E-Letter To Gregory Kane Re: "Farrakhan's Remarks To Rappers Ignore Greatest Black Generations" and "The Truth Gets Buried Under The 'Big Story'"
I read and re-read with great interest your two recent columns, "Farrakhan's remarks to rappers ignore greatest black generations” and "The truth gets buried under the 'big story" written for BlackAmericaWeb and The Baltimore Sun respectively, which were either entirely about or which significantly referred to Minister Louis Farrakhan’s remarks after receiving The Source Magazine’s Youth Foundation Image Award.
I have always respected you and your work, as we have provided a permanent link to your columns at BlackElectorate.com for nearly five years. And in certain ways, I have come to grow and see you as perhaps, a promising light among the community of Black conservatives that I believe will one day soon place their membership in the Black community and its self-enlightened interests, above their rigid adherence to political ideology and partisan interests. Several of your columns over the years have shown a sensitivity for the reality of Black life and the nuances of Black culture that I find few Black conservatives willing to acknowledge in public. Please take the time to read my recent E- Letter To Joe Watkins and 1210-AM WPHT, "The Big Talker" Re: The Cultural Challenge of The Black Conservative to learn more about where I am coming from in this area.
In addition to this view of your work I was intrigued by your article because I have heard, from others, similar thoughts to those that you expressed in it regarding Minister Farrakhan’s remarks at The Source awards. What has been conveyed to me by some individuals I know or whose opinion I respect, is either a sense of disappointment in Minister Farrakhan’s attendance at the award show, or his comments to the audience after receiving the award, or both. One person, a friend of mine who is a Black female, told me that she felt Minister Farrakhan could have used the opportunity to speak out against the lewd, vulgar, offensive or disrespectful language and behavior witnessed during event. She told me that his comments should have been stronger in criticism. We had a nice conversation about what both of us saw.
One of the things that I shared with her was my learning that those in law enforcement who were ultimately responsible for security that night in Miami where the awards were hosted shared with some that it is their belief that there could have been violence and disturbances after the event due to the rambunctious and spirited atmosphere at the show. These individuals said that they believed that Minister Farrakhan’s words had a calming effect on the artists, their entourage members, and fans. I asked my friend did she notice a change in the demeanor and atmosphere in the audience while the Minister spoke. She said that she did. I too felt that the audience sat in rapt attention for the Minister’s remarks and that their body language was indicative that something had dramatically changed (smile). Others are in a better position than myself to verify the truth of what happened inside of the venue that night, and how the artists reacted to Minister Farrakhan, while he was backstage, seated in the front row and when he spoke.
Considering that you are a self-proclaimed Hip-Hop fan, and indicate in your writings that you are a balanced critic of Minister Farrakhan, I must say that I was disappointed with your take on what you saw. I thought your grasp of the subject was inadequate and that many of your comments belie the description you have given yourself in terms of your support of Hip-Hop and understanding of Minister Farrakhan.
So, please accept in a Brotherly spirit my reaction to your two columns. What I am hoping to accomplish in what I write is to stimulate deeper thought in you and the viewers regarding this subject. I hope that you will at least recognize upon completion of a first reading that this one speech and the nexus between Hip-Hop and Minister Farrakhan is much deeper than your recent writings indicate.
Here is what you wrote in , "Farrakhan's remarks to rappers ignore greatest black generations" published at Black America Web:
This was bound to happen to me. I’m a 53-year-old man — well, I will be in six days — who loves hip-hop and rap.
So there I am watching “The Source” awards on Black Entertainment Television. I was watching the second airing of the show, to be sure I had seen what I thought I had seen on the first.
There were the scenes I expected: rappers swaggering across the stage with their pants down over their butts while women strutted and danced in the background. Some of the women showed just a little too much breast and a little too much butt — or too little, depending on your taste. At any rate, it was the last place I would have expected to see Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan.
But when a couple of presenters handed out the “Source Youth Foundation Hip-Hop Image Award” and named Farrakhan as the winner, there he was, sporting a conservative suit and tie in counterpoint to the oversized shirts and pants of some of the performers.
It was what Farrakhan said, however, that made the event downright eerie, not his appearance. But more on that later.”
