Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Memory Day: Million Man March

Eighteen years ago today, on October 16, 1995, the Million Man March was taking place in DC. Some teachers at TC Williams had bought into the fervor, and were exhorting their black male students to skip school, attend the march, and "participate in something bigger than they were". The rest of the teachers correctly assumed that most people were just going to use it as an excuse to stay home and sleep in.

As an Asian with white adoptive parents, the only impact that the Million Man March had on me was my dad's concession to let me drive to school that day. A surprising number of city bus drivers called out of work, playing havoc with school bus schedules.

As expected, only about 30% of the student body showed up. Although a large number of the missing students did meet the requisite criteria of "black" and "optionally male", several white girls in my classes must have mysteriously grown a penis of participation. This may also be the original impetus for the movie, White Chicks, although that tale's grand spirituality was destroyed by Hollywood when the tagline was converted from "based on a true story" to "inspired by true events".

Most of my classes that day were boring. Depending on the number of missing students, some teachers abandoned all teaching and offered a free study period. According to my journal, none of my classes were memorable, although I did get a certificate for being a Commended Student in the PSATs from Principal John Porter, and Dr. Patel did spend an entire physics period lecturing on how not to fail at life (this was different than succeeding at life, which was a separate lecture we probably got the next week).

In the last class of the day, marching band, I posted new pictures from the last football game on the band bulletin board. My dad was the go-to photographer for the band, and I had the task of putting up pictures (freshly developed in the Price Club photo lab) and selling them for 25 cents each. This is how I learned entrepreneurship -- when you mostly post unflattering pictures, those people will pay to have them taken down, and then you can afford to buy a side of fries with ketchup in the cafeteria. This is also how mugshot websites work today -- I should have patented the idea.

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