It’s time for African Americans to take charge of their economic development, something that doesn’t include marching, says Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan.
By Denise Clay
ABOVE PHOTO: Nation of Islam leader Min. Louis Farrakhan addresses crowds at the Annual Day of Atonement event at the PA Convention Center.
Photo by Bill Z. Foster
For unemployment and poverty rates to go down in the African American community, it’s time for Blacks to stop asking the government for a jobs plan and create one for themselves with the help of people like BET founder Bob Johnson, media mogul Oprah Winfrey and others.
That’s the message that Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan gave a crowd of about 15,000 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center on Sunday afternoon.
Farrakhan, who was speaking as part of the Nation of Islam’s annual Day of Atonement at the Convention Center, told those gathered that African Americans need to follow the lead of immigrant communities and take charge of their economic lives.
“When you’re not running the show, [people] can tell you what your program can be,” he said. “
Toward the end of making the community more responsible for itself, Farrakhan proposed reaching out to the African American community’s billionaires and millionaires for the investment capital needed to start businesses, create manufacturing entities, and create better communities.
“We need to pool our resources,” he said. “The future of our people depends on our ability to mobilize. We’ve got to do it ourselves. If we don’t have the mindset to do it for ourselves, we deserve what we get.”
What brought the Day of Atonement and Farrakhan to Philadelphia was the 16th anniversary of the Million Man March. About 200,000 men, led by Sound of Philadelphia architect Kenny Gamble and former City Managing Director Joe Certaine, left their homes on Oct. 16, 1995 to participate in the Million Man March in Washington, DC. The purpose of the inter-faith march, which was called by Farrakhan, was to get Black men to understand how important it was for them to be active participants in their homes, families and communities.
From the march, community groups, businesses, and schools were formed. Crime rates among Black teens went down. The Black community started, in small steps, to move forward.
But while the spirit of the Million Man March should be maintained, it’s time for the Black Community to stop thinking that it can get what it needs from taking to the streets en masse, Farrakhan said.
“The time for marching is over,” he said. “We’ve done that. We’ve accomplished a lot with the March and I’m glad that we could rise above our differences and come together. It produced the greatest gathering ever. The future of our people depends on our ability to mobilize. We’ve got to do it ourselves. If we don’t have that mindset, we deserve what we get.”
As an example of causes the community should unify around, Farrakhan called for everyone to let Washington know that the current set of wars the country finds itself in are things that they don’t support and want us out of.
“We should all conscientiously object to the war that is going on in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Pakistan, in Somalia, in Yemen, in Libya,” he said. “We must not let our government send our babies to die on the basis of a lie.”
“As Muslims, never would we fight against our Muslim brothers for the Zionists of America that have locked down the government of America. Never will we die for the state of Israel.”
Black Americans should especially object to going to war overseas because we’re at war at home, Farrakhan said.
“Whether you know it or not, we are at war,” he said. “Our survival as a people is at stake. This is a time for real leaders.”
A group, that Farrakhan says, does not include President Barack Obama, who he says should be willing to become a one-term president to “use his power for his people.”
While Farrakhan and his speech were the centerpiece of the event, it was also a reunion of sorts for those who helped put the Million Man March together, aided it, and those who hoped that it could be a history lesson for young Black men.
Dignitaries whose support was important to the march, folks like former Washington, DC Mayor Marion Barry, his wife Cora, former Black Entertainment Television host Bev Smith (who also had a syndicated show on WURD until recently), former head of the NAACP Benjamin Chavis, and others were there to celebrate the spirit of the day and how it influenced the Black Community.
Because Philadelphia is currently in the midst of the kind of shooting epidemic that inspired the Million Man March, the time is right for that spirit to be reintroduced, said Wali Smith, a community activist who was in charge of mobilizing the city’s youth for the march.
“There are a lot of kids who either weren’t around or were just babies when the March happened,” he said. “Through making a re-commitment to the spirit of the March, we can show them that there’s another direction.”
Gamble also called upon the people gathered to honor the community commitments they made in 1995 in the present day.
“No excuses, no excuses, no excuses,” Gamble said. “Life means nothing unless you have a purpose. We must clean up ourselves first. Then we must clean up our homes. Then we must clean up our neighborhoods and then our schools. All it takes is one person.”
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