Tuskegee mayor: There's no turning aroundBy Brian E. Muhammad -Contributing Writer- | Last updated: Oct 29, 2013 - 1:11:00 PM
TUSKEGEE, Ala. (FinalCall.com) - The Honorable Johnny Ford, mayor of Tuskegee, says nothing will deter a developing relationship with the Nation of Islam aimed at helping his city—and Black America.
The eight-term mayor spoke in an exclusive interview with The Final Call during the 18th anniversary of the Million Man March and Holy Day of Atonement 2013. The weekend event was held here Oct. 18-20 and included a Saturday student conference and farm conference and a major Sunday public address.
Some critics arose after Mayor Ford opened Tuskegee to Minister Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam. In the months before the Holy Day of Atonement, there were attempts by Jewish leaders to derail Minister Farrakhan’s efforts in Alabama to speak to university students and lend his voice to statewide opposition to changes in federal voter rights laws.
However the fear tactics and pressure from anti-Farrakhan groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center, Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith and the Jewish Federation of North America had no effect on the fearless Black mayor.
“What is happening here is we are making history. This is the first step in the future journey to the liberation of our people,” said Mayor Ford.
“We don’t need to get distracted by what they say, what they do—this is not about White folks and Jews, this is about us.”
Mayor Ford said his relationship with the Muslim leader is born out of the urgency of the time. Their bond comes during intense economic, social and political crises in America causing severe distress to Black and poor communities.
“They are going to try to stop us. See they don’t want this to happen … this unity,” he acknowledged.
The experienced politician said he and Minister Farrakhan discussed having a National Summit with Black leaders to deal with problems gripping Black people.
For Minister Farrakhan, the attempt at unity follows in the footsteps of his teacher, the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad who called for a Black united front in a 1966 letter to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and leaders of major civil rights organizations. Mr. Muhammad’s appeal read in part, “We have reached a crucial crossroad in the life of our people here in America. Since all of us who love our people are walking toward one goal: freedom, justice and equality from the common enemy—let us realize that in unity there is strength. Let us come together in a meeting to discuss the future plans and programs needed to achieve these goals for our people.”
Dr. King met with the Honorable Elijah Muhammad in 1966 but a united Black front did not materialize. Min. Farrakhan has extended the same invitation to current civil rights leaders.
According to Mayor Ford, the leaders have not responded yet, “that’s why [it’s] Farrakhan and Ford—that’s the combination—we’re not going to wait, we’re going to move on.”
In a past visit to Alabama, Minister Farrakhan said with founder Booker T. Washington going to the land, Tuskegee University represented “a seminal stage for the kingdom of God” and self sufficiency.
“That man [Booker T. Washington] must be resurrected from the grave and his ideas put back in force … because when Tuskegee rises, Black America will rise and a new world will come into existence,” said the Minister.
When Black people in America numbered only 22 million, the Hon. Elijah Muhammad warned the U.S. would not be able to furnish enough jobs for her own millions of unemployed, let alone for increasing numbers of the children of her former slaves. There are now at least 43 million Blacks in America as the U.S. economy and the world economy are in trouble.
In a global economy farming is vital for a new direction for Black America, said Mayor Ford. Blacks must go back to farming, investing in and purchasing land, and toiling and cultivating crops for consumption at home and abroad, he said.
“There’s big business in that,” Mayor Ford noted.
Pooling nickels, dimes and quarters together through Muhammad’s Economic Blueprint, fully unveiled in Tuskegee, is aimed at acquiring farmland and engaging in trade and industry. The Blueprint (www.economicblueprint.org) calls for at least 16 million Black wage earners to contribute 35 cents a week to a national fund for economic development. Such discipline would yield almost $300 million in a single year.
“We’re coming together in atonement to talk about jobs and justice; to talk about respecting our women; to talk about stopping crime; education and Blacks in college; to talk about owning the land, not just farming it for somebody else … building our own businesses,” said Mayor Ford.
He shared how plans for him to speak at the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March On Washington were changed.
According to Mayor Ford, he was scheduled to speak on behalf of the National Policy Alliance, representing 12,000 Black elected officials, Black mayors, Blacks in government and 3 million Black government employees.
But, he said, after divulging plans to announce the 18th anniversary of the Million Man March in Tuskegee, “All of a sudden I couldn’t speak.” And “they didn’t invite the Minister to speak,” Mayor Ford said.
“But that’s okay, we’re not going to be like that. The Minister has reached out and invited them all. I’ve invited them all in—the NAACP, Urban League, (Al) Sharpton … we love them, they are our brothers, we’re in this together, however we are not begging anybody.”
Mr. Ford was a global trail blazer with the World Conference of Mayors and in 1977 established the first official sister city relationship with Banjul, Gambia in West Africa. The two municipalities entered into economic, cultural and educational exchanges that proved new possibilities for progress and opportunities.
In 1993, when there was pressure to keep Minister Farrakhan from speaking at the African-American Summit in Libreville, Gabon, Mayor Ford stood strong against the tide, saying the Minister must speak.
“So this little adversity that I’m getting now and criticism, that don’t bother me at all. … Minister Farrakhan and I agree on everything that’s good for Black people,” said Mayor Ford. “The Minister is 80; I’m 70, so we got to do what we got to do now! And we got to bring a generation along with us, young people who are thirsty to be involved.”