For the benefit of our viewers here is what Minister Louis Farrakhan said at the Source Awards, as broadcast on Black Entertainment Television (BET). His remarks are preceded by those of Source Magazine executives, Dave Mays and Ray “Benzino” Scott; and the Hip-Hop Summit Action Networks’ Russell Simmons:
Dave Mays: Thank You. It’s been another important year in the emergence of Hip-Hop. We’ve watched our culture cement its place not just as a dominant force in the music industry but throughout the world. The Source is proud to continue to represent true Hip-Hop from the streets. Just the way we’ve done it for the past sixteen years, from a one-page newsletter in Boston to a global media voice for the Hip-Hop generation. The next sixteen years we’re going to see The Source and hip-hop music get only stronger. We would like to thank Bob Johnson and the entire BET staff for giving us the platform for The Source awards to celebrate such an incredible music and culture. Ray Benzino.
Benzino: Yeah. We are here to present one of the most important awards of the evening, The Source Youth Foundation Hip-Hop Image Award. This award sums up why we all do this for the youth, believe that, alright. And if you all got kids out there make some noise. We’ve got to preserve Hip-Hop for them, believe that. The Source Youth Foundation helps to create a better world for our younger Brothers, Sisters, and children. To present this award, the ultimate Hip-Hop Entrepreneur, Russell Simmons.
Dave Mays: Along with James Prince of Rap-A-Lot Records and Suge Knight of Death Row. We are all here together.
Russell Simmons: Everybody on this stage, we come from a lot of struggle. And we knew that that struggle might overtake us. But there was someone who saw in us something greater than what the plan for us was. And the Minister has always stood by us. Even when everyone wanted to judge us the Minister was there for us. And so even though we come from struggle, God uses the least of us to do the most. The last thing I want to say, I don’t want to ramble, but all over the country we have had Hip-Hop Summits. We have had 26 cities and seen over a quarter of a million people and we have registered over a million people. And all of that was done with the coordination and support of the Nation Of Islam. Ladies and Gentleman, tonight’s honoree, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. Get up, stand up.
Minister Louis Farrakhan: Thank You Russell, Thank You Dave Mays, Benzino, Suge Knight, (James) Prince. And thank you Source Awards. And thank you Hip-Hop for this great award. I want to accept this award in honor of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls and all of those wonderful Brotehrs and Sisters who may have died in the senseless violence between those of us who have beefs with one another. I am honored to be here tonight with you. I am honored to be in this place. And I am honored to be honored in that I recognize that this is the greatest generation that we have ever produced. You are the new leaders of young people. And this is the generation that is feared because this is the generation that can produce change in America and change in the world. You, the hip-hop artist, have gone beyond the Black community that gave birth to Hip-Hop but 70 to 80 percent of those who buy your records are White, are Brown, are Red, are Yellow and you have formed a culture that has outdone religion in destroying racism, sexism, and even though you ‘bling-bling’ you know that beneath the diamonds, beneath the platinum there is an idealism in young people that you really want change in America and change in the world. May God bless you all and thank you, thank you, for this award.
Here, Mr. Kane, you continue with your reaction to Minister Louis Farrakhan’s comments:
I’ve had a mixed relationship with Farrakhan over my years as a columnist. I’ve criticized him when I thought he was wrong, which was often. I’ve praised him when I thought he was right, which was just as often. But I’ve always admired the way Farrakhan spares no one in his criticism. I thought he would be just as unsparing in his appraisal of black America’s hip-hop culture.
How wrong I was.
Standing on the stage, the minister greeted those gathered with him, which included Suge Knight, the head of Death Row Records.
“I accept this award in honor of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls,” Farrakhan said, “and all of those wonderful brothers and sisters who may have died in the senseless violence between those of us who have beefs with one another.”
Sounds good, right? Not really. I’m not sure the good minister saw the irony of accepting the award in honor of two murdered men while standing on stage with one that some feel had a hand in both murders.
That would be Knight, of course. Former Los Angeles Police Department Detective Russell Poole felt Knight was involved and said top cops on the force thwarted his investigation. The details are given in Randall Sullivan’s book “Labyrinth.” I figure it’s a good bet Farrakhan hasn’t read it.
I might legitimately rest my case by saying you expect too much from an award acceptance speech. But your points, and really you, as a Black opinion leader deserve more than that.
Mr. Kane, although you write that it was Minister Farrakhan’s words and not his appearance at the Source Awards that affected you the most; you did indicate your surprise that Minister Farrakhan would attend such an event. You wrote, “At any rate, it was the last place I would have expected to see Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan.”
