LOS ANGELES – Compton native Rizza Islam clearly is on a mission.
Hearing the Nation of Islam’s drumbeat call for an international “Justice or Else” march, the 25 year old says he’ll join thousands of people from metro L.A. on a pilgrimage to the nation’s capital Oct. 10 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March.
His mission: Help turn the drumbeat summons into a clarion call that will symbolize a renewed spirit of activism among young black men.
“Humanity has never witnessed black people come together in unity to the capacity of which they did at the Million Man March in 1995,” Islam said. “It must be refreshed within the minds of this current generation and generations to come.
“I am going to secure the future of my generation,” he said, “and fight for our freedom, our justice and our equality.”
Local Nation of Islam minister Tony Muhammad understands Rizza Islam’s mission – and his passion – all too well. Muhammad, student western regional minister for Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of the Islam, said he’s returning to D.C to finish what he helped start in 1995.
“Twenty years ago … we were called to D.C. because black men were going to prison in astronomical numbers and black fratricide was taking place in overwhelming numbers,” Muhammad said. “[Today] black men are now being shot in the streets by the authorities that are supposed to protect them.”
During the age of Black Lives Matter, revisiting the Million Man March seems like the perfect opportunity to take the pulse of black America, observers say, and connect the civil rights movement of the past with the social justice movement of the present.
“The Black Lives Matter movement is exceedingly vital, for it is primarily spearheaded by those in my generation – the youth,” Islam said. “It focuses on receiving justice and not a justification!”
Muhammad agreed, adding that the activist movement is “dawning on a new day.”
“The old civil rights movement is dying and this is the generation that we have been waiting for; this is the Joshua generation,” he said. “The youth today aren’t afraid of nothing.”
Muhammad said the multigenerational nature of the event only strengthens what march organizers are trying to accomplish.
“Those men who were there 20 years ago are now fathers and grandfathers and they get to bring their children and grandchildren and when they stand in the majesty and in the mist of all those people … it’s going to be like Moses taking his people out of bondage.”
One attendee at the 1995 march, Darryl Muhammad, 60, recalls fondly what the energy was like at the original Million Man March, which he attended with his father and two sons.
“It was overwhelming just the amount of people who were there. They were saying that it was just under a million people but it was closer to two million,” said Muhammad, who is not related to Minister Tony Muhammad. “People were climbing trees and coming off buses and side streets.”
This year, Darryl Muhammad plans on attending the march with two of his sons and his daughter. He said the “Justice or Else” march is a chance to expand the activist movement not just generationally but internationally.
“There have been a lot of things that have happened since 1995 and [the movement] needs to be resurrected and redone,” he said. “In 1995 we … went for reconciliation and atonement. In 2015, this is about the treatment of all people of color for the last 400 years. All over the world, people are dissatisfied.”
And all over the world, disenfranchised people will tune in to hear the message of Nation of Islam leader and march organizer Minister Louis Farrakhan, said Minister Tony Muhammad.
“People will be watching in Africa, people will be watching in Europe, people will be watching in Australia, people will be watching in Central and South America and in the Caribbean,” he said. “The whole world is going to be listening to Minister Farrakhan on October 10, 2015.”
While the 1995 march focused on empowering men of color, the “Justice or Else” march is open to men, women and children — all focused on the struggle for justice among disenfranchised people throughout the world. Minister Muhammad believes that this is the first step to larger global awakening among black people.
“This march is not about proselytizing or trying to make everybody Muslim,” he said. “[This is about] unity.”
Rizzo Islam agrees.
“I am going with my brothers and sisters from the Nation of Islam, my brothers and sisters from our Native tribes, my brothers and sisters who are indigenous, Mexican, Latino, Hispanic, my brothers and sisters from all black, brown, red and yellow empowerment groups from all over America,” he said.
“I will be among all of my family and we shall acquire justice for all of our ancestors once and for all.”