Riddle me this, what has thousands of legs and a man in the middle but goes virtually unseen?
Are you stumped yet? You're not alone, because many other folks were having trouble figuring out exactly why the anniversary of the Million Man March was virtually undocumented by any of the mainstream media outlets. But are we really surprised?
October 10th marked the 20-year anniversary of the original Million Man March, which reportedly drew numbers between 800,000 and 1.2 million attendees. The march was organized by Minister Louis Farrakhan and urged black men to become more accountable by reconciling with their loved ones, atoning for their mistakes and taking responsibility for their actions.
Although I did not attend the historical Million Man March, I have spoke to many other black men over the years who spoke of how affirming it was to see so many black men gathered in a space and spirit of solidarity and commitment to their families, culture and community. The more recent event did not garnish the same numbers as its historical predecessor but, according to Minister Ishmael Muhammad, son of Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad and national assistant minister to Farrakhan, the event was not just about a call to black men but the theme "Justice or Else" was designed to be inclusive of other racial groups including Native American, Latinos, women and soldiers.
Many folks complained that the big dogs like CNN, MSNBC, TV One and BET did not cover the event. There was some coverage in the form of small stories and packages here and there but very little in comparison to what we saw in the 'round-the-clock attention given to other issues of the day.
One popular and meaningful meme circulated around social media during the days following the march showing a sea of people on the National Mall with a caption pointing out that media coverage is heavy when black people gathered to protest police violence in Ferguson and Baltimore, but TV stations don't show up when black men rally for something positive.
Guys, this is not anything new. The media beast would much rather see marginalized communities grappling in conflict rather than with arms linked in solidarity. Do we really expect the media to give equal coverage to events that contradict that popular narrative?
"Black Twitter," helped push a boycott of the stations listed above that was called for by supporters of the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March and Black Lives Matter. According to Nielsen ratings, viewership of the BET Hip Hop awards saw a 1.1 million decrease when compared to last year.
I, for one, am glad folks are holding platforms like BET accountable, especially considering the station hasn't been black-owned since 2001.
Rather than grouse about what was not covered by mainstream media outlets, I decided to be proactive and take charge of the narrative myself. So I reached out to someone among my network who had first-hand experience with the more recent Million Man March. Shawn Ellis is a young brother I met at a jazz event. He is a local cultural enthusiast, and we chatted about what the march meant to him.
When asked about why he was compelled to attend the MMM, Shawn said, "I wanted to be able to help build our community with what resources, abilities and energy I have."
According to Shawn, the theme and the message from Minister Farrakhan was less about how many showed up and more about the expectation of honoring our gifts and respecting ourselves.
"As always, Minister Farrakhan wants us to be self-reliant, respect our women and be proud of who we are as black people and people of color." Shawn said.
When I asked him to share what he took away from his experience he said, "I walked away with an increased responsibility to my fellow Brother or Sister and their well-being. As a friend told me, don't look for an already established individual to be a leader — look in the mirror to find the next great leader. And lastly, to never be ashamed of being unapologetically black."
Should we expect more from the media? Yes.
But as much as we say that "the revolution will not be televised," we must congruently be committed to our responsibility in documenting, crafting and sharing our own narratives.