RICHMOND, Va. (FinalCall.com) – The electricity in the air at Mt. Sinai Baptist Church Mar. 26 must have been the same charge as when Nat Turner was preaching to our foreparents to rise up and take their freedom from their slavemasters.
Nearly 250 residents packed the church pews and lined the walls to participate in a town hall meeting and rally to gear up residents to support the upcoming tenth anniversary of the Million Man March (MMM) on October 16.
If first impressions are truly lasting ones, then the newly-formed coalition Blacks United for Action (BUA), the hosts of the meeting, is destined to be firmly rooted in the upward movement of Blacks in the city seeking freedom, justice and equality. It was the group’s introduction to the community, manifesting a microcosm of the macro unity inspired by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan in the broad coalition of national Black leadership organizing mobilization efforts for the March. Trinity Baptist Church, the Elegba Foklore Society, the New Black Panther Party (NBPP), the NAACP and the Nation of Islam are the founding organizations that formed the coalition.
So spirited and intense were the presentations that keynote speaker Attorney Malik Zulu Shabazz dubbed the gathering “The Bible Revival for Black Survival” in his opening remarks. Serving as a co-convener of the March, Atty. Shabazz marked his eighth stop of his MMM town hall meeting tour here, which he observed as the most fiery rally yet.
“There is something in the air that is moving the dry bones,” he said, referring to the Biblical prophesy. “Someone is blowing breath, pumping life into leadership, into the Black community–and that man is the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan.”
If the speakers before him set the place on fire, he disposed of the ashes, teaching with a firmness that “Everything on earth is crying out for the end of the White man’s rule,” he said. “Our unity today represents the Kingdom of God. Either we will unite and put forth a plan for the liberation of our people or we will die and be put in the dustbin of history,” he stated, adding, “We don’t want to unite for the sake of sitting in the same room. We’re talking about a vision of self-determination.”
Each member of the coalition presented solutions to one of the five issues facing Black people that they prioritized as their main objectives. Interspersed between the main speakers, youth shared their talent with the audience in powerful spoken word and song. They were all revolutionary. They were all dynamic.
The program was emceed by Bro. Lazarus, the local chairman of NBPP who worked tirelessly to organize the rally. Elegba representatives stressed the importance of cultural identity, reflecting the aim of its cultural center that has served the community for over 20 years. Sekhmet Lioness, representing the NBPP, along with Sister Kanahethet, tackled the disrespect of Black women by Black men and themselves, bringing the raw truth of our practices as well as outlining steps to return balance to the Black family.
King Salim Khalfani, head of the Virginia State Conference NAACP, while maintaining that there is no magic formula to end the violence in Black communities, simply summed up the solution: “If you have love for self, you will have love for me.”
After watching the movie Hotel Rwanda in early February and becoming disturbed at the divisions that led to brutal violence, King Salim determined that it was time for unity to become a working reality in the Black community here. That same night, he received a call from Rev. A. Lincoln James, pastor of Trinity, who expressed the same urgency for unity. Finding themselves on the same page, King Salim, already aligned with the Nation, and Rev. James, enjoying a firm relationship with the Panthers, the coalition naturally took form.
Although the coalition is still in its first stages of development, the magnetism and respect reflected in the unity of these local Black leaders make it a practical model for other cities mobilizing for change leading up to, and beyond, the March. In this city that served as the birthplace of slavery and cherishes its legacy as the seat of the Confederacy, galvanizing Black people for progress has its distinct challenges. But if unity can be maintained here, it can be done anywhere, BUA members insisted.
“What America needs to be concerned with is the unity of Black people, not Iran and Korea,” NOI Minister Tracy Muhammad declared during his remarks at the rally, which were so strong that he inspired a standing ovation with his opening salutation. “It’s time we hook up with ourselves. Don’t let anyone say anything bad about anyone up here. This is new. We have never tried this, so don’t let any handkerchief-head tell you that this isn’t going to work,” he cautioned the audience against future detractors of the efforts.
Placing the burden of progress squarely on the shoulders of Black people, Rev. James nearly shook the building at its foundation when his remarks brought the audience to three thunderous standing ovations.
“Can we, will we put our egos to bed and focus on the issues that affect every Black man and woman in this city?” he asked. “It’s about a people who are dead in the dry bones valley. Can we get up?” he shouted in Baptist resonance. “Breathe on us, Most High,” he petitioned. “Do we have the will, do we have the courage, do we have the faith, do we have the guts to get it done?”
(For more on Blacks United for Action, pick up the next edition of The Final Call newspaper, which will feature an exclusive interview with members of the coalition.)