We arrived to the takeoff location of the buses almost last, late yet right on time.
We got on the bus and I looked for a seat. I asked a brother on the left if the seat was taken and he said yes. A brother in the next row let me know the seat next to him was still empty. I put my bag overhead and settled into my seat. We waited for the journey to begin.
Once everyone was there, we were ready to go. There was no way to know where our journey would take us. Still we all understood that life as we have known it has to change.
Twenty years after Minister Farrakhan’s call for a million men to march on the national capital city we were ready to return. This time women and children would be there to support the movement as well. This march was called “Justice or Else” and many people questioned the title. “What does ‘or else’ mean?” they asked. I understood immediately and was confused as to why it needed to be explained.
These past years have held serious turmoil. Since the election of the first Black president of the United States, bigoted hate filled so-called citizens of our nation have heightened the hysteria. Some killing in uniform under the guise of protection and service, others in plain clothes killing pastors and parishioners after sitting with them in prayer. The devil does not care.
Or else – is the inevitable implosion this nation will face if it refuses to rectify the sins of the past and create a level field for the future. Without TRUE justice there cannot be peace.
By the time we got to our first rest stop in Fort Pierce, FL my seatmate and I had introduced ourselves and sparked our friendship. He recorded a short video at the commencement of our trip.
One of the brothers had a stack of DVD’s of Black movies to set the mood for the occasion. Appropriately so, we started our movie marathon with the Spike Lee Joint “Get on the Bus.”
Followed by “Poetic Justice”, “Love & Basketball” and later in the night I was lulled to rest as we watched “The Book of Eli”.
Unfortunately that evening one of the buses broke down. Our bus and the other bus started to double back to offer assistance then the bus company sent help for them so we turned around and pushed forward towards our destination.
We were detoured through the night because unprecedented flooding in South Carolina had sections of I-95 completely shut down. We were scheduled to arrive in Maryland in the wee hours of the morning on Saturday 10.10.15 but we did not arrive until around seven.
We stopped at a hotel, showered and had breakfast. We got back on the bus to head to the metro station, which we rode to get to the National Mall. On the way I set off the “Get on the Bus” style roll call:
“My name is Keesha,
and you can trust,
they will choose justice,
they don’t want or else…
SHA-BOO-YA, SHA, SHA, SHA-BOO-YA!!! Roll call…”
Then brothers and sisters added their names and verses to the chant with sacred verve.
The roll call was followed by prayers and poetry on the mic. I sang “A Change Gon Come” by Sam Cooke despite my performance anxiety, because it was important to me. I believe that it will; more change is near.
By the time we got on the commuter rail we were wide awake and fired up. The presence of so many on their way to rally for justice was incredibly exciting. When we arrived in downtown D.C. I walked with a sister to where she met her family then I was off to find my mother.
I walked towards the area my mom said she would be, through seas of Black people of all shapes, sizes and hues. There were many Hispanics and Native Indians, too.
Families and groups wearing the same shirts sat together listening to the speakers on the mic. The sisters from the Nation of Islam represented in their autumn browns, still others wore their Vanguard blues and other lively colored uniforms, allowing the beauty of their faces to shine through. The brothers were sharp in suits and bow ties. Vendors all around selling everything from t-shirts to bumper stickers to soaps and bean pies.
I made my way to the front of the Capitol Reflecting Pool, passed a security checkpoint then got as close as I could to the Capitol steps by the Peace Monument. I listened to the speeches and kept an eye out for my mother. Noting how blessed we are to have each other, as the families of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown and Sandra Bland delivered heartfelt messages. We also heard from the creator of the organization “Black Lives Matter“.
Around one in the afternoon, Minister Farrakhan addressed the enormous crowd. His words and energy show he is proud of his people whom he so clearly loves. He is touched with divine vitality from above.
He spoke to the men and the women with the fierce reminder that we have the responsibility to uphold and defend ourselves, our families and our communities. He shared stories from his own life as example of our resilience. He confronted the rumors of any involvement in Malcolm X’s assassination. He referenced history of nations and religions. He spoke his truth.
After riding all day then all night then standing for hours I was still had the stamina to raise my fist and shout “BLACK POWER”.
After the minister said his piece on peace the crowd started to disperse. Still on the search for my mother, who I have not seen since last summer, I began to walk a bit. I looked to my right and there she was with one of my brothers. We snapped a few photos to capture the memory of the moment.
When the speeches were over we were invited to join in a moment of prayer with our Native Indian brothers and sisters. They had two large teepees set up on the capitol lawn. My mother, my brother and I headed over there to share in the spirit.
The elders sat in the middle and the women formed a circle around them, then the men formed a circle around the women. Members of the tribes burned sage as they walked around the interior of the circle sharing the sweet smoky blessing said to protect from the negative. An elder from a tribe in California talked about their ancient ways and how we need to revive them in our current culture. Then he extended an offer to visit and learn more on their land.
I was not ready for our time to end when it was time go home. My brother and I walked our mother to the place where she was to meet the others from her bus. We exchanged greetings with familiar faces from our home town, Springfield, MA.
I walked back to the metro with a nostalgic heart.
I arrived at the station where we would meet our bus to return to Florida. When once again all were accounted for, they jumped the other bus that continued to have mechanical problems, then we stopped for food and got back on the road.
At first there was a reflective silence. Then someone started to rap, reciting words to songs that took us way back. Then someone else started to sing, songs of love and social justice from the R&B of the sixties. We went through time and emotions in our karaoke session, yet another blessing. I can still hear us sing, “Redemption Song” by Bob Marley…
After that, they put in “Do The Right Thing”, thankfully I have seen many times before cause I was asleep by the first scene.
The next morning, Sunday, October 11th, we drove all day. Stopping numerous times to get that other bus started. Despite the challenges and interruptions they were determined to return us all home safely.
In the last hour or so on the road, Brother Lyle opened the mic once more. He asked that we share what the experience meant to us. We pushed through our exhaustion to offer our gratitude. Many of the brothers on the bus are members of an organization called, “The Circle of Brotherhood,” lead by Brother Leroy, Brother Lyle and others. Tears of grace flowed, words of thanks and praise were spoken, song of love and appreciation were sang. We were touched by the testimonies of how this trip and how their connection to one another has changed them for the better. “One Brother, One Hood, Brotherhood”
Of course the handful of women on the bus were inspired to call to our sisterhood. There is even talk of creating a parallel organization. We did not know what to expect with just us on a bus full of men. We had faith that we were in good hands. Not once on the journey did I feel nervous or disrespected. The brothers were helpful and protective, real gentlemen. I appreciate it and I let them know it yet I will say it again, THANK YOU for everything.
I see so much good springing from this experience…
#ICU #cNakeesha #eyesontheprize #justiceorelse #nojusticenopeace
#MMM —>Million Man March 1995 —>Millions More Movement 2015 #MMM #BlackLivesMatter