John E. Harmon, Sr. | 4/22/2018, 7:14 a.m.
In my February column entitled “Something in the Wind”, I shared my perspective and observations based on a series of meetings that I had been involved in with various groups representing the interest of African Americans in New Jersey. And my conclusion was that these groups were focused and had laid out a course of actions to address a host of challenges that would improve the standing of African Americans in our state. I found the level of their engagement, follow through and execution of various action items very refreshing.
This engagement led me to ponder if this was how others in times past started the quest to bring about societal change. For example, following the arrest of Rosa Parks in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, there was a grassroots movement that sprang into action which in essence said, we will no longer tolerate the level of injustice that many blacks were experiencing, not only in Montgomery, but throughout the southern region of the United States. These individuals summoned the assistance of a young Baptist preacher from Atlanta, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., some hundreds of miles away to serve as their spokesman. Additionally, they laid out an agenda of change for blacks in Montgomery which was in line with the United States Constitution. When it appeared that their requests were not progressing at a respectable pace, the black citizenry imposed a form of economic sanctions on various businesses in Montgomery via a 381 day boycott of the local transportation system, black people chose to either walk or carpool to their destination. This strategy proved to be an effective means to bring resolution to a number of issues facing blacks in Montgomery, Alabama.
Several years later, in 1995, Minister Louis Farrakhan, organized “The Million Man March” to Washington, D.C., a movement to unify black men across the United States to rededicate themselves to strengthening their families and communities. As an attendee of the March, the message was one of personal responsibility, accountability and the reigniting of confidence that as a “Black Man” you can achieve whatever you desire if that’s your intention. I, along with many others left Washington, DC on that day; inspired, encouraged and more determined to be a more productive member of society. Additionally, there were a series of testimonies I experienced from other men who started businesses, completed their educational pursuits and secured employment. Collectively, many were now in a better place than they were previously as a result of attending the Million Man March. Following this mass movement, there was a subsequent march in 1997, in Philadelphia, PA, “The Million Women’s March”, with Black Women from all corners of the United States. The organizers of this movement, sought to bring together African American women to address the pressing issues of interest to them and to black families. Some of these issues included the economic deterioration of African American communities, the importance of nurturing young children in a positive environment, finding a collective voice in politics and the civil rights movement, and strengthening black families. The march was designed to inspire African American women across the nation to work for their own improvement as well as that of their communities.