A local media outlet reported residents are calling for an apology from the mayor of Monroe, La., for giving the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam a key to the city in mid-December, the mayor of the city called for a conversation on race instead.
Mixed feelings, controversy and false characterizations arose about the Minister after a brief visit to the city. Minister Farrakhan was in the area attending the graduation ceremony of his granddaughter at Grambling State University, which was about 40 minutes away.
Mayor James “Jamie” Mayo told The Final Call he personally didn’t receive any calls for an apology. In protest outside a Dec. 27 City Council meeting were two lone individuals with picket signs and inside were very few people including supportive Nation of Islam members, he said. So far, everything opposing the gesture toward Minister Farrakhan came through the media, he added.
“I’m not aware of what they want me to apologize for. … I can’t speculate on what that could be,” said Mayor Mayo. He said all of it is being driven by racism that needs to be openly addressed. “I’m calling on a ‘citywide conversation on race,’” he said. Some calls came from Whites who didn’t like his meeting with Min. Farrakhan and calls came from Blacks unhappy they were not invited to the meeting, the mayor observed.
A firestorm of controversy from the White mainstream press was aimed at the longtime mayor as media outlets initially questioned whether city money was used to pay for a police escort for the Minister. These outlets were also outraged that the Muslim leader received the ceremonial key to the city.
“Minister Farrakhan is a national and international dignitary and we welcome him into Monroe,” said Mayor Mayo. “I’ve given hundreds of proclamations … we have not given hundreds of keys. … We usually set aside that for national or maybe international dignitaries that come to our community,” Mayor Mayo told The Final Call in a telephone interview. This is the first time a controversy arose about giving a proclamation or key to the city, he added.
The key to the city was presented at Monroe Regional Airport where Minister Farrakhan had an informal “meet and greet” with city officials, Nation of Islam regional and local officials and some community representatives before he gave impromptu remarks and words of guidance and encouragement.
When The Final Call asked Mayor Mayo if city financial resources were used on Minister Farrakhan’s visit, he responded, “less than $100.” The whole security detail was an hour and a half, and the officers were on their normal shifts, said the mayor. “The officers were not paid overtime. They were on duty.”
The mayor also said the Minister, his family and delegation spent money on meals and several hotel rooms during the visit, much more than the cost of a motorcycle escort to the airport. “So, when you look at the economic impact compared to the expense; (It) was trivial,” Mayor Mayo pointed out.
White media outlets that learned of the meeting referred to the Nation of Islam as a “designated hate group” referencing a designation from the Southern Poverty Law Center, a notoriously anti-Nation of Islam organization. The Nation of Islam has been doing the work of restoring and resurrecting Black people in America since 1930 and has always emphatically denied and rejected false “hate group” mischaracterizations.
“I’ve been to many Nation meetings and was never taught how to hold or shoot a gun, take up arms or anything like that,” said local community activist T.J. Stevenson. She said the media reports were far different from her years of interacting with the Nation of Islam. “It was never about ‘I hate you, because you hate me,’ ” she said.
Men are taught about being husbands and fathers and pillars in the community and women are taught how to be better women, wives and mothers, Ms. Stevenson added.
The Nation of Islam Monroe Study Group, led by study group coordinator Verbon Muhammad, blasted the false hate classification at a Dec. 22 press conference. Mr. Muhammad felt the false charges against Minister Farrakhan should not go unanswered.
“We really need to address the elephant that’s in the room and that’s race relations—not only in Monroe, but in this country,” he said. And the mayor should be left alone, Mr. Muhammad added.
The mayor’s gesture partly corrects the legacy of racial terrorism in Monroe against the Nation of Islam and Blacks generally in the state of Louisiana, he continued.
In March 1960, the Monroe police attacked the Muslim Temple and brutally beat men, woman and children; killing one Muslim brother and attempting to lynch the local Muslim minister. Minister Troy X Cade, now known as Abdul Bey Muhammad, was hanged by his necktie over a rafter in the temple but survived. The Muslims fought for their lives and it took the intervention of the National Guard to end clashes that erupted in Monroe. The Muslims, who were attacked by police, were arrested and falsely charged with attempting the overthrow of the United States.
In the book Message To The Blackman, on page 211, under a section entitled “The Persecution of the Righteous,” The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad wrote:
“If Troy X Cade is guilty of teaching insurrection against the government, then I am guilty, because I am Troy’s teacher. I would rather go to prison in place of Troy if this is the justice for the truth Allah gave me.”
Sentenced to six years in prison in the Louisiana State Penitentiary, isolated from other inmates, forced to sleep on a concrete floor and drink from a commode in his cell, Minister Bey awaited a Louisiana Supreme Court decision that would overturn his conviction.
Before this decision would take place, prison guards removed Minister Bey from his cell, shackled him, and turned him over to police and state troopers who drove him to the Louisiana-Mississippi state line.
Minister Bey was again brutally beaten within an inch of his life by officers who attempted to drown him by standing on his body in a swamp until they thought he was dead. His faith in Allah kept Minister Bey alive, and the fact that he had been a lifeguard, a Navy frogman, and an excellent swimmer with the ability to hold his breath under water.
After the officers left, Minister Bey crawled out of the swamp onto the highway, where he lay bleeding and severely injured, hoping someone would stop and help him.
One of the first Black drivers ever hired to drive for the Greyhound Bus Company was the first to come upon Minister Bey’s body on the highway. The driver, along with fellow passengers, helped Minister Bey onto the bus, after which they took him to a medical facility on the Jackson State College (now known as Jackson State University) campus in Mississippi to be treated.
Minister Bey later returned to prison awaiting the rendering of a state Supreme Court decision and to deter authorities from charging him with “escape from prison” in addition to other false charges. In 1963, Minister Bey received a favorable ruling from the Louisiana Supreme Court, which overturned his convictions.