View from the Crowd
Million Youth March High School Representative
“There is an old Negro proverb: It takes a Village to Raise a Child. Well, we are the Village. We are the Hands. And the nation is our child. And, as younger people in our society, we often hear the words, “The youth are our future.” Well, you know what, youth? We need to begin the future now, and stop waiting for the future to come tomorrow. Going into the New Millennium, we make history. Well, we are history. As we stand here today, we are making tomorrow’s history today. As I walk down the historical landmarks here in our Village, I often dream that officials will one day name one of our streets in our Village – name it after us and call it The New Millennium Blvd. I hope that we can one day come together as a people, as youth and as adults, to come together and move forward. The New Millennium is here. People categorize some of the older folks as hippies and baby boomers. What do they call us? Generation X. What does that mean? X has no meaning, X stands for no brand. Well, I’ve been doing some homework. X stands for New Millennium, and We are the New Millennium. It was five-years-ago that my cousin had the opportunity to go directly into the NBA or to any college he wanted to. He was robbed of that chance, robbed of that dream over whose first in line at a White Castle in the South Bronx. He was shot dead over a -burger. The New Millennium. I can’t really say what I wrote because I don’t have the time. But I’m going to just tell you how I feel. We hear the words “No Justice, No Peace.” What does that mean? It doesn’t mean that if we don’t get justice we going pick up a gun and shoot ya. “No Justice, No Peace” means if we don’t get justice, you won’t get peace of mind. It means we will walk a hundred miles if we gotta. By all means necessary. It means we’ll stop wearing those fancy sneakers because it has the brothers and sisters killing each other for ’em. I can go on and on but I don’t’ have the time… Like I said we ain’t out to kill nobody. We’re the most passive people out here. We’ve been working hard and we continue to strive and we continue to get knocked down. I’m tryin’ to shake you. I’m gonna be honest with you. (A sign is handed to Damian.) I gotta big old sign here that says Time. Well, the time is now. We need to get ready. We’re going into the New Millennium. There’s no reason we should go into the New Millennium like this and I mean not only to find the ways we portray ourselves in our Village – we got to get that straight; this is a Village. When you hear Village, what do you hear? You hear peace. You here love, Encouragement. Well, I’m ready to go, but there’s one thing I’ve got to say: We’ve got to change the ways we treat our Mothers and Fathers and the way Mothers and Fathers treat their sons and daughters. We got to change the way sons and daughters treat their brothers and sisters. We need to get in it to win it. And the time is now, I tell you. And I beg and plead that we will all come together as one. As we rob and steal from each other, there’s someone at home right now laughing at us. Why give them the satisfaction? We’re the only group that kills and fight each other – Why? We’re the only group that had to get permission to be here today – Why? And I will no longer tolerate it. Now, time is an issue here but I encourage you all to hold each other’s hands, give each other a hug. Tell each other that we love each other. And we need to move on. The time is now.”
Sister-Queen, Honorary Mayor of Harlem
“The Black Mother of civilization is who I am. I am on the Sphinx in Egypt and I walk the streets of Harlem. I went with Queen Mother Moore to the Million Man March. (I brought) the warrior queen, sister Winnie Mandela, to the Million Woman March. I am now standing in an historic spot in time at the Million Youth March. I say to you, youth. I say to you, my children: You come from a Mother of civilization. You come out of my womb, and I want you to listen to me very carefully. You have a right, you have a right – you’re hearing this from the Mother of civilization – to come home. Harlem is home. You can always come home. I come to say to you that we want to hear what you have to say. We’re here. We rocked civilization. 500 million plus came out of the dungeons and the slave trafficking and through The Door of No Return. I say to you, you come from my wombs and you will return to the continent of Mother Africa to inherent everything that you own, and your rightful place in history. As the Mother of civilization I say to you, I will listen, I will listen, I will listen and hear from you today. We love you. We bring peace to you. We bring our higher forces to you. The God force of all life, we bring to you.
