Lateefah Muhammad: Nation of Islam teachings bring comfort and affirmation of the black experience

The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg/February 4, 2006
By Dana Romanoff

One night, I heard a speech that was being broadcast from Howard University. And I heard this man say, "Why do we need to wait for people to do for us what we can get up and do for ourselves? Why can't we have black schools, black banks, black hospitals?"

And I was like, yes , who is this? I want to meet him. If I could meet him that's the organization I could see myself being a part of.

That's Louis Farrakhan. He speaks for Elijah Muhammad.

And I went to hear him. As he spoke it was like something literally went through my being. It was consuming.

And I knew that he was truth, that's the only way I can explain it, that he embodied truth. And my daughter looked at him and she said, "What is that in your eyes?"

And he said, "It's fire in my eyes because I'm mad as hell at what these people have done to our people."

And I was like, this is right. And that was it. I knew that what he taught was right for me and good for the masses of our people.

Everybody can't handle everything but I think as a message the teachings that we get from the Nation of Islam are good for our people, we need that kind of teaching.

You get a better Christian now that I'm a Muslim because the things I was taught in Christianity, now I can see and understand.

I wanted a life where I was striving to overcome. That was '79. And there's still people who when they see me and they'll be, "You still into that?"

Like I joined a club.

And I'm like, "Aren't you still at Old Site? Aren't you still at New Site?" You know? It's my way of life. It's the culture that I have accepted and it has worked for me for over 20 years.

I grew up in a household that gave us a sense of who we were. I had a grandmother who was very black and very strong and she was not going to allow us to mouse around.

We grew up in Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site). And experiencing a divided Fredericksburg, I remember having a heaviness of why would God do this to black people. I couldn't understand how I could sit in Sunday school and all the literature would have white pictures with white Jesuses and little white children.

So I'm like, what is God trying to do? And there just were no answers.

For me, I loved God but I guess I was angry at God because I didn't think it was just that black people had to go through what black people were going through. It just didn't settle.

Coming into Islam allowed me to be happy that I didn't want pictures of white Jesuses. That may not work for somebody else, but that was good for me. I enjoyed walking into homes where I could see a picture of Master Farah Muhammad, Elijah Muhammad, Louis Farrakhan and Martin Luther King and Jesse Jackson and Angela Davis and just keep going on and on.

That was good for me. And it just helped me so much on the inside to find comfort in a society that was racist. And so those affirmations strengthened the way I felt from a little girl.

That's what I wanted out of life. I wanted to know God loved black people. And I got that coming into Islam. I love it. I absolutely love it.

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