My immediate thoughts upon learning about your column and reading this position was the controversy that is contained in the scriptures over Jesus and his disciples having dined with sinners and publicans. That controversy is described in part in Mark 2:15-17; Matt 9:10-13 and Luke 5:29-35. I hope that whenever you have the time and desire, that you will read these verses (from more than one translation and various commentaries), and carefully consider many of the principles that they elucidate about righteousness, judgement, redemption and patience in transforming human beings from one state to another.
Your comments reveal much about your mindset, towards both Minister Farrakhan and Hip-Hop culture. That you are a journalist and columnist familiar with our community and with professional access to research tools, information, and with a relatively easier ability to attend major public events makes this even more interesting to me.
First, your comments do not indicate that you are aware of the numerous times that Minister Farrakhan has spoken directly to Hip-Hop artists. You make a judgment about only one instance where this has taken place. But are you at all aware, for instance, of two very public and well-known instances where Minister Farrakhan spoke to leading Hip-Hop artists for several hours, and in settings where he was not an honoree?
I am referring to his June 13, 2001 speech in New York City at Russell Simmons’ Hip-Hop Summit Action Network and his February 14, 2001 address to West Coast artists at a major Hip-Hop Summit event in Los Angeles. Both of these events received major coverage and attention by print, radio and cable media outlets. Did you hear and see his remarks? If not, those recordings are available at: http://store.finalcall.com/.
In these speeches the Minister covered numerous subjects – cleaning up Hip-Hop lyrics and the power of language; controlling the economics of the music business; freedom of speech; male - female relationships; Black-Latino unity; beefs and feuds in rap; weaving current events into rap lyrics; street organizations or “gangs” and the need for unity among Black music executives. You can read my account of what Minister Farrakhan said in New York City in 2001 right here, "Minister Farrakhan's Address At The Hip-Hop Summit". I was present at that event. Perhaps these two talks which span several hours might make for the “appraisal of black America’s hip-hop culture” that you were seeking from Minister Farrakhan’s award acceptance comments, which span only a few minutes.
Secondly, your emphasis and commentary on Suge Knight's appearance on stage presenting the Source Award to Minister Farrakhan and your allusion to innuendo that Mr. Knight is involved in the murders of the Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur, reveals that you are woefully ignorant of details surrounding both killings and that you are unjustifiably deferential to one reporter, Randall Sullivan. I hope that you will consider various writings on this subject from Hip-Hop journalists and others, many of whom have been very critical of Randall Sullivan's thesis. I hope that you will take the time to read what we have published at BlackElectorate.com related to the subject of both murders and the reporting of Randall Sullivan.
Hopefully this will help you as you think about who killed Biggie and Tupac. Please review the following:
1) Hip-Hop Fridays: Rap COINTELPRO Part VI: Is The Murder Of Biggie Being Used To Set Up A Civil War In Hip-Hop And The Black Community?
2) Hip-Hop Fridays: BIGGIE, TUPAC & ANGRY WHITE MALES: A Review Of Randall Sullivan’s “Labyrinth” by Jeff Chang.
3) Hip-Hop Fridays: Rap COINTELPRO Part VII: The VH1 Biggie Documentary
To me, your comments in the article, “The truth gets buried under the 'big story” reveal that you clearly do not understand the basis and standard for Minister Farrakhan’s view that this is the greatest young generation of Black people that we have ever produced.
…fast forward from the Vibe Awards to the Source Awards, another show where the thugs, gangstas and pimps made their presence felt. There was no violence, but what Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan told the audience should have set tongues a-wagging and the computer keyboards of those columnists critical of Cosby a-clicking. So far, it hasn't.
Farrakhan was the recipient of the Source Youth Foundation Hip-Hop Image Award. There's nothing wrong with that. Farrakhan has been the only black leader of stature to step in and try to end the ridiculous "beefs" various rappers have with one another.
But when he told the rappers and hip-hoppers "this is the greatest generation that we have ever produced," alarm bells should have been set off.
The hip-hop generation? Black America's greatest? The ones who gave us baggy pants that hang down over the butt, who elevated being a thug, gangsta and pimp to a cultural imperative, and who routinely refer to black women as bitches, 'hos, hoochies, skeezas and chickenheads? (Trust me, you don't want to know what a "chickenhead" is.)
