Nation of Islam leader addresses Atlanta audience for Holy Day of Atonement
By ERNIE SUGGS
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 10/16/07
In a speech that touched on global warming, environmentalism and Georgia's drought, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan drew parallels that as the earth withers, so too do black men, who have little to show for 452 years of bondage.
"Politics and the racial environment is threatening the human family," Farrakhan said. "But black males, in particular, are endangered. Our attitudes, our ignorance, our savagery are all lending to a plan — a conspiracy to make the black man, not endangered, but extinct. ... If God doesn't intervene, we will be extinct."
Marking the 12th anniversary of the Million Man March, Farrakhan spoke Tuesday at the Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center for the 12th annual Holy Day of Atonement.
"God made a call for black men to take a stand. ... [We] showed up for atonement and reconciliation," said Ishmael Muhammad, the Nation's national assistant minister. "We accepted 12 years ago the responsibility to be better men, better fathers and better husbands. It was a day never before experienced in our history."
Farrakhan spoke for more than two hours in a speech that touched on religion, hip-hop, politics and the perception that some successful blacks are being propped up by whites and refusing to reach back and help poor blacks for fear of losing their status.
He said that includes some members of the civil rights movement who abandoned the movement after Martin Luther King Jr.'s death in order to be accepted by white America.
"If you let the big car, the ranch-style home and the big salary keep you away from a movement and the freedom of your people, the Koran says that those who live easy lives have to be careful, because a life of ease sometimes make you forget struggle," Farrakhan said. "The masses of our people are in terrible condition and are suffering and are becoming extinct; we have to find a better way of addressing the problems of our people."
Farrakhan noted that although successful blacks exist, blacks have the lowest level of health care and are losing what they have at an alarming rate. He said that although Oprah Winfrey is one of the richest women in the world, 37 million people are living in poverty and one-third of them are black. He added that although Barack Obama is a presidential front-runner, blacks continue to lose their right to vote because of voter identification laws.
"Diddy might have his own clothing line and a Manhattan address, but blacks are moving into prison at four times the rate of blacks in South Africa during the apartheid era," Farrakhan said. "Tiger Woods' face might be on every billboard, but 340,000 blacks are homeless in America on any given night."
Speaking about rapper T.I., who is facing federal gun charges, Farrakhan said the charges are less about what he is charged with and more about the fact that his music is influencing white kids, who account for more than 80 percent of the purchases of rap and hip-hop music.
He went on to talk about Atlanta's other fallen son, Michael Vick.
"I know our brother broke the law. God himself is displeased, because he has given us dominion over his creatures and he doesn't want us to abuse them for sport," said Farrakhan, before coming to a near whisper. "But they didn't have to come down on the brother like that. He is young, black and super rich. And all of those white children were wearing his jersey. White people were losing control of their children to black sports and entertainment figures, and they can't take it."
He went on to link Vick's crimes to global conflicts.
"What is worse?" he asked, comparing dog fighting to war. "To send a recruiter into black and Hispanic neighborhoods to offer you money to come into the armed forces to go to Iraq and Afghanistan for political reasons to kill people?"
It was no surprise that Farrakhan, who has always been a dynamic — and sometimes controversial — speaker, was able to attract a full house for the event. At the age of 74, he remains one of the few leaders in America who still maintains a wide and broad spectrum of appeal among blacks.
Nation of Islam events, particularly those that include Farrakhan, have always been major events and the Tuesday's event was no exception.
The auditorium was filled, and those in attendance were ushered and helped to their seats by men and women from the Nation of Islam. The men were all impeccably groomed and dressed in suits, indicating they were members of the Nation, or in uniform, to further indicate their affiliation with the Fruit of Islam, the Nation's paramilitary group of guards who protect and serve the Nation of Islam, its ministers and events.
The female members of the Nation stood out as well — most wearing stark white garments and headdresses. During one portion of the event, thousands of dollars was raised with the name of each person or group that gave at least $100 — including Smooches Sexy Plus Style Boutique — being called. At another point, before Farrakhan spoke, Charles Steele, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, broke the podium in excitement as he talked about how the Nation of Islam leader inspired him.
Dressed in a brown pinstriped suit, Farrakhan looked robust and healthy, bouncing around the stage like a man half his age, running and hugging each of the 50 people on stage with him.
But there are questions about how long he will remain at the helm of the Nation, and Tuesday's speech may very well be his last major address. Farrakhan, who has battled prostate cancer for years, had a major operation earlier this year. He has been the head of the Nation since 1978.
The Rev. Joseph Lowery, who just turned 86 and has battled cancer himself, called Farrakhan — 12 years his junior — a young man and reflected how he as a Methodist preacher prayed for the recovery of an "Islamic minister."
"I come with a spirit of rejoicing that our brother Louis Farrakhan is with us and God has sent him. He is still needed, wanted, beloved and anointed by our God," Lowery said. "This is a great day for unity. What could come if we ever realized the strength in unity?"