Nearly two decades after the Million Man March, Minister Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, is still challenging African Americans to take responsibility for their lives.
“I am the change that I am looking for. Don’t look for someone else to make changes for you,” said Farrakhan during a 90-minute discussion Friday night at Bowie State University where he talked about several topics including the presidential race, gay relationships, colorism and the possible white backlash if President Obama is reelected.
Unlike on Election Night in 2008, when many African Americans took to the streets “like Joe Louis won. … if the brother wins, go in the house,” he said sparking laughter, applause and head nodding in agreement to his sentiment.
Farrakhan’s appearance was part of the university’s “I Am” lecture series, which was developed by Student Government Association leaders. Past speakers have included actor/motivational speaker Hill Harper and poet and activist Nikki Giovanni.
Throughout his speech, Farrakhan urged the audience, comprised mostly students, to think critically and independently.
“Knowing something today that didn’t know yesterday should always make you feel better,” he said.
He also challenged listeners to become entrepreneurs and to reconsider some long-held, but perhaps, unproductive ideologies whether it involved spending habits, clothing choices or diets.
“What do you eat? What are you eating?” he asked before joking about how as college students they do not have a lot of money and have to rely on those “Roman noodles.”
Even though he couldn’t resist walking across a field of land minds at times, the 79-year leader at times laughed at his comments in a room filled with nearly 1,000 people.
While Farrakhan is considered a polarizing figure because of comments he has made about Jews, whites and gays he enjoys hero status among many in the black community. In October 1995, he convened the historic Million Man March where black men from across the country filled the Mall from the U.S. Capitol to the Washington Monument, vowing to take responsibility for their lives, their families and their communities.
At Bowie State, Farrakhan tailored his message primarily to students who might struggle in the sciences, math or even history.
“How can you say ‘I don’t like mathematics?’ You are mathematics,” he said before imitating an athlete dribbling a basketball or a director making movies. “That is mathematics.” He emphasized how many young people mistakenly devalue their problem solving and critical thinking skills.
“I am biology, I am anthropology and I am mathematics. … You’ve got to class with the attitude of masters,” he said. “What’s wrong with you is the very thing that you don’t like. … I am created by God to be the master of what He created.”
Farrakhan devoted the second half of his lecture to the state of black America where he talked about how some obstructionists on Capitol Hill have been trying to defeat President Obama since he took the oath of office.
While Farrakhan spoke against the gay lifestyle he quickly said “I am not homophobic,” and “I’m not trying to hurt nobody.” He warned against looking down on gays “just because you don’t agree with their lifestyle.”
“Promiscuity is killing us. Disrespecting our women is killing us. Never use the ‘B’ word to describe any female,” he said, also admonishing women for also using the word.
Kirby Griffin of Baltimore said he’s been listening to Farrakhan since 1989. Griffin said he appreciated Farrakhan’s call for African Americans to reform what’s broken and he though it was “good that he spoke to the college students on issues that they needed to hear.
“I’ve heard him before and he would focus on one subject, but I liked how he touched on different things.”
Valorie Powell, a Bowie alumna from Mitchellville, agreed.
“I thought he was very informative,” she said. “He touched on different areas that were pertinent to students and adults. I liked how the way he tried to get a message to every age group.”