Just as we enter the last chapter of 2015—a turbulent and confusing year to say the least—an impressive crowd came to Washington D.C. on Saturday to celebrate and remember the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March. Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan's 1995 event is one of the most well known demonstrations in modern memory to assert that black lives matter. The theme of this year's march was "Justice or Else," a powerful slogan that some attendees wore on their clothes.
Photographer Ian Reid captured the moments and faces at Saturday's event for The FADER. What follows below is a lightly-edited retelling of how his day went and what he saw there.
IAN REID: For whatever reason, I think I was living in California at the time of the first one and I wasn't able to attend it. I didn't think it was that big of a deal, I was just like, "You know, whatever." I was skateboarding in L.A., life was good. I didn't fully understand the significance of it. A few years later, after my photography kicked in more—something I do as a job to create historical moments for people to view—I realized I made a mistake in not being at the first one. It was sad to me. I was like, "Damn, I can't believe I missed this." So I made it point not to miss things such as that no matter where they are.
It was very energetic. There was a lot of happiness. There was overall just a happy, festive vibe. There were people playing drums, dancing, singing. Lots of happiness, lots of smiles and hugs. It was very contrary to some of the very militarized things in the past when it comes to large gatherings of black people.
It was very fun though, there were lots of families. It was an overall good, positive day. Everything went right. It was sunny, the sun rose behind the statehouse where the march was taking place—it was great for taking pictures. It didn't rain, it wasn't too cloudy, it was just perfect.
I talked to a lot of parents who were there. It was interesting, there seemed to be a vibe of single parents. It was split between moms and sons and dads and sons. I talked to an equal amount of both. Some of the gang members, actually, were the more interesting ones. They left a very interesting set of thoughts in my head. They took buses from Baltimore, some came from Philadelphia, and a few others came from New Jersey. It's interesting they can put aside some petty street beef they have for the greater good of coming together in unity for this.
They stood next to each other and talked about politics. Granted it wasn't Obama politics or Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders politics. It was things that were political to them. Like, neighborhood politics, gang politics. It was just very interesting, especially since it took place there. It was like a neutral peace zone where there were no problems with anyone. Everyone was happy and peaceful.
I talked specifically to an old guy from Ferguson for a while. He was a very interesting dude. He came there with his song and grandchildren. He was quite amazing! He had some very strong views on things. I talked to a mom and a son. The son was young, he was 11 and he didn't know much about politics. He asked his mom what a politician was and what a politician does, how laws get made, why things are the way there are, and she did her best to explain it. It was interesting to hear the way she explained it and his line of questioning toward her.
I talked to a father who's holding up his son in front of the state building. After I took that photo I was so happy, I was like, "Damn, this photo is amazing!" His name was Khalid, and I can't remember what he did exactly, but he was talking about the importance about having his son there and seeing this firsthand. It was pretty cool, and I wish I had my son there as well. There were some little kids that were out there all day too, which was crazy. They were there from 6 AM to 5 PM, when I left. There was no crying or intolerance, they just chilled.