Archive for the ‘NOI’ Category
After the numbers controversy, which included Mininster Louis Farrakhan – the one who issued the call for the mass gathering of Black men – threatening to sue the NPS, a 1997 bill was passed prohibiting the government from performing any future crowd counts, so there will be no official count of Obama’s inaugural crowd but there is a saying that, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” With that in mind, these pictures are posted for visual comparisons since it appears the inaugural crowd numbers can be used to vindicate the organizers of the MMM. If the former crowd was at least 2 million, that means the same amount of people were on the Mall in 1995.
Over the decades, many in the Black community have become familiar with the sight of men in suits and bow ties selling newspapers door-to-door or on busy street corners in the “hood.” This dates back to at least the 1960s when Nation of Islam [NOI] members utilized the practice to share the life-giving teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad as published in the Muhammad Speaks Newspaper. The organization splintered in the years following the 1975 departure of the influential Muslim leader and since then, followers of the teachings – even if of varying NOI sects or branches – have used the same tactic to, not just sell papers, but develop relationships with individuals in their communities as a base from which to share NOI teachings.
Some who “soldiered” for Muhammad in the 1960s continue to soldier today under the guidance and direction of Minister Louis Farrakhan, however instead of the Muhammad Speaks, his soldiers carry The Final Call, a paper in 1979, two years after he stood up to defend the name and rebuild the work of his teacher Elijah Muhammad. Min. Farrakhan has said that The Final Call is his number one minister and those who sell it are not “paper boys” but are servants on the mission printed in every issue of the paper: the resurrection of the Black man and woman of America and the world.
Alonzo Muhammad (AM) is one who carried the Muhammad Speaks in the 1960s while living in Los Angeles, California, and today carries The Final Call as a resident of Denver, Colorado. In May 2008, he spoke with The Black House News’ (BHN) Adeeba Folami, comparing and contrasting his experiences over the decades and sharing how he was awarded a car by Elijah Muhammad after being named the NOI’s number one Muhammad Speaks sales person in 1964.
BHN – How were you introduced to NOI teachings?
AM - I was introduced to the [NOI] in 1960. My brother, Ralph 4X, was attending some of the lectures and decided he would become a practicing Muslim. He started registering and I noticed a change in him and decided, ‘Okay, whatever he’s doing.’ In 1960 he was wearing a semi-process with finger waves and curls so when he cut his hair, I noticed ‘Something’s going on here.’ Then his clothes, he started wearing suits, so there was something going on and it looked good to me and I wanted to be a part of it because he was my oldest brother.
BHN – How old were you all at the time?
AM - I was 14 and he was 20. The time went very fast for me, in fact, once I got in and decided this was what I want to be part of, I started selling the Muhammad Speaks Newspaper. There was a brother – David 5X – my brother introduced me to and he was the #1 sales person for Los Angeles; a very energetic, strong, family brother. He’d say, ‘You come over my house and be there at 10:30,’ and he meant what he said. When he’s talking, you’re looking in his eyes and you know this is real. I’m gonna be there. When you come over, he would talk to you about an hour and a half, a pep talk, because his thing was selling the Muhammad Speaks Newspaper – he loved that.
Every paper he’d get his hands on he would sell. I don’t care if he had 500-700 papers he’s gonna sell them all. He was so good at what he did until he was able to mine out the best in the younger brothers that were around him that had no experience in selling. First he would talk to you and get your spirit right, then we would all get in the car or the van and we’d go to the various areas door to door. We’d do that 2 to 3 hours and then we’d hit the shopping centers and the business areas and we’d go and knock on doors; talk to them and let them know we’re here selling newspapers and we want contributions. We’d ask them do they have any reservations in giving us contributions; ‘Do you have anything against Black people in America?’ We were saying that to White people because they don’t really want to support anything Black at that time. When you say that, it always catch them off guard. They were like, ‘No, no. We don’t have anything against Black people in America. No, we don’t have no prejudice.’ They would have to go over and above what they’re really all about so they’d say, ‘How much do you need? You say this money is going to the advancement of colored people here in America? Okay.’ They give you the check or either a sizable amount in donations so when we would go out, we’d get all these donations and when we would come back, we would have pockets full of money. Everybody had pockets full of money. And everybody that didn’t do well, we would help them sell their papers and give them the money so nobody would feel like, ‘Man, I ain’t with this because I can’t hang.’
