Speaking of OJ, a couple of weeks after his trial, there was yet another major event that would impact my thinking on race in America. In fact, I’m pretty sure the OJ trial, all of the racial tension surrounding it, and the media orgy on race related matters resulting from it contributed directly to the success of this event.
Ever since I was a teen, when I was a member of the Nation of Gods and Earths, I had held a great deal of respect for the Nation of Islam. No…wait. Actually it goes back even further than that. It goes back to my pre-adolescence.
A number of my childhood heroes were members of the Nation of Islam. My first hero, in fact, Muhammad Ali, the greatest boxer of all time, and probably the most famous athlete in the world next to Pele, was a vocal member of the Nation of Islam.
But, later, as I got a little older, and my childhood school amped up my political education a bit, a new hero emerged and Ali had to share his place in my heart with my hero of heroes: Malcolm X (El Hajj Malik El Shabazz).
The Autobiography of Malcolm X was required reading in my school and I think it should’ve been required reading in all schools.
Both of these men were giants and you’d be hard-pressed to find a black person from either the Baby Boom or Generation X who doesn’t speak one or both their names with reverence and deep abiding love and respect.
They were the face of the Nation of Islam for many in the black community.
When I was a kid, there were essentially two types of black people, at least politically: those who thought Martin Luther King had the right idea, and those who thought Malcolm X (pre-trip to Mecca) had it right. (I actually believe he perfected his vision after his trip to Mecca but sadly was killed before he could accomplish many of the new objectives he’d set out to do.)
Not to simplify either, but up in New York, King was viewed upon as a “if someone slaps you turn the other cheek” kind of leader, while Malcolm, his former stomping grounds a subway ride from my neighborhood, was best known for his “defend yourself by any means necessary” position. But, Ali, Malcolm and Martin weren’t so different. They shared many similar ideas about the beauty of blackness and the importance of being respected as men by a white society hellbent on denying black people their due.
King and Malcolm’s assassinations impacted black communities across America with the force of psychological atomic bombs.
And I grew up in the rubble.
Black leadership in America took a hit and wouldn’t recover for decades. Many leaders tried to step into these giants’ shoes. Huey P. Newton (co-founder of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense) comes to mind as a candidate. But Huey was too black, too strong. I loved Huey! Also-rans who managed to pump my apathetic ass up at one time or another were Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and a couple others. But, none of these gentleman could galvanize the masses the way Ali, King and Malcolm dd. They were all easy fodder for the press, the police, the FBI, or were prone to stick their feet in it.
Then, along came the Nation of Islam…again. Tarnished by its connection with Malcolm’s assassination, it had lost favor in many communities. When I was a kid they were mostly known for slinging bean pies (and I loved me some bean pies) and Final Call newspapers.
But, there was new leadership in the Nation. A man with the oratory skills, a refined message, the strength of character, and the wherewithal to withstand attacks from all sides. He appeared to be fearless, embodied those same elements of intelligence, aggression and anger that Malcolm and Ali displayed. While not being able to exude a believable image of messiah-like gentleness or humbleness, like King, he was able to give his words a spiritual righteousness.
He moved people. He even moved me.
His name is Minister Louis Farrakhan.
And the event that closely followed the OJ verdict, the event he called for and organized was known as the Million Man March.
Yep, if you can picture this, damn near a million black men descending on the nation’s Capital. This was bigger than even the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, during which King gave his most celebrated speech, “I have a dream.”
They came by bus, by train, by plane, by car, on foot, from every corner of America.
Notice I said “they”.
There’s was no way I was going to miss this…I thought.
“Come on, Loco…You’re not really going there, are you?” asked Linda, a co-worker who sat near me.
“Why shouldn’t I?” Since my “racism” was out of the bag, I felt it was no longer necessary to conceal my plans from co-workers.
“But…he’s a racist!” She would have whispered the word or alluded to it before OJ, but now these words just flowed out of people’s mouths like greetings.
I didn’t give a fuck if he was racist or not but I said, “I don’t think so…I think he’s just pro-Black, The way George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were Pro-White.”
“How can you even think of him in the same thought with Washington and Jefferson?”
I just looked at her. Some people you just can’t talk to… Their brains are so inundated with propaganda that supports their fundamental beliefs that you might as well be talking to a PR person or an agent.
Another of my co-workers, Larry, was passing by at the time. She called him over. She told him what, in confidence, I’d told her…. Might as well had called an office meeting.
“You’re what??” Larry snapped. “He’s an anti-Semite.”
Larry was Jewish.
“Yeaeeeeaaah, ” I said. “But, he’s a nice guy once you get to know him, and I hear he makes a mean chicken soup! better than the Soup Nazi’s.”
Larry laughed. Linda didn’t get it.
“But you’re just joking right?” Larry said between snorts.
I wasn’t joking. I was going!
I was to be off the following morning at 3am, with my boys, to stand beside a million other black men and be part of this historic event…
Yeah, that would have been nice.
to be continued…
Click here part 30