U.S. Assistant House Minority Leader James Clyburn, D-S.C., will join controversial Nation of Islam minister Louis Farrakhan Friday at Pittsburgh's August Wilson Center for African American Culture for a live broadcast discussion on "The Disappearing Black Community and How We Can Get It Back."
According to event details, Farrakhan will deliver the forum's keynote address, focusing on "what blacks need to do to rebuild their communities and regain the purpose of the civil rights struggles of previous generations."
The event's host, radio personality Bev Smith, has worked with Farrakhan in the past, including the 1995 Million Man March in Washington. "His job is to tell us what we are doing wrong," Smith says. "People who are anxious for a change and who want a better life will be there."
The Pittsburgh Post Gazette reported Tuesday that Clyburn -- a former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus -- and Farrakhan were scheduled to be joined by Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation. However, Campbell has since announced she will not appear alongside Farrakhan and has chosen not to participate.
Smith, whose show is broadcast by the American Urban Radio Network, claims in open lettersposted on the Pittsburgh Urban Media website that Campbell’s withdrawal from the event was the result of "pressure from various Jewish and white Christian organizations.”
Although the panelists agree that "this conversation about our community is long overdue and they are excited to be a part of the discussion and want to help provide solutions to the problems plaguing our community," Smith says, "the discussion is aimed at Black People only."
This clarification came after columnists at The Jewish Chronicle questioned Farrkhan's participation:
Minister Farrakhan frequently peppers his speeches with old and absurd anti-Semitic stereotypes, such as that Jews control the economy and even the government. He refers to Judaism as the “Synagogue of Satan.” This is as despicable as the racist rants directed against Blacks by White supremacists.
Moreover, the invitation to Minister Farrakhan seems to contradict the explicit, expressed intentions of Ms. Smith, who has said that this town hall series will focus on the internal dynamics of the Black community.
At the first event of the series, she said: “This is the first time in radio that there has been a town hall meeting centering on us. Why are we in this mess we are in? What have we done to contribute to it? We have to take responsibility. We don’t need to worry about the Klan anymore. We have us killing us.”
This is a noble effort. But Ms. Smith defeats her own purpose in turning to Minister Farrakhan, who, in classic anti-Semitic fashion, tries to blame Jews for many of the African-American community’s challenges.
"This town hall meeting, is not about the Jewish community, Egypt, the current problems in Afghanistan or anything else," Smith responded. "[I]ts sole purpose is to discuss the state of the black community in 2011. I resent those outside forces that are trying to highjack (sic) this town hall meeting by making their concerns the center of our discussion...
"Their suggestion for us to not have Minister Farrakhan at the table for this important discussion, reminds me of what white slave owners use (sic) to do to their black slaves, and that is to tell the slaves how to meet, what to talk about and who to talk to... I feel strongly that no one can dictate to the African American community who they can have as a guest around my black family table."
In a statement Tuesday, Rep. Clyburn said he still planned to attend.
"One of the beauties of America is that free speech is protected," he said. "Although I had no idea who all the participants in this program were until [Sunday], I look forward to an open and civil discussion at the forum this weekend."
If he attends, Clyburn won't be the first member of Congress to appear with Farrakhan. In 2004, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., stood on stage at the University of Illinois-Chicago Pavilion as Farrakhan delivered remarks on "Reparations: What Do America and Europe Owe? What Does Allah (God) Promise?"
“I’m honored to join this distinguished leader who gives hope and understanding to people all over the world, of every color, of every religion, and of every political belief,” Conyers said of Farrakhan during the 2004 "Saviours Day" celebration.
“What is God’s promise?” Farrakhan rhetorically remarked in 2004: “Justice, after which (Blacks in America) will come out with great substance,” he answered. “What does America and Europe owe? They owe everything. They must repent or be destroyed from the planet.”
Additionally, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., the first Muslim elected to Congress, is reportedly a "former" member of the Nation of Islam. When he was elected in 2006, FrontPage Magazine labeled Ellison "Farrakhan's candidate" and the Weekly Standard called him "Louis Farrakhan's First Congressman."
The [Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party] is now handing its “greatest stronghold” over to a candidate with long ties to Louis Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic Nation of Islam and who has already accrued at least an estimated $20,000-$35,000 in funding from the terrorist-connected Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), including the maximum personal donation from CAIR chief Nihad Awad. [...]
Blogger Michael Brodkorb at Minnesota Democrats Exposed uncovered two articles that Keith Ellison wrote for the Minnesota Daily under the name Keith E. Hakim as a University of Minnesota Law student in 1989 and 1990. In one Ellison-Hakim repeats standard Nation of Islam (NOI) rhetoric, complaining of “the burden of brutal white savagery” and calls for a secessionist black “land base”…consisting of “Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi.”
In the other, Ellison-Hakim defends the presence of a NOI speaker on campus and repeats little-known NOI doctrine to outsiders. He wrote: “Minister Louis Farrakhan never associated himself with al-Hajj Malik Shabazz (Malcolm X). The Honorable Elijah Muhammad resurrected Shabazz and Minister Farrakhan. Minister Farrakhan continues the Honorable Elijah Muhammed’s legacy; Shabazz abandoned it.”
"Minister Farrakhan is the only leader other than the late Dr. Martin Luther King and the late Malcolm X who can call people together from all walks of life to talk about issues," Bev Smith said in an interview Monday, praising Farrakhan for his "empathy, integrity and involvement with the African-American community."
While Smith did not defend or excuse any comments Farrakhan has aimed toward Jews, she insisted they were not relevant to Friday evening's town hall meeting. "This is a conversation for and to African Americans," she said. "We're not talking about anti-Semitism. We do not tell the Jewish community who to talk to and we never have."
The "The Disappearing Black Community" broadcast will take place Friday, March 11 from 7 to 10 p.m.