By Chinta Strausberg
On Monday, July 16, Minister Louis Farrakhan led 300 men of his Fruit of Islam (FOI), of the Nation of Islam (NOI), into the community, urging youth to stop the violence and the killing.
He also asked them to take the 1995 Million Man March pledge that advocated unity, atonement, reconciliation and responsibility.
Anti-violence marches were simultaneously held the same day by the FOI in 130 cities across America and there will be continued “street heat” applied by Farrakhan and the FOI in an effort to stem the violence.
On October 16, 2012, it will be 17 years since Farrakhan held his historic Million Man March in Washington, D.C., where two million, mostly (Black) men pledged to become better men and to improve their communities and their relationships.
Today, unfortunately, there have been a number of killings in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood that has prompted Saint Sabina’s Father Michael L. Pfleger to hold weekly Friday marches throughout the community to address the violence and point out stores that are selling loose and packages of cigarettes to minors, as well as out-dated food.
However, while Pfleger has been trying to secure a peace treaty and unity among the neighborhood gangs, he said the gangs have threatened to kill him.
Asked his opinion about the three gangs that have reportedly put a hit out on Pfleger, Leonard Muhammad, Minister Farrakhan’s representative, responded, “Father Pfleger is a servant of all mighty God, as is Minister Louis Farrakhan. Minister Farrakhan and Father Pfleger have been under threats from very different orders of evil people throughout their careers.
“When God is with you, it’s more than the whole world against you, and I believe God is with Father Pfleger and of course we are, too,” said Muhammad.
“I don’t think any harm will come to my brother, but every day that we go out, according to what Minister Farrakhan told us the other day when we were concerned about his leading us into the community, he said, when I do something like this I go out prepared to die. I go out prepared that harm will come to me even though I don’t believe that God would permit it and I think that Father Mike is the same.”
Muhammad said to those wanting to harm Pfleger for his consistent marches against violence, “Anybody who would be so foolish to try and harm a servant like this, that you intend for evil…will come on you. This is history and prophecy and I believe it is true from the past and I think the same thing is true today.”
But Muhammad said Farrakhan is worried about the level of violence that is gripping not just the Auburn-Gresham community, but also the entire city of Chicago.
Farrakhan is worried about creating an atmosphere “that ultimately will increase the number of our young people who will not live to become adults.”
Muhammad added, “because of the community, the law enforcement and other forces are now fed up with us, our young men in particular, and they are now willing to take any measure to stop them from the anti-social and violent behavior that they are engaging in.”
Referring to those who are shooting, killing and maiming people including innocent children, Muhammad said, “It’s a warning to them that if they want a future and if they want to live, then they have to do what we asked them to do during the Million Man March – to become productive and serious people dedicated to keeping peace and order in their own community.”
Asked if the answer to reducing violence is the resurrection of the spirit of the 1995 Million Man March, Muhammad referred to a flyer the FOI passed out on its Monday march that included the pledge taken at the Million Man March.
“During the Million Man March and after, in 1995, there was a decrease in anti-social, negative and violent behavior within our community,” recalled Muhammad. “Unfortunately, the society, the government, parents and people who are responsible to develop the young did not seize the opportunity to keep the ball rolling.
“The Nation of Islam is a national and international organization. The problem that we have in the Black community cannot be solved by us alone, should not be solved by us alone, but should and can be solved with the coming together of the total of our community,” Muhammad said.
Asked if that could ever happen, he replied, “I believe it can happen because the need is so great.”
Taking It To Heart
Muhammad said as they walked throughout the community, he noticed people were taking those flyers “to heart” and did not discard the flyers, which had a message to them from Minister Farrakhan.
“The demand is going to come for unity to solve this problem. I believe the people are already making that demand. In a very short while, the leaders will get that message and I think there will be a major coming together without regard for religion and for race,” he said.
“As this violence continues, the reputation of the city of Chicago and the tourism and the revenue that they expect will all suffer because people are afraid to visit here for fear they may be harmed.
“It’s in everybody’s interests, all the citizens of the city – in particular the Black citizens – those of us who want to see our people with a future. It’s incumbent upon us to work together to solve this problem,” said Muhammad.
Farrakhan said the NOI would continue these anti-violence marches, which will be also held on the West Side and other hot spot areas.
“There will be efforts made in the very different communities in the weeks to come,” Muhammad said. “We’re asking for the prayers and the support for Minister Farrakhan and their encouragement of him because he truly is a very respected and trusted individual within our community.”
