By Ron Wynn
Before a packed house at Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church last Thursday, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan addressed a host of subjects in compelling, combative fashion. Though now 79, Minister Farrakhan’s ability to command an audience remains impressive. He spoke nearly two hours on everything from crime and politics to education, history and his controversial reputation. His speech had originally been scheduled at Tennessee State University as part of his current college tour, but was shifted to the Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church for reasons that the Minister addressed during his presentation.
“They say that Farrakhan preaches hate,” he said at one point. “But at no time during or after any speech of mine has violence occurred. No Jewish person has ever been targeted or attacked as a result of one of my speeches. I’m not speaking any hatred. When I addressed more than two million men in Washington D.C. nothing happened afterward. Yet there are people who don’t want me to speak on college campuses because they claim I might be responsible for inciting something.”
“The people who run these HBCU’s need to have the interests of their students in mind,” he added. “These were the places that were responsible for the Civil Rights revolution. Those students went out and challenged people and were the ones whose actions led to the Public Accomodations Act, the Voting Rights Act. I once came and spoke at the Gentry Center back in the ‘70s. I was welcome on HBCU campuses. But today things have changed, and I think we need to look very carefully at who’s in charge at these places. Are they people who have the best interests of the students at heart? A lot of these campuses are now getting away from agriculture, getting away from teaching about the land and getting away from teaching students about the importance of creating and be responsible for your own food sources. We need to be vigilant and watch this very carefully.”
“To the Board of Regents and anyone else who would claim that Farrakhan wants to stir up the student body and cause trouble, look at my record. I am a student of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X. Look at what’s happened whenever I’ve spoken on other college campuses. Nothing has happened other than people hearing the truth about who they are and where they came from. Why would you be afraid of what I have to say? What are you doing that you are so fearful of me and my message?”
Minister Farrakhan also talked about selfesteem, and the loss in many situations of the love Black people feel for each other. “You hear a lot today about cultural diversity,” he continued. “But for you to love other people, you’ve really got to love yourself. If you don’t know who you are, then how can you truly love your neighbor as yourself? Killing each other, mistreating each other, not respecting your women, children and families. These are the actions of a lost people. You’ve got to know the truth about yourself, because then you won’t indulge in this type of behavior. You won’t spend your time smoking dope and cigarettes, or desert your families. You would be too proud to do those things, too ashamed to not fulfi ll your destiny and your true potential. But you’ve got to know what that potential really is.”
On multiple occasions, he referenced his disappointment at not being able to speak at TSU with his concern about what was happening to HBCU’s nationwide. “We’re losing control over these institutions,” Minister Farrakhan said. “If you look at how much land and how many businesses we had during segregation, that was a lot of power. HBCU’s were run by people who understood the importance of education, and who understood who the real enemy was in terms of our community. Today they talk about changing the direction and the composition of HBCU’s. That’s something to pay very close attention to, because the next thing will be to take control over the land where you fi nd these HBCU’s, and then take over the institutions.”
“We have to be certain that we’re not turning out generations of students who aren’t being prepared for the challenges that are out there,” he concluded in reference to education. “Thousands of jobs have been lost, and suddenly a lot of those degrees that students are receiving don’t mean so much. We need to be sure that we have students who are getting training in mathematics, science, economics, business, agriculture. Students who know what it takes to feed and clothe a people, to run the infrastructure and create jobs for ourselves so we don’t have to be begging others to help us, we can help ourselves.”
“One thing that I always say is you must know your enemy,” Minister Farrakhan added. “We don’t attack anyone and we don’t threaten anyone. We just say that we know the real enemy, and we know what we need to do as a people. That’s not offensive or negative, it is just the truth.”
A longtime violinist and former calypso singer who returned to the classical stage in 1993, Minister Farrakhan has recently performed and recorded with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. But his major focus remains organizing and inspiring the Black community, particularly young people. Students were whisked to the front of line as people were being seated for his speech, and his message frequently returned to the themes of positive affi rmation and preparation of young people.
“We’ve got to keep encouraging and nurturing that spirit that’s on these campuses,” he concluded. “We can’t let that be wasted or discouraged, and we can’t let it be guided by people who don’t have their best interests or those of our community at heart. I say to the people at TSU and all other HBCU’s that you must be faithful to the legacy of the past and you must continue to move ahead. You should not be afraid of people who will speak the truth, and you must be willing and able to provide your students with the things they need to ensure a better life for all of us.”