Speaking to thousands inside Joe Louis Arena, Minister Louis Farrakhan called upon African Americans to unite and help develop Detroit as he called upon Mayor Mike Duggan to give more city contracts to blacks.
“Pool our resources,” Farrakhan, 82, told the packed crowd Sunday. “The opportunity is here, but the disunity is also here.”
“Detroit can be the new Mecca,” he said. “Detroit can be a great, great city again.”
“You don’t have to move out to the white community,” added Farrakhan, head of the Nation of Islam. “Instead of moving out of the hood, let’s make the hood what we desire it to be.”
Farrakhan spoke on the last day of the annual convention of the Nation of Islam, a group founded in Detroit in 1930 that is led today by the Chicago-based minister. A security official at Joe Louis Arena told the Free Press that more than 14,000 attended Farrakhan’s annual speech, which is held on the birthday of Wallace Fard Muhammad, who founded the Nation of Islam. The convention is usually held in Chicago, where the group is based, but has been held in Detroit two out of the last three years.
Given the Nation’s long history in Detroit, which is 79% African-American, Farrakhan’s message is popular among many in the city: Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones addressed the crowd before Farrakhan’s remarks, announcing that a street in Detroit will be renamed after a longtime Nation of Islam leader Mother Tynetta Muhammad. Former Detroit City Councilwoman JoAnn Watson also spoke, saying the Nation’s message influenced her.
Farrakhan said he met Saturday with Detroit Police Chief James Craig to talk about reducing violence and the issue of police abuse. The father of Michael Brown, killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014, was at the rally, on stage behind Farrakhan.
“He’s a good man,” Farrakhan said of Chief Craig. “I really like him.”
Farrakhan said he told Craig: “All of the rogue cops are found in the ghettos, so we’re going to help you, we’re going to find them and point them out. We’re not going to kill them, but we’re going to give you a chance to take them off the streets, bust them and try them and sentence them.”
Saying there were also bad Muslims, Farrakhan said: “No cover for a rogue cop, no cover for a rogue Muslim.”
“Make Detroit the No. 1 community in the country for police-community relations.”
In his two-and-half hour speech, Farrakhan reiterated the Nation of Islam’s message of black self-reliance, telling African-Americans: “Go find a black business and spend your money with your own.”
“Buy a house” in Detroit,” he said. “Detroit loves the Nation of Islam.”
He struck a socially conservative message, preaching against abortion, calling for modest dress, and saying that men and women need to take care of their kids and be careful who they chose as partners.
“You have made no progress under Democrats,” Farrakhan said. “I don’t know why you’re such a slave. Figure out what did they do for you, when what you have given to the Democratic Party.”
He also called upon Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan to give more contracts to African Americans, noting the city’s high percentage of black residents.
“Mr. Mayor … you got black people in Detroit that are wise and intelligent,” Farrakhan said. “You would become a favorite of black people if you gave us some of the contracts that you’re giving to people less qualified. Let some of us become millionaires.”
Farrakhan talked about businessman Dan Gilbert, who owns the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team, noting that he has bought up and developed a lot of property in downtown Detroit. Farrakhan then compared basketball and other American sports to slavery, saying that African Americans are often exploited.
Farrakhan also gave a forceful defense of Beyonce’s controversial Superbowl performance, which appeared to have references to activist groups such as the Black Panthers. Some police union leaders have blasted Beyonce, calling upon police to not patrol her concerts.
Calling Beyonce “my sweet sister,” Farrakhan said to her police critics: “You won’t offer her police protection, but the FOI will,” referring to the Fruit of Islam (FOI), the Nation of Islam’s security.
The crowd roared and stood as Farrakhan defended Beyonce, as well as rappers Kendrick Lamar and Kanye West, praising them for speaking out on social issues.
In his talk, Farrakhan articulated a unique vision for the Nation of Islam, saying he and the group is not beholden to whites or Arabs.
“I’m the freest black man in the world,” Farrakhan said. “I don’t answer to no cracker. I don’t answer to no Mecca or Medina or Rome…I’m a free black man … I’m free because they can’t buy me.”
Farrakhan criticized Arab-American store owners who work in black areas, telling them: Don’t “mistreat my people.”
Farrakhan expressed sympathy for foreign-born Muslims who are suffering from bias, but he said they should be respectful of the Nation of Islam.
“Don’t treat us like we’re not real Muslims,” he said.
During his talk, Farrakhan repeatedly referred to areas like Detroit and Harlem as “colonies,” saying they were being oppressed. But he repeatedly said that the U.S. was the home of African-Americans and should be strongly defended against Islamic radical terrorists.
“We’re not going to let no terrorist come here with it,” Farrakhan said. “They want to blow up some tunnel and we in it. American people in it. … We hear you talking that crap. This is ours and we don’t want all of you coming in and messing it up.”
“You’re such a little punk with your little home-made bombs,” Farrakhan said of terrorists.
He touched briefly upon Malcolm X, his former mentor who was shot dead 51 years ago Sunday after he had left the Nation of Islam in a dispute. Farrakhan said: “Malcolm was no friend of the government, and the government was no friend of Malcolm. He probably would be alive today if the FBI counterintelligence program of J. Edgar Hoover was not so much in effect inside the Nation, outside the Nation, to split black from black. This is their modus operandi.”
Farrakhan said that Nation of Islam members have “no weapons in our home, no weapons do we carry.”
“We want to show the world that we are a people of peace.”
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