Minister Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader, will speak at Bowie State University Friday, Oct. 26, I learned by happenstance this week. At a stoplight along Central Avenue in the District, I glanced at a bow-tied brother hawking Final Call newspapers, and he rushed to my car. I shook my head, but he proceeded.
“I don’t need the paper. I was raised in the Nation. Wrote a book about it,” I said playfully. “I know what the minister has to say. I heard it all — years ago.”
He remained serious, determined to make a sale. I remembered my uncles and brothers hawking newspapers for the NOI back in the ’70s. They’ve turned their entrepreneurial skills into successful businesses. So I smiled at the young man approaching my car and pitching his propaganda for a buck, knowing he was harmless.
“Sister, you need to read what the Honorable Minister has to say. He’s sent to us from God,” the young man said.
“You were sent from God, too,” I said, still joking. I was thinking, “You’re from God. I’m from God. We’re all little pieces of heaven, right?” But rather than mock him, I remained respectful.
“Seriously, I already know what he has to say. His message hasn’t changed,” I said.
He disagreed, explaining that messages evolve. So, I had to put him to the test.
“Who is the original man?” I teased.
“The Asiatic black man, maker, owner, cream of the planet Earth, father of civilization, God of the universe,” he said.
I burst out laughing. His recitation — intonation and all — took me back to third grade where my classmates and I were drilled on this nationalist rhetoric.
“Who is the colored man?” I continued, recalling the drill verbatim after all these years.
“The colored man is Yacub, the grafted devil. The skunk of the planet Earth,” he said.
Shaking my head and laughing I assured him that Farrakhan’s message has not changed — not much.
“Well, Farrakhan partnering with L. Ron Hubbard, that was a change,” I told the young man. “They taught us the white man was the devil. You don’t get much whiter than Scientology,” I said, recent efforts to recruit African Americans notwithstanding.
More than 600 NOI members have graduated with certificates in Dianetics from the Church of Scientology, according to the Final Call Web site.
“Messages evolve,” the young man responded, stepping back out of traffic as the light turned green.
My NOI training — from age 3, when I started first grade at Muhammad’s University of Islam, till age 10, when the school closed — left me with a memorable message: Think critically, think independently, think for yourself. I hated the NOI for many years for many different reasons, but that message was a decent takeaway.
The Bowie State University Student Government Association sophomore president, who helped organize the event, says that’s the message he hopes the controversial leader will bring.
“We want to challenge students to not only succeed academically, but also challenge their ideologies and their self-identities. He will challenge students to think and form their own opinions,” Richard Lucas III says in a press release on the university’s Web site. “He always brings a message of love, self-identity, pride, and independence,” he said.
The NOI gained considerable public favor after Farrakhan’s historic Million Man March of 1995. I would not be surprised if the Bowie stadium is filled to capacity on Friday. I, however, will not be in the crowd. Heard it all before.
The event will be held Friday, Oct. 26 at 7 p.m. at Bowie State University’s Martin Luther King Communication Arts Center, Myers Auditorium. Doors open at 6 p.m. It is free and open to the public, but tickets are required.
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