It was a moment I will remember for as long as I am Black. It was springtime, and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan was on his way to our church in South Dallas. New Hope Baptist Church is probably Dallas’s most historic church, but on this day, it was about the upcoming Million Man March.
Dr. Derrick Harkins was allowed to have a few deacons on the premises, and I felt “blessed and highly favored” to be there. We, along with the late activist Thomas Muhammad and former DISD School Board member Ron Price, were standing at the ready with no idea what would happen.
All at once, there was a battalion of well-suited, well-booted, and well-armed Black men carefully combing the campus. New Hope lay in the apex of what used to be called the “dead man’s curve.” New construction has wiped out the intersections of the old Central Expressway and US-175.
The Fruit of Islam (FOI) might not have ever known they were standing a mere 500 yards NE from the “dead man’s curve,” but they were intent that their primary subject would leave there alive and thriving.
We exchanged pleasantries with all due caution. Finally, the former Louis Eugene Walcott walked in with his security team. The serene stone walls that encased the church suddenly felt fortified. The FOI took every precaution you would expect from the U.S. Secret Service.
If you understand that most Black pastors in Dallas were none too excited to see Dr. Martin Luther King when he arrived in 1963, you can imagine Dr. Harkins’ plight. This visit was controversial.
A few Baptist and Methodist ministers in Dallas publicly welcomed the Minister. However, Farrakhan’s rhetoric and bombastic pronouncements made him “dangerous.” Moreover, his menacing melodies created disharmony for local Negro preachers who enjoyed singing Kumbaya and pretending all was well.
At any rate, the brick walls of the fellowship hall were suddenly sweating with the searing anticipation for what might be said. All the Reverends therein were reverent and waiting to hear the Minister’s invitation to the MMM.
I was flabbergasted. Minister Louis Farrakhan preached “Jesus and Him Crucified.” If he had “opened the doors of the church,” half of us would have joined. His aura and anointing were palpable. If you have ever been within reaching distance of someone famous and God-inspired, you know what I mean.
I have only felt that level of spiritual presence three times before. Only former Governor Ann Richards, then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton, and Pastor T. D. Jakes emotionally moved me the way Farrakhan did that day. But the best was yet to come.
The Minister joined me, Thomas, and Ron in Dr. Harkins’ study. He was the most soft-spoken, humble man I have sat with in close quarters. He had the demeanor of an introverted genius. The evidence of his devout insight was looming.
He floored me when we asked his opinion about someone or something political. The Honorable Minister Louis Farra-khan made a statement I may have heard previously, but the weight of his convictions preceded the words that fell effortlessly from his lips.
“Sir, a prudent man consumes everything like fish; “Eat the meat and spit out the bones.”
OMG! That was not just a pearl of wisdom but a prescriptive for living. What he said to the four of us in a 200-square-foot room would have been better told to men and women worldwide.
Our problem in America and around the globe is that we don’t separate the good from the bad in people. Instead, we sentence our opponents to live in the confines of our narrow minds and shallow understandings. It takes grace to admit that everything about your enemy is not evil. There is something salvageable in every human word and deed.
My children have heard me say that you can teach from bad examples as well as from good ones. That revelation came partly from the ten golden moments I spent in the presence of a legend, an icon, and a fearless leader.
In just 90 days, the Honorable Louis Farrakhan will turn 90.
Hopefully, this editorial will spark some inspiration for a widespread National Day of Respect on May 11th. And if there were any parts of this message you didn’t care for, spit it out but receive in the spirit of love for which it was written.
Happy 90th, Minister Farra-khan!
Vincent L. Hall is an author, activist, and an award-winning columnist.