We transcribed the entire 30-minute speech so you don’t have to rely on media snippets.
Minister Louis Farrakhan:
In the name of Allah the beneficent, the merciful, we give him praise and thanks for his mercy and his goodness to the members of the human family. That whenever any member of this family strays from his straight path and earns his displeasure, before he punishes he always raises from among the people a prophet. A messenger. A warner to give guidance to the people that they might return to a correct path and earn again his divine favor. We thank him for Moses and the Israelite prophets that gave the torah and the old testament. We thank him for Jesus and the apostles who gave us the genial – or good – news or the gospel in the new testament. And we thank him for Muhammad Ahmad Abdullah, through whom the holy Qur’an was revealed for all of humanity.
I am a student of the most honorable Elijah Muhammad and I could never thank Allah enough for his merciful intervention in our affairs in the person of master Fard Muhammad who visited Detroit and for three years and four months taught in this city. And twenty-five thousand, he named the holy names of Islam, and in this city he raised the honorable Elijah Muhammad and made him his messenger. And from this city, Detroit, the nation of Islam began. [applause]
I greet all of you, members of the city council, members and citizens of the city of Detroit, and those who might be watching from television. I greet all of you this morning with the greeting words of peace. We say it in the Arabic language, “As-Salaam- Alaikum. Wa-Alaikum Salaam.” And it simply means peace be unto you. To Councilman Charles Pugh, the president of the city council, to Councilman Spivey, Councilwoman Joann Watson, to Councilman Kwame Kentatta, to Councilwoman Brenda Jones, James Tate, Ken Cockerel and Saunteel Jenkins and Gary Brown. To all of you. I am honored beyond words by the invitation you have extended to me.
One billion and six hundred million Muslims, five times a day, turn their faces toward the holy city of Mecca where the modern Islam began although Islam is as old as God himself. Yet the modern era of Islam began with the revelation of the holy Qur’an fourteen hundred years ago. But it is also written that the sun that you see rising in the east, that one day it would rise from the west. We are not looking for the reversal of the great sun that lights our universe, but all prophetic guidance and light came from the east and shined toward the west. All of the revelations that I just mentioned, the prophets started in the east and the light shone westward. But in 1930, a light showed up in Detroit. In 1930 a great light, maybe the greatest light, walked the streets of Detroit. And in Black Bottom, Detroit, among the people that nobody thought were of any value. He started teaching us a new teaching.
It was Islam, but it was Islam 101. It was Islam that focused narrowly on the suffering black people of America and the western world. But as the light of Jesus started first among the lost sheep of the house of Israel and then he gave a command to take that gospel to every nation, kindred and [unclear]. So the message of the nation of Islam started narrowly in Detroit. But by the grace of Allah that light is shining back toward the east and we are honored to be back where it all began. But we come back at a time of intense darkness. We come back at a time when there’s great despair among the inhabitants of the city of Detroit. We come back at a time when the footprints of black people and white people in Detroit is shrinking from one-and-a- half-million people – nearly two million – to what they tell me is seven-hundred and fifty thousand people. We come back at a time when there used to be one-hundred-eighty-six-thousand students. Now down fifty thousand. Schools closing. City abandoned. Crime and violence rampant. And the governor has see fit to take away the rights of the voting public. And sent us a city manager. Somebody to help (hopefully) manage the affairs of this great city. But depriving the city of the leadership that it voted for.