It was always we gave each other encouragement to continue. A lot of times we had brothers, they weren’t comfortable in what they did, it wasn’t for them so they would just drop out. Those that stayed and wanted to develop their skills in sales, they’d start doing better. We reached an area of, any papers that were left in the [temple] and not picked up, we would sell those papers. Any paper bill that the [temple] had from Chicago, [NOI headquarters], we paid.
So anybody that doesn’t want to sell the paper, we say, leave the paper on the [temple] steps no questions asked. Then when we come by we see all these stacks of papers. It made us very happy.
BHN – This was when you were 17?
AM - Yeah … I think. I met him when I was 14 but I didn’t get with him until I was going on 17 because he was finishing a parole sentence for things he had [done] before he came in the Nation and then he violated his parole by selling the papers. Sometimes he would get into arguments with undercover police officers and they’d put him in jail.
BHN – So it was his squad carrying the paper sales for [Temple] 27?
AM - Yeah, the captain was 100% behind him.
BHN – Eventually you went on to become the #1 salesperson?
AM - That was because of the fact that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad had this car that he wanted to give the #1 salesperson and they were saying, ‘You got a chance at it.’ Well I didn’t have a chance at it because [Bro. David] was the #1 salesperson. I knew I couldn’t outsell him, there’s no way; [but] he had to go to prison because he violated his parole and that put me in the driver’s seat because nobody else could sell as many as he could but me. I didn’t sell the paper to win a car, even when I knew there was a contest, I sold the paper because I had the responsibility of the paper crew because he was gone.
BHN – How old were you?
AM - I must have been going on 19 because they was telling me about marriage; ‘Brother, you got to get married.’ I wasn’t thinking about no marriage but they felt like that’s the thing to do so I said I’ll look into it. At that time, the Messenger had this contest going and we had 3 months to qualify ourselves to win so it just happened to be that I was selling day and night. I was in a fever pitch of selling papers because I’m left in charge so I have to sell these papers regardless to whenever they drop them off; we’re gonna get the papers and sell them. That’s it. That was my motive all the time, to make sure we had no papers when we came back in. If we left with 2100 papers, when we came back we had no papers.
BHN – How were you able to motivate the crew to maintain the same pace?
AM - It was more or less we had a camaraderie now. We don’t have any timid brothers. Everybody has been trained and everybody is saying, ‘Okay I’ma sell out before you do.’ That’s fine. So we’re gonna try to sell out by noon all the papers. That didn’t always work but that was our motivation.
BHN – At the height of it, how many were you selling?
AM - I would sell, a week, about 700-750 on the average, because in 3 months I sold 15,750 papers.
BHN – Is that the amount that won you the car?
AM - That’s what won me the car. I was the top paper seller in the Nation.
BHN – When you got the car for the paper sales, how was it delivered to you?
AM - The car wasn’t delivered to me. [Elijah Muhammad] sent you a certified check and you could go get anything you wanted. I went out, looked around and got a 1964 Chevy Impala Supersport, white with red interior; 2 door. I like that.
Tips for Sales Success
BHN – What are some tips you have for your sales success?
AM - Prayer. You have to say your prayers and have that thirst to do better. When I sold the paper I was always trying to figure out when people say, ‘I don’t want that paper,’ why are they saying that? They’re reading the title of the paper; you’ve given them the articles in the paper and they don’t want the paper? Something’s wrong. Is it me or is it something [they] heard? Normally it’s something they’ve heard; a news bite or somebody heard something [but] didn’t do any research to find out if what they heard was true. I’m trying to figure out, ‘Why don’t you want the paper?’ If you could talk to me and tell me, maybe I could clear it up or at least put it in your mind that maybe you should do some research. That was the number one thing; we just don’t want to research nothing.
