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A call to duty, responsibility and self-sufficiency

By Ashahed M. Muhammad -Asst. Editor- | Last updated: Mar 12, 2012 - 10:07:17 PM

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Minister Farrakhan (inset) addresses the community of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Photos: Hassan Muhammad

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. ( - Just days after delivering his weighty Saviours’ Day 2012 message, the Honorable  Minister Louis Farrakhan addressed the community of Grand Rapids on “Duty, Responsibility and the Necessity of Self-Sufficiency” March 1.

Speaking to a capacity crowd comprised of spiritual and political leaders in an appearance sponsored by the Black Student Union at Grand Rapids Community College, the Minister said the time for marching and complaining is over and the time for organization, mobilization and unity has arrived.

Being labeled as a hater and an anti-Semite has kept him off college campuses for over 15 years.

“That was the aim of the propagandists to keep you away from me, me away from you, and above all, keep your ears away from what God had put in my mouth for the scripture says, ‘ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free,’” said the Minister. “When you have so many human beings Black, and Brown and Red, Yellow and White enslaved by false ideas and concepts, how could you really know the truth and America be in the condition that America is in and the people in the condition that they are in?”

The Minister began dealing with the first two points of the evening’s theme: Duty and Responsibility.

“The Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught us that every creature that God has created, he imposes on that creature a duty, and what is that duty? It’s to do something for itself,” said the Minister.

Animals justify their existence in God’s creation by taking care of their own needs and the needs of their offspring.  As it relates to human beings, the Bible says man and woman are the glory of God. The Holy Qur’an says that Allah made the sun, moon and stars subservient to human beings and gave them the innate ability to master creation.

Recalling the words of Jesus written in the scripture dealing with the Sermon on the Mount, he reminded the audience that Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of God.”

“Have you ever seen poverty as a blessing? Ask the poor in Grand Rapids,” said the Minister. “The Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught us that spirit is the energy of life itself and if you are poor in spirit then you are deprived of the energy of life,” he said. “Life means you have activity in accord with your nature. If you are poor in spirit, then you are not doing for yourself what the energy of life would call you to do. When you are a living person, you don’t ask others to feed you, clothe you, shelter you, educate you, give you a job.”

Living people would be involved in business and activity to suffice their collective needs. Black people should do like all others, and look out for their own people instead of protesting and begging for jobs from White people. 

“Doesn’t he have the right to look out for his own?” the Minister asked. “Are you going to fault him for looking out for White children before he looks out for you? What is your duty? Why haven’t we accepted responsibility? Are you trying to say to the world that we are so inferior as a people that we can’t do these things for ourselves? How can somebody that’s doing that respect someone who won’t even accept the duty and responsibility to do something for themselves?”

The Minister said the Black man’s duty and responsibility is to respect his woman and allow her to be educated for she is the mother of civilization and the first teachers of the children. He also challenged Black women to respect themselves by making smart choices regarding their clothing, and to be more selective about those to whom they give themselves sexually.

“Even dogs show respect for their females. The lower animals show respect for their females. What man can be considered a man with respect that does not respect himself enough to respect the  woman that produces his future in his children?” the Minister asked. 

The Minister also decried the senseless violence and killing taking place in Black communities nationwide. Although he said he is not happy about it, the Minister said the high levels of violence, moral decay and financial troubles are signs that America is in decline. 

“The light in Western civilization is going out” because of the wickedness and corruption of its political leaders, he said.

Grand Rapids

According to recent census figures, Grand Rapids is 64 percent White, nearly 21 percent Black and 16 percent Hispanic. It is the second largest city in Michigan behind Detroit, which is 168 miles to the East.  

Wizdom Selah was born and raised in Grand Rapids. She said what she likes the most is the “small town family vibe that is still present” as well as the moral values, however, there are some things about the town she dislikes. 

“What I like least is the lack of diversity in the city as a whole and the lack of knowledge, information, higher consciousness, and spirituality—especially from an African perspective,” said Ms. Selah.  “Even though the Black population isn’t small and the city itself isn’t very large there are still a lot of places, especially downtown that Black people don’t or won’t frequent and we always have issues every time we try to open a venue that caters to the urban crowd or plays hip hop music.” 

She says it’s an uphill battle for Black entrepreneurs to branch out, however, she believes the time is at hand.

“Now is the time to unify and put forth our best effort at working for ourselves to provide our people with the products and services they need. Creating jobs, and also goods and services for the community,” said Ms. Selah.  “Grand Rapids is a great city to raise your children. It is growing rapidly through the medical, arts and entertainment fields and I’m quite certain it will become a mecca of great culture and arts in the near future, especially if I have anything to do with it!”

