By Justin Wier
Twenty Youngstown State University students traveled to Washington, DC over the weekend to participate in the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March.
Shienne Williams, Julian Jones, Kyra Lowery and Myreah Williams were among the students who made the trip.
“Honestly, it was the most beautiful experience I ever had in my life,” Shienne Williams said. “It’s a stereotype where you can’t have so many black people in an area or it’s gonna be violent, or it’s gonna be out of control or something, and it was very peaceful, and it was a great message.”
Tiffany Anderson, director of the Africana studies program, organized the trip and obtained funding from the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. She said the initial Million Man March was organized to respond to concerns that black men were absent in their communities.
“Louis Farrakhan decided to intervene in saying we cannot be men who are complacent with our position,” Anderson said. “He called for one million black men to come to Washington, DC to demonstrate the solidarity of the demographic and their commitment to the race.”
The students said they had very little connection to the initial march, but they felt a desire to participate because of recent events in communities of color.
“Because of what’s going on in the country, there needs to be social justice, and I felt like I could go as a representative of my city,” Shienne Williams said.
Jones said the gathering was particularly meaningful right now.
“I think we needed it at this time, because there is so much going on,” Jones said. “Just to see everyone come together and be peaceful.”
Anderson said the call for the march was directly related to the injustices that have been happening against people of color.
I think that the timing is actually quite terrifying,” Anderson said. “That we can be 20 years past the initial march and be at a more desperate time.”
Jones said several victims’ families spoke at the march.
“It was good to see Trayvon Martin’s mother and Michael Brown’s father speaking. [The family of] Sandra Bland. Their parents were there to speak on behalf of them,” Jones said. “It’s just good to hear how they’re trying to make things better and change as well.”
Anderson said there is significance in getting on a bus to go to Washington, DC for black Americans because it has repeated itself throughout history. From Martin Luther King, Jr.’s original March on Washington, to the original Million Man March, to the current rally.
“I love that they had the opportunity to share that moment with people on the bus that were not students,” Anderson said. “Before we get to this place where there are hundreds of thousands of people who have the same perspective, we’re able to recognize that there are 54 people from Youngstown who are sharing the same perspective.”
Lowery and Myreah Williams said they met someone on the bus who had attended the original march 20 years ago. Shienne Williams said it was very important.
“It was very symbolic for us to get on the bus and go, because that means we’re taking a stand for something,” she said. “It’s showing us taking a stand for something. It’s historic.”
Several students commented on the lack of major media coverage.
“It made me upset that it didn’t get coverage, and that it was a peaceful and positive thing,” Lowery said.
“But we’ll see all the marches that happened after all the lynchings of Eric Gardner and Trayvon Martin. There was news coverage of all of that, and that was because there were riots,” Myreah Williams added. “It was because people were pissed off, but when we’re peaceful there was no news coverage,”
Shienne Williams said she hopes people use the things they experienced as an impetus for change when they return home.
“I think it’s important because we need to take this demonstration and move it into our communities and have peaceful communities instead of killing each other,” she said. “We need to stop killing each other. We need to be nonviolent towards each other.”