In call for justice, Nation of Islam minister offers guidance to polarized city of Rockford, Ill.
ROCKFORD, Ill. (FinalCall.com) – A little more than one year ago, Mark Anthony Barmore was shot and killed in the basement of Kingdom Authority International Ministries by Rockford police while horrified children watched.
On Sept. 18, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan spoke from the pulpit of the very same church with a message of guidance, warning and a demand for increased community responsibility to end Black on Black crime and brutality and the disunity that plagues religious communities.
“I come before you tonight filled with pain because of the circumstances that have brought me to Rockford,” said Min. Farrakhan. “I didn’t come here tonight to feed your anger, and I didn’t come here tonight to excite you. I came here tonight to guide and instruct us.”
In his first ever visit to Rockford, Min. Farrakhan’s addressed not only the Black clergy, civic and political leaders who were there, he also addressed Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey, Police Chief Chet Epperson and its White residents living in a city gripped by racial tension.
The Barmore shooting and what supporters call harassment of Apostle Melvin Brown and his wife and daughter who witnessed the shooting, and say the young man was shot by officers with his hands up and head down, has increased anger and complaints about racial injustice and police abuses of Blacks and Latinos.
There have been marches and rallies demanding authorities give justice and the U.S. Department of Justice is engaged in mediation efforts to ease tension. Apostle Brown’s church has become a rallying and organizing point in a call for justice made by national civil rights leaders and local activists and leaders.
When the Minister spoke on a Saturday evening, a packed crowd filled the lower level sanctuary and the balcony of the church with people in another two overflow rooms in the church basement watching via large screen televisions. Additionally, WNTA Radio 1330 AM carried the entire program, including Min. Farrakhan’s lecture live via Internet web- cast and audio simulcast over the air waves.
Rockford’s unemployment is highest in the state, foreclosures are high and high school dropout rates are increasing. The major area moneymaker is the prison industrial complex. Even prior to the shooting of Mr. Barmore, there were already increasing tensions, according to residents.
Min. Farrakhan pointed out that in American society, the evil and brutality that exists at the top is now trickling down to the common people, and the lives of Blacks, Latinos and even poor Whites are devalued in a society that benefits the wealthy few at the expense of the masses, which makes it easy for those with authority and power to kill those seen as unworthy of living.
“I am a warner from God,” said Min. Farrakhan. “There are some things that are about to happen, that only a change in the behavioral pattern of those in position of power can stop.”
Referring to biblical prophecies, Min. Farrakhan said God “seizes the people with distress and affliction” to humble the mighty and powerful, when His wrath is brought down. We are living in that time right now, he said.
“I’m here to warn that America is in great trouble and so are the nations of the Earth,” said Min. Farrakhan. “Look at what is happening to the world in which we live and you will know that God is present and He is angry and it will get worse. And after I leave, you will begin to see (these) signs more.”
He not only warned the powerful, he also pointed to the responsibility of clergymen and ordinary citizens to stand for what is right.
“You know that evil is what you suffer, but you also know that you are participants in evil,” he said. “Can you expect White people to have more respect for you than you have for yourself? When you value yourselves, others will value you.”
The Minister pointed out that justifiably, the community is outraged by the killing of Mark Anthony Barmore, however, it should be outraged by a White supremacist educational system which teaches young Black boys and girls to hate themselves. Black on Black crime is rampant and there is little outcry against those who murder daily in the cities of America, nor consistently unified efforts to reverse self-hatred and oppression that has spawned killers with no regard for human life, he said.
“It is these young (Black) men who are in peril today. This is not an accident,” said Minister Farrakhan. “The manifestation of that self-hatred is what we see in gang violence that’s going on in our communities.”
“God is angry and He is not pleased with you. Don’t you run around thinking the destruction is only for White people and you are doing yourselves worse than them! No! Destruction is for the wicked and you are in line to be wiped from the face of the Earth for your foolishness!”
“I know it is hard, but I didn’t come here to give you a feel good time. Nor did I come to give the mayor, the police chief and the members of government a good time, because you are sentencing your city, your state, your nation to death! You don’t have to worry about some little cheap terrorist running around with a little pipe bomb. You’ve got to worry about a God who makes up storms off the African coast, and builds up power to drop 20 inches of rain,” said Min. Farrakhan. “Nobody is escaping, so everybody has got to get their act together! We can start with the Mayor. We can start with those in authority, we can start with judges who don’t know what justice is!”
24-year-old DeKalb, Ill., resident James Washington said parts of Min. Farrakhan’s message “blew his mind.” “I’m still trying to absorb it all,” he said.
His friend, 22-year-old Charles Spivey said the Minister taught what needed to be heard. “He really sent the message that everybody needed to hear. I would say the part that hit home the most (is that) the brothers need to come together and unite as one, especially young Black brothers to come (together) and love each other, there’s too much hate going on.”
Members of the Latino community were also present to show their support for a unified movement for justice.
“I feel blessed to be able to witness a small piece of history here for the Black community and the Latino community. Anytime we are honored to hear the most powerful African American in the world, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan,” said Julie Contreras, Midwest commissioner for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). “It is the words–I feel that come from God. He is an instrument that God uses on this earth to bring a message of truth. And the truth is the demon of racism is alive and breathing and strong here in the city of Rockford.”
On the dais with the Minister was Apostle Brown and other program speakers who offered passionate arguments regarding the Barmore shooting and accountability. Donations were also raised to help with legal expenses carried by Apostle Brown, who is a party in a civil suit filed by an officer involved in the shooting, and the pastor’s wife and daughter who face criminal contempt charges. The mother and daughter say police officers shot Mr. Barmore, who was unarmed and there was no struggle. Apostle Brown thanked the Minister for his support and thanked Muslims in Rockford, especially Steve Muhammad, who provides his security, for their backing.
The victim’s adoptive mother, Mary Ann Barmore, and his uncle were also in the packed audience. “I’m hoping that the people of Rockford will finally see and finally stand for justice,” she said.