Could I be forgiven for thinking that maybe the generation of blacks who fought in the Civil War and helped the Union win it might rank higher? How about the generation of blacks after that, who endured racism and terrorism while raising the literacy rate of recently freed slaves?
Surely the black Americans of the 1930s - who supported Ethiopia after Italian dictator Benito Mussolini's fascists invaded the country - would qualify. Some of those blacks even tried to get to Ethiopia and fight for Emperor Haile Selassie's side. If there are any significant number of today's hip-hop generation making a beeline to help out any African country, I haven't heard about it.
Surely the generation of blacks who fought in World War II - the Tuskegee Airmen, the truckers of the Red Ball Express, the members of the 761st Tank Battalion and the 969th Field Artillery Battalion (the latter two fought in the Battle of the Bulge, which started 60 years ago this month) - is among the greatest. Those black youth who energized the civil rights movement of the 1960s would rank higher as well.
So the hip-hop generation doesn't even come in the top four of black America's greatest. What that generation has done is to act with complicity in some of the most vicious stereotyping black Americans have ever had to face in this country. Our black columnists and commentators know that and should have called Farrakhan on it when he praised the hip-hop generation as our greatest.
Unlike Minister Farrakhan (a 71-year old man) who was praising one generation in their presence, you feel some need to denigrate one while you praise others. Just consider this comment you make, "If there are any significant number of today's hip-hop generation making a beeline to help out any African country, I haven't heard about it."
Are you talking about rappers you watch in music videos or are you talking about an entire generation?
Just look at your words.
Perhaps you do need to get better acquainted with the Hip-Hop generation's significant number of Pan-Africanists, activists, Congressional Staffers, medical professionals, entrepreneurs and intellectuals who devote their time, money and energy to helping Africa.
You write for The Baltimore Sun and could easily take the trip down to Washington, D.C. and encounter numerous people in the Hip-Hop generation whose presence is being felt on the ground in Africa. And are you even aware of how Africans view Hip-Hop culture,and what that influence could lead to, in a positive sense?
Some of the attitude you display in your writing could be interpreted as much as a form of unjustified ignorance about people younger than you as it is praise for older generations of Blacks.
Mr. Kane, you write as someone who has not heard Minister Farrakhan speak over the years, which I don’t believe is the case, especially from how you style yourself – as a Black conservative who has praised and criticized the Minister when merited.
Anyone who has heard the Minister over the last twenty years in particular knows that he brings history into almost every lecture to make various points (as you acknowledge) and that the Minister has been uniquely critical of the behavior of this generation. The unique point that Minister Farrakhan is making about this current generation is that its influence needs to be guided by a higher calling, and that the elite with the most to lose, who have run the world primarily through White Supremacy see this generation's ability to move past previous racial dynamics as a great threat to their continued dominance. It is partly through Hip-Hop music and culture that this generation has eroded the grip that the old order has on the thinking and behavior of young people. In a sense, there is a global Hip-Hop "nation" - in Asia, in Africa, in Central, South and North America - that marches to its own drum and according to a rhythm that is not government sanctioned.
A specific point the Minister has spoken on, is how the rebelliousness and uniformity of Hip-Hop culture has created attitudes, belief systems and customs that make it difficult for young people to be controlled as they have been in the past. This loss of control – real and potential – has garnered the attention of those in authority and government, from politicians, to police departments to federal agencies.
Most importantly I think what separates Minister Farrakhan from Black conservatives is that wherever there is damage, corruption, and devaluation among Black people due to external forces, ignorance and even self-inflicted circumstances, he sees inherent value and potential while the latter sees something to be repulsed by and largely ashamed of. Generally speaking where the Black conservative sees prostitutes, hustlers and pimps that it wishes were jailed, Minister Farrakhan sees fallen men and women that can rise again. Where the Black conservative sees the incorrigible, Minister Farrakhan sees what can be corrected. Where the Black Conservative sees damage Minister Farrakhan sees repair. Strangely, the Black Conservative often applauds the work of Minister Farrakhan (and before him his teacher, The Honorable Elijah Muhammad) after it has taken place and then claims that the success of the Muslims grows from a conservative ideology.
But it is not conservatism that makes Minister Farrakhan effective or fuels his success, it is love.
