From a three-hour keynote address by Minister Louis Farrakhan to $10 T-shirts, mentions of President Barack Obama were everywhere at the Nation of Islam’s annual convention in a Chicago suburb.
“There’s an energy among our people that has never been seen before, never produced by any man or organization before,” Farrakhan said of Obama before an estimated 14,000 followers Sunday. “But we must not allow our people to live in a false world of euphoria. We must accept our responsibility to build our communities.”
Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam have vigorously supported Obama, even when Obama’s campaign tried to distance itself from the 75-year-old Farrakhan. After the minister spoke highly of Obama last year at a convention in Chicago, Obama’s campaign released a statement condemning some of Farrakhan’s past statements that many have considered offensive.
In a speech days after the election, Farrakhan acknowledged that he then purposely laid low, keeping his praise quiet, so as not to affect Obama’s chances at winning the presidency.
It was a move many attending the weekend conference in Rosemont said they understood.
“Minister Farrakhan didn’t take offense,” said Audrey Muhammad, who edits “Virtue Today” magazine, geared at women in the movement. “We understand how politics work.”
Farrakhan told followers to be prepared to make sacrifices as Obama begins work on the faltering economy.
“Debt is another form of slavery and oppression,” he said. “It’s gonna take more than a stimulus package to bring America from where she is.”
For some, that included looking to the Obamas as an example.
Broyny Flowers, 32, traveled from Detroit to attend the convention and a standing-room-only session called “The Michelle Obama Effect.” Presenters discussed the first lady’s approach to marriage, parenting and even how she stocks the shelves at the White House with organic food.
“She is a representative of what virtue is,” Flowers said. “She is an anchor for Barack.”
“The impact they are having on the world is being a happy family, an educated family–the American dream,” Audrey Muhammad said.