The Five Percent Nation
“(Giuliani) wants us to fight and kill each other. But we’re not having it, Black people. We’re not having it. Everybody say, “Peace.” You tried to stop our fathers, you tried to stop our mothers. You had a problem trying to stop their babies. Here we are America. Everybody who is about to enter back into this wicked educational system, I want you to say, “Knowledge of self to better yourself.” We are here in the spirit and essence of Christopher Wallace — the Notorious BIG and Tupac Shakur.”
The Reverend Al Sharpton President,
The National Action Network
First, let me say I’m happy to have with me today to welcome youth from around the nation to the Million Youth March in Harlem, Senator Ephraim Gonzalez who works with us in coalition. You might have heard on the news that some people didn’t want you here. But we come Black and Latino as a coalition to say, as the Mayor in Exile in New York, Welcome to Harlem. As we talk about Black Power , we’re standing on Malcolm X Blvd., the convener of this march, Brother Khalid Muhammad, comes out of a movement started by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. Then the movement was represented by Malcolm X the man they named this boulevard after. Now there is Minister Farrakhan. There have always been different roads in our community, but we have not until late let people tell us when we could debate and dialogue on those roads. One block over is Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. Powell was a man who helped create the phrase Black Power. Even though he disagreed with Malcolm on some things, even though Malcolm disagreed with him on some things, they would stand on the corners of Harlem and speak together and debate together and work it out in front of the people. And if Adam can stand with Malcolm, then Al Sharpton can come to the Million Youth March and stand up and not apologize to nobody. Minister Khalid and I have had our differences, but I’m no boy and I’m not instructed by nobody, where to go and when to go, how far to go and how long to stay. Unequivocally, I’m against hate. I fought all my life against hate. I get up every morning and see a scar from hate on my chest where a man stabbed me in Bensonhurst and I forgave him. I unequivocally am against any form of anti-anything white, anti-Semitism, homophobia … any of that. I ran for Mayor because of a coalition and I will continue to stand up and tell you we must make alliances. But we can not be boys and we can not be told what to say whenever we go forward.
Let’s be clear that if you got something to say, you don’t run from your children, you come to your children and you tell them, “Let’s build together.” Lastly, there are a lot of problems, and we have talked about everything in the media but the youth problem. The problems are there is a surplus budget and they are building jails rather than schools. We are 12 to 15 per cent of the population, but 55 percent of those who are in jail. We are those that are now being put on workfare programs and they are closing open admissions to schools in New York, and they’re doing Proposition 209 in California. That’s why we need to march. Today there is a young man 16 years old laying on critical in Kings County Hospital shot at 17 times because he had a water gun. That’s why we March. We don’t march out of hate; we march because we love ourselves and we love our children and we don’t want to see our children subjected to police brutality and a bad educational system and an unfair criminal justice system. I am clear that the alliance of Goodman and Schwerner and Chaney died so I could run for Mayor. I am clear on Abner Loiuma. I am clear on what we did in the Civil Rights Era and I’m also clear that today we must address the youth and not be intimidated by others to run us away. And you must be clear as you come to Harlem, don’t let them defame Harlem.
This is not a Village of hate; this is a village of hope. In this Village, grandmamas raised their grandbabies on subsidized income. This is a Village of hope, not hate. In this Village, young people get up everyday facing the odds, trying to seek a better and fairer way of existing, This is not a Village of hate, this is a Village of hope. This is where we have had some of the best minds, best entertainers, best athletes in the world. So I welcome you to the Land of Giants. John Henrik Clarke who recently made his transition lived in Harlem. Adam Powell lived in Harlem. Welcome to the Land of Giants. This is where Paul Robeson was. This is where Malcolm was. This is where Queen Mother Moore was. Welcome to the Land of Giants. This is where we raised some of the greatest entertainers on the Apollo stage. Welcome to the Land of Giants. This is where Mr. Michaux’s bookstore was. Welcome to the Land of Giants. Don’t let no midgets give us a bad name. There’s still some giants in Harlem, and we’re going to stand up for our Black people.
