Nisa Islam Muhammad
WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) – Thousands of worshipers packed into Union Temple Baptist Church for the African-centered church’s annual Men’s Day celebration September 21. The celebration inside the main sanctuary, honoring of “A Few Good Men” was so joyous that the building itself could be felt swaying in rhythm to the spirited praise songs.
There were tears in the eyes of many worshipers and some of the recipients in attendance–former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, the Rev. Walter Fauntroy, social activist Dick Gregory, and Min. Abdul Akbar Muhammad–even before the Hon. Min. Louis Farrakhan, himself one of the recipients of the church’s Gye Nyame Award, delivered what host pastor the Rev. Willie Wilson called “an inspired word from God.”
The Rev. Wilson said the award is named for the West African Adrinkra expression “Gye Nyame,” one of the highest West African spiritual expressions which translates to say “Except God,” which means that one fears nothing except the Supreme Being, that God is omnipotent and omnipresent.
The Rev. Wilson recalled his decades long friendship with Min. Farrakhan, who was invited to first speak at Union Temple in 1978, after the Rev. Wilson heard an address by the Muslim leader on the radio. When Min. Farrakhan began his address, the church had 800 members, Rev. Wilson recalled, when the address was finished there were only 400, because some parishioners were frightened by “the truth.” Min. Farrakhan has been a frequent speaker at the church which now boasts nearly 5,000 members.
Min. Farrakhan took as his theme “A Few Good Men,” defining three stages of “good:” Performance of duty; performance of acts done for “goodness sake,” that is, not done for any visible benefit; and finally acts done by persons whose nature itself is to do good. He illustrated his subject with ample examples from both the Bible and the Holy Quran, as well as from his own personal life.
God, Min. Farrakhan pointed out, is the best example of the ultimate good, because God’s gifts to human beings are done without need for any benefit from people. God maintains his creation–the sun, the moon, the stars, the earth, and life itself–without any assistance from “us,” the Minister said. “He seeks only gratitude.”
Gratitude and humility, said Min. Farrakhan, are the first steps men and women take “up the ladder” of being good.
“I honor these few good men today, and I hope that God will allow us to ascend that ladder to be among the select few, because God does not need many to turn the world around,” Min. Farrakhan said, reminding the audience of God’s promise to deliver his people from bondage suffered “in a strange land,” among people who enslaved God’s children for 400 years.
“He sometimes just needs one” good man, the Muslim leader said. “Every prophet of God was able to do wonderful things. So all of us today are called to do what is apparently impossible, to raise our people from the mentally dead; to overcome the adversity of the negative world; to plant and nurture the seed of a new world; and overcome all opposition to the truth of that word that would bring in the kingdom until that truth is firmly established in the hearts and minds of the people,” he said in his conclusion. “But this can only be done in the name and with the help of God. And all he needs is just a few good men.”
“We are here to honor some noble and righteous men,” said Pastor Willie Wilson. “The God I serve is too large and great to be limited to a Baptist church. We honor men from different religious persuasions. We want to say how glad we are to some of God’s men who stood when it wasn’t fashionable to stand.”
As this church serves the struggle of people in the poorest part of the nation’s capital, the honorees selected were a history lesson in the struggle of Black people.
The Minister, who was the guest speaker for the standing room only morning service, was surprised almost to the point of tears when Rev. Wilson announced that he was a surprise honoree. “I was just happy to be here to honor my brothers,” he said. “These men lived their lives to make life better for us.”
“We always think the grave is the end of service. It’s not. The real story of these men can never be fully known by their contemporaries. We don’t know their path, their struggle, their mom and dad, what it took to put food on the table, what shaped them. The contemporaries of Jesus didn’t know him like those who came after him,” explained the Minister. “No man can get his reward while he lives. History will reward you.”
Rev. Dr. Walter Fauntroy, pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church, a noted civil rights activist, and former Delegate to Congress from the District of Columbia thanked Rev. Wilson for placing him “among these few good men.” “I thank God for the caring adults in my life who cooked chicken dinners to get me to Virginia Union,” he said. It was while a student at Virginia Union that he met 22-year-old Martin Luther King, Jr. It was an historical meeting that changed both men’s lives. Rev. Fauntroy returned to D.C. and was influential in organizing the march on Washington in 1963. He was also a leader in the anti-apartheid and sanctions against South Africa struggle and was arrested at the embassy.
Dick Gregory had the audience laughing from the moment he took the microphone. It was humor filled with wisdom and social consciousness.
“Capitalism is dead. It died last Thursday,” he said speaking about the collapse of financial institutions on Wall Street. “Don’t look at Wall Street, your 401K, look at the sky for the Big Dipper never changes, it’s always the same. Look at the Milky Way, that’s real. When the sun rises and sets. That’s real,” he said.
Referring to an ordinance banning sagging pants in Riviera Beach, Fla., that was recently ruled unconstitutional, Mr. Gregory said, “Hitler never wore his pants hanging down or his shoes untied. Never judge creatures from without. That’s one thing I’ve learned from this movement.”
“When I teach you to coexist with injustice you become injustice. When I teach you to coexist with filth you become filth. Most of us have become garbage. No one lets drugs be sold where their grandmothers have to walk,” he said.
Abdul Akbar Muhammad, who served as an assistant to Min. Farrakhan, is a radio host, columnist, world traveler and bridge builder between the United States, the Caribbean and Africa. He has visited 128 countries and 38 African nations.
“I’m the youngest on the group. We are the ‘Over the Hill Gang’ that has not suffered from battle fatigue. Do you know how difficult it is to deal with Black folks for over 50 years?” he asked.
He told the audience that the ages of the men honored ranged from him at 66, Marion Barry at 72, Rev. Fauntroy and Min. Farrakhan at 75, Dick Gregory at 76, Harry Belafonte at 81 and Dr. Joseph Lowery at 85.
“I’m very honored that because of my work with Minister Farrakhan that I’ve taken 3,600 people to Africa. They’ve had the opportunity to tour countries and interact with people from cities and villages,” he said. Mr. Muhammad urged parents to take children to visit Africa to help them learn about themselves and their history. He also talked about the electrifying effect Barack Obama, the Democratic Party hopeful, was having on the world. Around the globe there is hope that America can change because of Mr. Obama, said Mr. Muhammad. George Bush has ruined the country at home and ruined America’s reputation abroad, he said.
“I’ve had awards and plaques but never like this to come from my pastor and church and to be in the presence of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. My mother was a domestic who worked three jobs to buy me school clothes and she worked three jobs to put me in college,” said Marion Barry. A teacher once told him, he would never amount to anything, the political leader recalled. The teacher couldn’t see what God could do, said Mr. Barry.