Then the person has already closed their mind to you so naturally they get frightened when you say something and they cuss you out. It’s like, wow! I just said, ‘How ya doing?’ and you tell me to get the hell away from you. I didn’t say anything wrong. I do this a lot; I’ll say, ‘How ya doing? Have a good day.’ [The reply is:] “I don’t want that damn paper.” I just said have a good day to see where their mind is because you can see it on a person’s face and their body language when they want to avoid or shun you. So I would say, ‘You know, it’s a beautiful day. [The person replies:] “I told you I don’t want that paper.” I’m thinking, I said, ‘Have a beautiful day,’ or ‘God bless you,’ and they just go off. They didn’t hear what I said. Whatever’s in their mind is blocking them from understanding what I am saying. I’ll say it more than once and if I do and they’re locked into what they’re thinking, now it’s almost an argument because they’re going to defend what they’re thinking, not what I’m saying. If I wait until I see them come back again to the area where I’m selling, I’ll say, ‘God bless you.’ They didn’t hear I said ‘God bless you,’ [their reply is:] “I told you quit asking me to buy that paper.” I just said God bless you. Seems like they don’t even hear me. Whatever’s locked in their minds, it’s just locked in their minds and then I’m thinking, how do you bring this person to open up their mind, hear you, then respond after that? Some of them, when they hear me, they’ve already said what they’re gonna say and they won’t take it back. It’s like, I said it; I know it was wrong; but I ain’t taking it back because of my pride. I’m thinking, how do I get to them to just get the pride out the way so they can hear what I’m saying?
BHN – So how do you get around that?
AM - It’s consistency. I’ll say the same thing over and over. ‘Have a blessed day. Have a beautiful day. It’s a wonderful day today. How do you feel today.’ I’ll say that before I say, ‘Would you like to have a Final Call Newspaper?’ The people that are around them, if there’s more than one, will say, ‘Did you hear what he said? Why’d you cuss him out?’ They get on them and then they’ll be so stubborn and furious til their friends have to open the door for you [saying], ‘That’s not right. Don’t do the brothers like that.’ [The person says:] “Well, I can’t stand them.” And they really can’t say why and if they can, that’s what I’m trying to find out so then maybe I can say something that will change sincerely the way [they] feel because there are other people in the community that are perpetrating; saying, ‘I’m a Muslim’ and their goals are not to display Islam but to work their evil practices in the name of Islam. They hurt people and the people are very angry and when they relate a Muslim to me, they’re thinking of that person, not me. They don’t even know me but as far as they’re concerned, “You’re one of them damn Muslims. You broke my heart.” Sometimes it takes me awhile before I can even get to them to where they’ll just talk and when they do, it’s so ugly. But they won’t tell me the name of the person that did it to them. They got this thing like, ‘I’ll never squeal on a person,’ but yet and still this person has really pulverized [them]; taken [their] heart away and [they] hate us. I want [them] not to hate us.
Selling in the 60s; a dangerous activity
BHN – You find that was true back in the 60s as well as today?
AM - In the 60s it was a whole different ball game. In the 60s people would almost shoot you when you came knocking on their doors. They’d come up, open the door and slam [it] like they’re trying to tear it off the hinge. They would destroy those little screens they had. They were so angry, if it wasn’t for the protection of Allah they would strangle you or shoot you right then and there. They would have so much rage come out of them and you’re backing away going to the next door because you know – (laugh) – as long as you don’t aggress on me, we ain’t got no problem.
Those people, the only way they’d open up their minds is through Minister Louis Farrakhan, through Malcolm X, through Elijah Muhammad, constantly getting the news out because they didn’t have the mass TV coverage. If you [saw] anything on TV it was just a little sound bite but if you would spend some time by going down to the [temple] or be in a community activity where the Muslims were speaking, then you found out what Islam was all about because you could put it together because it would be presented plainly.
So it was a time that I had to constantly keep going out there, I had to cover vast areas, like whole communities, to sell the same amount of papers that I could sell now on a corner or in a neighborhood because of the fact that people just didn’t want to hear what you had to say.
BHN – Are you saying it’s easier to sell the paper today because more people are familiar with Min. Farrakhan whereas back in the 60s, unless you were familiar with the inner circle of the NOI, you weren’t familiar with what Elijah Muhammad was doing? Is that what you meant?
AM - Absolutely, because of the fact that the opposition was to the point where Black people were holding on to White people and felt White people were the key to their success. If they were to go into the Nation, they’d lose their job back then. The FBI is going to investigate you and they might knock on the door, scare the hell out of you but now, people are of the mind, ‘I like what Muslims are saying and I’ll speak out and I’m for them.’ Then there’s some people, they’re supporters but they won’t speak out in their job but we got their support in the neighborhood. They’re being progressively Black minded, they’re saying, ‘I want to be with Black people. We have a hard road to till but I’ll be there with you. If it comes to me standing up in front of my employer or comes to me patronizing or starting a black business, I ain’t with that right now.’ Because the money they have, they feel that’s security and when you talk about coming together, donating your money and opening up a black company, they are all for concept but for the reality of it – ‘I can’t do that because I got family and bills and I just can’t drop everything.’ They don’t have the belief in Allah like we do.