Essentially what it comes down to is something that I first observed about Minister Farrakhan while watching him on 20/20 being interviewed by Barbara Walters in the Spring of 1994. At a certain point during the interview, Barbara Walters was shown harping on remarks (that were labeled "hateful") made by Brother Khalid Abdul Muhammad, a Minister in the Nation Of Islam at the time. She continued to press Minister Farrakhan about these remarks, asking and in effect demanding that he denounce and condemn the remarks and Brother Khalid. She was furious. The Minister finally told Ms. Walters, firmly with emotion, “I am in a redemptive pattern”. He said, “I am here to correct Brother Khalid but not destroy him.”
It is this spirit of redemption that he works out of that I believe separates him from others, certainly most of his critics, and which I believe has given you difficulty in comprehending the Minister’s movements relative to the Hip-Hop community.
Your argument appears to be based upon your emphasis on a criteria of history and actuality, while Minister Farrakhan clearly is referring to the real unparalleled global influence of the Hip-Hop community and the potential for it to perform further work. You focus on the past and the current behavior of some in the Hip-Hop generation, while the Minister is placing emphasis on their undeniable influence around the world and the role they can play when properly using that influence. What makes this generation the greatest, in the mind of the Minister are its gifts, influence, the time in history in which we live, and future work he sees it fulfilling. You focus narrowly on some of the silliness, ignorance and mistakes and errors of some in this generation and contrast it broadly with the excellence and “greatness” of the very best of other generations, as if they did not have their share of knuckleheads. Your view is a bit romantic and it approaches the straw man argument technique.
Surely, as a 53-year old Black journalist who lived through the Minister Farrakhan-Reverend Jackson-Jewish Political Establishment controversy I should not have to remind you of Minister Farrakhan’s detailed explanations of the definition he had in mind when he once used the word “great” and was questioned about it for years by a hysterical media. He clearly explained 20 years ago, 10 years ago, 5 years ago etc…that he used the adjective to emphasize the magnitude of the impact of leadership rather than the moral correctness of leadership. You should remember this in how you interpret what he means by saying this generation is the greatest we have ever produced.
Mr. Kane, do you really misunderstand his use of the word "greatest" or are you seeking to use the Minister's words to draw attention to other points you desire to spread? I am still thinking over these statements from what you wrote in The Baltimore Sun, "Let's fast forward from the Vibe Awards to the Source Awards, another show where the thugs, gangstas and pimps made their presence felt. There was no violence, but what Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan told the audience should have set tongues a-wagging and the computer keyboards of those columnists critical of Cosby a-clicking. So far, it hasn't.
...What that generation has done is to act with complicity in some of the most vicious stereotyping black Americans have ever had to face in this country. Our black columnists and commentators know that and should have called Farrakhan on it when he praised the hip-hop generation as our greatest."
I am trying to follow your logic that somehow Minister Farrakhan's Source awards address should fuel a journalist uproar in light of the controversy over Bill Cosby's statements earlier this year.
This fascination with Bill Cosby's comments has become a cause celebre' among conservatives but I have never seen a Black conservative get to the heart of what lies under this article from The Final Call newspaper "Cosby: ‘I get jealous’ of the Muslims". Did you write about this?
Were you aware of the help that Bill Cosby is providing to a "Hip-Hop generation" effort in Newark led by that city's Deputy Mayor Ras Baraka, Brother David Muhammad, and Saving Our Souls (S.O.S.), a drug intervention and prevention organization founded by gang members to use Hip-Hop to promote peace in the streets? Did you hear that Minister Louis Farrakhan asked Russell Simmons and others in the "Hip-Hop generation" to leave Bill Cosby alone and appreciate his role and perspective among our people?
Following your logic are we supposed to believe that Bill Cosby and Minister Farrakhan are at odds over the value of this generation? That Mr. Cosby and Mr. Farrakhan are at opposite ends of the spectrum over Hip-Hop? And you are openly seeking to recruit a cadre of journalists to follow you in this line of thought?
To sincerely help you understand more of where the Minister is coming from on this entire subject, if that is really the problem, I want to direct your attention to the conclusion of a recent talk he gave in the Nation Of Islam’s New York City Mosque in Harlem; as well as a portion of a book he published nearly 12 years ago. His words contain guidance for all of us, and the context that your analysis of his comments at The Source awards could benefit from. First, consider these comments made on December 12, 2004 in New York City by Minister Farrakhan and the platinum Hip-Hop artist Foxxy Brown.
