For more information about the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March on Oct. 10, go to www.justiceorelse.com.
ATLANTA — In the 20th anniversary year of the Million Man March, African Americans must demand more government accountability for protecting black lives and work to stop violence within their own communities, Nation of Islam Leader Louis Farrakhan said last week to a crowd that included Chattanooga representatives.
"How can we go to Washington and tell the white man we want justice when we are killing each other?" he asked.
At age 82 and in declining health, Farrakhan stood for more than two hours before hundreds of people packing Atlanta's West Hunter Street Baptist Church, which once was pastored by the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s closest adviser, the Rev. Ralph Abernathy.
The church was among several stops Farrakhan made this month as he works to organize events for an anniversary march on Oct. 10 in Washington, D.C. Organizers are hoping for the largest gathering of blacks in history.
The original march, on Oct. 16, 1995, was held to seek unity and commitment among African American men to support their families and help develop and grow their communities. Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam, along with dozens of civil rights and leadership organizations combined to plan and conduct the massive gathering on the National Mall.
For the 20th anniversary, Farrakhan has cast a wide net, gathering faith-based organizations and rappers including Snoop Dogg, 2 Chainz and Young Thug, to help galvanize African Americans to support the event and make changes in their own communities.
State Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, said she appreciated seeing people united at the church and she looks forward to seeing unity at the march in October.
"The Million Man March demonstrated to us what could be done when we focus attention and come together as a cohesive group," she said.
Favors, Hamilton County Commissioner Warren Mackey, civil rights activists and local ministers were among more than a dozen Chattanooga residents at the invitation-only meeting last week.
Local Nation of Islam Leader Kevin Muhammad organized the caravan to Atlanta and plans to take at least two buses to the anniversary march.
The Rev. Charlotte Williams, pastor of Eastdale Village Community Church, said the black community must unite to solve problems of violence, the breakdown of the family and dismal educational opportunities.
"We're going to have to come together," she said.
The 20th anniversary march follows nationwide protests after several high-profile cases in which white police officers killed unarmed black men. The march also comes as many Americans express concerns about disproportionate numbers of blacks being incarcerated, lack of jobs and affordable housing in America and voting rights.
The theme of this year's march will be"Justice or Else."
And, as in the first march's "Day of Absence," where blacks were urged to stay home from work, school, social engagements and shopping, Farrakhan said this year African Americans should refrain from spending money on Black Friday or during the Christmas season.
"We don't have to argue with anybody," he said. "We just need to go around to stores and massive industries to say, 'God sent us by here to say to you that you are not treating his children right. And we come by here to help you make the first item on your agenda fair treatment with God's children. If you are not prepared to do that we have an agenda that we must follow. Our agenda calls for withdrawing economic support.'"
The crowd applauded as he continued.
With an annual combined income of $1.3 trillion, blacks in America collectively earn more than the national budget of Canada, Farrakhan said.
"Nations with less money have schools, hospitals, colleges and factories, and here we are with $1.3 trillion," he said. "And you have no hospitals of your own. We [are] sitting here shooting each other, but we got to go to the white man to fix us up. Can't you see that something is wrong with that picture?"
The October 1995 Million Man March asked black men to atone for wrongs to their families and their community. This year, Farrakhan called for an end to violence within the black community. He called the United States government hypocritical and said it should do more to protect black lives.
"Moses said an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth and a life for a life," he said. "So when our lives are taken outside the law of justice, the government should take up our cause, the court of law should take up our cause and the guilty party should be sentenced to death."
Farrakhan also called some Christians hypocrites. Blacks went on television to say that they forgave 21-year-old Dylann Roof, the man charged with killing nine people in South Carolina during a church Bible study on June 17. But they can't show love and forgiveness to their spouses, children and in their community.
The first Commandment is to love God. The second is to love your neighbor as you love yourself, he said.
"If a man is not charitable in his own house, how can you trust his charity in somebody else's?" Farrakhan said.
Blacks have been taught to be nonviolent to white people, he said,
and that their love will conquer hate, but 50 years after the civil rights movement, the black community is still dealing with inequality and violence.
Then he asked all pastors to preach black love from every pulpit.
"Why don't we turn this around? You look better making your people nonviolent toward each other," said Farrakhan as the crowd clapped. "You love white people but you have no love for your black self."
When a white policeman kills a black man, marches and protests gain national attention Farrakhan said.
"But every weekend, we're sending each other to the hospital and to the morgue," Farrakhan said. "There is no protest because we don't know how to protest our own behavior."
Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at email@example.com or 757-6431.