MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Minister Louis Farrakhan on Sunday urged his followers not to become complacent by President Barack Obama’s election and to work to repair communities.
The 76-year-old Nation of Islam leader said in a speech commemorating the 14th anniversary of the Million Man March that people shouldn’t become pacified by the election of the first black president.
“This can pacify you and lull you to sleep in a dangerous time, making you think that we live in a post-racial America – when the opposite is true,” he said to loud applause.
The Chicago-based Nation of Islam has embraced black nationalism since its founding in the 1930s, and has used Obama’s election as a launching point for celebration, intellectual discussion and a call to action.
“You may not be pleased with everything he’s saying and doing, but you have to understand that he’s been voted in to take care of the affairs of a nation, and not yours and mine particularly,” Farrakhan said. “He’s the American president, not the black president.”
Given those broad responsibilities, African-Americans need to “accept responsibility to build our own communities,” Farrakhan said.
Farrakhan has recently had a strong presence at events addressing a rise in youth violence. He has said the death of Derrion Albert, a Chicago high school honor student fatally beaten by other teens in an attack captured on video, should be a call to action.
Sunday’s speech was billed as a plan to focus on reducing crime. Farrakhan didn’t lay out details in his 2 1/2-hour address, but said members of the Nation of Islam have shown a blueprint for helping people repair their lives. The organization has long focused efforts on recruiting in prisons by encouraging inmates to study the movement’s teachings.
“They’re going to prisons and they make a man and a woman whole, the prostitute gets cleaned up, the drug addict gets changed,” he said. “You see a model in Muslims in the Nation of Islam when our people come into the mosque toxic and then are made useful.”
Farrakhan said the theme of repairing communities will become the basis of a series of future lectures. The leader regularly speaks at the movement’s headquarters, Mosque Maryam. The lectures are widely distributed throughout the movement.
Farrakhan was joined on stage by recently resigned Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton, who has announced a Democratic primary challenge to U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, a white congressman who has represented the mostly black House district for two terms.
In comments to the crowd before the speech, Herenton recalled presenting Farrakhan with a key to the city despite the controversy it caused.
“It was easy for me as a mayor to present a key … to a man who is worthy, to a man who speaks truth, to a man who possesses wisdom, to a man who is courageous in thought and in action,” said Herenton, who was the first elected black mayor of Memphis. “To an anointed man.”