The Final Call Online Edition



WEB POSTED 03-05-2002




Believers recall Farrakhan's commitment to rebuild the Nation

by Askia Muhammad
White House Correspondent

LOS ANGELES (—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 Muhammad.

"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 people.

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 interview.

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 Atlanta.

"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. Elijah Muhammad.’

"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 Nation.

"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. Farrakhan.

The work of Min. Farrakhan and his teacher was "written up in scripture, thousands of years ago," Min. Jabril said.

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