Min. Conrad Muhammad
C. H. H.A N. G. E.
We need a change. This has to be the first minute of a new day. This generation has got to stand up. I’m standing here with Brother Yusef Salaam who was falsely accused a few years ago with the rape of a woman in Central Park. The police department not only arrested the confessed brother, but everybody who was associated with that day. But look at California. A degenerate killed and raped a nine-year-old black girl, and his partner — his accomplice in the act — is now a freshman at the University of California at Berkeley while Yusef Salaam spent time in jail. That’s why we need a change. That’s why the hip hop generation must stand up. Now more than ever we’ve got to stand. We’ve lost a generation to death, black on black violence. We’re killing more of each other than the Ku Klux Klan ever did. We need a change. Tupac Shakur was shot down in Las Vegas. Two years later, Tupac is dead, Biggie is dead, Orlando Anderson who they said killed Tupac is dead. Suge Knight is in jail. We’ve lost a generation of black men to death and jail. We need a change. Stand up and let’s make a change. Stand up strong and we can change America and change the world.”
The All-African People’s
“My comments are directed specifically to our youth and the students amongst us. The primary task ahead of us as we look to achieving our revolution, is to transform our struggle for liberation from a spontaneous, mobilized action-oriented activity to an organized, coordinated activity. This has been our fundamental problem, and this is what continues to plague us. Mobilization speaks only to influencing power. Organization speaks to seizing and wielding power. This is our problem: we are politically powerless. We must bring conscious coordination to our struggle by joining permanent organizations. The greatest contribution youth and students can make to our process is by joining and building permanent organizations. This is where the problem has been. This is the solution to our problems. Without revolutionary consciousness, there is no revolution. Our students, in particular, must bring concrete, scientific ideas to the liberation struggle. The problem we face is the problem of abysmal political ignorance. The only way we can correct that is with mass political revolutionary consciousness within an organization. So I’m calling on everyone who is serious about our problem to get organized. If you look ahead and above, you will see the police on buildings – very strategic. That’s organization. That is not haphazard. That’s not shuck and jive. Our solution is Pan- Africanism, the total liberation and unification of Africa under one continental union Socialist government for Africa. It is only this action which will be able to safeguard and protect the African masses wherever they are, scattered and suffering throughout the world. Africans, please get organized. This is our solution.”
Chief Long Walker
of the Ocala Tribe in California
“It’s hard for me to come into the city. Where I live on the mountain, we are in charge of creation. We have enough power here today. We are the majority. When the slave escaped, he was taken in by my ancestors. From that day forward we became true blood brothers. We are one people today, we are no longer separated. We are the landlords of this western hemisphere and you are the only people we welcomed. (The crowd roars.) One more thing. I am tired of speaking. It seems like all of us – and I hate to say this -we have constipation of the minds and diarrhea of the mouth. I am not a violent man, but I am tired of what they have been doing to us for over 500 winters… All I have to say is we are our own worst enemies because we have allowed them to do that to us. They do not have the power. We do. In closing we say, Red and Black Power.”
Voices From the Crowd
“I seen the cops go into the middle section where the money was coming through. I was right there with the press. And after the money went through, they started assembling in the middle of the block in the back of the stage. They acted like we were in the 1960’s when they used to use hoses and dogs on Black people. But some of the Black officers, male and female, were breaking. They didn’t want to be down with this. They were saying, “This is bullshit.” You should have heard some of their responses. They felt bad about being there, and they walked away. This day, the black community tried to be united and Giuliani was saying he had an Army. And he had his boys out there acting up. No other marches and parades are treated like this. He don’t do that to any of them. Why he have to do it to Black folks? (Some people) wanted to get their kids out of there. When they started moving in, you saw people grabbing their kids and leaving. So the majority of the youth were out of there by the time the riot police started their thing. When it jumped off, I moved out the way. I couldn’t understand it.
“Then when I got punched in the chest. All I wanted to do was get to my car. This cop looked at me in my face, snatched his badge off and punched me in the chest. I wasn’t having it, but I started to leave. He punched me kinda hard but it was just something to laugh it. It was kinda funny. Here, you have some cops trying to do the right thing. But this one, he was off his rocker.
“He took his badge off, then punched me dead in the chest. Then he put his hand on my stomach to push me back. But he couldn’t move me. He was standing there frightened. His hands were shaking like a little girl’s. I gave him that look. They the ones trying to oppress people. He was so scared after what he did because the reaction from my face was not valid. He felt bad because I didn’t react. All I wanted to do was get my ride because if I lost it I would have to take a train. The reason I didn’t react the way he wanted me, had I made a funny move, he would have pulled out a gun. But I felt his fear. That’s why I played it cool.