Despite the enthusiastic crowd at the church on March 1, Minister Farrakhan’s appearance in Grand Rapids was not without controversy. 

Pastor Fred Wooden, Senior Minister at the church said he was glad to host the event, in line with guidance found within all three Abrahamic faiths to be hospitable and welcoming to strangers.

“We are so glad to see so many people here this evening, as our mission is to be a house of prayer for all people,” said Pastor Wooden. “When we announced this event, there were some who disagreed with our decision to offer our space. They wanted to know why we would do it.”

The pastor went on to explain that years ago, he lived in Chicago, about a mile from Mosque Maryam, the Nation of Islam’s international headquarters. He said he often passed by it “noticed its size and beauty, but barely knew anything about it.”

“Even though the worthy Elijah Muhammad lived just a few blocks from me, I knew next to nothing about the Nation of Islam. They were strangers to me. I think this is still true for most of America, and so long as one nation is a stranger in another nation, we cannot be the America we want to be, a place of liberty and justice for all,” he added.

The Black Student Union at Grand Rapids Community College had been working on bringing the Minister to the campus since August 2011. Everything was set, then according to Sis. Mary X, the BSU’s vice-president, the university attempted to lay down some bureaucratic hurdles that she says were an attempt to discourage them from having the event.

Determined, they locked down a location, which held 400 people. Minister Farrakhan was concerned about the size of the venue. He then directly dispatched Student Minister Marcus Muhammad, coordinator of the Nation of Islam’s Study Group in Benton Harbor, to work with the BSU to make the event a reality.

Mr. Muhammad said the Minister told him to “take the point, but don’t take over.” 

“Minister Farrakhan instructed me to serve and find out what the students want and once you find out what they want and what they would like to see, then you’ll be able to better serve them,” said Mr. Muhammad. 

Once he got involved, he said he found a group of students he described as “resilient, committed and not willing to take no for an answer.”

“In dealing with wise institutions, they know how to entrap you in protocol and policies and playing the language game,” said Mr. Muhammad. “By Allah’s grace, we came, spoke with the appropriate people, and eliminated some barriers, and Allah blessed us to get this beautiful edifice and also blessed us to sidestep the booby traps laid by those who did not want to see such a beautiful event.”

Following the Minister’s message, members of the BSU told The Final Call they were very pleased that all their hard work paid off.

“I was a little nervous at first, but it turned out really great and we got some really encouraging words from the Minister that motivated me to keep on going,” said Sis. Mary, the driving force behind the event and a member of the Grand Rapids Nation of Islam study group.

Twenty-year-old Ross Pike, news editor at the Grand Rapids Community College newspaper The Collegiate said he was eager to see how everything was going to turn out, and was glad he came to hear Minister Farrakhan for himself.

“I tend to have an open mind when going to events, and I was certainly not disappointed after hearing the message from Minister Farrakhan,” said Mr. Pike, also president of the College Democrats. “I really enjoyed his message of empowerment that really, everyone needs to take action into their own hands,” he added.

Nene J. Phillips, a 21-year-old GRCC student had recently lost her voice due to laryngitis, but was so excited, she wrote her comments down on a piece of paper for The Final Call.

“I not only like his message, I appreciated it,” wrote Ms. Phillips, also treasurer of the GRCC BSU.

This was 21-year-old Talina Buchanan’s first time hearing Minister Farrakhan. She found useful the Minister’s guidance regarding male and female relationships, and the importance of women valuing themselves enough to remain virtuous.

“It was powerful, it was passionate, it was blunt, it was straight to the point. It was exactly what we needed,” said Ms. Buchanan. 

Sara Hill, the BSU’s advisor for the last four years said she hopes the “mentality of apathy” has been eliminated after the Minister’s call to action at Fountain Street Church. Ms. Hill also said he gave her some personal confirmation because she is moving in the direction of entrepreneurship.

“I think if we can have unity in Grand Rapids, this city that talks about diversity all the time—but when it comes to actions—like in the Bible it says you know a tree by its fruit,” she said. “My sincere hope is that people in the community will start to come together.”  

“It was tremendous,” Benton Harbor NAACP president Reverend Edward Pinkney told The Final Call. “He taught us all something today, especially those students who we’ve been trying to pull together,” said Mr. Pinckney. “He was a truth teller, and when you’re telling the truth, a lot of times people don’t want to listen.”