September 6, 2015
At the Mosque Cares, 26th Annual Muslim Convention, the theme was “Claim Your Inheritance” and I am all for that.
In the early meetings of the original Nation of Islam, there was always a blackboard at the front of the meeting place that displayed, on one side the picture of a cross and an American flag and on the other side the star and crescent flag of the Nation of Islam. It was taught, that to Black Americans, the cross was a symbol of suffering, shame and death. And the flag was a symbol of that oppression.
The recent controversy over the Confederate flag brings into question loyalty to the flag in general. And recently Minister Louis Farrakhan brought that question into focus when he made the statement in the Metropolitan AME Church in D.C. that the American flag itself was a symbol of racism and needs to be brought down. I say we have too much investment in blood and treasure in that flag to give it up. It is ours as much as anybody’s.
On September 6, 2015 at the Annual Muslim Convention in Tinley Park, they honored members of MAVA (Muslim American Veterans Association) and Muslim members of the military in general. For these soldiers there has been no conflict. You have a single-minded purpose when you put our life on the line, but it does point out a seemingly love hate relationship that we seem to have had with the flag.
In 1977, Imam W. D. Mohammed, picked up the American flag and told his supporters to vote and to claim their share of life in America.
While many looked at this as a radical departure from conventional Nation of Islam thinking if we look closely at Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s work, instead of his conscious-raising and controversial rhetoric, we’ll see that he was pragmatic in his relationship with America, it’s laws and it’s symbols. He didn’t advocate giving up anything here and going back anywhere. He too told us to get some of this earth.
This photo from the early 1970’s is instructive. Notice the American flag and the Nation of Islam flag displayed side by side on the rear of the float. The event was part of the wedding celebration of Muhammad’s granddaughter, Ayesha Muhammad, and included a parade down Cottage Grove Avenue, floats representing the Muslim businesses along Cottage Grove and 79th. Street and the Muslims schools, called Universities of Islam, and Fruit of Islam from across the country from it’s many Temples across, assembling in front of the residence of Honorable Elijah Muhammad in Chicago, to be reviewed and to salute him.
His local and international business activities were not without their legal regulations and adherence to the laws of the land. We owned Guaranty Bank and banking regulations alone are a body of law in and of itself.
Even his call for separate states was “tongue in cheek” and designed to motivate self- help and total reliance on self. Those close to him will acknowledge that he admitted privately that America would never give up any of her states to her once slaves. He went to war with his own brother to keep from dividing these states.
It’s also interesting to note how early African Americans saw their relationship to both the American flag and the Confederate flag. In my new book: “Yes, I Am Your Brother- Understanding the Indigenous African American Muslim,” I refer to the words of Corporal Price Lambkin, of the First Black Regiment, which was organized by lecturer, writer and abolitionist, Thomas Wentworth Higginson during the Civil War. In an appeal for patriotism and respect for the American flag to his fellow ex-slave soldiers Corporal Lambkin spoke:
“Our mas’rs dey hab lib under de flag, dey got dere wealth under it, and ebryting beautiful for dere chilen. Under it dey hab grind us up, and put us in dere pocket for money. But de fus’ minute dey tink dat ole flag mean freedom for we colored people, dey pull it right down, and run up de rag ob dere own.” (Immense applause). “But we’ll neber desert de ole flag, boys, neber; we hab lib under it for eighteen hundred sixty-two years, and we’ll die for it now.” And we will never desert it either.
I don’t have a problem with what America and her flag “claims” to represent. I believe she’s had good intentions. My problem is with her execution. But isn’t that all of our problem. We have good intentions and we do the best we can do. We end up not being perfect but we hope to be judged one day on our good intentions.
I’m not going anywhere and I’m not giving up anything. My ancestors made an investment in sweat blood and tears here, much more so than many of the late coming European immigrants. The Native Americans that were here already were immigrants here from Asia and came of their own accord. The slave master was an immigrant here from Europe and came of his own accord. We were the first people here who did not come of their own accord. Everything that G-d gave every people was taken from us– our language, our religion, our culture. We are new people with a new soul and a new mind and G-d caused the seed of this new people to be planted here in American soil. The purpose, our destiny–to be a mighty force in shaping the world in the image that G-d had intended. So we are the true indigenous people here and I’m not giving up any of that and I’m not leaving anything on the table. G-d promised me that if I did right I would be the inheritor of all these good things that we love in America and I know He never breaks His promise.