So now it’s easier for us to at least get to people that don’t even buy the paper. A beautiful thing about people that don’t buy the paper today is that they are more respectful to you. ‘No thank you. I don’t want to buy the paper today.’ They’re cordial. I like that. They’re not like, “I’ll kill you!” On the average, it’s not like that. It’s not like you knock on the door and you step back waiting for the door to fall off the hinge.
Paving the way; not necessarily grounds for respect
BHN – Do you think believers today lack awareness or there’s a certain amount of ingratitude for what pioneers like you and others went through to pave the way that it’s a lot easier today than it was in the 60s?
AM - You’re saying 3 things there. Ingratitude from the believers to the pioneers, that’s a road they didn’t go down so they cannot visualize that. If you’re not in the process of going through pain, someone can tell you about it but you didn’t do it so they don’t see, ‘Why should we be kind to the pioneers because [they] laid the foundation?’ That’s the mission. But when you look at it, it [was] the mission then, it’s the mission today. Then you look at the new believers that come in today, most of them, they’re not there very long because of the fact they feel like, ‘We can do this thing.’ We thought so too but then by working the mission we find out it’s a part of life. The key is it’s a part of life. Are you gonna live your life or are you gonna commit suicide? If you’re gonna make it a part of life, you’re gonna grow into doing everything that you can that’s gonna prolong your life and give you longevity and success. That’s the thing that we don’t have patience with; we all talk it but God never gave us that patience to be a God. It’s something that you have to work at and most people when they get into the struggle, being a part of the Nation, they’re all fired up and as they run into more and more obstacles, they start wearing down.
Right now, and back then, when you run into new believers, they’re disrespectful, a lot of them, because they feel like, ‘You did it then how come you ain’t doing it now?’ That’s a good question. I have to search my soul a lot. There’s responsibilities, there’s things that when you think you can do like you used to, a lot of times we lived and did things that were very careless. When you’re young you have an un-resourceable amount of energy that just keeps driving. Now, all of a sudden, your energy light gets dim and you’re fighting to keep being motivated.
Physically, things are changing and you need to be aware that things are changing. Keep your mind in the same drive but don’t brutalize yourself trying to think you can do it day in and day out. I’m kind of crazy when it comes to that. I still get out there in the cold when it’s freezing and I look at my fingers and they’re turning black. That was my drive, always get rid of papers, and so I’m not using balance and intelligence so I push myself and sometimes the weather, it just gets the best of me. You got to come to reality. You can’t do what you used to do. It just ain’t working. Your body doesn’t function like that. Just focus on what you have to do. Try to be a mentor; try to pass the word and stay on the path. You know what you can be doing, you know your limitations, how you’re gonna do it and with that knowledge you have, if you meet the right people you can get the same thing done in less time than 10 or 15 of them trying to do it because those doors have been opened and you never slammed the doors on people. You left them open so when you go back and ask for help, those people are there to support you but the youngsters, they’re blazing a trail not knowing that some people [they're] saying ugly things to, because they’ve hurt you, you have to be able to accept it just like the Minister does. Don’t let nobody kill your spirit but a lot of people they’re very defensive. If you don’t support them now they just about cuss you out. I’m not gonna do that. If you don’t want to buy the paper, fine. If you don’t want to support the Minister, fine. I pray that God bless you with the light of understanding because if we can’t go down this road together, I’m not gonna attack you.
When I talk to the new believers, I know that they have that fire and I love that but it has to be channeled, constructive and it has to be consistency. You’re in for the long haul. Don’t think because you got the youth it’s gonna change overnight. If it [does], I’m so happy because the light at the tunnel is here but until all of our people are experiencing that same heaven, we ain’t there.
BHN – Did you ever meet Elijah Muhammad?
AM - No, I went to his house; was supposed to have dinner with him and he was called away on a business conference, so I never was able to meet him personally. I would see him when I was on post at Saviour’s Day but I never was able to shake his hand, talk to him, embrace him. Same thing with Min. Farrakhan. I’ve been in the Nation all this time and never just walked up to him or hugged him. If I do enough that warrants his presence where he feels, ‘I’ma shake your hand brother,’ that would be good enough. Other than that I just have to stay on the course.
BHN – Thank you.
