CHICAGO – The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan was embraced by crowds of mostly young Black men on the West Side of Chicago as he crisscrossed the Austin community to deliver a message of inspiration, self-knowledge and pride in an effort to stop the senseless gun violence that has gripped many communities across the country.
“There is no real reason for us to kill each other after we’ve been killed by so many for so long,” the Minister said to a crowd during one stop. “We are producing too many beautiful young children that we’re not sure will live to grow if we don’t stop the violence and the bloodshed in the community.”
Accompanied by 29th ward Alderman Deborah Graham and 78th District State Rep. Camille Lilly, the Minister was whisked through the streets Aug. 25 with a police escort, spending as much as 30 minutes at various stops to talk to and touch the people.
“To see this man of God at work to make sure our communities are safe and coming together is awesome,” said Rep. Lilly. “He is on point. His vision is making a difference in my heart and many of the people he’s touching as we walk the streets today.
“For me personally, as a young woman, he brings a lot of history. He wants to make sure we’re all on the same page. Unity is the key and he’s making sure that is the point, whether we are elected officials, block club leaders or clergy.”
Alderman Graham was just as excited that the Minister was in her ward. In recent days she has met with the Minister to hear his thoughts and ideas on stopping the violence and to share her own. She said she understands “the different variations of how people perceive” the Minister, but one thing comes through.
“It’s his love for the Black community and our young people and wanting to save and change their lives,” she said. “That’s the unifying message we’re working under today, and we’re going in the right direction.”
Ald. Graham observed how meeting the Minister in person made him “real” to all the young people. She said the Minister told the young men he wanted them to live to be 100 because there’s a lot of work to be done and he needs their help.
“He told us that we as Black people are so precious in God’s sight, that we’re a gracious people and that God has a great plan for us when we stick together and love ourselves. He’s exemplifying that by bringing the (Fruit of Islam) out today and just talking with the young men to say there is a way out and you don’t have to live the way you’re living,” she said.
That message seemed to resonate among the young men who are perceived only as menaces to society. Many of them wore white t-shirts, sagging pants and caps turned sideways.
The Minister being here “shows us that there are still people out here who care about us, to help us move on. There are people who don’t care about the young generation, that’s why we’re killing each other. Some people feed into the stuff that we do but don’t try to help us,” said Natale Bates, 22.
Timothy Jackson, 27, said he ran several blocks from his home to meet and hear the Minister.
“The message he delivers to the brothers out here is so powerful; he gives me inspiration,” Mr. Jackson said. “Just to know that you got a brother out here who knows what we’re going through and he ain’t out here fabricating nothing. He’s telling the people the truth. He ain’t big headed; he’s out here with the people.”
University of Iowa sophomore Donell Hunter, 19, said since entering college he has started doing more research about Black history and leaders. He said that college for Black men “is like a jail” without bars.
“It’s the kind of jail where you sit and really think and study,” he explained. “When we really think about ourselves and know ourselves, that’s when we find out where we come from. And that’s when you find out what Farrakhan really is when you listen to him. He’s a deep brother.
“As young Black men, we need help because we are lost. When somebody is lost, you have to give them steps and have the right person to guide them–like Farrakhan,” Mr. Hunter added.
Community activist Cata Truss was awestruck as she watched a scene she hadn’t witnessed before.
“I’m looking at the young brothers lining up to see the Reverend Minister. We haven’t had anybody come to our community that these young brothers would stop and take notice of before. This is blowing my mind,” she said.
The former teacher who helps to organize youth football, basketball and baseball activities, added: “I’m a mother of five boys and I worry every day. I’d like to think that we’re leaving the brothers with some words–that we love you and you have to love yourself and loving yourself means you have to love your brother.
“So maybe tonight when a brother decides that he wants to pull out a gun, he might think about something he heard the Minister or one of the bothers say and he may look at his brother and say, ‘you know what, I beg your pardon and I’m going to go on my way,’” she said.
At one stop, a group of young females moved close to see a man they may hardly know, which moved the Minister to say: “We’re here to look after you because these beautiful young ladies represent our future. Anything that destroys a young girl destroys us as a people. Anything that builds a woman builds us as a people.”
Later, speaking directly to a young man on a door step with his friends, the Minister asked if he had children.
“He needs his daddy to grow him up,” the Minister said. “You are the most important people in our life right now, the young warriors. That’s why the enemy is afraid, it’s because there has never been a generation as strong as you are. As long as they keep us fighting each other, they have nothing to worry about.”
During his last stop, where he chatted with a West Side restaurant owner and some patrons, the Minister told the F.O.I.: “Stay out here with the people. As long as God gives me life, I’m going to stay out here with you.”