[Editor’s note: The following article contains excerpts from the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan’s keynote address he delivered amidst the heated controversy and charges of anti-Semitism advanced by Jewish leaders in Pittsburgh, Pa. in response to talk show host Bev Smith’s annual town hall meeting she organized. Addressing the dire conditions facing Black communities nationwide, Minister Farrakhan and others formed a united front in offering solutions to those problems. The theme of the meeting was “The Disappearing Black Community and How We Can Get It Back,” held on March 11, 2011 at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture in Pittsburgh. To order this message it in its entirety on MP3, DVD and CD, call: 1.866.602.1230, ext. 200.]
In The Name of Allah, The Beneficent, The Merciful.
To my dear and beloved sister Bev Smith, to our dear brother Congressman Jim Clyburn, and to my beloved warrior-sister Dorothy Tillman: I am very grateful for the privilege of being here before you tonight. I want to also thank Brother Jerry Lopes and American Urban Radio Networks, and all those who put this program together.
I’m deeply saddened about the controversy, because it need not have been. And I’m deeply hurt that our sister Melanie Campbell was not allowed to come because funding would have been taken from a project that she is doing. This only tells us why we must support ourselves and our projects, because whenever anyone can threaten you, then they have a measure of control over you; and that limits your freedom to be who you are, what you are, and to say what you will in a country that we are blessed to live in that has afforded us the right of “free speech” and “free assembly.”
I’m here tonight to talk about “The Disappearing Black Community and How It Can Be Rebuilt.” A “community” is a body of people that have common history, common language, common desires and common pains. At one time we were a community … even after the worst days of slavery, even after coming out of severe brutality, deprivation, and being made to believe that we were less than human chattel. But we never did to each other what we’re doing to one another today.
When the Emancipation Proclamation was signed and Blacks were supposedly set free, we were the engineers, believe it or not. We were the architects. We were the craftsmen that built the mansions of the South. How could we have been such an ignorant people, and built the White House and the Congress? We were on loan from our former slave masters. But when we were set free, supposedly, this injured the Southern economy that was built on cotton and Black slave labor.
Since the Emancipation, before Blacks were put back on the plantation, there was 12-year period during which Blacks built 60 little towns, voted in a bloc and sent Black men to Congress and to other elected offices. But in the 1876 presidential race between Mr. Samuel J. Tilden who represented Southern interests, and Rutherford B. Hayes who represented Northern interests, there was no clear, decisive winner. Because of this, the American Banking Association met on January 26, 1877 and again on February 7, 1877 to discuss “money,” and to discuss things that annoy or disrupt the “bottom line.”
And the thing that disrupted the “bottom line” was that Black men and women were, in a sense, set free.
These discussions that the bankers held centered on the North and the South: “Which one of these two men should be our president, Samuel J. Tilden or Rutherford B. Hayes?” so they met at the Wormley Hotel in Washington, D.C. where they discussed what should be done. And anytime they get together to discuss what should be done, and we are at the center of such a discussion, we always come out the loser. They agreed that Rutherford B. Hayes representing Northern interests would become president; and Samuel Tilden was pacified, because in the agreement, the new president would take away the federal troops out of the South that were protecting Blacks from the anger of those who were forced to set us, so-called, free. Then a man from the South, Mr. William Levy, left that meeting held at the Wormley Hotel, and went to the halls of the United States Congress and made an impassioned plea that resulted in the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments of the Constitution being overturned. And Black people, through a new system of “sharecropping,” were sent back to the fields.
The Compromise of 1877 is called “The Great Betrayal” of the so-called American Negro.
Black Redemption unrealized through ‘political process,’ ‘benign economic liberalism’
To think that men and women had to be beaten and killed and sent to prison just to integrate a lunch counter, or to be able to go to toilet on the highways, or sleep in a decent motel or hotel–in spite of all of the odds, Blacks have made an awful lot of progress. When you think about the sacrifice of many in the Civil Rights Movement who believed in the ultimate redemption of us through the political process in America, that Black people then took to the streets, good laws were passed and bad laws were undone. We had a Public Accommodations Bill, we had a Voting Rights Act, and we had Brown vs. the Board of Education. We were “on the move,” so we thought.
Many Black men and women have been elected to office on the county level, on the town and city levels, and on the state level. Many Blacks have been elected on the federal level, to the courts. And we have, indeed, made progress. But that progress is with a certain group among us that consists of the more educated, the more qualified. Those who were willing to fight the system, and not succumb to it, have advanced. But the Honorable Elijah Muhammad said to us, “No one man can rise above the condition of his people,” and it makes no difference that we have a Black president, Barack Obama.
A wonderful Black president; and while we disagree with certain things that he does, if he never does another thing, what he has already done has freed the minds of young Black children. That we will never again think that all we can be are singers and dancers and sports people, but we can aspire to rule, to govern, to lead. We thank him and those who backed him for that. We thank him for the Justice Department brother, Eric Holder, and the Blacks that have been elevated. And when we look at CNN and we see the beautiful Black brothers and sisters with the news, we’re proud! We’re proud of the commentary of the commentators; and sometimes our beloved sister Bev Smith has been on national TV commentating about the problems of our people. All of that is good.
