Consciousness raised, leadership challenged by Muslim leader at HBCU conference
by Askia Muhammad
Special to the NNPA from The Final Call
BALTIMORE – After a 29-year absence from appearing at Morgan State University (MSU), the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan returned to the campus Nov. 22 with fiery words and encouragement for the young people at Morgan State and at all Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), to do what their generation is called at this time to do.
“It’s been very difficult for me to get into Black colleges and universities, to talk with our students,” Minister Farrakhan explained to more than 2,000 students and guests who packed the Murphy Fine Arts Center, including both balconies. “Fear chokes leaders. I really understand.
“But I am here tonight to help you out of your fearful behavior, because you, in that state have become an enemy to the rise of your people. I want to talk to the elders, and I want you to hear your brother, because I’m an elder like you.
“If I live a few more months, I’ll be 82, and I’m not tired. I’m inspired. See, when you love your people, you don’t get tired serving them. You get tired when you can’t serve them anymore. You are ready to be served,” the Minister said.
“On the shoulders of this new generation, the hopes of our ancestors will be fulfilled,” he continued. “We are at the time of the judgment, the time of the fall and destruction of this present world, in which we live. That is what you are called to do,” the Muslim leader said, specifically to the young people in the audience.
Young student leaders from HBCUs all over the country worked together for more than two years to bring about Minister Farrakhan’s return to the Morgan State campus. The hardest part of their challenge, the student leaders revealed, “Was getting the administration to understand that we needed Min. Farrakhan.”
Inspiration despite opposition
The event was sponsored by the Student Government Association of MSU, whose president, vice president and dozens of other student leaders were in attendance along with Dr. Kevin Banks, the school’s Vice President for Student Affairs who was representing college President David Wilson who had a previous engagement and African American studies Professor Ray Winbush. Also present were Jill Carter, a member of the Maryland House of Delegates; the Rev. Willie Wilson, pastor of Washington’s Union Temple Baptist Church; nationally known pastor Jamal Bryant; and Larry Young, a radio host.
Activist Pam Africa, a founder of the International Friends and Family of political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal was also a guest. She is also a survivor of the 1985 Philadelphia police department massacre of six adults and five children, members of John Africa’s MOVE organization, when police dropped a fire bomb on their residence from a helicopter to end a standoff. Other special guests included, Marshall Eddie Conway, former Defense Minister of the Baltimore Black Panther Party, who served 44 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. They joined dozens of other Christian pastors, Muslim Imams, Nation of Islam officials and members of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.
The fraternity, which Minister Farrakhan pledged, but was “blackballed” from membership when he was a student at Winston-Salem Teachers College—now Winston Salem State—presented Minister Farrakhan a lifetime achievement award. On another occasion the Muslim leader was presented an honorary membership.
The broad cross section of support and standing-room-only attendance came in the face of a protest from Jay Bernstein, host of Baltimore’s weekly Jewish radio program, “Shalom USA,” who wrote an article in The Baltimore Sun, calling on the university to denounce Minister Farrakhan.
Instead, the night’s host, Farajii Muhammad, host of “Listen Up” heard on MSU’s WEAA-FM rebuked the writer. “Oh Mr. Bernstein, you don’t know what time it is,” Mr. Muhammad said. “The last time I checked, slavery was over.” He continued pointing out that even the newspaper’s masthead features a drawing of a slave ship.
The address marked the conclusion of this year’s Second Annual Black United Summit International (BUSI) conference, “Where all HBCUs come together.” BUSI was led by Samuel X, a graduate from Tennessee State University (TSU), who heard Min. Farrakhan speak at a conference in 2010, was transformed by the experience, and then fought for two years to get the Muslim leader to speak on his campus in 2012, overcoming one agreed upon speaking engagement which was cancelled, but was eventually rescheduled seven months later.
When Min. Farrakhan last spoke at MSU 29 years ago, none of the current student leaders were even alive. “I never met a man with a greater love for the next generation,” Mr. Muhammad said. “We are a generation of thinkers, movers, and activists.” Still, the student leaders realize that 51 percent of college graduates today are unemployed or under-employed.
“We need to finance our minds,” another student leader—Chinedo Nwokeafor, this year’s BUSI leader on the MSU campus said as he introduced Min. Farrakhan. “A big issue we suffer from, is we blame the oppressor, when we are finishing the job for them.”
For his part, Min. Farrakhan picked up on the theme of the financial burden students face. “Debt is a new form of slavery,” the Muslim leader said. “You come out with a B.S. degree and that’s about what it is. God came to save us from our enemy, but we have become the enemy of self.”
