By Saeed Shabazz-Staff Writer-
NEW YORK – Over the past two years Black communities throughout America in the summer months witnessed the men of Nation of Islam, known as the Fruit of Islam, come into neighborhoods working to lessen tension and increase peace through positive interactions and offering knowledge to combat ignorance, despair and self-hatred that breeds Black-on-Black violence.
The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan started the initiative walking streets in Chicago with the F.O.I. determined to help promote peace. Muslim men subsequently went into hurting neighborhoods across America and in Jamaica, Trinidad, the United Kingdom, and Canada.
As the weather started to break, the Fruit of Islam en mass took to the streets and to their ongoing mission to “resurrect” the mentally and spiritually dead. And as Nation of Islam Student Supreme Captain Mustapha Farrakhan noted to see and hear firsthand about problems and to try to create solutions.
“Our people are destroyed by a lack of knowledge,” said the leader of the men of the Nation and the son of Min. Farrakhan. As the Muslims talk with Blacks in dire situations, said Mustapha Farrakhan, “We want to use this information to ease some of the pressure our people find themselves in.”
The pressure is also building. The U.S. Dept. of Justice has established in Chicago, Ill., a prosecutorial unit known as the Violent Crimes Section that plans to use federal drug and gun statutes and other federal laws to crackdown on violence in the city.
Over the Easter weekend, Chicago neighborhoods were faced with 40 shootings, resulting in nine deaths, and while the police superintendent says shootings are down from the same time period in 2013, when there were 413 murders, there is still too much death.
These problems don’t call for more police but more action, more unity, more economic opportunity, sacrifice and creativity from inside Black America.
F.O.I. Student Central Regional Capt. Anthony Muhammad of Mosque Maryam in Chicago said conversations reflect the problems Blacks face.
In these conversations, young men share frustration at not being able to get jobs because of prison records, but would like an alternative to street life, said Anthony Muhammad.
“The Nation of Islam can only be an asset in this war–against the emotional battles, the physical battles–that confront our people,” said Dr. Louis Hutchinson III, founder of Restore Together, Inc. a Washington, D.C. group devoted to combating poverty and oppression.
Dr. Hutchinson told The Final Call outside of the Nation of Islam “there is no better model for ending recidivism, no one more successful in this hemisphere, when it comes to working with young men.”
Coalition building is a key, added Dr. Hutchinson. “My position fundamentally is we welcome those who want to and are ready to collaborate in helping the poor; and that includes the N.O.I.,” he said. Dr. Hutchinson said there is “hidden hurting” in America with growing poverty–living below the poverty line are 17.8 million women (one in seven) and over 16 million children (one in five).
Chicago with a population of 2.7 million people is the third largest city in the U.S., behind Los Angeles with 3.8 million and number one New York City with 8.2 million people.
“The most compelling issue facing our people in NYC is unemployment, and second incarceration,” said Student Minister Hafeez Muhammad of Mosque Number 7 in Harlem. He said 55 percent of Black men were unemployed, and a high percentage of them have been incarcerated.
“People tell us that they need jobs with a livable wage, and rents that are affordable. We continue to represent to the community that the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan is offering a way out of the poverty with a plan known as Muhammad’s Economic Blueprint,” Min. Hafeez Muhammad told The Final Call. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there is a huge median household income gap for the wealthiest New Yorkers at $188,697 versus $9,320 for the poorest New Yorkers.
Regional Student Minister Tony Muhammad of Mosque Number 27 in Los Angeles said the F.O.I. are out in the streets “ringing the bell” bringing “hope to the people.”
“We are coalition-building with our Latino brothers and sisters who are demonstrating what the Hon. Elijah Muhammad stressed, which was ‘do for self.’ According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Blacks own 5.8 percent of the businesses in LA, compared to 21 percent for Latinos,” he noted.
“One of our aims is to tap into the lucrative $10 billion hair-care product industry with a plan to carve out $50 million for Black entrepreneurs,” Min. Tony Muhammad told The Final Call.
He stressed that another concern is the continued growth of households headed by single women. The Annie E. Casey Foundation reports that as of 2012 some 67 percent of American children lived in single parent households. Single mothers are younger, more likely to be Black or Latino, and less likely to have a college degree, the Pew Research Center on Social and Demographic Trends reported in 2013.
The overall unemployment rate for Blacks in Los Angeles is 21.1 percent, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Economic Policy Institute.
Student Regional Captain Oliver Muhammad is based in Atlanta and oversees cities in four states in the N.O.I.’s Southern Region. The University of Georgia’s Initiative on Poverty and the Economy reported that in the 11 states that make up the “Southern Black Belt” there are 11.5 million people in poverty.
The University of Georgia report covers percentages of Black residents stretching across Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.
Student Capt. Oliver Muhammad is located in the fourth largest majority Black city in the U.S. Atlanta ranks 15th among cities of the world with a Gross Domestic Product of $270 billion.
However, the poverty levels for Georgia do not reflect prosperity, according to an Atlanta Community Food Bank Survey that 20 percent of Georgians are food insecure, which means they may not know when their next meal is coming and nearly one-third of Georgia’s children live in poverty.
“We clearly have to accomplish coalition building,” Oliver Muhammad told The Final Call. At times it can be challenging to bring the Nation’s message to Southerners, he admitted.
But modern technology and the F.O.I. are helping to overcome that challenge. “Because of Min. Farrakhan using the social media, more people in the South know of him and we have less difficulty talking about the Economic Blueprint with people,” Oliver Muhammad said. The Economic Blueprint calls for 16 million wage earners to donate 35 cents a week to a national treasury to create an economic base for Black America. Such painless donations would raise over $291 million in one year. (See page 11 or visit www.economicblueprint.org for more information or to make a donation.)
“It is very important that people see the F.O.I., and interact with them personally, particularly in the South,” said Saladin Muhammad of the International Worker’s Justice Campaign in North Carolina. “Min. Farrakhan is obviously building a movement to get closer to the people,” Saladin Muhammad said. “We understand that the N.O.I. has been an integral part of the Black Liberation Movement, fighting for the freedom of Black people.”
How important is the South? Saladin Muhammad asked rhetorically. “It is now the U.S. home for the global auto manufacturing industry, representing 31 percent of the U.S. Gross National Product and fast becoming the hub of U.S. manufacturing,” he told The Final Call.
The continued work of delivering the word, coalition-building and bringing solutions to problems is the fundamental purpose of the Nation and the F.O.I. “You can’t just come to the mosque just to hear the lecture, you must be ready to engage yourself in the work of the mission: The resurrection of our people,” said Supreme Capt. Mustapha Farrakhan.