Our hope is that America will change, but we have weathered storms generation after generation, passing on to future generations The Problem and The Struggle. And now, we’re worse than we ever were because the Black community, as a community, not “is disappearing”–it has disappeared.
We, as elders, have some fault in this matter: When we could integrate, when we could go into the finest establishments and eat wonderful meals and socialize, we took our minds off of The Prize. I read that when the NAACP, the Urban League and other Black organizations were established, the thought behind those who helped to found these organizations was for Blacks to have a benign economic liberalism. In other words, even though Blacks could fight for rights, we could not become economically self-sufficient, because the benefit was for others to take our money for providing the services that we are not providing for ourselves! That would forever be The Cause which promoted the “American Dream” not for you, but for immigrants who could come to America and establish themselves in the Black community and bring money out of the Black community to their communities. Build their communities while ours were steadily going down.
Blacks fought in all of America’s wars; we bled and died. Now, what is America going to do in her fiscal decline to create jobs for her millions of unemployed, and ours, too? Do you really think that they are going to create jobs enough for them and you? During slavery all of us had a “job,” but today, that’s “talk.” And if you believe that America can provide enough jobs for her own unemployed, and ours, too, you’re suffering from a delusion.
Blacks are spenders, consumers– but not ‘The Builders’
Look at what we get out of the American economy, and look at what we do with it: Nearly a trillion dollars a year comes into our hands, and it goes right out. We are the spenders, we are the consumers. We are not the builders.
On October 15, 2007, I spoke at Clark-Atlanta University as a guest of Black Engineers, and when the lecture was over, the little sister that invited me came up to me and said that year was the end of this Department in this institution. Her professor then came to me and said, “Brother Farrakhan, I went to the president [of the college] and fought for our School of Engineering. And he said, quote, ‘Let White folk do the engineering.’” A college president telling a college professor: “We don’t need Engineering; leave that to White people”? And at the same time that that course was being eliminated, the “International Relations” course was also being eliminated.
Black people: You are an international people. We are all over the Earth, and the whole Earth is willing to do business with us, but we think so small. And it’s not our fault, in a sense. It is because we, the elders, have fallen asleep on our job. I’m talking to you not to berate you, because I love you too much for that, but I want us to see our fault in this matter. Jesus made a parable, and in that parable he said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is likened unto a man sowing seeds and when men slept, an enemy crept in and sowed some tares in among the wheat”; and some of the Disciples, when they heard it, they wanted to go and snatch up the tares. But “wheat” and “tare” sometimes look just alike–until in the end one bears fruit, and one doesn’t.
We went to sleep on the gains of the Civil Rights Movement, and neglected to prepare a future for our children.
The Disappearing Black Community … What do our children expect from us? The whole economic situation has sometimes forced the woman out of her home where she has to work! The man is producing babies, and he really can’t be the man that God desired him to be because men are to be the maintainers of women, not women being the maintainers of men. And any time a woman has to take care of a man, there’s no way in heaven or hell that she can give him the honor and the respect that is required to build a marriage, and a home.
The Disappearing Black Community … We went to chasing material things, “I want to live in a better neighborhood, I want to buy a better home, I want to ride a better car”–that’s all right! “I want some material things,” because that’s what’s shown on television, but to the neglect of preparing a future for our children. So now our children are born into a world that’s “material,” but they don’t have it. They need a job, but no one has provided it. They come out of an unstable home environment where mother and father are there, sometimes; and too busy, trying to keep up a standard of living, so the children are being reared from television, from cable; being reared from filth and indecency that is now spreading, so there is very little love in the home.
The Disappearing Black Community … In the early days, the church gave us that sense of community. My mother would beat my backside when I was out-of-order. But my mother’s neighbor, who went to the same church, would help her too! So I had to walk, you know, a “straight line”; I would get a spankin’ from that woman, and one from my mother. My mother didn’t “spare the rod,” she whooped that butt! And I didn’t turn out too bad–except in the eyes of some!
One of the things that my mother beat into me was a love for truth, and a love for God. Every time I got a whooping, the worst of them was when I lied to cover up what I did. And my mother would say, “A liar will steal, and a thief will kill,” so if we can stop it at the lie, then you’ll never become a thief or a murderer, because a liar is already a murderer, and has stolen from you the right to The Life that Truth gives to The Mind.
Now, the thing that has unfortunately, or fortunately, set me apart is that I love the Truth. And I love you. And I refuse to compromise my principles to “get along.” My love of God makes me put my trust completely in Him, so I don’t fear the arrow that cometh by day, or the one that cometh by night.
My problem with us is not White people, but our problem is our fear of them that makes us act in a manner that is less dignifying and less character building! And instead of passing on a future to our children, oft times we pass on the legacy of our cowardice because we refuse to confront evil wherever evil is.
