Two leaders, one station, two brilliant minds–it’s Nation time!
CHICAGO (FinalCall.com) – The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and Reverend Jesse Jackson, the two pre-eminent leaders among Black people in America, met publicly for a rare political summit Nov. 5, just three days after Election Day 2004, at WVON-AM radio, the “capital” of Black intellectual dissemination.
The conversation, according to convener and talk show host Cliff Kelley, amounted to the African American “State of the Union.”
“On this day, we are more than just a radio station. We are the voice of a nation of people–The Talking Drum,” Melody Spann-Cooper, president and CEO of Black-owned WVON radio, told listeners. “We are telling our story today, for tomorrow, with the most influential leaders of our modern times.”
The broadcast was carried live on more than 50 radio stations and it was re-broadcast that evening on “The Bev Smith Show” on the American Urban Radio Network (AURN). “Today is a moment in African American history. Two leaders. One station. Two brilliant minds. It’s Nation time,” said Ms. Cooper, as she introduced WVON’s “Morning Miracle,” Cliff Kelley.
The principals were certainly up to the task, continuing for the first time in public the series of private conversations they have been having with one another over the years.
“In spite of what happened this past Tuesday (Election Day), we believe that everything is in divine order. That Bush re-election is not really bad for us, but if we look deeper it is good for us,” Minister Farrakhan explained in his opening.
The Muslim leader referred to the Biblical text about “the dry bones in the valley.” The bones just wouldn’t come together after they heard the word, he explained. “But when the winds began to blow on the bones, the bones stood up in that valley, an exceedingly great army.
“The winds of poverty, and want, and joblessness, and hunger, and nakedness, and war and revolution, those are winds, and President Bush is an instrument blowing a lot of these winds,” said Min. Farrakhan. “And so I feel that his election, though hurting some of us, will be a wind that says to all of us that we cannot depend on a benevolent Caucasian in the White House to solve our problems. But the Rev. Jackson and I, and Black leadership, and all of us need to come together, because our unity will solve 95 percent of our problems and give us power to leverage that unity to solve the problems of our people all around the world.”
Rev. Jackson picked up on the election outcome. “While 90 percent of African Americans voted for Kerry over Bush, and Bush won this time, we need not be in perpetual despair, in the sense that there were some victories this past Tuesday.”
There were three million more Black voters this year than in the 2000 election, he noted. That was 11.5 percent of the entire national vote, near parity with the total Black population of 12 percent.
“There are now three more members of the Congressional Black Caucus: Gwen Moore from Milwaukee; Al Green from Houston, Texas; Rev. Emmanuel Cleaver from Kansas City,” he pointed out. “So we now have a total of 43 members of the Congressional Black Caucus. In 1965, we marched for the right to vote in Selma, Ala., we had three Blacks in Congress: Mr. Nix from Philadelphia, Mr. Dawson from Chicago, and Adam Powell from New York. Now, we have 43,” and a Black member in the U.S. Senate–Barack Obama, who won the election in Illinois by a 50 percentage point margin.
“We need not hold our heads down as if we are powerless, and as if we made a mistake. We did the right thing. We did it in grand style and our presence will not be denied,” Rev. Jackson continued.
The historic program came about after a member of the WVON management was approached by a senior citizen at a live broadcast from a Black-owned McDonald’s restaurant earlier this year. Both the Honorable Elijah Muhammad (as well as Min. Malcolm X) and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.–the mentors of the two guests–had both appeared on WVON in the past, Mr. Kelley a former Chicago alderman, explained. The meeting, he said, was not an interview, but “a conversation.”
An immoral war, an ugly picture
“You would think that he was talking as though he won 70 percent of the vote,” Mr. Kelley complained about Pres. George Bush’s post-election promises about his second administration. “But the most important thing that he is prosecuting now is what many of us–myself included–feel is an illegal and immoral war in Iraq.
“Some feel that this is an election–not re-election. I never said that because he was never elected the first time. He was selected–but now that he has been elected, he is going to ‘stay the course,’ as he said, relative to the war. I think that the war in Iraq, and terrorism are two separate issues. How does the war impact on the country in general, and again (on)African Americans, particularly? And do you tie this in, as he continuously tries to do, with the war on terrorism?”
“There is a lot in this picture that is ugly,” said Min. Farrakhan. “It is the wrong war, and it is the wrong time and the wrong place, and this war, it seems to me, will not go away.
“America is involved and even if John Kerry had won the White House, he could not cut and run. So this is becoming another Vietnam, raping the American treasury of billions of dollars and killing our youth for nothing. So it has impacted greatly on America, but on our youth in particular, because we’re supposed to be all we can never be in American society. So we join the armed forces, but not to die in Iraq over foolishness, but to protect the United States of America in reality.”
