by A. M. Muhammad
For New Pittsburgh Courier
CHICAGO (NNPA)— Imagine sitting on your porch or apartment stoop and a caravan of several Black Chevy Suburbans and Hummers roll up. A security detail and group of 40 to 50 Black men in suits walks down your block. As the group gets closer and closer, some men are carrying copies of The Final Call newspaper.
‘TAKIN’ IT TO THE STREETS’
“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.
Dozens of residents of the city’s Auburn-Gresham neighborhood on July 16 and South Shore neighborhood on July 23 had that experience as the Minister led the Fruit of Islam into South Side streets and hundreds of other Muslim men fanned out across the country in over 100 cities in efforts to bring peace and hope to violence-plagued neighborhoods.
Minister Farrakhan greeted young men and women with words of strength and encouragement, while many have written off these people and their neighborhoods as problems society cannot solve.
Traffic ground to a halt on the busy 79th Street, as people showed genuine love for Minister Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam. Waves came 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.
Additional teams of F.O.I. 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.
Women in neighborhoods broke down and cried, happy to see the Minister and the F.O.I. Children ran up to Minister Farrakhan, he hugged them. Mothers presented youngsters saying: “There’s Farrakhan and the brothers!”
Erica Goree, an Auburn-Gresham resident, liked seeing the Minister in the area and called the sight of the men of the F.O.I. “a beautiful thing.”
“I was happy to see him,” said Goree. “We need somebody else out here that’s going to help us because the police out here, they don’t care,” she said.
She said violent crime is getting worse, but believes 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.
Latasha Thomas, alderman of the 17th Ward, represents the area visited by the Minister. She worked with the logistic team giving Minister Farrakhan information about danger zones. Problem areas were communicated to the Minister, who 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, I’m ecstatic,” said Thomas. “I think they need to hear from someone they trust and that they will listen to.”
Thomas watched Black youth respond to Minister Farrakhan’s presence and words as he spoke without condemning them.
“He makes them believe, and if we can get them to believe there is another way, that’s where it is,” she added.
In the blighted area of the South Side known by many as “Terror Town” Minister Farrakhan again reached out and touched the people.
Shirtless young Black brothers, wearing baseball caps with pants sagging, talked for quite some time with brothers of the F.O.I. that were the same age.
“This might be considered a life saving movement,” said Leonard F. Muhammad, longtime aide to Minister Farrakhan.
“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 Muhammad. The Chicago district police commander told him that there was no crime in any of the places the F.O.I. visited that evening, he said.
The F.O.I. demonstrated crime can be reduced without the “heavy-handed tactics” often used by police, Muhammad said.
“The brothers of the F.O.I. brought new life back to the people in the community. 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.”
(Special to the NNPA from The Final Call.)