No man wants to be rejected. No man wants to be despised. No man or woman wants to be evil spoken of. No man or woman wants to be viciously maligned. But Jesus said, “Blessed are ye when men shall revile you.” I, Louis Farrakhan, am a “reviled” person; I am persecuted–not because I killed somebody! Not because I robbed somebody! Not because I raped somebody! But because I dared to stand like a man and tell The Truth, and not apologize for doing it!
We’re in trouble, in a Time of Trouble like there never was since there was a time and a nation. There is a solution to our problem. And there is a way to rebuild our community. We have to understand what broke us down. Now, some of us do, but there are many of us who don’t understand.
I think we really need that type of education that makes you understand “What happened? What broke us down?” and then we can remedy; we can rebuild.
The Black Community is in a state of death
The Black community, as a community, has flatlined. “Flatline” means that you’re dead, and as a dead man, you can’t see, you can’t hear; somebody has to wheel you for viewing. As a dead man, you can’t feel, because death robs your flesh of the ability to feel.
Why are we considered by God and the prophets as a people that are “dead”? When you look in a casket and you see your loved one, they have hands, but they can’t work for them. They have feet, but they can’t move for them! They have eyes, but they cannot see; ears that they cannot hear; tongue, but they cannot speak! They’re gone from among the Living! That’s your condition. You’ve got eyes, but who will help you to see? You’ve got ears, but your ears are filled with filth and ignorance and indecency.
The Word of God that used to hold sway in our lives: We don’t want to listen to that! We’ll go on to church on Sunday, or to the Mosque or Synagogue on Friday, but what fills the space of our thoughts? As a man thinketh, so is he–but if what you’re thinking is based upon what you see, hear, smell, taste and feel–and you control none of that–then you wonder why the children are dropping out of school.
It’s not that they don’t want “education.” They don’t want the mess that is being offered to them in the name of education!
Simple Solutions: ‘Love The Brotherhood’ is The Root of ‘Community’
Brothers and sisters, this is a heck of a condition that we are in. Now, I want you to look at how we’ve been gradually taken down: 1) Homes are broken; 2) Male-Female relationships at an all-time low; 3) Marriages are disrespected (“Let’s just shack”); 4) Children are being warehoused, put into places with people who may not have feeling for them.
Children are not being nurtured from your breast, mother–that’s what it was made for; but you’re “nurturing” them from a plastic bottle, so they cry for the bottle and not for you. Take the bottle away and they have a fit, when it used to be take the breast away and they’ll have a fit. Marrying, or wedding, a child; bonding it to its own mother is a thing of the past.
Family, I offer you some simple solutions that I think will help. The Bible teaches that we can tell that we’ve passed from “death” into “life” because we “love the brotherhood.” Love is at The Root of “Community”–real Community. Social beings, as God created us, have to live according to certain values, norms, rules, regulations that promote peace between each other, so we have to get back to “How do we learn to love?” You cannot love what you don’t know, or what you don’t understand. And the problem is that we are not being taught a sufficient Knowledge of Self that would allow us to love who we are, and how God created us.
First: In a society like this where you hate the color of your skin, the flatness of your nose, the thickness of your lips, you hate your African origin, it is easy, then, for you to molest or mistreat what you don’t love. So just as Martin Luther King taught us through the pulpit how to love an Enemy that was mistreating us, and now we are mistreating one another, then we have to get back in that same pulpit and teach Black people who they are in The Eyes of God, not in the eyes of man; and then cause us to accept social relationships based on immutable laws that God has set down, that would make us relate to one another as brothers and sisters. In so doing, we lose the envy, the enmity, the jealousy, and all of that that has put us into a degraded state.
Next, we have to elevate our women. If we want to rise, you rise not on the strength of the man. You rise on the strength of the woman. That’s why Elijah Muhammad said “Where there are no decent women there are no decent men, for it is the woman who is the Mother of Civilization.”
And lastly: You know, we have many wealthy Black men and women; and all of them, to the best of my knowledge, have good hearts. They really want to give back to the community, but they are not guided as to how to do it. So our basketball players can come and they’ll put up a little basketball place where we can go and shoot hoops; others will do little community projects, but it’s “you doing yours over there,” “me doing mine over here.” And we’re giving back; and our hearts are comforted.
But to our great Congressman, who has great influence in Congress; our great leaders: Suppose we got together and pulled our wealthy brothers and sisters into a room and said to them: “Look brothers, look sisters: Let’s pool our resources, and let’s buy 20 million acres of land,” for land is the basis of economic development? America is for sale–but others are buying it, and we should be the owners of it, since we worked to produce it! So if we pool the wealth of our wealthy, then start Agribusiness and take it away from the Merchants of Death who are killing the American people by producing degenerated foods, genetically-modified organisms that are literally killing not only our people, but the American people.
Think about it! You’re being killed and you don’t even know it! But if we pooled our resources, we could create Agribusiness: Unite the farmers in the South with the markets in the cities; we could begin to produce food; freeze it. We could learn how to trade: Take the cotton, make it into lint; turn it into cloth. Start creating our own garments and our own styles so you don’t look like a prostitute when you’re not one!
Let’s get busy and do something to help ourselves! Thank you.