In celebration of the 90th birthday of the beloved Muslim leader the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, friends and companions reflected on his significance to Black people, incomparable achievements, and impact on the liberation struggle. They shared how this divine servant of Allah (God), born Louis Eugene Walcott on May 11, 1933, personally affected them.
Before becoming “Farrakhan” to the world, he was affectionately called “Gene” to childhood friends in Boston’s middle-class Roxbury, Massachusetts, neighborhood. Attorney Melvin Miller grew up with Minister Farrakhan and his beautiful wife, Mother Khadijah, formerly Betsy Ross. He and the Minister connected through a shared interest in music education, which was common among Roxbury families at the time.
Both studied string instruments, but Minister Farrakhan was already a skilled violinist before his teenage years, stated Atty. Miller. The Minister had gained such proficiency that he was regarded as the top-quality violinist of his age in Boston, he said. “So, I knew him, but he didn’t know me. I was nowhere as accomplished with the cello,” stated Atty. Miller, belting out a hearty laugh.
He always saw young Louis as an extraordinary individual and said everyone who knew him had the highest respect for him and they all expected extraordinary things from him. “Nobody was at all surprised that he came to be the leader of the Nation of Islam,” said Atty. Miller, who is a year younger than the Minister.
“He was so exceedingly courteous and kind and polite to others, so much so that I would notice it sometimes when I’d see him,” said Atty. Miller. “The interesting thing is that you should never take that to be that he was soft or anything because he was a tough guy at the same time,” he emphasized.
“The Lord, Allah, puts His hands on people at various times and those who are attentive can know these people, can see, ‘Hmmmm. There’s always something special about that person.’ And we always thought there was something special about Farrakhan,” elaborated Atty. Miller, former U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts and establisher of the Bay State Banner in Boston.
Both men were also on their school’s track team. “Losing,” replied and then laughed Atty. Miller, when asked what was his event. “I never got top grade in athletics,” he stated. But Minister Farrakhan was pretty good at that, he noted.
The failure of some Black people to recognize Minister Farrakhan’s greatness early on is a great disappointment, argues Atty. Miller.
“He is a man of peace and love! And you should know when somebody can’t see that, you’d better get away from them because that’s telling you something about him, isn’t it? He’s the most lovable guy, as tough as he is, that I know,” said Atty. Miller. “I don’t know anybody who I respect more,” he added.
Atty. Miller credited Minister Farrakhan with providing comfort and a sense of belonging to those who were upset about the mistreatment of their open enemy in America. Many Black people, rightfully angry, did not believe in non-violence as a solution, but the Minister provided solace and a sense of belonging to those who may have otherwise “gone wild off the edge,” he said.
“He’s a man of peace, and people treat him like he’s a warlord. It makes you wonder about people’s minds. How are you thinking,” argued Atty. Miller. He added, “It’s almost impossible to say too good about Farrakhan. What a man!”
Great then and great now
Wilma Browne knew Minister Farrakhan through her two brothers, especially the youngest, Donald Washington, also known as “Lefty.” “Gene” lived up the street and Betsy (Mother Khadijah) lived around the corner, she stated.
It is wonderful that Minister Farrakhan is still in the struggle for Black people’s liberation after six decades, said Ms. Browne. As a young person growing up, he was always such a respectable, nice and talented person, reflected Ms. Browne.
“He’s been so helpful to so many people and his message has woke so many people up,” she told The Final Call. “I think it’s so great that he’s still here and delivering his message to everybody because we need to hear it” she said.
There are so many different opinions about Minister Farrakhan, as relates to his impact, because some people really don’t understand or know him, when it comes to his impact on humanity, itself, she explained. But he is still in the struggle for Black people, trying to wake people up, and “He looks great,” she exclaimed.
The man people see now is the same person from many years ago—great then and still great now, Ms. Browne chuckled. She expressed joy in having respect for the people she grew up with and truly knowing them.
“You just look back on them, and say, ‘Well, gee! He was always a good person. He was always a great person. I think it’s a wonderful thing when you can say that,” stated Ms. Browne.
She expressed happiness and gratitude to be present and wish a happy birthday to Minister Farrakhan. “He deserves so much more! And I hope he’s with us for a long time because back here, most of the people we grew up with have left,” said Ms. Browne. “The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan is one of the most truthful and greatest voices of this century,” she concluded.
