By Khalid S. Lateef
In the documentary, “Sing Your Song – Harry Belafonte,” he called a gathering of the elders to address the current problems of African Americans that seems to be spinning out of control. And at that meeting, Ruby Dee spoke and she said: “Over the years, I’ve come to places like this, so many times! And I leave without an assignment. We need an assignment!”
I attended a program at a church in Florida that has a young and productive minister; they have a senior citizen food program, senior citizen transportation vans and housing development. During his sermon, he addressed the fact that some people are more concerned with “titles” than getting work done. He said, “Don’t ask what your title will be; you should be asking ‘what is my task?’”
One winter morning a couple of years ago, I was called before Fajr prayer, around 4 a.m. It was a brother in our Association whom I had known for 35 years – we were as close as blood brothers. I first met him in FOI class when we were known as the Nation of Islam.
He was a very productive brother; he sold our newspaper, interacted with the African American community and was well liked inside and outside our Association.
When he began to speak, I noticed a very serious tone in his voice. I immediately asked him was he alright? He then told me his son had been attacked and was in a coma and hewas at the hospital. I asked him the name of the hospital and I told him I was on my way….
I arrived at the hospital and stayed with the brother until the morning. His son died from his wounds and we drove to the Masjid to begin making arrangements. As we traveled in the car, we cried together. I remember these words came to my mind from a song: “What’s it all about?”
This brother and I had “soldiered” for years for the promise and goal of having a community that would change things; better homes, better schools, safe and clean neighborhoods, etc. However, what we have obtained is a great deal of individual material success, without the collective community life that our souls longed for and our human dignity demands.
Individual success is not new to African Americans; we’ve had individuals with wealth for many years. The problem is not the lack of individual wealth; the problem is the lack of pooling our collective wealth, knowledge and skills.
We need to re-ignite the spirit for developing African American communities of excellence like Greenwood, Oklahoma (“Black Wall Street”). Black Wall Street had 1 bank, 1 hospital, 2 movie theaters, 6 private airplanes, 21 churches, 30 grocery stores, 600 businesses and its own school system.
There were hundreds of other African American towns that were established immediately after slavery in America. I have been able to find 157 such towns so far in my brief research. So it’s not that African Americans have never established communities or community life before.
Today, what is holding us back from making progress towards establishing African American Muslim communities by members of this Association? I’ll let our leader, Imam W. Deen Mohammed address it:
Imam W. Deen Mohammed, Motivation and Sacrifice 1983
…What made the big trouble for the followers, for the Ummah of Prophet Muhammed, the Ummah of the Muslims? It was this thing that those secret agents through our ignorant people are trying to promote right now! They promoted the division; the division based on loyalty for family and the way of Prophet Muhammad; Right? They promoted that!
“And the result was what? They persecuted the family of the Prophet... This is History... They persecuted the family of the Prophet and in persecuting the family of the Prophet, they drove them away from them and they set up what? Shi’ite and Sunni. Right?!”
That’s not the doing of Prophet MuhammEd, that's the doing of the Enemy. And the Enemy manipulated the believers. Arabic saying: ‘The Muslim (believer), don’t fall into the same trap twice.’ They won’t be successful in doing this to us. No indeed!
We’re not going to let this community split up after my life; split up! One goes towards favoring me as a personality and the other one goes towards fighting the personality; no! That’s the work of The Satan! That's the work of the CIA! That’s the work of the FBI! That’s the work of the bad element in the Government! And we are not going to let it happen!
Those who go to the extreme to say that the Imam is not important, that the leadership is in The WORD, the leadership is in The Qur’an, the leadership is in The Sunnah of the Prophet – the Imam did all he could do and that was to call us back to the right religion; called us back to The Qur’an; those who teach you that are following the plan of The Strategist, who’s The Devil!
And those who go to the other extreme and say the Imam is not ordinary, he’s above the ordinary. None of us can be like the Imam; none of us can do what the Imam does. Allah blessed him with something that none of us have; they make you think I'm Supernatural; They make you think I'm a god or a saint or a being of another type...; they too are working the strategy of The Devil!
But those who take the natural mind, the natural attitude and they say, ‘No, the Imam is important…. The Imam is our leader…. We didn't see no word come among us and do this; it was a man telling us about The Word.’
Say, he is important. Say, but I'm not going to follow you in saying that he’s supernatural; he’s a regular brother. He’s my regular brother; they are the ones who are going to hold this Community together! Praise Be To Allah!”
Imam W. Deen Mohammed’s Talim on the dedication of Masjid Saahir, Inglewood, Calif., Sun., Dec. 30, 1984
…The Prophet (pbuh), when he was presented with a person for that person's excellence, in religion, he was told that person kept all the devotions, praise, faith in prayer and fasting, etc. But they didn’t tell the Prophet anything about his productive work, his livelihood – only his spiritual devotion and religious strengths.
The Prophet asked: “Who takes care of him?” They said, “We do, O Messenger of G-d.” And the Prophet said, “You are better than he is.”
So the people who are responsible for life supports – the means of survival, the means of life, food, clothes, shelter, transportation, etc. – those people are more useful to society and are more beautiful in the eyes of G-d than those who just devote themselves to just spiritual discipline.
Be faithful and productive. I really plead to this community, because we are not getting younger, we are getting older. I’m 51-years-old, and I thank Allah that I lived this long, because many people die before 51. I would like to see another 51, but I can’t expect it.
I expect to go like my relatives go – they go at around 70 or so. Some of them lived longer, but if I live longer than that, I’ll still be gone as far as you are concerned. I will be retired unless a miracle does happen in my life that I know nothing about right now.
Our people have to stop this sitting and waiting for something to happen, spookily. Those who have ability, go ahead, move out, do something, show something – join those who have better qualifications. Lend your help to a stronger person and you will share in the blessings.
Have more than just mere faith or spirit – have production, have establishment. That’s what makes a people feel good – when they can look at their establishment. This particular facility here represents an establishment – an establishment of a pretty good size.
If the believers owned this, it would be a source of inspiration, strength and encouragement for those whom we can’t reach with mere Dawah.
Imam W. Deen Mohammed’s Lecture, May 29, 2005
…Jonah had to progress through generations, not one life but through life continuously. And isn’t this how we have progressed in America? Not one generation, but through life reproduction continuously. And we are a long ways advanced from where we started.
But we are not doing as a people what the Nation of Islam founders – I say founders, my father’s teacher and him – what the Nation of Islam founders planned for us. What is that? To not depend on outside communities, not to depend on outside people, but to depend on your own people for your future in this world.
Let the world plan what it wants to plan for whomever they want to plan for. But let us always have a plan of our own for carrying us in this world to where we want to go. Yes.
But through Jonah, God is showing us through this figure called “Jonah” that this is not the work of one generation; this is the work of many generations. But you have to hold to it like we held to our own independence from 1930 to 2005, May 29.
And we’re not going to give it up; we’re going to hold on to it until we deliver ourselves and that community life is safe and secured.
Praise be to Allah. Thank you. That’s all I wanted to say to you. Peace. As-Salaam-Alaikum.