At the conclusion of a talk he gave entitled, “Love Ye One Another Even As I Have Loved You: The Promise Of God To Black America” at Muhammad’s Mosque # 7. Minister Farrakhan was joined by Foxxy Brown at the rostrum. Here is what both of them had to say:
Minister Louis Farrakhan: I just wanted to say for our Sister, the cultural community has the power to save the whole community, because Mao Tse Tung, who had a billion Chinese, had the cultural community transmit the idea in song, in dance, in music, in plays, in ballet. And the whole country became united behind the cultural icons of that society. When you see your cultural giants, these are the gifted ones that God has allowed to come up now. Now they must be guided to use the gift that God has given them to awaken, inspire and motivate a people to a greater good. Foxxy, I’m honored to meet you.
Foxxy Brown: I’m honored, thank you. I’m really honored to be here. One of my best friends is Muslim and to me, as a twenty-five year old Hip-Hop artist I believe that Hip-Hop is in a state of upheaval, right now. And too many of us are dying, too many of us are warring and beefing and I felt like if I can get dressed to go to a party and go to a club I can take an hour out to come and here the message of the great Minister Farrakhan. Thank You.
Minister Louis Farrakhan: Now, while you are standing, what I see in her and what I see in Hip-Hop culture, I do not want the elders among us to look down on this. Because these children of ours are literally ruling the world of young people. You can’t go anywhere on this planet where the young are not being moved by a culture that started from us. So my hope is that I can feed wisdom to these mighty giants and little, by little, as they rap to the world they take young people away from crazed, greedy, wicked rulers who are using young people to fight and die not for their own freedom but to give riches and power to an elite that does not care about these young people. And if you look at the young people that are dying in Iraq – 19 years old, 18 years old, 20 years old, 21 – this is a tragedy all based on a lie coming from the President of The United States. So these are very important people. Thank You Foxxy, love you.
Foxxy Brown: I love you.
Now, please consider this from Minister Louis Farrakhan’s book, A Torchlight For America, which was published in 1993.
In a section , Promote a Cultural Revolution Through The Arts, he writes (boldface emphasis is mine):
The artistic community has historically been in the vanguard of social change. What is now needed is for the artistic community to lead a cultural revolution. On the physical level, man is what he eats. Spiritually, “…as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…” (Proverbs 23:7) If the American people are constantly fed filth and garbage through newspapers, magazines, television, movies, plays and music; if the public like the proverbial swine, has become a lover of filth; and if thoughts guide behavior, what do the thoughts of the American people produce? Do the thoughts of the American people produce rape, incest, murder, theft, greed, and the destruction of family and the institutions of society? I would argue that the answer is yes.
Therefore, along with summoning the spiritual leadership to convene with leadership in government, the artistic community needs to be shown its responsibilities to the overall mental and spiritual health and well-being of society and the world. Our gifts, as artists, are a blessing from God. We have the responsibility of the proper use of our gifts. Additionally, movie producers, record producers and publishers all have a responsibility to the spiritual, moral and mental well-being of the American people.
Will it profit the major producers and publishers to become filthy rich by feeding filth to the American public at the cost of the survival and progress of the nation? Who among the artists, producers, agents, publishers, writers and directors would like to be, in part responsible for helping America become as the modern Rome, Babylon, Sodom and Gomorrah, all of which earned the wrath of God? If the artistic community would take up the challenge, and if the business community would not use its money to back filth and foolishness. If the real hunger and thirst of the people for knowledge and quality entertainment were fed, the country could be turned around almost overnight. A positive direction could be charted for the American people, which they must move toward if they hope to be saved from the country’s present course.
The Bible refers to the people as sheep, who, as the Honorable Elijah Muhammad said, are easily led in the wrong direction, but hard to lead in the right direction. The people are responding to what the leaders have offered them, which is called “popular culture”. The people’s appetite has been made insatiable for filth. If the leaders turn away from evil and indecency then the people will turn. If the artists turn away from filth and indecency, then the people will follow. This is why it is written in the scriptures that the people need a “good” shepherd. In every field of endeavor, good leadership has to be asserted to turn corruption, greed, filth and indecency into righteousness.
