Minister Farrakhan presents roses to event coordinator and daughter Maria Farrakhan Muhammad (left) and wife Khadijah Farrakhan (right). Photo: Kenneth Muhammad

CHICAGO (–The star-studded black tie gala celebration of “The Farrakhan Years,” held May 11 at the Hilton Towers Hotel, was for many a “never before” seen glimpse into the life of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan.

Like turning pages in a book called ‘The Life and Times of Louis Farrakhan,” guests were taken on a stroll down memory lane through speakers, video, song and dance that revealed the times and circumstances that created the man most love and many misunderstand.

“The Farrakhan years are something to celebrate,” said author and National Public Radio personality Tavis Smiley. “Consider all the obstacles Minister Farrakhan had to encounter to get here. These years are worthy of celebrating.”

Dr. Alfred Goldson unveils the Foundation logo. Photo: Kenneth Muhammad

Dr. Cornell West, author and professor at Princeton University, said that the Minister is a man who tells the truth to America: “He did it with love and he’s still doing it.”

“Minister Farrakhan is my brother, my partner and an inspiration to the younger generation that are hungry for the truth,” he said.

Dr. West shared with the audience how the Minister prayed with him for 20 minutes before Dr. West went into the hospital for prostate surgery.

“Most of America doesn’t realize how sweet and gentle he is. But we know,” said Dr. West.

Most people also didn’t know that Min. Farrakhan was a choir boy, and track star, who received his first violin at age five and met the love of his life, Khadijah Farrakhan, when she was eight and he was 10.

(L-R): Dr. Cornel West, Min. Farrakhan, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Mother Khadijah and Tavis Smiley enjoy a private moment prior to the evening�s event. Photo: Monica Morgan

“I knew what I wanted when she was 14 and I was 17,” said the Minister. “I married her and she became my wife, the mother of my children and my best friend.”

The celebration

The glitz and glamour of the evening felt like a movie debut starring Min. Farrakhan. He entered the ballroom with his wife on his arm, walking down the center aisle, “red carpet” style, with onlookers cheering and camera flashes going off all around him.

The Muntu Dancers gave a special tribute to the Minister’s mother, Sumayah Farrakhan. Through a video presentation, the Minister, with love overflowing in his voice, described the experience of having her as a mother as one of joy and pain.

“She was a strict disciplinarian,” he said. “But she helped me become the man that I am.”

The dinner was a four-course meal of elegance with gold napkins and gold bows accenting covered chairs.

People came from as far as the West coast and as near as the south side Chicago to be a part of this grand affair.

Entertainment for the evening included singer Martha Walsh, and a hip hop group called The Righteous writers, who are members of the Minister’s family.

The early years

The audience was treated to the video version of the Farrakhan Family photo album. The crowd erupted with applause several times at pictures of Mother Khadijah as a sweet young girl that evolved into a drop dead gorgeous teen and then to the cover girl bride that married her childhood sweetheart.

The Minister spoke of his humble beginnings and his search for someone, anyone, to improve the condition of Black people.

“I wanted to see Black people free but I never heard that in church,” he said.

By the time he visited his uncle Samuel’s house and saw photos of Marcus Garvey, the great organizer of the United Negro Improvement Association was long gone.

So the choirboy, violinist and singer began to dedicate his life to his art. At the tender age of 14, he was a guest on the “Ted Mack Amateur Hour” and won. It was not just a personal victory; it was a victory for his family and friends who lived in a time when young Black men had few opportunities for such grand success.

He soon became known in the entertainment industry as “The Charmer.” He was a vocalist, a calypso singer, dancer and violinist.

In 1955, he accepted the teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad. Within three months after joining he was given the choice of music or Islam. He chose Islam and never looked back. He started, like most men at that time, by selling the Muhammad Speaks newspaper.

“My relatives came up to me astonished,” said Min. Farrakhan.

“You gave up singing to become a paper boy,” they asked him.

Those humble beginnings were just the seeds of his growth. His rise in the Nation of Islam was inevitable. He possessed a foundation that allowed him to serve his people under the guidance of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad and to serve them well.

“I tried to live a noble life. I can’t say that I was holy or righteous but I was good,” he said.

He moved up the ranks in the Nation of Islam from paperboy to Fruit of Islam captain to Minister of the famous New York Mosque No. 7. In 1974, he hosted one of the largest gatherings of Black people at the time for Black Family Day on New York’s Randall’s Island.