“So when I left you (OTP had interceded when an enraged DJ started yelling at a police officer), “Mouse” and I went and found the cop that did it and Mouse starts to videotape the guy, the cop, and he’s laughing in my face. Just laughing. We have him on videotape laughing. I had to be in control. That discipline comes from a lot of martial arts training. A lot of Kung Fu and Karate. I am a third degree black belt. I trained under Earnest Hightower. It shows you how to hold your head even more.
“While the rest of his boys cheered him on, I did the right thing. So my friend, “Mouse” got this guy, the cop, on camera and me asking him why he punched me. He was smirking and smiling. I went over to the captain. Now the captain is supposed to give a different response. His response wasn’t correct with me. I asked the captain, “Yo, all I wanted to do was go with my friend. The officer had no right…”He interrupts me. He tells, “You wanta make a complaint, go to 666 Broadway.” When he laughed, I sort of laughed. I felt his fear. I had no choice but to laugh because he wanted a reaction and he didn’t get it. And what scared him the most was my reaction. Those cops come from a different area. They take them out the suburbs and out them right smack in the middle of Harlem.
“I got to give my people a whole lot of credit for holding their heads cause they did it real slick. They did it behind the stage. They came there for a riot. Nothing more. Nothing less. Everything was beautiful. All day long. No problems. How could they do it with kids there. How could they bumrush the stage after a couple of minutes after the hour.”
We arrived at the Million Youth March at about 1pm. When I heard the voice of a woman who sounded like Sister Soljah, I started moving through the crowd, down Malcolm X Blvd., closer to the stage. Barriers were placed all around to discourage us; we just kept moving. Around, over and under.
I was with four people, Melissa, Brian and Rasheed. We came to a barricade a woman said was locked and couldn’t get through. Her child sat on the ground nearby. I examined the barrier and saw it wasn’t locked, so I started pulling it up. The woman said, “Watch my son! Watch my son!” I replied, “Yes, Mam. I see your son. He’s all our children.” Then two men who heard me came over and helped us lift the barricade.
Queen Afua, the speaker who I thought was Sister Soljah, had finished by the time we reached the front of the stage. There, I saw more people I knew from Brooklyn. On stage, a warrior woman began to sing to a Reggae beat. Everyone swayed and danced in their spaces. I saw a teacher-friend Ms. Nzingha dancing and called her to come over. At that point, everybody was so happy; it was a celebration. An older gentleman told someone how the City didn’t want to let us have any sort of music like that because they thought it would prompt a riot or negative actions. But that was a real moment. The people who lived on Malcolm X Blvd. were looking out of the windows, they were on the terraces, the fire escapes. It was beautiful. Except for all the law enforcement people present. They, too, were on the terraces and the fire escapes and at the windows.
Anything Could Happen
Ms. Nzingha went back into the stage area, and we didn’t see each other again. Meanwhile, I started taking pictures. After a while, I looked up and saw what I thought were sharpshooters on the roof of the building. We thought he was an assassin because we were looking for all those kinds of things. Anything could happen. A black female camera operator got another cameraman to come over. She, too, thought the figure on the roof looked strange. The man’s head was half hidden; he was looking sideways as if he was looking through the lens of a sharpshooter’s gun. That’s why we were suspicious. We couldn’t be sure what the man on the roof was doing, and that he wasn’t aiming at us. But that sister got someone right on it, and she confirmed right away, looking through the camera lens, that there was no obvious weapon.
I was not too faraway from Reggie Harris, the reporter for a local New York station. I observed him reporting. He too had been watching for a long time.
For The Ancestors, Tears
The actress who starred in “Sankofa” moved me. She poured libations and spoke in one of Africa’s mother tongues. I have never seen anything like it before; old people cried when she encouraged us to “Call out the names of your ancestors you know were in bondage.” The elders broke down. Young people helped a woman who collapsed from weeping. She may have had a family member close to that time who was in bondage and she was remembering.
