by Greg Maher
As Black History Month came to a close last Thursday, Tony Muhammad, west coast representative of the Nation of Islam, spoke to a half-full auditorium of University of La Verne students, faculty and visitors about the role of the black student for the year 2000.
The Afrikan American Student Alliance (AASA) sponsored Tony Muhammad’s appearance at the University, though not all members agreed with Muhammad’s’ views.
“He mixes politics with religion and we don’t agree,” said AASA Promotions Coordinator Cairen Ireland. “Black History Month is supposed to be a positive experience and let everyone know about our rich heritage.”
Some students also complained about the intimidating atmosphere that surrounded the event. Audience members were frisked at the door by Nation of Islam bodyguards, who remained to monitor the audience.
Muhammad started his speech by criticizing all African-American students for allowing the observance of Black History Month.
“In truth you should be ashamed of yourself for allowing somebody to relegate a month to you, which is the shortest month in the calendar to study such a great history,” he said.
Muhammad credits Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, for showing him the lifestyle that he now follows.
“I thank God for Louis Farrakhan because when I heard him teach, that’s when I put my drugs down, that’s when I put my weapons down, that’s when I gave up a lifestyle of ill-repute. ”
Muhammad encouraged black students to learn more languages.
“If we are Christians, and we say that we follow Jesus, then you need to learn the language Jesus spoke. Jesus did not speak English, Jesus spoke Hebrew, or ancient Arabic. As students, black students in particular, we are one of the few people who can only speak one language,” he said. “We are the only people who are subjugated and relegated to English…the hardest language to learn because it is a bastard language and not original.”
During the three-hour lecture, he stressed the importance for each black student to learn their history and reach his or her potential.
“If your history or your past is cut off and somebody else is teaching you something about yourself that is not true then you fall victim to lies. But if you tell me that my father was a doctor, and my grandfather was a doctor, and his father was an engineer, and his father was a scientist, then that is telling you, genetically, your potential. But most of the black students here can’t even tell you who their great, great, grandfather is. Who cut you off from that?
“You took our name, our language, and our God, and made it against the law to study our religion or our proper name. That’s why many of you white students, when you hear of black people who are not in traditional religions or don’t have names of Americans, it bothers you a little bit.
“No other people on the planet had to undergo a name change,” said Muhammad. “We took on the name of our oppressor. You see us gravitating back towards our culture or our language,” said Muhammad. “This bothers the European mind because some of us get outside of this box your people try to put us in.”
“We are not African Americans,” he said. “Black is the best title we can call ourselves because black is not a color. It’s the essence that all color comes from.”
Muhammad also warned students about institutional terrorism.
“This school has institutional terrorism going on. Why do you have to have a black student union? That’s because you’re not accepted in the white student union,” he said. “That’s because we’re still fighting to be accepted.”
Muhammad encouraged black students to learn to become doctors, lawyers, scientists, engineers, computer specialists and biologists, and to use those skills to create a new kingdom in Africa. “Those are the skills that help you build nations,” said Muhammad.
“America gives people the idea that Africa is messed up, but it is not,” he said. “You go to Africa and you will be a hero. There are diamond mines and gold mines and other mines that they [Africans] have not even told the Europeans about.
“Every time they show the Europeans [the mines] they steal and rob, so they stopped telling them,” said Muhammad. “Your people in Africa are waiting on you. That is the goal for the black student for the year 2000,” said Muhammad.
“Study African culture, African ideology, and African philosophy. Think the way they think. If you want to work for a company, you study that company. [This is the] same thing.”
“In truth we have no future in America, it belongs to the Europeans,” he said. “Be careful, America, in trying to prevent aid from coming in to the black communities. Because if we ask for aid and you say no, and if Libya, Iraq, Iran, or Nigeria want to help the black man in America, then what business is it of yours? If Korea can help Koreans and you don’t interfere with that, why is it when black people want to pull our resources and take our knowledge back home to our African brothers, why do you get in the way?”
During the speech, some African-American students shouted out loud in agreement with Muhammad. Still, many students, including AASA members, remained in disagreement with the message of the speech.
“We got pressure from the last time he came so we did not attend this time. We only talked about him coming again. It was only tentative. Someone made an executive decision and never called a meeting to vote on it,” said Ireland.
Davis and Ireland also emphasized that the soul food dinner on Thursday that was sponsored by AASA was not in honor of Muhammad’s scheduled appearance.
“The dinner afterwards was [for] Black History Month,” said Ireland. “It was not in appreciation for Tony Muhammad.”