When I started this blog, I had a hard time figuring out who I wanted my audience to be and finding my voice. I wanted to be myself, but I didn’t want the ease of my speech to turn people off. I wanted to appeal to young, professional Black men and women with a desire to travel like myself, but then I realized that this pursuit of a traveled filled life was something anyone could experience. But there will be times when the things I share on I’m Taking Off are geared towards those who are part of the African diaspora. It’s not in an attempt to exclude anyone or make anyone feel unwelcome. There will just be times when the words I share are read by some but felt by others. My experience in Washington D.C. may be one of them. I would be remiss to reflect on my experience at the Million Man March’s 20th anniversary as a tourist and not as a black woman.On October 16, 1995, the original Million Man March took place. Although the plight of Black people in America has not changed much over the years, the call of black men to Washington D.C. came with a slightly different purpose 20 years ago. The original march was a day of atonement. A day to come together and convey an image of what Black men were in hopes of combating negative stereotypes portrayed by the media.Twenty years later on Saturday, October 10th 2015, thousands of Black men, women and children once again converged on the nation’s capital. This was a show of solidarity, a call to action, a demand for justice, a warning to the masses that we are at our boiling point. With cries of “Justice or else!” we came. We heard from the parents of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin, young black boys whose lives were taken by rogue vigilantes and police officers with racist agendas.We heard from the local activist and foot soldiers in Ferguson, MO, who continue to fight for justice even when the news vans have left, and a new headline has been written. We heard from the Hon. Louis Farrakhan, who spoke of protecting, loving and looking out for one another as a community. Community is a fitting word to describe that day. I cannot begin to describe how good it felt to be in space with like-minded people, who looked like me and sought the same thing as I, justice. These past few years the news has been inundated with story after story of men and women, boys and girls, being killed largely at the hands of law enforcement. And each one of these cases has one thing in common, the color of the victim’s skin.I can’t speak to why everyone else was there, but I was there because I am tired of mothers having to bury their children before the age of 18. I am tired of black skin being enough to rouse suspicion. I am tired of murderers going to trail but being granted freedom in the end. I am tired.
You may be wondering what any of this has to do with travel and why I’m using this platform to share this. The thing is, before anything else I am a Black woman. I’m a singer, dancer, writer, avid reader, planner, analyst…the list goes on. But I am a Black woman first and foremost and fiercely protective of these two things.. That is why I attended the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March. I wanted to say not only does my life matter, but also the lives of the men and women within my community because I am nothing without them. I am nothing without the shoulders of my ancestors to stand on and the shoulders of my peers to lean on. We matter. As I engaged in dialogue with other attendees of the March, the common question was “What happens afterward?” We all wanted to be sure that converging on the National Mall wasn’t it. We wanted to walk away with a game plan in place and actionable steps for going forward. We wanted a response ready for when our cry of “Justice or else!” is met with “Or else what?” But while looking forward, I hope everyone in attendance reveled at the moment and appreciated the magnitude of what was taking place. As I listened to the words of the speakers offering encouragement to keep on our path of fighting for justice, I took a look around. I saw father’s with their sons, young couples embracing, young Black men focused and listening to the message being delivered. The love, passion and powerfulness of what it means to be black in America, at that moment, was palpable. That feeling alone was enough of a reason to be there. James Baldwin once said, “Our crown has already been bought and paid for. All we have to do is wear it.“ In our nation’s capital, surrounded by buildings built by slave labor, in a setting where fairness and justice should reign supreme, we all straightened our crowns atop our heads and took our marching orders.
I would like to thank my good friend, Darnell Lamont Walker, for lending me his amazing photographic skills for some of the images you see in this post. He is a talented writer and curator of the travel blog Passport Required.
Be sure to check out my other posts covering my time spent in DC:
Memorials, Monuments & Museums: A Day in Washington D.C.
History & Charm: A Day in Charlottesville, Va
Eats & Treats: Washington D.C. & Virginia
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