“When you see adult people crying at the sight of him coming into the community to show concern for them, this is something very unusual for adult people today. That is what Minister Farrakhan experienced.”
The NOI Reacts
Ald. Latasha Thomas (17th), who joined Farrakhan on the march the night of Monday, July 16, said she asked him to take a more pro-active role the night Farrakhan reopened the Salaam Restaurant.
“This is the first of many marches that he’ll be doing throughout the city and he wanted to kick it off with me. I am honored that he would do that and elated that he would support the community,” she said.
When asked what is the problem in the Auburn-Gresham community given all of the shootings and killings that are going on, Thomas explained that: “There is one gang, but three facets of the gang, and they are at war for territory. But it’s OUR community. It shouldn’t be anybody else’s.”
Asked if the Nation of Islam’s presence will stem the violence, Thomas responded optimistically, “I think what it does is to support the community and give them health and courage to get out there. They will be back. The Nation of Islam didn’t just do that one march. They’re coming back to have a presence in the community.”
They came back the next week. On Monday, July 23, flanked by hundreds of Fruit of Islam men, Minister Louis Farrakhan took to the streets late that night.
He spread his love to South Shore residents in a community beset with drugs, gangs and violence, in what Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) called a “recipe for something that is not good,” with one man expressing that “you have to sneak in your own house to avoid being shot.”
The same scenario took place again in 130 cities across the nation where the FOI and their leaders applied street heat in urban areas where violence is escalating, according to Leonard Muhammad, Farrakhan’s chief of staff.
But locally, walking alongside Farrakhan in the 7500 block of Kingston with an army of his FOI was Ald. Harris, who said Farrakhan called her and volunteered to come to the South Shore community.
“I think it is great,” she said. “I think the Minister is out here touching a community that is sick, embracing a community and trying to find out what the issues are… asking the people who are in the most need and in the most pain. ‘Tell me about your pain…your struggle.’
“I think that it is just tremendous to have somebody at his level come in and come down to the community,” Harris said. “It is a very difficult and challenging community because you have so many social issues, so much high crime, high poverty, and when you put all those together, it’s a recipe for something that is not good.
“We’ve got to figure out how to embrace the community and it is a litany of issues, but he is the first one to come down and try,” Harris said. When asked what was the unemployment rate, Harris said it hovers around 23 percent.
“The Hood” In 2012
One of the many people who met Farrakhan was 60-year-old Robert Mitchell, who lives in the area. “It was a beautiful experience just to shake his hand. He’s a good guy. He’s needed to stop this killing and maybe it will do some justice for these people because it’s unreal the way and what people are doing.”
As an example, Mitchell referred to a man who was simply waiting at a nearby bus stop “and he gets shot down. That’s unreal,” Mitchell said referring to a shooting at 75th and Phillips Streets “for no reason.”
Mitchell referred to yet another shooting of a man who was on his way home. “He gets gunned down on 79th Street for no reason. The guy doesn’t do anything to anybody. He’s got a family. Why? I don’t understand that. It ain’t going to solve a problem. The only thing it’s going to do is (bring) death.”
Saying it wasn’t this way when he was younger, Mitchell painted a somber picture of life in 2012 in South Shore and pointed an accusatory finger at the youth who are allegedly battling for street control to sell their illegal drugs.
“Everything has changed because the younger guys are taking over. It’s become drug infested. They are trying to control different blocks because of drugs.”
Because he works nights, Mitchell said he has to walk around with a knife or have his wife pick him up accompanied by his dog. “You have to sneak in your own house,” to avoid getting shot. “I’m serious,” said Mitchell.
Life in South Shore is just that bad, according to Laura Kandred, a 28-mother of four girls, who hopes, but doesn’t believe that Minister Farrakhan’s presence will deter the level of violence in the area. Kandred said, “I am tired of the violence. My kids can’t even come outside where we pay our taxes. I wish it would stop.
“I think we need more people out here, and we need more community residents out here to look out for each other,” said Kandred. “We need both. I’m out here looking with mine and I’m looking out for others out here.”
Saint Sabina’s Father Pfleger said he was pleased with Farrakhan’s taking more than 300 Fruit of Islam men out into the streets to call for peace. “I think it’s great. It excites me. It encourages me. I think that the Nation can be the turning factor in the community with their involvement,” he said.
“I think that this is exactly what we need. Saint Sabina has been doing it, the Nation’s doing it; churches and mosques going back out into the street – I think that is the missing ingredient that will stop the violence. I just can’t express enough of my gratitude to the Minister for making this decision. We are in a very serious time and need the serious commitment that the Nation brings to help us,” said Pfleger.