So I don’t know what democracy really means if you can be given the right to vote and then somebody can take it away and make your vote null and void, create circumstances of debt that you might not be able to pay under present conditions. But wherever there’s a carcass, there’s a buzzard somewhere. It seems as though, when something dies, the sense of smell of these vultures flying around, “How can I land and get my meal off of something that is dead and dying?” And so downtown is being bought up. It seems to be coming along pretty good. But as you drive through Detroit, it’s like a wasteland. But wastelands always give opportunities to those who have a vision. While the buzzards want to eat up the carrion, and that which is dead maybe deserves to be eaten, there are those who want to see this city come back to life. Now those, who are the real stakeholders in Detroit. You’ve lived here practically all your life. You’ve worked here you’ve suffered here you’ve bled here you’ve died here. As a stakeholder, not a buzzard, God is giving you an opportunity that you didn’t have yesterday. But where there is no vision, the buzzards will continue to fly and the people will perish. But there is a vision. This is one of the greatest cities in the history of this nation. Without Detroit and the automobile industry that took steel from the makers of steel and brought it to Detroit, and made automobiles that sold all over the world… And we, who were sharecroppers, in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Georgia, we fled from a horrible existence on a plantation to a city of hope. Detroit. And we got jobs in the factories. We joined to unions and we got a living salary. Crime was not as it is today. And with that living salary, we bought fine homes. We had a great city. Still, racism has always been here. But now, there’s a chance for us. “What do you mean, Farrakhan? It looks so bleak and it seems so hopeless.” I want to hurriedly say to all of you don’t despair for the darkest hour is just before the dawn.
I was in a conversation with a friend of mine yesterday, who is in this chamber today. And he said to me that his research was that the people of Detroit spend nineteen billion dollars – the black community – last year. Nineteen billion. You’re not poor! But the scripture says “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” See it’s not poverty, it’s the energy of poverty that gives you despair because where there is no vision, the people perish. You are not poor, but you are poor as long as you stay separate. You are poor as long as you can be a Baptist, and I can be a Methodist, and this one can be a catholic, Episcopalian, Church of God in Christ and Jehovah’s Witness. And all of us are in our different camps. I can be a Muslim, you can be a Hebrew or a Jew but all of us in their different camps while the buzzards keep circling our heads. Suppose we could connect the dots. Just suppose that the five-hundred thousand blacks that are left in Detroit decided that this is our city. This is our home. And we’re not gonna let buzzards take if from us. We deserve to own where we live. And suppose we could unite the faith community. Don’t tell me it can’t be done. Don’t you tell me that as hard as we are living and suffering that we won’t unite. You can’t make the prophets of God liars. In the 37 chapter of Ezekiel in the bible: The son of man was told to go to some dry bones in the valley. But these were bones that were talking to each other. And the bones start saying, “Our hope is lost. Our bones are dry. We are cut off from our part.” The lord knew that they could come together. So he raised the son of man and told him “Go and prophesize unto the bones.” And the son of man came and prophesized and the bones rattled in the valley. And they shook in the valley. But they didn’t come together in the valley. Son of man got exasperated and went back to the lord and said, “Lord! We done preached the word to these bones and they have not come together!” He was hopeless then; he was in despair. And the Lord said, “Don’t worry about talking to them anymore. Prophesize unto the winds. And let the winds blow on these slain of God.”
Now you are like bits of dust. The winds have blown you. You’re running away. The winds of violence and crime and drug infected nests. Little girls turned into prostitutes. Losing your jobs so crime becomes a way of life for you. Filth and degeneration becomes a way of life for you. Aren’t those enough winds to make the bones realize that we can do better than this? But we can’t do it disconnected. And so the foot bone got connected to the anklebone, and the anklebone got connected to the leg bone, and the leg bone to the thighbone, and the thighbone to the hipbone and the hipbone to the backbone and the backbone to the neck bone and the neck bone tied up with the head [applause erupts]. And that which was dead became alive.
I charge the leadership with not being enemies of division, following ego and self-gratification. Thinkin’ there’s something bigger in the world than yourself. And those who love graft and corruption, who would rob from the treasury to enrich yourself, you can’t take it with you. A heart attack in your office and the undertaker will put you 6 feet in the ground. You can’t take the mansion that you were stealin’ for to get. You can’t take the riches that you lied and stole for. All you get is a little piece of land! And Solomon said all of this is vanity. And when you can only live for yourself and not live for something greater and bigger than yourself, the you’re already dead and that’s why the buzzards are flying overhead.
If there are five-hundred-thousand blacks, suppose we in leadership, the pastors of the city, stop arguing with each other. You are the shepherds not of your flock but of God’s flock. Why shouldn’t we come together and own Detroit? Suppose we came together. Five-hundred-thousand. Let me see. If we trusted each other enough to just put a dollar a month. That’s five-hundred- thousand dollars in the first month. A million in the second month. A million and a half in the third month. In the forth month, you got two million dollars for the rebuy of Detroit. Since it’s property that’s disadvantaged. Property that’s dying. Property that’s no longer on the tax row. Suppose we bought it up.