The audience was in awe, as the man they thought they knew became another man right before their eyes through the words of family, childhood friends and colleagues. His wife spoke of her unconditional love for him. His children spoke of the great gift their father gave them by teaching them the knowledge and reality of God.

“My dad is my hero,” said Fatima Muhammad, a registered nurse, who quit her job to provide 24-hour care to her father during his recovery. “He gave me a strong foundation upon which to live.”

Abdul Akbar Muhammad, Abdul Wahid Muhammad and Siddiq Muhammad, long time companions of the Minister, shared intimate revelations of a man that has criss-crossed the world seeking peace for Iraq, creating friends for the Nation of Islam with the Muslim world, connections with African countries, and freedom, justice and equality for the Black man and woman in America.

The list of well-wishers and congratulants was long. The Minister received letters of congratulations from his dream team of doctors at Howard University Hospital, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich), Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.), Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) and Rep. Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.) and Chicago’s Mayor Richard M. Daley.

He also received proclamations from Illinois State Senator Donne E. Trotter and a special one from Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich proclaiming May 10, 2003 as Prostate Cancer Awareness Day in Illinois.

Rev. Michael Jenkins on behalf of Rev. Sun Myung Moon gave a $50,000 contribution to the Louis Farrakhan Prostate Cancer Foundation.

Actress Beverly Todd read remarks from singer Dionne Warwick and actor Brock Peters. Kelly Price sang to the Minister that trouble doesn’t last always and to count it all as joy.

Dr. Leonard Jeffries spoke on video about how the Million Man March was one of the most important events in our history.

After decades of silence, the Minister returned to his music with several violin concerts that are now available on CD.

“You can give something up for God, but God will never let you lose it,” he said.

Cancer strikes

The Minister’s struggle with prostate cancer became a family concern. The ongoing controversy surrounding the Minister in the news made it difficult to find a hospital they felt safe taking him to. They decided to take him to Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C.

One of his dream team doctor’s, Alfred Goldson, spoke on how well the Minister was received at the hospital and the challenges that lay before the doctors charged with healing the Minister.

“We had the reality of asking God to guide our hands, it’s not time for him to go,” said Dr. Goldson. “We rose to the occasion. God guided our hands and we prevailed.”

“The road was dark and stormy. He was dark and stormy but he was true to his faith and God because he knew he had another mission to complete,” said the doctor. “When it was touch and go, he never faltered.”

The pain and agony that the Minister endured may have crumbled an ordinary man. However, there is very little of anything ordinary about Min. Farrakhan.

“Minister Farrakhan does a very courageous thing by speaking to the issue of prostate cancer with a sense of authenticity. Cancer is a disease of mass destruction. As Minister Farrakhan uses his body as an example and takes public his private pain, we are healed by your strife,” said Rev. Jesse Jackson.

“For your life, living and legacy we are indebted,” he said.

The Minister was moved by his own plight with prostate cancer to start the Louis Farrakhan Prostate Cancer Foundation to assist men who are uninsured get the proper treatment they need. The center will be housed at Howard University Hospital. The new logo for the foundations was unveiled at the gala.

Give God the glory

The praise and glory heaped upon the Minister was embarrassing to him. Dressed in a dinner jacket, which clearly ranked him as the best dressed man in the ballroom, the Minister told the audience that all praise belongs to God.

“I could never thank Allah enough for meeting the Honorable Elijah Muhammad,” he said. “I longed for this man long before I met him. I am deeply touched by what went on tonight although somewhat embarrassed.”

“Whatever I am of a value is because of my connection to God. When you’re great for what God allows you to do, don’t get drunk from self-gratification. We are here in this space and time to contribute what we can, then we die and another generation comes. God was, God is and God shall always be.”

The Minister humbly thanked everyone for coming and helping to share the anniversary of his birth. He gave a bouquet of long stem roses to his wife.

“I wouldn’t be who and what I am if the Honorable Elijah Muhammad didn’t have a class that taught her how to handle me when I was acting a fool. That class taught her how to help me be a better man,” he said.

The Minister also presented flowers to his daughter, Maria, who was the gala chairperson and coordinated the weekend of activities launching the Louis Farrakhan Prostate Cancer Foundation.

Minister Farrakhan told the audience as he received a standing ovation, “All of us that work, don’t worry about the mistakes. Just keep doing good. Good outweighs the bad.”