With a former U.S. Congressman in the audience, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan made his anticipated, controversial appearance Tuesday night at Alabama A&M University. Surrounded by a security detail of dark suits and bow ties, it was Farrakhan’s white suit that commanded the stage.
Speaking to a cheering crowd that filled most of the auditorium, Farrakhan touched on sensitive religious and racial issues while using his infamous vernacular to hammer some astounding points.
The minister began by referring to the national controversy that had been built around his appearance at the university. "Here in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, and even in other parts of the country, they didn't like outsiders coming to disturb the plantation. So when an outsider came that master thought might upset the plantation mentality, he would threaten the slave and go, 'don't you listen to him, he's a hater.' Well you just met me! Who taught you to hate your black self? It wasn't Farrakahn."
On the topic of religion and race Farrakhan got personal, "If He made us black - with kinky hair, broad nose, thick lips - if I don't like me, how could I like the God who created me?"
Paul Gattis, a reporter for The Huntsville Times who was in the audience wrote, "[Farrakhan] also repeatedly said that it is not known if Jesus was a Caucasian, as He is typically portrayed. Farrakhan made the same point about Elijah, the Jewish prophet."
Farrakhan referenced the Jewish Seder holiday and specifically the Jewish tradition of the Prophet Elijah's arrival to each doorway on Passover night: "If Elijah was at the door and he was black, you would call 911 and say there's a n****r at the door, claiming he's Elijah! Send the police!"
Why would Jewish people be so shocked? "Because you are not trained to accept wisdom from a black person, no matter how wise that black person is" the minister explained, "Jesus was a black man."
Most astoundingly, Farrakhan made the argument that Jesus was not Christian. "Because Jesus said 'Not My will, but Thy will.' You know what we call that in Arabic? Islam. He was a Muslim."
More religious piety was to come. The controversial minister launched into a diatribe on the story of Cain and Abel, with his own additions.
"When Cain came to present his offering before God as a tiller of the ground, the scripture says God did not respect his offering. I don't believe that. I'd like to offer a correction. Well who are you? I'm better than those who have revised your Bible. I'm better than those who have translated it out of the original tongues and revised it to fit their purpose! What makes you better? Because I am taught of God."
A large portion of his speech targeted black education and the poor quality of opportunities for blacks in America. Farrakhan pushed the predominantly black audience to have greater achievements and goals in the world, and not be obligated to whites or Jews to find their success.
"White people suffer from the false notion that white skin makes them superior," Farrakhan said. "And we suffer from the falsehood that the blackness of our skin makes us inferior. So we're bowing to white supremacy and manifesting black inferiority."
"Because most of you that have something, you have it because there's a white person that has befriended you in some way. Am I saying the wrong thing? So they are the controller of the ceiling, and you only go as far as they permit. And in order for you sometimes to crack that ceiling, you have to genuflect, bow."
Taking in the full message from the front row was the former Republican Congressman Parker Griffith, who represented Alabama's fifth district in Congress from 2008-2010.
Several area pastors and rabbis rebuked the Alabama A&M administration for allowing the controversial minister to use school facilities to address the student community. Some of the faith-based leaders unsuccessfully asked for university officials to reconsider Farrakhan’s invitation. As WHNT News reporter Nick Banaszak notes "administrators maintained they had nothing to do with the event, noting that a coalition of student groups that included the A&M Poetry Club and A&M Democrats invited Farrakhan to come speak."
Banasak gives a little more background on Farrakhan's controversial past remarks:
Farrakhan stirred controversy last month by saying Jews had complete control of the U.S. government and media in what he called “an agreement with hell and covenant and death.” He has also previously referred to Jewish groups as a “synagogue of Satan,” and called white people “potential humans who have not fully evolved.” The Anti-Defamation League also reports that Farrakhan has accused white Republicans of praying for President Obama’s death.