Mayor Bing was a brick mason. [audience member: he what?] Yeah! His father was one and he became his father’s apprentice. What about all of you who know how to build? You carpenters, you plumbers, you brick masons, [audience: electricians] you electricians. Look at your young brothers out in the street slinging drugs… Why can’t we buy the buildings? Get our artists and craftsmen together. Take the young people off the street and make them apprentices. Buy the buildings. Fix up the buildings. Puttin’ in your dollar. If you can put in more, put in two. Put in four. Put in five. We are the owners and we can sell it at a reasonable price. The banks will have to come and be our helper or we close the banks down. Stop anybody from putting money in if you can’t be our partner in rebuilding this city. You got to have a fighting spirit for life. You can’t just lay down and die. Throw up your hands and watch the city go to hell. After a while, every one of us will have a stake in the city. New members of the city council will arise. Members of the school board will arise because now we have a vested interest that education be done and done right. Not a education based in the faults and dead ideal of white supremacy but an education that educates white and black and Hispanic and all who live here that we can appreciate what each of us have contributed to the onward march of civilization.
We can fashion a new curriculum. The nation of Islam is disciplined. We gotta come home and help this city. We gotta come home. We can help the police force [audience agrees] cause once these young black men are trained in the building arts and science, they become partners, not gangbangers where you’re afraid to walk your streets. I got in the elevator today with my beautiful sister, and all the brothers got in there with here but she made this remark: “I haven’t felt this safe in a long time.” But the whole city can be like that. The elderly will be able to come out of their houses and walk their streets. The young will be able to go to school and get a good education. Gang warfare can stop if we put our hands to work. That’s a vision. It can be done. Your unity, the honorable Elijah Muhammad said, is more powerful than an atomic or hydrogen bomb. You’ve tried wading in, sitting in, crawling in, praying in, begging in. Why don’t you stand up like a man united and let’s WALK in and take over what belongs to us!
So I don’t have anymore to say. I think the buzzards will start moving in other directions when they see life stirring in the people. I thank GOD for all of those who are trying to bring Detroit back: black and white, Hispanic, Arabs, Greeks, Jewish people. Whoever’s here, we have a major part to play because we are the predominant population. So like it was in New Orleans before Katrina, they never thought of a white mayor because the footprint of black people was so strong, but then the hurricane came and the winds came and the levy burst and they shrunk the footprint of New Orleans. And now the city council is different and the mayor is different and they’re saying there will never again be a black mayor. And I wonder are they still saying the same thing here. But if you are the majority, and in a democracy the majority should rule… But don’t rule in stupidity, rule in corruption, rule in wickedness, rule in weakness, rule in vanity, rule in righteousness… Then the city will live again.
I thank you for listening. I thank you for giving me this privilege to share these few words with you. I told President Pugh and mother Joann Watson and mother Tynetta Muhammad who is a citizen born in Detroit, told them that I did not have any prepared lectures. I said I’m just gonna come. And when my brother prayed this morning, he said, “Lord guide him. Put your words in his mouth.” And I knew when he said that, he gave me the right prayer to start off with. So here I am with no notes, but I don’t believe I missed anybody. It was not I, it was he, who guided me.
Now let’s take this message, piece it apart and then work it. We don’t have a lot of time. Let’s unite the faith community and start pooling resources, and if anybody thinks they’re gonna steal the money… In the world of Islam, our law is very strict. We cut off your hand. They see you walking with a nub they say, “Ooh that’s a thief!” You steal a little more, the other hand is gone. If we haven’t broken you from stealin’ then, the right foot is gone. The next time your head is gone. A thief cannot be trusted and those of you who like money, and you would rob yourself and the future of your people for a few dollars should be ashamed of yourself. And then let the government put a wire on you? Well I’ve said enough. Thank you for listening. As-Salaam.
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.