Message of progress, unity enhance a special day in TuskegeeBy Richard B. Muhammad and Charlene Muhammad | Last updated: Oct 22, 2013 - 11:22:55 PM
TUSKEGEE, Ala. (FinalCall.com) - The 18th anniversary of the Million Man March was memorable just because the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan brought the Nation of Islam to this Alabama town. It was a commemoration of the 1995 gathering and honored the town as an historic epicenter of Black self-development.
But the Minister’s inability to speak at the Oct. 20 gathering and announcement of where to send 35-cents-a-week for collective Black economic progress made the place and the day extra special.
Buses rolled in from north, south, east and west, some packed with college students and others with residents of northern cities like Detroit and Chicago and southern places like Charlotte, N.C., and Miami, Fla.
Many flew into Atlanta’s main airport and took a few hours’ drive to Tuskegee for the afternoon program.
Others spent the weekend in nearby Montgomery and drove or shuttled to the town square for the main event.
A special day in the South
Rachel Manggrum drove from Atlanta with her six-year-old daughter. Being in Tuskegee was very meaningful for the psychology and business student. She’d heard of the 1995 Million Man March like others had, whether it was on the news, in passing or from friends but could not attend.
“I was young, so when I was told this is the 18th anniversary of the Million Man March I thought it was an awesome opportunity and also to expose my little one to that power of righteousness and strength within our own and within the deep South, where we were most weakened in the mind and in the body and now to pull it all together in 2013,” Ms. Manggrum said.
“A lot of us are downtrodden because we don’t know where to go or how to establish ourselves. I’m a flight attendant so the fact that I see how those of another color prosper and they move, I mean of course we are in business, but we had to pull up out of it from years and years of oppression, of feeling like we could not be financially stable or have that strength,” Ms. Manggrum told The Final Call.
Jackie Carlisle, an editor with The Tuskegee News, felt having the Nation come to Tuskegee held deep, rich significance.
“It’s a wonderful thing to come to a community, who has temporarily forgotten our history and where we come from, to bring it back to our mind,” Ms. Carlisle said.
When asked how she thought the lapse in memory occurred given Tuskegee’s history, she replied, “The main reason was because we got our education. We got our thing and we left. So you left the gap here in the community with no one else to bring it up and to close that gap.”
Student Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad of Muhammad Mosque No. 7 in New York used one word to describe the day: “Phenomenal.”
“To God be the glory! Eighteen years later, we thank Allah for using the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan to lift up the Honorable Elijah Muhammad,” he said, using scripture to pull together the past, present and future.
“As John 12:32 says, ‘If I be lifted up from the earth, I’ll draw all men unto me.’ Eighteen-years-ago, all men were drawn to the 1.8 million, nearly 2 million Black men that came on the (Washington, D.C.) Mall and today, in Tuskegee, in this apparent small square that was packed from all four corners of the square, to lay a new foundation with farming, which is the national engine of our Nation,” Minister Muhammad said.
He was impressed by Ishmael Muhammad, who delivered the keynote address and focused on lessons in atonement, reconciliation and responsibility from the 1995 march, the true legacy of Tuskegee Institute founder Booker T. Washington, and the need for Blacks to do something for themselves today.
Donna Farrakhan, a Nation of Islam student minister, exhorted the crowd to show it had learned lessons taught by Minister Farrakhan for nearly 6 decades by doing the work of uplifting a fallen people.
“You are Farrakhan!” she thundered from the stage on the sunny, 70 degree day in downtown Tuskegee.
The grassy, partially shaded square—with a gazebo, vendors on the side, a few tents and a temporary stage—was surrounded by small buildings and a courthouse.
A standing room only crowd turned out for the four-hour program as five-thousand folding chairs set up for the occasion were quickly filled. Lawn chairs, blankets and huge shawls were laid out on the grass as listeners sought a spot to stand or sit.
In the center of the square, a monument to a Confederate military man stood as a symbol of the institutions of White supremacy still to be overcome in Black America.
Irene Cates heard about the gathering through Muhammad Mosque No. 95 in St. Petersburg, Fla. This profound day was about unification, she said, adding that she was touched by the keynote message given by the Minister’s national assistant.
“We just have to claim our rightful place as a people,” said Ms. Cates.
“The significance of being is Tuskegee is bigger than I can fathom. It’s a historic place where historic people have come together and basically the roots of what we are as a people. Without the root, we can’t sustain, everything dies,” said Louis Sneed of Montgomery, Ala.
The event was the best thing that could ever happen for the area, he said. “In the overall scheme of things, you’ve got very few people that go out like Louis Farrakhan for Black people from A-Z. We ain’t talking about half way. He’s a complete man,” Mr. Sneed told The Final Call.
Sheila X traveled with 4 Muslim women from the Pensacola Study Group in Florida. She had been to Tuskegee several times as a teen chaperone for students on a tour of Historical Black Colleges and Universities.
Adrian Booker traveled with her husband from Central California to experience the moment with their son Precious X, who lives in Detroit. She attends every Holy Day of Atonement and the Nation of Islam’s annual Saviours’ Day.
“I think it’s great and being in the South, there’s a lot of history here in Tuskegee that I’m realizing,” the Biloxi, Mississippi native said.
“I think Brother Minister really wants us to look at history and more into the history of what Tuskegee represents to us as a people, what went on here and all of the events,” said her son Precious X.
The trip to Tuskegee had a personal and spiritual impact on Malik and Shree Muhammad of Lancaster, Texas. It was the first time they attended the Holy Day of Atonement without any of their seven children, ages 5 to 16.
It was Malik Muhammad’s second visit to the area and Shree’s first. “When (the Minister) used the term ‘seminal’ to describe the area, that one term forces me to go back and study all over again,” said Malik Muhammad.
“When you study the seminal fluid when you’re talking about economics, it’s extremely crucial.”
“I’m going to take the drive just to keep pushing and keep helping my husband in this work so we can build the strongest foundation that we possibly can for our family and our Nation,” said Shree Muhammad.
Kameelah Abdullah, a Tuskegee resident, felt the day and the message were very positive. “We always need to do for ourselves and until we do that, we’re never going to have anything. Because if you look at what the speaker was saying today, Minister Ishmael, every other race has their people together. Until we get our people together, we’re never going to have anything,” she said. “Tuskegee is the place. This is a valuable place. Everybody wants the land in Tuskegee,” she continued.
“When Minister Louis Farrakhan started talking about the land here, that’s when the uproar came. But not to share (information) because once you educate your people to do for self, it’s going to be a different ballgame, so of course this is a very good day.”
She vowed to keep Minister Farrakhan in her prayers and ask Almighty God to heal him.