San Antonio – After months of working on creating a documentary about the Million Man March, two brothers were able to bring the project to fruition just in time for the historical event’s 25th anniversary.
The footage and photos used were captured by Leo Edwards, 70, who attended the march October 16, 1995.
“I went to the march to videotape the event,” Leo Edwards said. “It was about 40 of us that went from San Antonio but when I got to Houston to carry on to D.C., there were thousands of us. Thousands.”
Leo Edwards said at that moment, he knew he had to do more than just capture the event.
“I am a very shy person but being there and seeing so many people, I began to interview people asking, ‘Why they were there? How did the march impact them?’ I even spoke with them after the march to see how it changed them,” Leo Edwards said. “I did all of that and put it in a box for my kids to watch one day.”
The Million Man March was spear-headed by religious leader Louis Farrakhan.
“The march was a thing by the Nation of Islam to gather black men together for a day of atonement,” Leo Edwards said. It wasn’t a demonstration against the United States or this or that. It was a day for us black men to atone for our sins. We had let our spouses down. We had let our children down. We let our society down. Minister Farrakhan said, 'We need to gather up all of you guys to have this day of atonement for your sins and then utilize that and make it into something positive so that you can go back out into your community and be better servants.’”
Leo Edwards said the experience was breathtaking.
“This was all before the internet and to gather that many people to come to D.C. was just an unbelievable experience,” Leo Edwards said. “We were all standing up for eight hours listening to these guys. Having so many historical black figures speak uplifted all of us.”
Anthony Edwards, his brother, inspired the making of their documentary about the experience. He said reflecting back on that moment in history shows how far we have come.
“The phrase atonement means, black men had the opportunity back then, as they do now, to discern things that maybe they should have done differently. They had the opportunity to start making right decisions and to affirm that day, that moving forward, ‘We are going to make a difference.’”
The experience of making this project was rewarding to the two men.
“It was great to get many of those men back together and to have a conversation about what it was like to be there for them,” Leo Edwards said. "What is it like today for them and what they have learned being a part of history. We had one opportunity to kind of come together and show the books, the hats, the shirts, the things we collected during that time period because those were things that are a part of our memories.”
Anthony Edwards also spoke on how amazing it was to see a male-dominated social movement transform to women being at the forefront of making a change. They also spoke about how, despite Farrakhan being a controversial religious leader, he still brought people together at the end of the day.
“He brought people of all spiritual backgrounds together,” said Anthony Edwards. " Some said they were reluctant to tell their pastors they attended because the thought was that he is a muslim. “No matter what you believed in, you were part of a social movement. That synergy brought people together and that synergy still exists 25 years later.”
“He inspired so many,” said Leo Edwards. "If you take a group of people who are lost and you help them find the direction out of a life of drugs or alcohol on a repeated basis, you would see the change.
“At that time period, they were giving out statistical data where one in every four black men has had a criminal record, being arrested or this or that. That’s a problem. Minister Farrakhan called us out. He called us out.”
With the use of technology, the two brothers hope to reach both the older and younger generation with the historical event. They said they are excited and hope young people continue to use their voices for changes needed.
“I am just proud to see the result of that march,” Anthony Edwards said. “These men who had the courage to go and learn have come back and made a difference in our community.”
You can watch the three episodes of their documentary on YouTube.