Farrakhan recruits Greensboro citizens for Millions More March
Despite the below-average temperature outside, Saturday night at the New Light Missionary Baptist Church found the suited men and church-dressed women packing the pews fanning themselves and downing bottles of water. Below the church, which faces Dudley High School on Willow Road, an overflow crowd gathered on folding chairs in a Family Center that had been wired for video teleconferencing.
Local organizers of the Millions More Movement made accommodations to handle the 1,500 people they anticipated for the rallying speech by Minister Louis Farrakhan on Sept. 10. Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, conceived the Millions More Movement to commemorate and further the goals of the Million Man March held in 1995. The local organizing committee, chaired by Rev. Clarence Shufford, is recruiting a delegation from Greensboro to attend the march, planned for Oct. 15.
Farrakhan said the majority of the black community has strayed from the path God intended for them and must come together in humility and unity to improve their neighborhoods and families. Official event T-shirts captured another theme: ‘“Do for self, or die as a slave.’” Farrakhan and other speakers addressed historic and institutionalized racism, calling on all blacks to come together regardless of religion.
‘“It’s about us presenting ourselves as a people ready to heal the condition put upon us by slave masters and their children,’” Farrakhan said about the goals of the movement.
After a parade of introductions from Rev. Cardes Brown, leaders of the local NAACP and Greensboro Nation of Islam ministers, Farrakhan commandeered the pulpit for more than an hour and a half. Armed with no notes, he reinforced each point with several lines of scripture from both the Bible and the Quran. For most of the sermon, he called on religious people to reject earthly pleasures and focus on attaining moral perfection.
Farrakhan blasted sexualized clothes that objectify women and hip-hop artists who profit from glorifying crime and violence. Despite his harsh criticism of the black community, Farrakhan saved his most damning indictments for President Bush and his cabinet.
‘“Bush knows he didn’t do right by the people of New Orleans,’” he said. ‘“So he goes down there with an anointed man of God to cover that sinful act.’”
The Anti-Defamation League has long accused Farrakhan of promoting anti-Semitic and racist ideas in his speeches. Other critics of the Nation of Islam have reacted to homophobic language used by leaders in the organization.
But on Saturday, Farrakhan struck a conciliatory tone. He urged all those who believe in one God to join together. On several occasions he mentioned the Talmud in the same breath as the Bible and the Quran. In one anecdote he revealed that a gay actor left ashes of his parents and lover with Farrakhan, who now keeps them on his desk.
‘“All of you in here may have had your thoughts when you came, but how are you going to deal with me now?’” he challenged the audience near the end of the sermon. The minister urged audience members to make up their own minds about his speech instead of relying on news reports or the disapproval of friends or society.
The Millions More Movement differs from its predecessor, the Million Man March, in several ways. Women are encouraged to take part in the march, which is meant as the beginning of a movement to transform black communities. Local organizer Sister Ferguson lauded the accomplishments of women to rousing applause before Farrakhan took the stage.
‘“Women have been involved for a long time in carrying out God’s work,’” she said. ‘“The Millions More Movement is a movement of women and men coming together.’”
Unity emerged as the common theme of Saturday’s event and for the Millions More Movement. Farrakhan stressed cooperation as the key for solving up to 95 percent of the problems facing the black community. Health, education, economic development and reparations for slavery are among the other agenda items for the October march.
Brown reinforced the coalition between Christians and Muslims when he described why he offered to host Farrakhan.
‘“I don’t see how I could not open these doors,’” he said.
Despite the cooperation between the host Baptist church and the Nation of Islam, the brothers and sisters of Muhammad Mosque #92 in Greensboro ran the event. Women dressed in maroon uniforms, their hair covered with matching hijabs, searched female audience members, directed people to their seats and took donations. A Fruit of Islam security detail lined the walls and sat in front of stage where Farrakhan spoke.
Several times audience members leapt to their feet to applaud one of Farrakhan’s points. The four security guards in front of the stage always rose to face the enthusiastic crowd. When Farrakhan exited, the security guards in front of the stage and against the walls left their posts and surrounded him.
As he left, Brown and Shufford led the exhausted audience in a prayer for unity and the future of the community.
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