I was impressed with the Native American elder’s speech. I look up to our Native American brothers just as I look up to Black leaders. As the Native American woman spoke, at first I could not see her. I heard her voice, and thought she was a Black woman talking about the struggles of Black people. She said: we’re all in the same struggle, it’s not a black thing, it’s a red, yellow, brown and black thing. March organizers asked permission of the Native Americans to use the land, to use the space in Harlem, along Malcolm X Blvd. for the March. I respect that very much. When Chief Long Walker spoke, he commanded power and attention. He was so strong yet he was so peaceful. I have never before seen Native Americans like this, up close. Real, strong Native Americans.
When organizers asked for donations, they said, “Give whatever you can”. Red buckets were distributed, and people passed 20s, 10s, fives, hundreds, checks. One brother next to me said, “This is beautiful. This is really beautiful.” No one took any of the money. I saw young people you see around the way who do certain things in the hood. They behaved and passed the money. Those brothers were in control, listening. That was brotherhood working right there.
I don’t believe March organizers purposely went over four o’clock. It’s just that everyone had something to say. They knew how many speakers they were going to have, and there were several more at the last minute. Time was measured, but when Brother Khalid began to speak, it was a couple of minutes to four. My friend was like, “It’s almost four o’clock. Dag, we got to be gettin’ out of here.” Brother Khalid said that the police were going to provoke a riot. It was almost like he was predicting what was going to happen. A few minutes after that he said some things – and that part was wrong. Some people spontaneously started shouting, but what really revved up some people had to do with the police helicopter zooming down to within a few hundred feet of the crowd. They may have zoomed over the crowd in reaction to what he said, but I think it was mostly to make the crowd go crazy. Then, a second one swooped over. These were like fighter planes in Vietnam – swooping down to drop bombs. The only time I’ve ever seen that is in war movies. That’s what scared me, and that’s what angered me. I’m sure they were taking pictures of the crowd, and I think that’s illegal.
“Slow Down. Don’t Run”
The crowd had begun to disperse even before Khalid spoke. Others were leaving as he was speaking. I was momentarily enraged. I was angry because I did not understand why the police were acting this way, what was going on. At that point, we were in the back of the stage facing the police in riot gear. We were trying to figure out real fast what direction to go. Someone said let’s go towards the podium, away from the crowd. We didn’t want to go into the crowd because more people were moving away from the stage than toward it. I said, “Let’s go that way (pointing to the eastside of the stage area).” I thought we could get away quicker.
As I turned around to head to the side of the stage, I saw objects fly into the air. I saw police in riot gear – shields – sticks, pushing people back. Some police were moving towards the stage, but some were moving towards the crowd sort of like they were closing in on whoever was over there. I saw people screaming. It was so instantaneous. As the riot police moved in, someone grabbed me out of their way, and we all started running. Then Rasheed says, “Slow down. Don’t run!” We all stopped running. We told each other not to panic. We started walking in haste down a side street. We passed more police officers, and continued down the side street. Although I felt safer, there were people running still. A lady was saying, “My heart, my heart. I have heart problems. I can’t take this.” There were women with small children trying to get out of there.
Once we got down the street, we stopped at a fruit stand run by some elderly Black people outside their house. We bought oranges. And the lady was like, “God Bless you. God Bless you.” She was giving us her blessing, but it didn’t end there for us.
We continued walking up to Marcus Garvey Park. As we approached the park, we saw a chilling sight. There were 25 police officers lined up on horse back – we know because my friend counted them – 25. They were blocking us. They were standing their on horseback with riot gear. There were only two black officers in the bunch. And there was a captain, on the first horse. It was scary because these police officers were positioned on horseback, just standing there, positioned. There also were women with children who were passing by these men on horseback. There was one little girl passing with her mother. She said, “Ooh, mommy, can I touch the horses?” And the mother said, “No, I don’t think so.”
We got up to 125th Street. All was calm. Vendors from all parts of the country were out there selling books and tee shirts. It was crowded with shoppers because it was Saturday and it was no-tax day. I saw one of my friends who used to be in the dance department at Harlem School of the Arts. Her mother owns a fabric store where she sells African cloth and she is a seamstress. That’s where I will buy my fabric from now on. As a matter of fact, Blockbusters was closed. They either didn’t want our business or they didn’t want to be a part of this day. They were not supporting whatever was going on. There could be another reason why they were closed: some of the businesses were probably notified there would be looting and rioting.
