COMPILED FROM WIRE AND STAFF REPORTS
CHICAGO – Imagine sitting on your porch or apartment stoop and a caravan of several Black Chevy Suburbans and Hummers roll up. A security detail and a group of 40 to 50 Black men in suits walk down your block. As the group gets closer and closer, some men are carrying copies of The Final Call newspaper.
“How are you doing?” asks a man with a smiling face and outstretched hand.
The man speaking is the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam (NOI).
Dozens of residents of Chicago’s Auburn-Gresham neighborhood and South Shore neighborhood had that experience last month as the minister led the all-male Fruit of Islam (FOI) into South Side streets and hundreds of other Muslim men fanned out across the country in over 100 cities – including Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, and other Florida cities – in efforts to bring peace and hope to violence-plagued neighborhoods.
Despite the fact that many have written off these people and their neighborhoods as problems society cannot solve, Farrakhan greeted young men and women with words of strength and encouragement.
As the minister did his work, the brothers, dressed in suits and trademark bowties, did theirs in other parts of the community.
Traffic ground to a halt on the busy 79th Street, as people showed genuine love for Farrakhan and the NOI. Waves came from people hanging from apartment windows. Car horns honked approval. Drivers gave thumbs-up. Teen girls stopped tweeting and Facebooking for a minute to snap a photo with the minister on iPhones.
The minister had a long talk on a basketball court with the men there. They were given free DVD copies of Farrakhan’s lecture, “Justifiable Homicide: Black Youth in Peril.”
Additional teams of FOI visited other hot spots, greeting people, handing out copies of The Final Call newspaper, and speaking words of peace. They also handed out copies of the 1995 Million Man March pledge, which was an oath to be peaceful builders and to respect self, families, women and communities. An open invitation to visit Mosque Maryam, the NOI’s flagship worship center, was extended.
‘A beautiful thing’
Women in neighborhoods broke down and cried, happy to see Farrakhan and the FOI. Mothers presented youngsters saying, “There’s Farrakhan and the brothers!”
Robbie Jones, 49, was in tears after meeting the minister. Through her tears, she told The Final Call that her uncle was a member of the NOI and encouraged her to listen to the minister. She had never seen Farrakhan in person.
“It was something great because we don’t really get people in our neighborhood that really care about people around here. It’s just a blessing,” she added.
Erica Goree, an Auburn-Gresham resident, called the sight of the men of the FOI “a beautiful thing.”
‘A war zone’
Both women said violent crime is getting worse, but believe young Black men want honest work and recreation. But, the women said, with no jobs and no place to go, they hang out, get harassed by police and get in trouble.
Keon has lived in Chicago for the entire 26 years of his life. He called his neighborhood “a war zone” where rival factions of street organizations compete for dominance.
“I think it is a beautiful thing for the Minister to come on these rough blocks to show the support that he did – it might make a change,” said Keon.
Looking for hotspots
Latasha Thomas, alderman of Chicago’s 17th Ward, represents the area visited by the FOI and worked with the logistic team giving Farrakhan information about danger zones. Farrakhan went directly to trouble spots, she explained.
“It’s great to have Black men as an example to show these other young Black men that there is another way, and to have Minister Farrakhan leading to show other Black men and woman that it’s another way. I’m ecstatic,” said Thomas. “I think they need to hear from someone they trust and that they will listen to, and the Nation of Islam are the people they will listen to.”
‘All else has failed’
“This might be considered a life-saving movement, not only resulting in the reduction of crime, but saving the lives of men that otherwise would be cut down in their ignorance by members of the law enforcement community,” said Leonard F. Muhammad, longtime aide to Farrakhan. Leonard Muhammad worked with law enforcement, political and community leaders to coordinate the effort.
“It is said that ‘Islam comes after all else fails.’ And the reason there is so much joy being expressed, not just in the community, but all across the country is because all else has failed,” said Leonard Muhammad.
“Our challenge now, as Minister Farrakhan has said, is to sustain the effort,” he added. “I saw tears of hope and I saw joy for the first time after going into the communities and seeing the grim faces of hopelessness and pain.”
Ashahed M. Muhammad?of The Final Call (NNPA) contributed to this report.