Yes, we went to see Farrakhan
They were saying it might be Minister Louis Farrakhan’s last speech, so we decided to go.
Wait. That’s not quite right. We didn’t just kind of decide to go. We knew we had to go.
And I can already hear some of you saying, “…but…it’s Farrakhan.” Your eyes are wide and disbelieving, or perhaps even discolored by disgust and outrage. Just the thought that someone could bestow such importance on an event featuring a man such as this is repulsive to many. Frightening to others.
But it was none of those things to the estimated 75,000 attendees who trudged through an ice storm and endured New York-style traffic jams and maddening parking hassles to crowd themselves into Detroit’s Ford Field on Feb. 25 to listen to a lecture given by one of the most controversial, infuriating, charismatic, maddening, and gifted leaders this country has seen or produced in quite some time. He is also a remarkable speaker, evidenced by the fact that the thousands who have flocked to hear him over the years rarely complain about sitting through what sometimes can be a five-hour-long event capped by a speech that regularly goes over two hours. In fact, the crowds frequently seem to love it.
Over the past 27 years, I have heard Farrakhan speak in Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, twice in Washington D.C. (for the Million Man March and then the Millions More Movement), and twice in Detroit. During that time period I have heard him say things I thought were stark-raving nuts, and I have also heard him display signs of total brilliance. I have never felt like wanting to join the Nation of Islam after listening to him, because I know there is no way I can live my life like that. But invariably I have always felt the man was needed. It’s fine for a community to have a few leaders that are deemed acceptable by the decision-making class, but any community that doesn’t entertain the counsel of at least one prominent heretic who comes with no strings attached is a community that will never hear the alarm sound when it is being led to the slaughter. Sometimes the crazy man is the only one who sees things clearly.
Yes, it is. But each and every time I have gone to see him there have never been any empty seats. When I went to see him speak in Los Angeles at the Forum about 20 years ago, there was a two-hour long line wrapped around the place full of very patient people waiting to hear his message. If you’ve ever seen the Forum, which is home to the Los Angeles Lakers, then you know how many people had to be in that line for it to be wrapped around twice.
So were all those people crazy too? And what about all those hundreds of thousands who attended the Million Man March? Was that a Million “Crazy Man” March? Is it really possible that this many men were fooled, bamboozled, and misled?
Personally, I don’t think so. I also don’t think any other black leader in America could have put out the call for such a march and then have so many answer that call. Criticize the outcome – or lack of outcome – of the march all you want, but the fact remains that when Farrakhan said black men needed to come together on that particular day, black men came together on that day by the thousands.
But what did Farrakhan talk about when he came to Detroit? As usual he talked about a number of things, both spiritual and political, but the message that got the most play was his appeal for unity and reconciliation among religions and religious leaders. Considering how much press he has gotten for saying negative things about Jews, white people, and others, it wasn’t surprising that his call for coming together turned out to be the headline.
But what I found equally important and significant, especially for a Detroit audience, is that he chose Detroit, where the Nation of Islam was founded in 1930, to deliver what may be his last major speech. When it came time to deliver his farewell, he brought his message home to the source, and by doing so brought the message full circle.
Like so many others who know the true significance of Detroit, Farrakhan knew it was necessary to acknowledge and pay respects to the cradle that has given birth to so much – and so much that is essential Black America.
For more interesting views and information on Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam, check out these links: