Sophia Tareen and Rachel Zoll, AP, December 21, 2016
Minister Louis Farrakhan, head of the Nation of Islam, spoke from a podium draped in the red, black and green of the Pan-African flag, a symbol of black pride.
It was the week after Donald Trump won the presidency. The result had delighted a new generation of white supremacists, and Farrakhan was analyzing the political landscape.
In a speech before the State of the Black World Conference in New Jersey, he warned, “The white man is going to push. He’s putting in place the very thing that will limit the freedom of others.” Then he pointed to the crowd, smiled and said, “That’s what you needed,” as motivation to finally separate from whites.
“My message to Mr. Trump: Push it real good,” Farrakhan said, building to a roar that drew applause and cheers. “Push it so good that black people say, ‘I’m outta here. I can’t take it no more.’”
After a presidential campaign that emboldened white identity politics, the Nation of Islam, a black separatist religious movement, is positioning itself as newly relevant.
Still, Farrakhan and his message of black empowerment clearly have an ongoing impact. The Million Man March he organized in 1995, drawing hundreds of thousands to Washington, remains a cultural touchstone, and hip-hop artists praise him in their music. The Nation has an extensive prison ministry, along with health and social service programs, and the movement’s militia, the Fruit of Islam, provides security at public housing and elsewhere.
That name recognition and high level of organization has left the Nation well situated to take advantage of the current political moment, including the emergence of Black Lives Matter protests over police shootings of black men.
During a February address on Saviours’ Day, an annual event commemorating the movement’s founder, Farrakhan praised Trump for confronting Republican establishment candidates like Jeb Bush. “Not that I’m for Trump, but I like what I’m looking at, because I know by Allah’s grace where it’s leading,” Farrakhan said.