Minister James Najiy was honored to talk about Minister Farrakhan, whom he called his heart, friend, and leader. When he was 18 and saw a young Louis Eugene Walcott on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour, he and his brothers were taken aback, as teenagers, to see a young Black man playing the violin, he said.
“Black boys didn’t play the violin or any string instrument. They wanted to play the saxophone like Coleman Hawkins, Illinois Jacquet (or) Louis Jordan. They wanted to play the drums like Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, and the Black drummer Chick Webb. Chick Webb accompanied Ella Fitzgerald on the hit song ‘A-Tisket, A-Tasket,’” stated Min. Najiy, formerly Minister James 7X.
He witnessed the moment “Brother Louis” got his “X,” tears swelling up in his eyes as he addressed the F.O.I. (Fruit of Islam, the men of the Nation of Islam). Ultimately, Minister Farrakhan would become the minister of Mosque No. 11 in Boston and No. 7 in New York, then the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s National Spokesman, stated Min. Najiy.
“Now he is what? He’s God’s right-hand man, in the absence of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, for the entire Nation of Islam, and as far as I’m concerned, he’s the leader of the entire world of Islam,” Min. Najiy continued.
“He didn’t have an easy time, but he fought those who were against him, and he won, and he’s still fighting today. And Allah is going to make him the winner over all who rebel, especially Satan and his herd,” he said.
Many cited the Historic 1995 Million Man March: Day of Atonement, Reconciliation and Responsibility, held on Monday, October 16, as one of Minister Farrakhan’s bloodless victories as a decorated, divine general in Allah’s Army.
He has achieved the unimaginable, calling one million Black men to meet him in Washington, D.C., and two million—predominantly Christians—showed up.
Rev. Albert Sampson is a Chicago-based pastor, activist, and longtime friend of Minister Farrakhan. During the Million Man March, his church organized 15 buses with doctors, nurses, and food for the brothers. They named the buses after their ancestors who were part of the Underground Railroad, making each bus a symbol of their spirit and legacy, said Rev. Sampson.
“With tears in my eyes, he’s 90 years of age and I’ve never double-crossed him. I’ve never talked against him. And I’ve always been prepared to die with him, suffer with him,” said Rev. Sampson.
Deeply moved by Minister Farrakhan, he vowed: “The thing I’m going to do before I die is to have a picture of his First Lady (Mother Khadijah) and Brother Minister in my church because we are very, very clear that any time a brother will name his sanctuary, his church, his mosque, his temple of hope after (Maryam) Mary, the mother of Jesus, I will be one of the first churches in Christendom that will name my sanctuary after Mary, the mother of Jesus.”
“I’ll always love him, appreciate him, and the brothers and sisters from one of the greatest nations on the planet, the Nation of Islam. Happy Birthday, my sacred brother of 90 years,” added Rev. Sampson.
Minister Farrakhan has been a consistent voice for justice, a consistent voice for truth, said Father Michael Pfleger, senior pastor at St. Sabina Church on Chicago’s South Side.
There are many “pop up” voices in the world today that speak on various issues, but they often fade away, either due to burnout, compromise, or the challenges they face along the way, observed Father Pfleger. “He has been a prophetic voice as long as I have known him for at least 30 years. His brilliance has been to me just such a witness of courage,” he stated.
That kind of courage only comes from being rooted in faith and in God, observed Father Pfleger. He observed that Minister Farrakhan has refused to compromise what he believes, and with that, has been willing to pay the cost of what it means to stand up for what he believes and for truth.
“He’s been willing to do that, no matter the sacrifice, no matter the attacks, no matter the demonization. … To do that and do that consistently all these years is a model of what a true prophetic life is about,” Father Pfleger told The Final Call.
Minister Farrakhan’s impact extends beyond just the Black community, as he is a voice for truth that is not limited to any particular group of people, continued Father Pfleger. However, he feels that the media and the world often try to pigeonhole the Minister as solely a leader for the Black community. Truth isn’t limited to a community or to a particular people, he said.
It’s undeniable that Minister Farrakhan’s love for Black people is foremost in his heart and life, but he’s been a voice for justice, the poor, the disenfranchised, and those discarded regardless of race, continued Father Pfleger. Sadly, some fail to recognize his advocacy for all people due to baseless accusations of “anti-White” or “anti-Semitic sentiments,” the activist priest noted.
“The Minister’s love and voice are for humanity as a whole. … It’s a difficult and only a God-rooted ability to have so much hate come at you and yet be so loving of people. He has been able to do that,” said Father Pfleger.
