From Streets to Tweets: Townhall meeting connects with youth via social media

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by Starla Muhammad
For New Pittsburgh Courier

CHICAGO (FinalCall.com) – On the evening of September 26, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan made history once again. The nearly 80 year old Muslim leader, held the first ever #Ask Farrakhan Social Media Q&A, using modern technology in a purposeful and effective way to impact the hearts and minds of potentially millions of people.

askfarrakhan
TOWNHALL MEETING—Final Call Assistant Editor Ashahed M. Muhammad (left) and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. Photo: Hannibal Muhammad

No topic was off limits as Min. Farrakhan—who did not see any of the questions in advance—delved into a myriad of topics for over two hours, ranging from Rihanna and Nicki Minaj, advice to President Barack Obama, conflict in Syria and Iran, Malcolm X, Khallid Muhammad, Five Percenters, the U.S. prison industrial complex and the upcoming Holy Day of Atonement in Charlotte, N.C.

Min. Farrakhan answered a mere fraction of the more than 800 questions submitted via Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and email by people from around the world, anxious to receive his guidance, opinions and keen insight. The people sending in questions varied as well, as folks from the U.S., Canada, Africa and Mexico posed questions.

But, young people were the Minister’s prime focus during the townhall, which was filmed live in front of a studio audience at The Final Call Administration building and broadcast by internet webcast.

“It’s a great honor and a privilege to be here to talk really to the world, through our young people who are sitting in this audience and curators and others,” said the Minister at the start of the program, moderated by Ashahed M. Muhammad, assistant editor of The Final Call.

Minister Farrakhan wasted no time answering questions right off and was very poignant yet direct in his responses.

When asked how he would advise President Obama if he were asked to join his cabinet, the Minister did not mince his words, saying that he is a spiritual teacher and that politics is a business of compromise. “And I can’t compromise the word of God,” said Min. Farrakhan.

In a move that surprised yet pleased the audience, the Minister announced later on in the broadcast that he was changing his previously scheduled topic at the Holy Day of Atonement to deliver guidance and advice to President Obama should he win a second term.

International affairs was also a hot topic as the Minister was asked why is it he seems to be friends with “everyone that America hates” such as Fidel and Raul Castro of Cuba, the late Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

“Evidently America is on the wrong side of history. If I am a friend of those who fight to deliver the masses from oppression, if I am a friend of those who suffer from the powers that refuse to acknowledge their service to the masses of the people, then I am a friend of Abraham and Moses and Jesus and Muhammad. But they too were hated by those in power because they spoke for the poor who have no voice. So I am in good company,” answered Min. Farrakhan.

Rappers Big Meech, BG and Young Buck, all of whom are incarcerated posed questions through curators. Big Meech asked how youth are to find money despite the poor economic conditions and how to free non-violent felons, who are victims of “draconian” sentencing guidelines.

“There’s no real war on drugs, that’s a claim because drugs are coming into this country every day and they find their way into the Black community. Our young, Black men are being socially engineered because there are no jobs for them and the school system has failed us so our young, Black men find that the only way they can get some of the material things that they see on television is that they must engage in some form of behavior that goes counter to the law of the society,” explained the Minister.

Minister Farrakhan has an appeal among young people whether they are so-called “gangbangers” or college coeds. His willingness and ability to connect with them whether it is walking and talking with them in the mean streets of Chicago or the boroughs of New York was solidified with the success of his social media efforts.

The newly re-opened Salaam Restaurant situated next door to The Final Call administration building was jammed packed with an overflow crowd that watched on big screen televisions. The Minister went next door at the event’s conclusion to shake hands and meet with youth.

Students from Texas Southern University and Winston-Salem University, both historically Black colleges, held watch parties on their campuses. Allhiphop.com also streamed the event live from its website. High School and college students, along with many wherever they watched, posted pictures, video snippets and the Minister’s valuable words online during the event. Minister Farrakhan is not only adept at navigating his iPad but the #AskFarrakhan Twitter hash tag is gaining popularity as he approaches 90,000 followers on the popular social media site.

Globally there are one billion people on Facebook, four billion view Youtube, 140 million Twitter users, 175 million on LinkedIn, 75 million blogs on WordPress, 80 million Instagram users, 25 million on MySpace and 20 million on foursquare.

The advent of social media platforms is a vehicle used to spread false propaganda and access filth, but the Nation of Islam and Min. Farrakhan demonstrated how it could be a tool used to educate and inform.

Twitter and Facebook were abuzz with comments and reactions to the townhall including:

From Facebook:

Jr RoxstarzEnt, “Man I am listening from Jamaica. Every single word given by the minister was right on. I ordered a few tapes from the store. Love the work with the Youths of New York and other cities!!! Jamaica needs Minister Farrakhan or someone who is inspired by his teachings. May Allah bless you all.”

Johnny Hernandez, “For me personally it was as though he was bringing me back to life. As a person is on an ambulance they are either working to either revive or sustain the life of the individual until full medical attention can be applied at the hospital. It was as though he was giving me CPR … and operating on my heart.”

From Twitter:

@iDawnDanielle, “Just watched the replay of @AshahedM #AskFarrakhan very grateful to Minister @LouisFarrakhan for answering my question w/ truth & humor.”

@Goddessoflove4, “With such positive and informative feed, #AskFarrakhan was/is one of the things that make Social Networks and Social Media worth developing!”

For those youth fortunate to be in the studio audience, the Minister’s words impacted them as well.

“What stood out the most I would say is that he’s talking about the unity we should have with our races…it makes a lot of sense,” said Giancarlo Rodriguez, 18 who attended the event with a group of 20 Chicago-area youth mentored and sponsored by rappers Kanye West and Che “Rhymefest” Smith, both from Chicago. Mr. Rodriquez is blind, the result of being shot. He and the other youth are working to become more positive and trying hard to turn their backs on the violence and street-life that has taken a toll on so many of them and their peers.

Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown was also in the audience and said it is absolutely time to connect Min. Farrakhan and youth through social media and the idea was “brilliantly conceived.”

“It gives the Leader the opportunity to reach millions of people. In a physical sense, the young people here tonight, the leaders that are here, the activists that are here and the timing is perfect. So God bless all of us,” Mr. Brown told The Final Call. Mr. Brown, whose mentoring organization Amer-I-Can has worked with at risk youth for years, said diverse organizations are taking leadership to make changes in communities across the country.

Minister Farrakhan enjoyed participating in what was for many, a powerful experience. There are already clamors for another social media townhall to take place soon. Despite a grueling non-stop travel schedule and speaking schedule, the Minister promised to answer the hundreds of questions still remaining.

“I want to say to all of you that sent questions, I will not rest until every question that you asked, you get an answer,” said Min. Farrakhan.

(Follow Minister Farrakhan on Twitter at @LouisFarrakhan and to watch a replay of the townhall, visit http://askfarrakhan.noi.org.)

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