“We have cried out to God,” Min. Farrakhan continued, but too often “we are hoping the liar and deceiver will (treat us) better.” Your own actions “can be a tool for your liberation or for your continued suffering.”
Minister Farrakhan reminded his audience that Blacks in the Americas—the U.S., the Caribbean, Latin America—are like the Biblical parable of the “Prodigal Son, in a strange land, feeding swine.” But in many ways “your thirst and lust for filth is what swine eat.”
A challenge to Black leadership
Black leaders, including fellow religious leaders to President Barack Obama are in error, Min. Farrakhan said, for trying to pacify protesters—especially those in Ferguson, MO.—who have a right to express outrage over police brutality. White authorities who have condoned and permitted the mistreatment of Blacks are afraid of what’s going to happen in Ferguson when the grand jury there announces its decision concerning the prosecution of Officer Darren Wilson, who shot unarmed 18-year old Mike Brown on August 9.
“They know an explosion is going to come,” the Nation of Islam leader said to cheers. “You leaders are the worst. Tonight in Ferguson everyone is on edge. White folks ain’t never been on edge after they’ve killed a Black man. Tonight they’re on edge. So on edge that our president has come out from behind the curtain to ask Black young people, ‘cool it.’
“You leaders are the worst. When you talk to young people, you can’t feel that you’re missing them? Parents, you can’t feel when you’re talking to your children that this is a new generation and they don’t want to hear your compromising? But time has moved on. Your day of leading our people is over.
“You preachers—your day of being the pacifier for the White man’s tyranny on Black people is over. You’ve got to know they’re not going to hear you anymore.
“This university and all HBCUs are under attack,” Min. Farrakhan warned. “Why are they under attack” by White colleges and by state and federal legislators? “From HBCUs is where our great leaders came,” in the past. “White people see that. White folks are looking at you.”
The HBCUs however, have not been “producing builders, producing new minds” which can prepare Black agriculturists, Black civil, electrical, and mechanical engineers. Instead, the Minister warned, “you are being taught to look for a job.”
The response from the enthusiastic audience was electric, as Min. Farrakhan advised the audience again and again, “I want to challenge you students to not get some meaningless degree. Challenge yourself to get something that will let you build a future.
“You’ve got it,” the Nation of Islam leader told the students concerning their attitudes, “but you’re not getting it,” concerning the education students are receiving at most HBCUs. “The elders are going to die in the wilderness,” Min. Farrakhan said, referring to the Biblical parable of The Exodus.
“But God will not let you into The Promised Land because you have too much of Pharaoh in you. Don’t be an apologist for White people. They don’t look at you on the same level as they see themselves.”
Reactions to the Minister’s speech ranged from, “Hopefully young people will take up the mantle (of leadership),” as expressed by Real News TV producer Eddie Conway, to “The speech was an eye opener,” according to Morgan State marketing major Troy Griffin.
Long time Nation of Islam member Barbara Muhammad from Delaware said the speech was “prophetic and profound.” She said it was just what the students needed to “face the madness that they’ll be confronted with.” In addition, she said this is Min Farrakhan at his best, “teaching and preparing our future leaders.”
The Minister pricked the consciousness of those students seated in front of him. He articulated what many of the students had considered, but couldn’t articulate.
Twenty-one year-old Human Resource major, Alfred Johnson said he was astounded by the “level of consciousness” conveyed by the Minister. “It was eye opening. He spoke on things I thought of, but never really voiced.”
University of Maryland Eastern Shore graduate Jordan Hooper said the Minister’s message was the right message at the right time. The substance of the message was “well needed” at Morgan, and it encouraged him to “reach out to my alma mater and see if we can organize something there.”
Students from other schools represented included Syracuse University. Majoring in Nutrition Faecah Muhammad said the speech contained “a lot of things I could relate to.” She said what especially “touched” her was the Ministers message about agriculture and its importance. She said her plans after she graduates include “helping farmers and helping people in general have a better diet.”
Morgan State Alumni Marvin Brooks echoed the voice of many of the students. “Min Farrakhan is probably one of the most powerful… dynamic speakers of the generation.”
He compared his listening of the Minister’s message to a “sponge soaking in his message.”
Mr. Brooks said one of the things that really resonated with him from Min. Farrakhan was men taking on their responsibility as men. Men taking advantage of our women has to stop said Mr. Brooks. “Our women expect much more from men.”
Jehron Muhammad contributed to this report.