One of the things that I have noticed among our Black opinion leaders in the print and talk media is that they are relatively good at pointing out the truth but very poor in understanding the process that establishes the truth. In many instances their attitude is that all we have to do is say it and it will be so. Human beings do not work that way. It is relationships and how they are developed and nurtured that matters as much in establishing the truth, as does the way in which you tell it. If you get updated on what Minister Farrakhan has been saying directly to rappers over the past 17 years, in particular, in addition to getting better acquainted with how he has handled and related to them, I think you will see great strategy and love in his effort to make Hip-Hop artists more responsible with the power and influence they have.
When Minister Farrakhan spoke to Hip-Hop artists at the very first Hip-Hop Summit Action Network gathering in New York City, he began by telling the audience full of stars that he came to them as both a student and a teacher. I can recall artists like Ice-T saying of his relationship with Minister Farrakhan that it is just a beautiful friendship. I have read where Ice Cube has referred to him as his “dawg”. There is one very prominent rapper whose admiration for Minister Farrakhan is not public, to the best of my knowledge, but who I was told by a Brother (whom this rapper spoke to) said years ago, ‘I grew up without a father. Minister Farrakhan is my father.' And he has counseled many artists privately – regarding their careers and their personal lives.
In October of 2004, in Chicago, I watched the artist Bizzy Bone, most famously of the multi-platinum rap group Bone, Thugs and Harmony, performing while wearing a printed T-Shirt with a photogragh of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad on it, tell an audience of thousands that he had been sober for nearly a year “thanks to the Minister”. He received a more enthusiastic reaction for that than he did for rapping.
In an audiotape made some years ago, I once heard Nation of Islam theologian Minister Jabril Muhammad succinctly speak of an order and process by which we go from being ignorant of one another to becoming one in a relationship. If my memory serves me correctly he mentioned five phases or stages that we move through. First Knowledge, then Contact, then Respect, then Love, then Unity.
To me, Minister Farrakhan, without compromising an ounce of truth, has displayed exemplary conduct in how he has related to the Black cultural community. As a result they know they have a voice they can trust and a father figure upon whom they can rely on to be honest with them and to guide them toward the best part of themselves as human beings and their full potential as artists and leaders. They know that he will correct them, but not destroy them. He is a true Friend.
Unlike many of his critics who have absolutely no relationship with Hip-Hop artists, The Source Awards were not, for Minister Farrakhan, a 'once-in-a-lifetime' grand opportunity, or long-awaited and hoped for moment to speak to rappers. It simply was yet another opportunity for him to show respect and to influence his younger family members by allowing them to honor him. His contrasting presence next to theirs, which you noted, I might argue, spoke as loud as any of his words that evening. It was another chapter in a story still being written from various perspectives (A few months ago I encouraged Source Magazine publisher David Mays to publish, as an article, a definitive history of Minister Farrakhan’s relationship with the Hip-Hop community) - about how one man, in particular, influenced and inspired an entire generation of artists to accept their responsibility as local, national and world leaders.
I hope that what I have written helps you think deeper about your two columns and your very important role in that same story.
In closing, I wanted to place a little bit more emphasis on Luke Chapter 5 verses 32 to 35 which reads: 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” 33 They said to him, “John's disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.” 34 Jesus answered, “Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? 35 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.”
Based upon your focus you have one view of how Hip-Hop artists that admire and listen to Minister Farrakhan behave in his presence. It would be nice to think that all it will take is the Minister’s (and your and my) speaking of the truth to cause a cultural revolution. But have you ever considered what effect his eventual departure will have on those same artists who drink, eat and “sin” while he is working among them? Who, perhaps, have not appreciated him or listened to him as they should?
I expect that such a painful event will have a sobering and purifying effect, further deepening his positive influence on them.
Sometimes it takes time for seeds to be planted, watered and grown and for gardens to be pruned. Perhaps you should view more carefully and judge less hastily the job of the husbandman.
Sincerely – Your Brother,
P.S. Do you remember Minister Louis Farrakhan’s 1996 address before the National Association Of Black Journalists (NABJ)? I do. It was broadcast on C-SPAN. I remember that event not just because of the strength of the Minister’s critique regarding Blacks in the media but because of the reaction it produced in one of my closest friends and mentors who attended it. He called me afterward, and expressed how shocked and even offended he was that the Minister had “come into their own house” and spoken to them that way. He and I had an interesting conversation about convention etiquette and truth-telling.
I would like to know your opinion of that event and that held by your friends in the journalism profession. Would you have liked for the Minister to have spoken to Hip-Hop artists the way he did that day, to Black journalists?
Friday, January 7, 2005