“We have in the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan 90 years of truth,” he proclaimed.
He is a jewel
Throughout Minister Farrakhan’s service to humanity, he never forgets those people so often forgotten about or left behind. For Abdullah Muhammad, who serves as the Nation of Islam National Prison Reform Minister, Minister Farrakhan’s heart is with his people. “When I came home from prison in November 1980, I shook Minister Farrakhan’s hand after my first F.O.I. class and he said to me, ‘Allah allowed you to go to prison, Brother, to study men because you’ve got work to do with men,’” Student Minister Abdullah Muhammad told The Final Call.
“Serving the inmate population has always been in the heart of Minister Farrakhan because he was born to open blinded eyes. bring the prisoner out of the prison and those that sit in darkness out of the prison houses as it says in Isaiah, chapter 42,” he stated.
“Minister Farrakhan went on a world tour with the inmate population in his heart resulting in him writing a book called ‘A Torchlight for America’ that has a section in it called ‘Support The Nation of Islam’s Prison Reform Ministry’ and ‘Begin Reforming Black Inmates by Helping Them Make A New Beginning In A Land of Their Own,’” explained Student Minister Abdullah Muhammad.
“Minister Farrakhan’s desire is for the inmates to know that they are created by Almighty God Allah and that part of His essence is a part of them and that there is no obstacle or impediment in their path that they cannot overcome with knowledge of themselves and their connection to Allah.”
Minister Farrakhan’s tireless love and work have endeared him to many and garnered respect from those who may at times have differing views.
“Let me say that I’ve always considered Minister Farrakhan one of my best friends and we don’t always agree. But when I saw him, I sat here one night and listened to him play a Beethoven Concerto or something and it brought tears to my eyes, and I wish that the whole world could hear that because it shows how accomplished and cosmopolitan he is in his views and in his abilities,” stated former United Nations Ambassador and former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, who just celebrated his 91st birth anniversary in March.
“And the thing that’s always been, I think, used to attack the movement is anytime you disagree with somebody, they want to discredit your whole personality. There is a lot of disagreement going on in the world and I have never sat down and discussed the issues with him. But we’ve always been good friends. And I really wish him a very, very creative birthday,” Mr. Young told The Final Call.
Dr. Ron Daniels, veteran social and political activist and founder and president of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century (IBW), a progressive, African-centered resource center dedicated to empowering people of African descent and marginalized communities, said that Minister Farrakhan is 90 but doesn’t look a day over 60, which speaks to the benefits of the dietary law brought by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad from God in Person, Master Fard Muhammad.
“He is young and we know he’s had some health challenges, but all of those health challenges have been beaten back because of the way he’s taken care of his health. One of the great contributions of the Nation historically is getting people to focus on diet and well-being, even if we don’t always behave, it gets us to focus on ‘How To Eat To Live,’” said Dr. Daniels, laughing.
Dr. Daniels stated that he’s enjoyed being a friend and comrade with one of the great teachers, prophets, and advocates for liberation. Of his many fondest memories is standing with Minister Farrakhan against vehement lies and attacks of anti-Semitism, when he spoke to a packed house at the Crystal Palace in Youngstown, Ohio, said Dr. Daniels. Another was for certain, the Million Man March, he said.
“He is a jewel. He is cherished, and I don’t know of anyone who could have pulled off the miracle of the Million Man March. There is no leader then and now who could call for a million men, and women, because a significant number of women came as well, and that is a testament to how not only Black people in this country but around the world think of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan,” said Dr. Daniels. “We wish him not only a happy birthday but we look forward to another 90. Why not!?” he added.
Ninety years is a long time, said St. Louis activist Anthony Shahid, who works with young people through the Tauheed Youth Group. “I love the Messenger so much and the impact that he’s having on our community is that he raised the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s name up,” stated Mr. Shahid, speaking about Minister Farrakhan’s work to resurrect the Nation of Islam and once again lift up the name of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
For nearly 70 years, Minister Farrakhan has been tied to the Nation of Islam, sacrificing his life, his family, being away from his children and grandchildren, a normal life, said Mr. Shahid. “We love you Minister Louis Farrakhan! We love you so much! And the whole world knows who he is. It’s not a rapper. It’s not a politician. … It’s ‘The Minister.’ A whole lot of people are called ministers, but when ‘The Minister’ says something, it’s got to be right,” he stated.
(Brian E. Muhammad and Final Call Staff contributed to this report.)