by Askia Muhammad
White House Correspondent
LOS ANGELES (FinalCall.com)—Veteran members of the Nation of
Islam testify that the growth and development of the Nation under the
leadership of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan has been
spectacular over the last 25 years.
The first meeting held to re-establish the teaching of the Hon.
Elijah Muhammad, after his departure in 1975, could have been held,
literally, in a telephone booth.
It took place sometime in March 1977 in a Sunset Boulevard hotel
room, and it involved Min. Farrakhan, who was in Los Angeles to pursue
opportunities that might be open to him to revive his once successful
career in the entertainment industry, and Islamic scholar, Min. Jabril
"My fondest memory of the last 25 years started right here in Los
Angeles when [Min. Farrakhan] changed his focus from becoming an
entertainer and acting, and getting back into the musical world, and
deciding that he would go back and do the work of the Hon. Elijah
Muhammad," Brother Wahid Muhammad told The Final Call.
Brother Wahid, who had served as a lieutenant under Min. Farrakhan in
the early 1960s at Muhammad Mosque No. 11 in Boston, and in various
other posts in mosques around the country, was waiting outside the
meeting. He pledged his support without hesitation, becoming the
Minister’s first new recruit in the effort to rebuild the Nation of
Islam and to restore respect to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s
reputation. Min. Farrakhan gave his friend the name "Wahid," which means
"first" or "one" in Arabic.
For the remainder of the year, Minister Farrakhan traveled the
country with Brother Wahid, meeting with former Nation of Islam
officials, lining up potential supporters and making friends.
At the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference in
Washington, this writer, then White House Correspondent for The
Chicago Daily Defender, introduced the Muslim leader–still wearing a
short "Afro" haircut to various Black political insiders.
Beginning in 1978, Min. Farrakhan–who had been reassigned from his
position as National Spokesman for the Hon. Elijah Muhammad, and head of
New York City’s powerful Mosque No. 7 to teach at meetings in a second
floor walk-up on Chicago’s near-Westside–began speaking out. He
articulated the need for a movement in this country that united Black
Muslims, Black nationalists, Black Christians, Black socialists, and
others who were concerned about the deteriorating plight of Black
Among the first to open their doors for speeches by Min. Farrakhan in
Chicago was Haki Madhubuti, at the Institute for Positive Education, and
the Rev. Al Sampson, pastor of Fernwood United Methodist Church.
In Washington, Baba El Senzengakulu Zulu, director of Ujamaa School,
provided the first space for the Minister to speak in the Nation’s
Capital, a third floor auditorium that was always packed, at the top of
stairs so steep they resembled a ladder.
The broadcast of one of Min. Farrakhan’s speeches at Ujamaa School,
on non-commercial, community radio station WPFW-FM was heard by the Rev.
Willie Wilson, pastor of Union Temple Baptist Church, who opened the
doors of his church for the Muslim leader to speak there as well.
Word spread about the Minister’s efforts. Muslims who longed for
someone to champion the cause of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad began to hear
about the work, and get involved. "We grew under the Hon. Elijah
Muhammad, and our hearts were broken when he left us," Sister Ruby
Muhammad, a member of the Nation of Islam since 1961, said in an
She and her husband, Bro. Donald, managed to hear the Minister speak
at the Institute for Positive Education on Cottage Grove Blvd, in
Chicago. There were even rumors that some people were going to be at
that meeting to possibly do harm to the Minister, she recalled.
"My husband and I decided that we would give our life. If they did
something to him, we would go down fighting for the Minister, because
our people needed him so badly. They still need him," she said.
As he spoke out among the public, Min. Farrakhan reached out to
former top laborers of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad. At Miami’s
Fontainebleau Hotel, Min. Farra-khan and Brother Wahid met with Min.
Abdul Bey Muhammad, who remembered how the Hon. Elijah Muhammad foretold
his ministers that they would depart from him and his message. "It was
the Hon. Louis Farrakhan who revived me, brought me back. I’m talking
about from the dead. We understand, ‘by way of Allah’ (God) and all
that, but it was Min. Farrakhan that really got to me," he said.
When Min. Farrakhan first stood up, detractors were talking against
him for rebuilding the Hon. Elijah Muhammad’s work, like he was going
against Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, said Min. Abdul Rahman Muhammad of
"When they talked about him, I said: ‘Wait a minute. Wait a minute,
ya’ll. You can’t blame that brother for teaching what he was converted
to.’ I said: ‘We’re the hypocrites, because we walked away from the Hon.
"My thinking at that time was there would be war between him and
Warith Deen Mohammed, but I was at that time tied up with Muhammad Ali,
so I took the safe road and stayed with Muhammad Ali, as Farrakhan began
to build," he admitted.
The movement grew with larger and larger meetings in Atlanta. Min.
Rahman decided to leave his place with Muhammad Ali and return to the
"Even at that time, we had Saviours’ Day down at the Conrad Hilton,
we had a few hundred people. After a while we had Saviour’s Day over in
Gary, Ind., we had 2,000 people over there. It kept growing and growing
and growing," he said.
The first real national Saviour’s Day convention was held in 1981 at
the Hilton Hotel in Chicago. It was called "The Rebirth of the Nation."
In those days, followers from as far away as the Mid-Atlantic region
chartered buses to travel to Chicago for Saviour’s Day–40 at a time.
This year believers from Washington chartered an entire airplane to
attend the 25th anniversary convention in Los Angeles.
On May 17, 1980, Minister Farrakhan called another Nation of Islam
veteran, Min. Karriem Muhammad, of Plainfield, New Jersey, to come meet
with him in New York.
"He said there would be a sign in the Earth," Min. Karriem recalled.
The next day, in Washington state, Mt. St. Helens erupted in a
violent blast estimated to be 500 times as powerful as the Hiroshima
atomic bomb. The Miami riots began that day after Blacks heard that an
all-White Tampa, Fla., jury acquitted White ex-policemen accused of
beating a Black man to death and making it look like an accident. The
riots left 14 people beaten or shot to death in a 40 by 60 block area
Young people who have grown up in the Nation also bear witness to
progress seen in their young lives. "Every Saviours’ Day Min. Louis
Farrakhan has made a better speech. Everyone is coming more into unity,"
teenager Bashir Rahman said. "He brings us closer and closer together,"
his friend Esa Muhammad agreed.
The tremendous material success of the Nation over the past 25 years,
and more importantly the growth of the Nation’s influence, and the
esteem in which the Hon. Elijah Muhammad is now held, compared to 25
years ago, is what Min. Jabril Muhammad knew would overtake Min.
The work of Min. Farrakhan and his teacher was "written up in
scripture, thousands of years ago," Min. Jabril said.