Farrakhan rouses Foellinger crowd

Online Poster

Online Poster

By Hetal Bhatt

Sunday afternoon featured a different kind of sermon for University students – one from Minister Louis Farrakhan at Foellinger Auditorium.

Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, spoke for the first time at the University at an annual event known as the Ritual, organized by members of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. In keeping with the program’s theme of proactivity, Farrakhan repeated the mantra calling for students to educate themselves and become more active in their communities.

“Every one of you in here is a wealth of treasure,” he said to the crowd, comprised mostly of students and local residents. “And education is the tool that we must use to mine that treasure out from deep down within our souls.”

Darwin Brown, a University alumnus also present at the event, organized the first Ritual event for Alpha Phi Alpha in 1985 with the goal of creating a greater sense of unity and dialogue between the few minority students who attended the University at that time. Although the issues faced in 2004 may be different from those of 1985, Brown said open dialogue and cohesiveness between all college students is still something that he wishes to see come out of the Ritual.

“I hope that college kids will be more broad-minded during their collegiate experience and also learn to think for themselves so they can develop a stronger sense of leadership, which will be of great benefit to their communities in the future,” he said.

Once he took the podium, Farrakhan echoed Brown’s belief of bettering oneself for the good of the greater community.

“The richest possession of every nation is its people,” he said. “We can build all kinds of marvelous and beautiful buildings – now let’s build some beautiful people.”

Known for his straightforward and often critical style of speaking, Farrakhan pulled no punches when calling for students to become involved in their communities, both during and after college.

“Don’t walk across a stage to get your B.S. degree and think that you’ve got something. Unless you can take that degree and make something of worth with it, you’ve got nothing,” he proclaimed to thunderous applause.

My’Ron McGee, senior in communications, was on the Alpha Phi Alpha committee that organized this year’s event. He said he believes the key to the program’s success is to bring in prominent speakers that young people in the Champaign-Urbana community recognize and would want to go see.

“In the past, we have had some outstanding speakers, but people didn’t really know them, so this time we brought in someone who’s more well-known that will attract more people and spread our message to a larger audience,” he said.

Although McGee said the decision to invite Farrakhan as a keynote speaker for the Ritual was strictly nonpolitical and nonreligious, Farrakhan frequently referred to current political events and religious teachings to make his points resound within the Foellinger crowd.

“You all have potential to create your own opportunities,” he said. “Don’t beg George Bush or wait for John Kerry or some mystery God from above to make things better for you. Use the power of God within yourself to make things better for yourself and take charge of your life.”