’t fear things like they do. We’ll die for what believe in, because we’ll die for less sometimes. That’s why he’s meeting with Young Thug and Jeezy and Young Dolph, or whoever he’s meeting because they talk to him to get that guidance.
What does it take to organize something like Justice or Else?
Unity. Minister Farrakhan makes the call, but there’s no way he’s doing this on his own. After he makes the call, hopefully, more influential people get on board and start organizing, so every major city in America has a local organizing committee. New York has nine. The number in a city depends on the size of the city. Baltimore isn’t as big as New York, but what’s going on in the city with the untimely death of Freddie Gray, and how they had the unrest there so close to DC, they’re super active as well, in that city. You have Pastor Jamal Bryant in Baltimore. He’s a Christian pastor, but he wants justice for his people also. He’s on the committee making sure people get to DC. We can’t trip on our differences. We need the unity. Without it, we won’t get the results we need. The turnout is not the goal. It doesn’t matter if it’s 2 million people like it was in ‘95 or 100,000 or 10,000. The goal is what come from the turnout. The goal is to get justice for people who are oppressed.
I’ve seen Minister Farrakhan making his rounds doing speaking engagements. Is he touring right now?
In ‘95, he did a year of touring. He’d go to Madison Square Garden and do 30,000, he’d go to Philly and do 20,000. Because he has such a short amount of time and he’s 80 plus years old, it’s not that same type of tour. Everybody on the radio circuit wants him for interviews and he’s trying to pick which ones to go with. He’s trying to utilize the internet as much as possible. He just left Memphis. He’ll be in Philly on September 7th and the 8th. I’ll have A$AP Ferg with me to meet with him.
What is the most important thing people should know about the Justice or Else movement, in your opinion?
We’re at a point now in our time here in America, where we have to do something different. Look at Black people. We’re first place in everything bad and last place in everything good. Since we’ve come here, we’ve been oppressed.We’re at the point now where were saying we want justice for these crimes against our people, or else, you have to pay. There’s something you have to pay with. That goes for Black people, Hispanics, women, poor Whites and anybody who’s been systematically oppressed during their time here in America.
Is there a specific, desired demographic that organizers are looking to attract?
Anybody who’s oppressed in America. It’s the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March, but it’s not a “million man march.” It’s not a march at all. Anybody in this country that has been a victim of oppression, or the idea of White supremacy, are not only invited, but encouraged to participate in the days after the march, to help plan, and mobilize, and get everything together.
So, it’s not going to be a march?
It’s not a march per se. When you think of a “march,” you think of picket signs and people singing, but it’s a lot more serious than that. We’re putting a plan before the government. Basically, we’re outlining America’s crimes against humanity. We’re telling them what they are, and we’re telling them how they can pay us back or make amends for those crimes against humanity.
What do you expect people to walk away from Justice or Else with?
They should expect to walk away knowing what the next steps will be, like what that “or else” means. A lot of people are worried about that “or else.” The last two years of Dr. Martin Luther King’s life, the message in his speeches changed a lot. “I Have a Dream” wasn’t about a dream at all. So, they killed Dr. King on two fronts. They physically killed him, but they also killed his message. They turned it into this “dream.” Towards the end, Dr. King was talking about coming together, organizing and disciplining the Black dollar. He even said we can redistribute the pain. When you think of Dr. King, you don’t imagine hearing that type of thing. In 2015, things haven’t improved much, and we are going to follow through with Dr. King’s true dream. What I can tell you is that we’re going to discipline that Black dollar like Dr. King was saying. Those companies that fund privately-owned prisons won’t be able to take money from us and then, in turn, hurt our communities. It ain’t gonna work like that. That’s part of it. God said it’s his battle. “Vengeance is mine saith the Lord.” We can’t speak about what He’s going to do, but that component is there as well.