Jamal Johnson has no clue about the Million Man March. After all, the 22-year-old was only 6 when the historical gathering summoned more than two million black men to Washington, D.C., on Oct. 16, 1995, for the Holy Day of Atonement. “I never knew anything about that march,” he says, sitting in a Germantown barbershop. His remark elicits sadness from a middle-aged client seated across from him who shakes his head in disbelief. Barber Kyle Mitchell takes time out from cutting a client’s hair to school Johnson: “I will never forget that day; all those black men standing together peacefully— these young guys need to see that.”
As Mitchell recalls the event, the younger men in the barbershop listen in amazement. “I remember getting into D.C. very early in the morning and just seeing thousands of black men everywhere. Everyone was in good spirits,” Mitchell says. “It was a sight to see.”
Black men were asked to go back home and start anew, taking responsibility for themselves, their families and their communities. The event created such a wave of black unity and pride that there were jump-off gatherings like the Million Women March, the Million Family March and the Millions More Movement. It even prompted Director Spike Lee to make a film about the aftermath, called Get on the Bus.
The generational disconnect that distances the younger guys in the barbershop like Johnson against the older ones like Mitchell is what Farrakhan and local organizers hope to bridge during the 16th anniversary of the Million Man March being hosted in Philly this weekend.