Criticism of The Millions More Movement March

Mark Anthony Neal details why he has chosen not to participate in this weekend's Millions More Movement march. Neal is an associate professor with the Department of African and African-American Studies at Duke University and author of New Black Man: Rethinking Black Masculinity.

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FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

This is NEWS & NOTES. I'm Farai Chideya. Ed Gordon is away.

Coming up, our Friday roundtable. One of the topics we'll discuss is the Millions More Movement March. And to get us started, we have Mark Anthony Neal, an associate professor with the department of African and African-American studies at Duke University. He's also the author of "The New Black Man: Rethinking Black Masculinity."

Welcome, Mark.

Professor MARK ANTHONY NEAL (Duke University): Hey, it's great to be here, Farai.

CHIDEYA: Did you participate in the first march?

Prof. NEAL: No, I didn't. I was bothered, perhaps like some men were, by the fact that it was a men's-only march. Clearly, at some point, they said women were welcome, but they really wanted it to be a march where black men came together to embrace, you know, this notion of atoning for their sins. And for me, I thought if we were really going to have an impact on black communities, the black community had to be there together for the march.

CHIDEYA: So what did you do instead of going? What sort of reflections did you have as you saw the march play out and the aftermath?

Prof. NEAL: Well, I spent some time with one of my best friends, an African-American male, and I watched the march, the coverage of it on television with him. At some point we embraced because it really did have a powerful impact on us at the time. So I acknowledge that, in that regard. And also I was fortunate enough to be able to teach that evening and I spent a great amount of time kind of talking about the history of black masculinity in the class that day and talking about the importance of the march.

CHIDEYA: You had a problem with the exclusion not just of women but also of gay and lesbian African-Americans. Are things different or better this time around?

Prof. NEAL: I'd like to say so, at least on the surface. When Louis Farrakhan embraced Keith Bokyin back in February, there was this feeling, I know, about many folks who've been organizing in the black gay community that somehow the march was going to open it up to be inclusive to so many folks. Where I really got concerned is when Reverend Willie Wilson, one of the organizers of the march, really issued his diatribe against gays and lesbians and women really back in July, you know, from his pulpit, his church in Washington, DC, and the fact that there was no attempt by the leadership of the march, of the movement, there was no attempt by the figurehead, Louis Farrakhan, to really distance themselves from Reverend Wilson's homophobic comments. And that struck a chord in me because ultimately, for me, homophobia is something that attacks black humanity. And if the idea behind this movement is that we're going to go out there and march and support and do all we can to save black humanity, we have to challenge things within our community and outside of our community that attacks our humanity.

CHIDEYA: Last quick question, are you going to this march?

Prof. NEAL: I will not be going to this march. One of the ways that I hope to celebrate the march and celebrate the movement is to spend it with my family, my two daughters and my wife. I'm really concerned at this point in time around the idea of the march. You know, someone had suggested, for instance, that the idea that folks come together in one space and the kind of resources that folks are using to try to get to Washington, DC, suggest that this kind of march may be outdated and perhaps it would've more effective to have regional, you know, Million Movement Marches occur and folks in their various localities where they live where they can have a more dramatic impact on the local politics.

CHIDEYA: Thanks, Mark.

Mark Anthony Neal is a professor at Duke University and author of "The New Black Man."

Appreciate you joining us.

Prof. NEAL: Thank you, Farai.

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