ROSEMONT, IL–It was 28 years ago in late February 1981 when, at the Auditorium Theater in Chicago, Minister Louis Farrakhan announced the “Rebirth of the Nation of Islam.”
That of course was something of a contradiction because members of the Nation are taught by patron the Honorable Elijah Muhammad that the teaching of Islam “has no birth record–no beginning, no end.” So how then could an entity with no birth record have a rebirth? Especially how, since the movement founded by Mr. Muhammad had continued and not “died”–albeit under a new name and in a new direction, the American Muslim Mission–under the leadership of his son, Imam Warithudeen Mohamed, when Mr. Muhammad left the scene in 1975.
What happened in 1981 was the culmination of a three year rebuilding effort by Min. Farrakhan of the “Black Muslim” Nation of Islam, according to the strict teaching of Mr. Muhammad, and there was nothing which emphasized the Nation’s difference with orthodox Islamic theology or with the message of Imam Mohamed’s community more than the late February observance of “Saviour’s Day,” the birth date of the founder of the Nation “in the Wilderness of North America.”
As in the 27 preceding years–once in Gary, Indiana, once in Ghana, West Africa, once in Detroit, once in Atlanta–elders and children alike attended dozens of workshops, seminars, a town-hall meeting, fairs, and righteous entertainment events, this year in Rosemont, Illinois, a north suburb of Chicago just a stone’s throw from O’Hare Airport. Again the events concluded with a stirring address by Min. Farrakhan, to commemorate the birth anniversary of Master W. Fard Muhammad on Feb. 26, 1877.
“One-hundred-thirty-two years ago, in the Holy City of Mecca in Arabia, a child was born, who was born to seek, to find, and to save a people who are styled in the Scriptures as ‘The Lost Sheep.’ And we can find no persons on this planet, more fitting of that description of The Lost Sheep, the lost people, than the Black man and woman of America and the Western Hemisphere, who were brought to these shores over 450 years ago and robbed completely of the knowledge of self–our names, our language, our culture, our history, stripped from us,” Min. Farrakhan said March 1. Back to basics.
“So that in the Western world, having no root in ourselves, no knowledge of our own God and our own religion, it rendered us spiritually blind, deaf, and dumb, easily led in a wrong direction, difficult to lead in a right direction, and those who were our captors wanted to make us perpetual slaves. But we thank God, that He has always come to the side of the oppressed, to the side of the weak, to the side of the downtrodden, to the side of the enslaved, to raise them from that condition,” Min. Farrakhan said. On to the future.
“It was extraordinary. I have heard the Minister over 40 years, and I think what I heard today was a complex, multi-faceted, multi-dimensional presentation that calls us to action,” New Orleans educator and organizer Ntangelese told this writer. “It had sufficient theological analysis, social analysis and political analysis.
“I think we need to study this speech. More than listen to it, we need to study the details of the analysis of the global political economy and where America really is and what it’s going to take to move us to the next level. What’s it going to take to bring the human family together,” he continued. He meant the entire human family.
Yes, Min. Farrakhan’s message has continually evolved during this past 28 years. Even before Pres. Barack Obama’s election created a national obsession to proclaim a “post racial” America because a Black man was elected president, the Minister’s message has been one that appeals to Blacks of course, as well as to many, many Latinos, Asians, and even Caucasians who were in attendance.
“I think it was one of the Minister’s most enlightening” speeches, the Rev. Dr. Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina’s Faith Community told me.
“The courage in it, facing us and calling us to deal with the truth, and America to deal with the truth, as well as the charge that we have to come together, that we need to be the stimulus for this country, but it has to be based on truth, and it has to be based on facing what is destroying America,” said Father Pfleger, a White Catholic priest.
Several activists, intellectuals and entertainers were in attendance. Calvin Broadus, known popularly as Snoop Dogg, credited Min. Farrakhan with helping bring peace to the Hip-Hop community after rapper Notorious B.I.G. was killed in 1997.
“That’s why I’m here today: to show my support,” Mr. Broadus said. He also showed his support by making a $1,000 contribution to the Nation.
Hip-Hop artist Clifford Harris–known as T.I.–who was unable to make a scheduled travel connection to be at the meeting in person, showed his support by speaking via recorded video, telling attendees and his fans that education is the key to success in all of life’s ventures.
It is the new-old Nation of Islam in a new day and time, celebrating the 28th anniversary of the rebirth of a something with no birth record, a movement which never really died.