NEWARK, NJ — When Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam came to Newark on Monday, May 23, and spoke at Metropolitan Baptist Church on Springfield Avenue, elected officials from East Orange and Orange made sure they were in the audience.
“(Orange Mayor) Dwayne Warren was there; (Newark Mayor) Ras Baraka was there; and (5th Ward Councilman) Mustafa Brent and Ted Green were there from the city of East Orange,” said Green, the East Orange City Council chairman and 3rd Ward councilman on Tuesday, May 24.
An observant Muslim, Green added, “It’s a refresher. It’s not like you forget but, sometimes, you have to be reminded that, as black elected officials, we have an obligation to leave a legacy behind and the message of that legacy is: we have to do for ourselves.”
Gerald Murphy, one of Warren’s staunchest supporters in his recent successful campaign for re-election, agreed with Green that it was standing room only in the church. Among those in the audience, he said, were “Newark Councilman Eddie Osborne; Michael Lockett from the labor unions; Newark Councilwoman Mildred Crump; Deputy Police Director Todd Warren from Orange.
According to Murphy, “Minister Farrakhan came and spoke about Mayor Ras Baraka trying to move Newark forward. He talked about how Mayor Baraka went down to Port Newark and said how they owed the city more jobs and money. It was a good message he gave about Muslims and Christians coming together to come and help the community.”
Green said Farrakhan’s message was in line with what he had been saying in East Orange for the last decade and was a great lead-in to his upcoming annual Father’s Day Breakfast on Friday, June 17.
“It leads me right into my Father’s Day program on June 17 that’s going to promote bonding with fathers and their children and the community,” said Green. “For 10 years, we’ve been showing that we’ve been taking the ideals and ideas of the Million Man March and putting them into action in our everyday struggle. It’s not just one day; it’s every day. I think this brings everybody back to the importance of community, God, fatherhood, motherhood and creating economic opportunities for ourselves.”
A resident of Irvington, Rasheed Williams, a well-known grassroots organizer representing the former Team Irvington social and political organization and its successor, Team Irvington Strong, in addition to being a practicing Muslim, was also at Metropolitan Baptist Church to hear Farrakhan speak.
“It was a blessing to see Minister Farrakhan. I got a front row seat and I sat amongst the dignitaries,” explained Williams on Tuesday, May 24. “I was sitting with the councilwoman from Elizabeth; the mayor of Orange was there.”
“It was a sight to see the minister, going into Ramadan.”
Green and Brent agreed Farrakhan’s appearance in Newark on Monday, May 23, was timely, as East Orange is scheduled to host an interfaith dinner at City Hall on Thursday, May 26, at 6 p.m. followed by U.S. Rep. Donald Payne Jr. coming to the city Friday, May 27, to participate in the at 1 p.m. Jumuah ceremony at Masjid As’ Haabul Yameen on 4th Avenue.
“The interfaith dinner is being sponsored by the Coalition of Muslims In Government Inc. and it’s going to discuss the meaning of Ramadan with guest speaker Imam Abdul Aziz,” said Green on Monday, May 23. “On Friday, May 27, Congressman Payne is bringing Congressman Carson to Jumuah on 4th Avenue. Rep. Carson is the country’s second Muslim congressman.”
“Ramadan starts June 7 until July 7; I’m fasting,” said Williams. “I’ve got a lot to be thankful for as a Muslim, because of what I’ve been through. I’m glad to be walking.”
Farrakhan said he came to Newark on behalf of Mayor Ras Baraka, who came under fire recently for marching with protestors at Port Newark to demand more jobs for residents from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and for tackling issues such as lead in schoolchildren’s water.
“I came here tonight to stand for my brother; to stand for his mother; to stand for his family; to stand for you,” said Farrakhan on Monday, May 23. “That’s why I’m here tonight. I heard that (Baraka) went to the Port Authority and he told them ‘we have a contract with you and you’re only giving us one-third of what that contract specifies, so you’re robbing the city of Newark that I’m mayor over and I could give my people more services if you came up with your part. The contract says this, you’ve got to give us this.’”
According to Farrakhan, this rubbed the powers that be the wrong way. He said those forces are now trying to destroy “the myth mayor” by spreading rumors, innuendo and outright lies about Baraka among those he serves, and he needs help to keep the city on the progressive course he has set since he was sworn into office in 2014.
“Brother Ras has been the mayor for a little over a year now, going on two years,” said Farrakhan. “Boy, time rolls. And look at what he’s trying to do. He’s trying to improve the quality of life of the citizens of Newark. He used to work to bring the Bloods and the Crips together, to stop us from killing each other, and he invited me to come and mediate and help, in that regard. He needs us now. He needs us to be men. He wants to create jobs, so you don’t have to slave for others. He’s the mayor. He needs our help.”
Larry Hamm of the People’s Organization for Progress was one of the hundreds who came to hear Farrakhan speak, and said he was glad he did.
“I’m glad he came to support the mayor,” said Hamm on Tuesday, May 24. “The mayor’s been in the struggle with some of the other institutions and agencies in our area, like the Port Authority. A couple of weeks ago, he led a march down there to protest the lack of hiring of minorities. I’ve also been informed that he’s been receiving death threats. It’s a matter of public record.”
Hamm said it made sense for Farrakhan to come to Newark to offer comfort and support to Baraka, because, “The minister had been an associate of Amiri Baraka,” father of the Newark mayor. He said both Farrakhan and Amiri Baraka were comrades in the Black Liberation movement of the late 1960s and 1970s.
“There’s a history there; I’m glad he came and voiced his support for the mayor,” said Hamm of Farrakhan. “The mayor is facing daunting challenges. The challenges of being mayor are really bearing down on him. That (is) compounded by the economic challenges the city is going through during this time of economic stress and austerity. It’s affecting not just Newark, but cities all over the country. I personally think he is doing a good job. I count myself among his supporters and I’m going to continue supporting him through the rest of this first term.”
Hamm went on to describe Farrakhan as “one of the great public speakers” who is “also a historical figure, who was there back in the Nation of Islam when Malcolm X was there.”
“In fact, Malcolm X bought him in and mentored him,” said Hamm. “Minister Farrakhan is an internationally recognized figure. He packed out Metropolitan Church. It was standing room only. They had video feed into the sanctuary; that was packed. They had video feed into the dining hall; that was packed. I would venture to say there were at least 2,000 people last night.”
According to Hamm, Farrakhan “gave an obviously inspiring speech,” and said he was “glad he came and urged support for the mayor.”