Tinzelow Baldwin, 40, traveled from Charlotte, North Carolina to Washington, D.C. Saturday to attend the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March because he’s fed up.
“I’m tired of seeing so many young Black men being shot by police,” Baldwin said with emotion. “I’m just tired of it.”
And he added, “I came to the Million Man March because I wanted to be a part of something positive.”
He was not alone.
Baldwin joined tens of thousands of African American men and women who assembled on the National Mall for the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March, which boasted a provocative modern-day theme, billed by the Nation of Islam’s Min. Louis Farrakhan which resonated with many African Americans and other people of color: “Justice or Else.”
For Baldwin, and many Black men across the nation, racial profiling among African American men has become a rallying call for justice. It’s become such a serious issue in America that California police must now report racial characteristics of any person stopped by officers under a new law intended to respond to high-profile deaths of unarmed black men.
The California law, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, comes as a number of young black unarmed men were killed by police officers including, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri,Freddie Gray in Baltimore, and Eric Garner in New York.
Since the original Million Man March in 1995, life for many young Black men has gotten progressively worse.
More Black men are being incarcerated at higher rates and young African American men are falling behind their peers in the classroom, according to PBS. Only 54% of African Americans graduate from high school, compared to more than 75% of their Caucasian and Asian American peers.
According to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Black males ages 18 and older make up just 5.5% of all college students. Of the young black males who do make it to college, only one in six will receive a college degree.
And the NAACP says African American males are filling up prisons nationwide in disproportionate numbers, comprising 1 million out of the total 2.3 million of incarcerated men — and one in three African American men age 18-24 is unemployed.
Bill Murrain, a lawyer from Conyers, Georgia, traveled to Washington, D.C., for the “Justice or Else” event and stood side-by-side with three generations of black men: his sons, son-in-laws, and five grandsons.
As a civil rights attorney in the 1960s who rallied for social justice, Murrain said he was reminded of his racial confrontations with police in places like the Mississippi Delta, Stockton, California and Benton Harbor, Michigan.
And 20 years after the Million Man March in 1995, when Farrakhan called for black men to gather with a pledge to uplift their communities, much in America has changed.
“It pains me greatly that in these days, in these times, we must still respond to the cry that ‘Black lives matter,” Murrain said. But he added, “Our quest and our charge, having been here today, is to recognize that it is our responsibility to strive to assure that our good days must increasingly outnumber our bad days.”
Saturday’s rally was a stark difference from the march in 1995. Twenty years ago, America didn’t have a Black president in the White House and today, President Barack Obama is making history as the nation’s first Black Commander-in-Chief. From the stage Saturday, a diversity of speakers took the microphone, including Native Americans, Latinos, Haitians and Palestinians.
Dwyane Morgan, 36, drove nine hours from Indianapolis to Washington, D.C., with his nephew and four cousins.
“I wanted them to witness this event and I wanted them to learn about what’s happening around them,” Morgan said, as he stood on the Mall. “And I wanted them to learn something about themselves.”
“I came because my parents want me to learn about our history,” said Laurence Shelton, 14, who came to the march from Gary, Indiana
And Lewis Allen, 14, from Indianapolis, said his family expects a positive change from the experience.
“They want me to leave Indianapolis as a boy,” Allen said. “And come back as a man.”