We walked down 125th Street looking for a bathroom. We went in all these places – Burger King, McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Popeye’s – looking for a bathroom. The places were packed. We finally went to a McDonald’s on 124th Street. As we waited on the line, a brother asked, “You just come from the March?” I said, “Yeah. You?” He said,”Yeah.” Then he was telling me how he was up close. He told me that the police officers in riot gear were pushing and beating people and someone was fighting one of the officers back, trying to defend himself. He said the police officer took the brother, picked him up and threw him over the barricade. He told me it was seven minutes after four when Brother Khalid’s speech ended. He said the police started moving at four. They didn’t give the people a chance. He said the people were peacefully retreating and the police started coming in like they wanted to beat those people down. I wasn’t fearful of the police.
To tell you the truth that’s when I realized the police really started the whole thing. That’s when I realized it. The police are supposed to protect and serve us. And they were supposed to protect us not attack us. I was not afraid of men and women in uniforms authorized to carry guns. I was afraid of getting hurt. I was afraid that a lot of people with kids and a lot of women would get hurt.
To prepare for this day, I told all my friends to not bring anything that resembles a weapon. I said if something happens, they will bring us all down to jail, bring us all on charges. I told them we can’t give them any excuse to arrest us. I told them that was their way of making money. As one young man from Los Angeles said at the March, more than two dozen new jails have been built in Los Angeles alone. Although he talked about Los Angeles, in New York, it’s also a business. Whether they take us into jail or kill us, it’s making money. If they kill us it would be called justifiable murder, justifiable homicide. Both ways, they are getting rid of us.
I had on my long army camouflage skirt. But I had shorts on underneath just in case I would have to get out of there. I wore sneakers and my Million Youth March shirt from Sista’s Cafe. We had two bookbags filled with expendables, water and fruit. The only thing of importance were my keys and my student ID. If I were to lose them, they could be replaced.
Love for the People vs Hate
for the enemy
Personally, I think Brother Khalid’s anger was over everything that happened the last few months with the courts and everything. It was pent-up anger over everything that he’s experienced.
Chapter 15 of Frances Cress Welsing’s book, “The Isis Papers” speaks to Brother Khalid and why he said the things he said. Ms. Welsing writes that getting angry should have nothing to do with what you want to do. She writes that when you are a soldier or a warrior you can’t let your emotions cloud your mind or get the best of you. I think what has to happen is you have to have the love for your people guide you as a soldier. That’s the passion that should get you passionate – not the anger. Anger can get the best of you. Love for your people overpowers the anger. Let me read from Welsing’s book: “In our powerlessness and our frustration, we get mad…. (yet) we prepare again to vote for (people) … who will take us nowhere.”
On September 5, they paraded us like cows. Let’s move, they said. Let’s keep moving, they told us. Now everyone regrets not voting for Sharpton – that’s the word on the street. The young people who could have voted, didn’t. So this is what we get.
Now there’s a sense of urgency. Young people are saying,”Okay. Now what do we do next?” And they are saying, “It’s about voting and getting involved in some group.” But some youth don’t really know what groups to get involved in. We really don’t know what groups to join. A few of the young speakers at the March said what we should do. Some of the older speakers told us why we should do what we have to do. But no one said where we should go? Erica Ford said a good thing; young people should join in the boycott of white-owned businesses for three months, especially in December. Minister Conrad Muhammad, the Hip Hop minister, is organizing a new youth empowerment organization, C.H.H.A.N.G.E. He is calling for change which we desperately need.
I think marching into the millennium rappers are powerful, they should devise a plank, organize a permanent organization, a union, and be involved. That’s also what young people need to do in their communities – be involved. Rappers need to get educated about our culture. Although Rap is so many streams, all they would have to do is put the positive messages about education, self-love, self-empowerment in their rap. If they did, that message would be sent to millions of youth around the world. The Million Youth March shows we need a code, a plan as we move into the new Millennium.