Reacting to reports that Black Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan is coming here next week, a coalition of black and Jewish leaders publicly appealed to him today not to bring a message of anti-Semitism during his appearance at Morgan State University.
At a press conference today, Rabbi Donald Berlin, president of Baltimore's Black-Jewish Coalition, appealed to Farrakhan to refrain from rhetoric that would raise tensions between ethnic groups, and he appealed to the community to reject "calls to hatred and violence."
"We hope that Mr. Farrakhan does not bring a message containing anti-Semitism, racism and bigotry to our community as reported in other cities," said Berlin. "We affirm that there is no place for intergroup hatred here in Baltimore."
Farrakhan could not be reached for comment today, and Student Government President Angela Smith refused to comment on Farrakhan's visit.
Community leaders learned only in recent days that Farrakhan would be coming to Baltimore at the invitation of Morgan State's Student Government Association, an invitation that also came as a surprise to Morgan State administrators.
Farrakhan has been touring the country in recent months, drawing large crowds, as well as censure from public officials for his fiery orations in which, among other insults, he has spoken of Jewish "wickedness" and stated that "black people will not be controlled by Jews."
Frederick Douglass, a spokesman for Morgan State, said that the school administration learned of Farrakhan's planned visit Tuesday after news of it appeared in a local black newspaper. A discussion be-tween students and the administration about whether Farrakhan should speak was abandoned after a lawyer advised administrators that Farrakhan's booking contract with the student government should be honored, Douglass said.
Morgan State President Earl S. Richardson issued a statement saying, "The academy is, by its very nature, a place for exchanging and sharing divergent ideas . . . . Morgan State University does not subscribe to, or endorse, any doctrine of racism, anti-Semitism, bigotry or prejudice."
Berlin and other coalition members, who include several black pastors and the executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, stopped well short of condemning Farrakhan.
"There is no purpose to be served by denouncing Farrakhan," said the Rev. Sidney Daniels, a black church leader and coalition member. "To attack him simply increases his appeal among certain groups."
Jews, who number about 100,000 in the Baltimore area, have traditionally had good relations with blacks here. The political goals of the two groups often overlap, and Jewish merchants remain in many black neighborhoods.
Monday, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley spoke out against Farrakhan and his philosophy in the wake of Farrakhan's anti-Jewish remarks during a weekend speech before a crowd of 18,000 there.
D.C. Mayor Marion Barry criticized Farrakhan last week for a July speech there in which Farrakhan denounced Jewish "wickedness."