By Charlene Muhammad CHARLENEM
STOCKTON/MODESTO, Calif. – (FinalCall.com) – Some view the Nation of Islam as a “Blacks-only” organization but in reality, it includes many indigenous peoples of the earth. They are vibrant vessels of the Teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, and are working to raise awareness about their presence and reach their people with the truth.
Spanish-speaking Muslims native to Cuba, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Puerto Rico met here to help bridge the gap. Their theme was “Reclaiming Our Own: Unity at Last.”
The two-day event opened with panel discussions at the King-Kennedy Memorial Center in Modesto and the University of the Pacific in Stockton. Topics included gang violence, incarceration, substance abuse, How to Eat to Live, acquiring self-knowledge, immigration, education, and doing for self.
“The Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught us that the Mexican, so-called Latinos of all persuasions are part of the original family and our panel here represents that,” Theresa X Torres, conference coordinator said, welcoming guests.
“We are very diverse in the Nation of Islam … What we have been given has been such a blessing for each one of our lives and the changes that have come as a result of that has for many of us been a miracle and been life-saving,” Ms. Torres said.
That life-saving message must penetrate the streets to curb growing violence that impacts Black and Latino youth alike, said John X Mataka, conference co-coordinator and environmental justice activist.
Mr. Mataka received word on the eve of the Dec. 17 conference that his son’s childhood friend had been shot and killed in front of his wife–and just down the street from where their Muslims call to life was being delivered.
“That’s why we’re here today. What are we going to do about that? It’s about that and what we’re facing as a people because we’re behaving in a very uncivilized manner,” Mr. Mataka said.
Miguel Donoso was 23 when his family moved from Peru to Northern California. The South American immigrant and housing activist has worked in canneries much of his adult life and was more vocal than average immigrant workers who were treated very badly, he said.
“What’s happened to us then is still reflected today. The system of White, powerful people in this country and state still controls our lives,” stated Mr. Donoso.
“We have to take self-determination to do something with our lives. We need more young people to be educated to go from oppression and repression … The bottom line is we become oppressed people from the system which disallows us to be human beings we’re intended to be,” Mr. Donoso said.
The greatest treasure Europeans stole from their ancestors was knowledge but the descendants can get it back with the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, said Vladimir Muhammad of Rhode Island.
“I couldn’t put two and two together until I came into the Nation of Islam and the Honorable Elijah Muhammad explained it all to me,” the Dominican Republic native said. Now he helps to deliver the message in Spanish to his countrymen.
Without the teachings, he would have been deported, imprisoned, or dead like many of his friends, he continued.
Later, at the University of the Pacific, Attorney Arturo Ocampo, assistant provost, outlined some myths and facts about immigration. For instance, undocumented status is a civil law violation, not criminal as most people have been made to believe, he explained.
“The immigration system is designed to set up a system of folks who have little or no rights … I’ve never met someone who is undocumented by choice,” Attorney Ocampo said.
The evening included a presentation of Mexican folk dancing by Lorena Becerra and her students, and an exhibition of military drill and martial arts by members of the Fruit of Islam and community youth.
Day two began with an ongoing breakfast program for the homeless and ended with a special mosque meeting and conference participants expressing what Islam has done for them.
During the weekly breakfast program, diners typically view Min. Farrakhan’s videotaped lectures in an area reserved for English-speakers and tapes in Spanish of Vladimir Muhammad explaining the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and Min. Farrakhan’s message. That day, he gave a live lecture and Q&A.
Afterward, guests posed for pictures with him and asked him to autograph copies of Spanish-written texts he distributed.
“It hurts me to see how bad this system of things and the condition that the system of things has placed our people in but it makes me joyful, happy to be able to serve to be able to help,” he told The Final Call.
The presentation inspired Antonio Rodriguez of Mexico to read and learn more. He used to think negatively and believe lies about Islam, he said, as Rafael X of San Antonio, Texas, translated his words from Spanish.
“All on the news and everything that was said about the Muslims and the Holy Qur’an, that they were children of the devil and created the terrorism, I believed but now I don’t think that way. Now I know that it’s positive,” Mr. Rodriguez said. He vowed to tell friends, family and churches about the positives that the Holy Qur’an possesses.
The mid-December conference was important because the numbers of so-called Latinos are growing in America and so is the anti-immigrant posture of Whites and the media’s negative portrayal of vulnerable natives of Central and Latin America, said Abel Muhammad, student minister and Latino Representative for Min. Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam.
“The teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad is so vital because it’s giving us first and most importantly a knowledge of ourselves and the knowledge of our God. The reason we have been so ineffective in the last 100 years of Mexicans and Latinos being in this country is because we don’t have that key knowledge” and that has led to zero political power, Student Minister Abel Muhammad said.
The conference was a new level in the effort to outreach to indigenous communities. Past efforts have included Black Family Day in New York in the 1970, when Min. Louis Farrakhan created a celebration to forge unity and love between Black and Latin American communities. Performers included Latino stars like Celia Cruz, Eddie Palmieri, and Tito Puento, said A. Akbar Muhammad, international Representative of Min. Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam.
“The Nation of Islam’s history has always had a Latino presence and we haven’t begun to scratch the surface because it also has to mention the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s move to Phoenix and his relationship with the indigenous tribes there and the chiefs that came to visit him,” added David Muhammad, a student assistant minister at Muhammad Mosque No. 3 in Milwaukee.
A key in their struggle is how they define themselves and they are careful with their language. They strive to de-emphasize the term Latino and diminish all possibility of being perceived as a nation within the Nation, Min. Abel said.
“When we use that language, especially in the context of the Nation of Islam, we use it to properly identify. But we understand it isn’t the original name of our people and we take proper care to use the best language that we’ve gotten from the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and that’s ‘original,’” he added.