“Well Cliff, to be sure, the war is immoral and did not make us more secure,” Rev. Jackson began.
“That’s right. We are less secure,” Mr. Kelley interjected.
“As a matter of fact, we have galvanized global opinion against our country, putting us in further isolation. And as opposed to containing a threat of terror, we are spreading it.
“The tragedy for me, Cliff, is that we’re losing so many lives,” Rev. Jackson continued. But the deaths are occurring only among the poor, he said. They are “trapped in a back-door draft, looking at a front-door draft, because there are not enough troops. We are paying a billion dollars per week. We’ve got first class jails, second class schools. We are engaged in the wrong war,” he said.
“We know now that this man (Pres. Bush) lied to us,” Mr. Kelley continued. “I was blaming the intelligence community. We found out now that intelligence knew there were no weapons of mass destruction. But Cheney, Wolfowitz, Perle, et al, just changed what the intelligence community gave them.
“And we can’t leave out (Sec. of State Colin) Powell. He sat there and lied about the aluminum tubes. He lied about the yellow-cake from Niger. They just lied. We can’t afford just to back up and say we’re going to go along with him.
“Based on the things he’s done and the people who are dying as a result of these lies, going after Saddam Hussein, as somebody mentioned, would have been like (Pres. Franklin D.) Roosevelt after Pearl Harbor attacking Sweden. There is no connection there. People need to know that. Somebody even suggested the way to do it is to file articles of impeachment against this man who’s in the White House,” Mr. Kelley insisted.
Hegemony on oil, attacks on Islam
“President Nixon, after he was out of office, said that the Third World War has begun and we’re losing it. Our enemy is not Communism, but the real enemy of democracy is fundamentalist Islam,” Min. Farrakhan explained in response to Mr. Kelley’s question concerning the appearance that Mr. Bush’s “war on terrorism” is, in fact, an attack on Islam.
“What is fundamentalist Islam? It is, in reality, man seeking obedience to God as the way to rule and guide his life. Out of obedience comes a political system based on that. Muslims are challenging their leaders whom they feel have deviated from the principles of Islam. What this is producing is a threat to Western hegemony over the world.
“So, when America says, ‘We don’t want fundamentalist Islam, we want a moderated Islam that we can control.’ But real Islam and real Muslims will never bow to the control of Western democracy, cause that is alien to the teachings of God that are found in the Bible, and really in the Qur’an, itself. So we see it as an attack against Islam.”
“So, it is an attack against Islam, and only moderate Islam, only an Islam they feel they can control is acceptable to this government.”
“Cliff, can I just say that the attack on Iraq has a lot to do, I think, more with oil than religion and hegemony of the region,” Rev. Jackson said for his part. “Those people who live at home, who pray and go about their way, they were not headed this way. They had something we wanted. It was not the religion, it was hegemony on the oil.
“My bottom line is that I remain convinced it was more about oil than hegemony, and (former Iraqi President) Saddam (Hussein) was not the threat to us that we were told he was. Meantime, we’ve got Saddam in jail, more Americans have died since he’s been in jail. Bin Laden is still on the loose in the hills, where now there is a flourishing poppy seed production, making more heroin production,” he continued.
The solution is unity
There is one possible upside, Min. Farrakhan pointed out. “For the first time, as I can recall, the American people are looking at foreign policy. So when Pres. Bush said, ‘They hate us because we have freedom.’ The lie is–of course, Malcolm said it best–the chickens are now coming home to roost.
“The destruction of those towers was a reaction, not an action. It was a reaction to treachery and wicked foreign policy of the government of the United States. And once the American people understand what the government has done, and is doing in their name, they will rise up and there will be revolution.”
The solution, the two religious-political giants agreed, is unity and a re-definition of morality in this country. “Jesus said, ‘Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing who are deceptive,’ Rev. Jackson explained.
“It was unfortunate that they chose to define morality so narrowly, as opposed to defining morality as how we treat the least of these. ‘I was hungry and you fed me, or not. I was naked and you clothed me, or not.’ We must now again seize the argument, defining what’s moral. In the 1950s and 1960s, we defined morality as being anti-segregation. Dr. King had the Bible in one hand, the flag in the other.
“We defined moral as being anti-segregation. They defined moral as segregation. We said slavery is immoral, the folks who did it were sinners. We had the moral and patriotic weapons in our hands. For some, when they dropped that Bible and dropped that flag, they made a huge mistake. Those were the two strongest weapons in this culture,” when Blacks put those tools down, the Rev. Jackson said, the right wing picked them up.
“Ignorance is our enemy,” Min. Farrakhan explained. And while White Supremacy has retained the upper hand, Blacks must work to “establish the value system of Christ and Muhammad and the prophets,” said the Muslim leader. The potential promise of Black unity, he said, amounts to “weapons of mass construction, weapons of mass deliverance.”