© 2009 – All Rights Reserved – The Black House News
Unlimited online distribution allowed with acknowledgement of bhonline.org as the source
Table of contents for SOBWC
- BH at the State of The Black World Conference
- Black Female Leaders Speak at SOBWC
- Conrad Worrill at SOBWC
- Learning, Sharing, Networking at SOBWC
- New Generation of Leaders Speak at SOBWC
- Jeremiah Wright at SOBWC
- SOBWC Renews Focus on After Effects of Hurricane Katrina
- Mark Thompson at SOBWC
- SOBWC Photo Gallery
The Reverend Jeremiah Wright was on scene at the State of the Black World Conference (SOBWC) from the first day of meetings, Nov. 19. Having come through months of abuse and negative reports from the mainstream media, political pundits and individuals trashing his name, the Christian minister was – more than once – commended by speakers at the conference and was one of several leaders honored with a Legacy award. Dr Ron Daniels, prior to presenting the award, said the Black church had been desecrated during the campaign season and that Wright, “one of our great thinkers,” had been used as a punching bag. He was glad to show – by the award – that Black leaders are not to be defined or selected by others.
The following are excerpts from comments Wright made just before accepting the award.
… I’m going to say one or two things because in many ways I’m really like John the Baptist and I’ll explain why. I really feel out of place when I look at these giants; when I look at these people I just keep wanting to say, “Help! How did I get up here?”
Sonia Sanchez and I were with the Honorable Minister Farrakhan 24 years ago in Libya. Maulana Karenga has been a mentor; an icon; someone you look up to. Someone you never think of being on a stage with. Ambassador Dudley [Thompson] is incredible. I’ve read about, heard about, talked about but never thought I’d be sharing this honor, this night. Haki [Madhubuti] and I go back to 1969 in Chicago; George Kent, Charles Long. Being honored along with them tonight means the world to me. I haven’t called my friend and brother’s name outside of saying we went to Tripoli with him; I’ll explain why.
Vincent Harding* in 1969 spoke to the Black Theologians and to Seminarians at the University of Chicago Divinity School and he talked about the Black World. He opened up, along with Charles Long, a vision of Blacks throughout the world – Blacks on the continent and throughout the Diaspora – and he challenged those of us who were in school studying to be clergy persons, no matter which discipline we were going into – not to buy into – because a lot of us had left the church. That’s why I tease you all the time. A lot of us had given up on the church but that which was within us would not be quiet and would not be still and we knew there was something more than what we were seeing around the nation. It was only through that vision of Vincent Harding, the Institute of the Black World, Black Theology, and Charles Long – historian of religion, that we began to look at our tradition, our faith. Not as saved, sanctified, filled with the holy ghost Christians, even though there’s nothing wrong with being saved and sanctified with the Holy Ghost.
….. [Concerning the controversy surrounding his relationship with Barack Obama], I’m not worthy to tie the shoestrings of a greater hero than I in this election campaign. Yes he [Obama] sat in our church for 20 years, however, one of the things some of the media got mad at me about back in April, is that I would not let them define our leaders, I wouldn’t let them tell me who my friends were and because the Honorable Minister Farrakhan is a friend of mine; first of all, the Fruit of Islam provided security for me …. When the storm broke, Min. Akbar [Muhammad] was there in my hotel room and the brothers, Min. Farrakhan – the brothers have been with me as brothers and I’ll never forget.
A combination of a Caribbean, St. Kitts, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, his deep faith, his personality and the religion that he lives – not just talks about – prompted this giant, who’s very responsible …. I said I made folk mad in Washington when I said, ‘Name any other American in this country who could get one million people to come to Washington, D.C. There ain’t no other; other than the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. He chose – he doesn’t even know that I know it – Cornel West told me that he [Min. Farrakhan] cried; he shared tears of love and disbelief it was actually happening when he registered and cast his vote for Barack Obama. He never thought he would live to see that day and when they were using me as a whipping board they were waiting for him to say anything and he held his peace in order that Barack might be our president. My brother, we owe a debt of gratitude we can never repay.
*[Vincent Harding was one of several awardees not present. Others included: The Neville Brothers, Danny Glover, Jesse Jackson, Sr., John Conyers, Walter Lomax, Josef Ben-Jochannan, Imari Obadele, Grand Master Mele Mel, Kool Moe Dee.]
© 2008 – All Rights Reserved – The Black House News
Unlimited online distribution allowed with acknowledgement of bhonline.org as the source