“This is the first time that I have been invited to an all-black college and not only the Student Government Association welcome me in, but the president of the college actually welcomed me in also,” said the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan.
His words bounced off the walls spilling out into the Memphis streets.
| “We have too much immoral leadership going on today,” said Minister Louis Farrakhan, during the Diversity Leadership Conference keynote address at The LeMoyne-Owen College on Saturday (April 14). (Photos by Tyrone P. Easley)|
| Brownlee Hall/ Johnson Gymnasium, more commonly the venue of LOC basketball games and graduation ceremonies, transformed into a packed house for Minister Farrakhan’s keynote address.|
| President Johnnie B. Watson of The LeMoyne-Owen College (second from left) welcomed Minister Farrakhan to the Diversity Leadership Conference event, which was spearheaded by the LOC Student Government Association.|
| Former Mayor Dr. Willie W. Herenton embraces Minister Farrakhan.|
There was a line of at least ten Muslim men to pat you down upon entering the event. They asked that you hold all your valuables before you as they searched for weapons. Upon entering the gym I noticed many guards with ear microphones communicating with each other for the safety of the head of the Nation of Islam.
Minister Farrakhan has been to Memphis on numerous occasions. Early on, he referred to one of those times, thanking former Mayor Dr. Willie W. Herenton for once giving him the key to the city of Memphis.
“Bro. Herenton told me that he was soon called to a meeting at The Peabody, where I’m staying with the other ducks, with some Jews of the Memphis community, who asked him to take the key back. Bro. Herenton told them no and I want you all to know that he is my friend and I will go to bat for him anywhere, including the jungles of East Asia to the ghettoes of America.”
The crowd rose in applause, including local dignitaries such as City Councilwoman Wanda Halbert, County Commissioner Justin Ford and State Rep. G.A. Hardaway (D-92).
With that, the tone was set for over an hour’s worth of literary fireworks at the culmination of the Diversity Leadership Conference spearheaded by the LOC Student Government Association. In advancing Farrakhan’s appearance, SGA President SimmieRay Dinkins had stressed that today’s students must compete with global-scale competition. Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam are undeniable elements in the global community, he said.
Throughout the keynote address, ongoing supportive applause and bursts of agreement reverberated throughout Brownlee Hall/ Johnson Gymnasium, more commonly the venue of LOC basketball games and graduation ceremonies.
“If a Chinaman says that his name is Henry, and you know that don’t sound right, then how much more crazy is it that a black man accepts the name of his former slave owner’s? Mr. Brown, Mr. Black and so on, those are not your names,” said Farrakhan.
The venue was punctuated with Nation of Islam men, who were well-groomed, stern-faced and dressed in power suit’s that fit to a point. They walked in straight lines and made 90-degree turns when they changed directions. The women’s heads were covered with fabric that intersected smartly with the rest of their garb. Discipline – down to daily dress – is a way of life in “The Nation.”
“They tell you to pray, ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ Ain’t nobody going to give you no bread,” spoke Minister Farrakhan. “What you want from God is a chance. Then you can plant a wheat seed and when it grows then take that wheat and grind it into flower and make your own bread.”
Whenever the crowd was asked to stand, or when they stood to applause Minister Farakkan, security moved down the aisle quickly closer to the stage where he was standing. I’m not sure why that was necessary because at his foot stood at least 12 Muslims to each side of the stage. To them, he was obviously precious cargo, even though others still see him as an enemy.
“We have too much immoral leadership going on today,” said Farrakhan. “People tomorrow, maybe in a few days, are going to kill their leaders who been selling them out. That’s why we in the shape that we’re in now. Because we had corrupt people, or people who started off good and got corrupted.”
Tapping into his memory, Farrakhan recalled his days at college in Winston Salem. “The black professors would sleep with the young girls and give them good grades. So they ended up with a degree not in sociology or psychology but screwology,” he said.
“I know it’s wrong but (expletive) the way y’all live is wrong. So there is no real leadership. We’ve had a nation of people trying to teach people that they’re not qualified to teach.”
Another eruption of approval echoed throughout the packed gym.
“My teacher, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, taught me that honor is not given until the work is done; the work of freedom, justice and equality for our people.”