Farrakhan: 'You were born to struggle'

The News-Gazette/October 25, 2004
By Anne Cook

Urbana -- Louis Farrakhan lauded the pursuit of knowledge while blasting formal education, chided blacks for "acting wild" and warned that the nation was plummeting "to the pit of hell" during an animated sermon Sunday at the University of Illinois that addressed wide-ranging issues, including sex, politics, rap and weapons of mass destruction.

In his first visit to the campus, the leader of the Chicago-based Nation of Islam spoke for nearly two hours at Foellinger Hall, focusing on the value of education, especially for black men and women. The audience, more than 800 students and community members, gave him a standing ovation.

"Some of us have gotten a little comfortable," said Farrakhan, 71, who spoke without notes. "We think struggling's not necessary. Allah created humans to struggle so we manifest what God put in us. You were born to struggle. You don't find gold on the surface. Every one of you is a wealth of treasure, and that's why education is so important."

However, quoting from both the Quran and the Bible, he quickly dismissed formal education as an uncreative process that often prepares black children to be followers, not creators and leaders.

"It's stretched out too long to make money," Farrakhan said. "Flunking grades say the teacher couldn't reach Johnnie. It's a shame to keep kids out of school until they're 6. When they're 6, they should know where they're going in life."

He challenged students in the audience, which was mostly black, to keep their approach to their work fresh and never to accept mediocrity.

"You have to have the mind of a conqueror, not a servant," said Farrakhan, often acting out his message to the delight of the audience, which punctuated his speech with exclamations of approval.

"See yourself as a producer, not a beggar," he said. "What are your studies and what's your hope? You say, 'I'm in black studies.' Try to market that. Whites have built a world on math and science, but they love you to sing or play basketball. God created you to make a contribution to civilization, not play sports."

Addressing current politics, Farrakhan said the nation is "on the way down to the pit of hell."

"You can't maintain a nation with weapons," he said. "You do it with education. This society's on its way down unless you open your eyes. What torch will Bush or Kerry pass on to you?"

He said President Bush has created such a shambles of the country's reputation and resources, John Kerry won't be able to salvage it, no matter what he promises.

Farrakhan blasted black men for failing to realize their potential, for failing to raise their children and for "hanging out on the corner getting high." And he blasted black women for not valuing their intelligence, their bodies and their potential. He said the Muslim world veils its women because "they're sacred to us."

"A black man has to be a real man today," Farrakhan said. "The right kind of knowledge makes a man a man, not a sex organ. We're in the wilderness here. You're acting wild. That's how dangerous black communities have become."

He challenged black youth to lead fundamental changes in society.

"This country has the potential of being the greatest human experiment in the world," he said. "It's messed up. Can you change it? We don't have a democracy. It's chicanery. You have to make America a real democracy."

At least a dozen white-gloved bodyguards surrounded the crowd at Foellinger and waited in the wings behind Farrakhan, who was a guest of Alpha Phi Alpha for the fraternity's annual "ritual," an event held to strengthen ties between the UI and the community.

Kharis Gordon, who helped plan the event, said fraternity members contacted the Nation of Islam last summer to see if Farrakhan would come, and they were surprised when he accepted.

"Now I'm seeing it in real life, and it's crazy," Gordon said of the Farrakhan contingent, the tight security and entrance screenings at Foellinger. "He's controversial, so a lot of people are interested in hearing what he says, and we get exposed, too," he said. "I think that's needed in our community now."

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