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Freedom Denied
9/23/2015 2:21:29 PM

By Barney Blakeney 

Sometimes stuff just flies over my head. I get caught up in the moment and don’t really focus on stuff going on around me. So it was the other day in the barber shop as a brother queried me about the cancelation of a speech that was to be given at Trident Technical College by Muslim Minister Louis Farrakhan.

I got an announcement about a month ago telling me Farrakhan would be speaking Sept. 15 at the school’s main campus in North Charleston.

I was elated. I’ve heard Farrakhan speak in person a couple of times here in Charleston some 20 years ago or more. Like comedian Dick Gregory, Farrakhan brings the truth. I don’t agree with everything he says, especially in more recent years, but the brother has a perspective I find insightful.

Farrakhan’s talk was billed as commentary on the 20th anniversary of the Oct. 16, 1995 Million Man March in Washington, D.C. I covered the Million Man March as a reporter. It was a life changing experience.

I was anxious to hear what Farrakhan had to say about the march’s legacy 20 years later in his speech dubbed “Justice or Else”.

Well, it didn’t happen. I got the email last week telling me the event had been cancelled.

I really didn’t think much about it. I had some other stuff going on that had my attention. I figured it was just another cancellation. No big deal.

When the brother who was waiting on some kids getting hair cuts breached the subject, I heard him but it didn’t stick. I lost my big brother cousin, Reginald W. Baker and my elderly aunt Mrs. Sarah Lees Miller Cooper, both of Kingstree, last week. It was a crazy time. I had other stuff on my mind.

It wasn’t until early Sunday morning when Vandy Gilliard called me about 7 a.m. screaming how Black ministers in Charleston have no hutzpah that I finally focused in on the Farrakhan deal. It was early, I still was thinking about my aunt who died Saturday as we prepared to bring Brother home from Chicago,, Ill. for burial this week and this guy is screaming that some D.C. minister called us here in Charleston shameful Black folks.

Vandy said Black ministers in North Charleston were being called gutless Steppinfetchits because none would allow Farrakahan the use of a venue for his speech after the powers that be made it nearly impossible for Farrakhan to speak at any other venue. I had no idea what Vandy was talking about. Then I remembered my man at the barber shop who also had mentioned local Black ministers were responding in fear to intimidation from white folks about the Farrakhan speech.

As usual, Vandy was going off. He said some white folks were opposed to Farrakhan speaking here and brought to bear their influence to prevent it.

Black folks bowed their heads and backed off in accommodation, he said. White folks will never respect a Black man unwilling to defy them, he argued. Trident Tech shut down the speech. Some Black church should have picked up the slack, he said.

I called Imam DeAndre Muhammad to see if what I was hearing was true. He said forces in the area were working to deny Farrakhan access to a speaking venue.

Muhammad said they tried to reach out to local churches after Trident Tech, which had already contracted to provide the venue, later imposed a much higher usage fee. Some churches gave them excuses others didn’t even respond, he said. It was the same with other local facilities, including Charleston County School District. Muhammad said a concerted effort to deny Farrakhan access to a local venue was obvious.

Though this chapter in the saga may be over the book isn’t closed, Muhammad said. They hope to bring Farrakhan to Charleston before the end of the year, he said. I hope they do.

I think denying the brother the opportunity to speak at a public venue is anti-american. As Vandy pointed out, this country was founded on freedom of speech and religious freedom. For Black folks like Ben Carson who argued that a Muslim should never become president is insanity. I can never figure how someone who was denied can ever deny someone else. It goes against my logic.

As for Steppinfetchits, we’ve all heard the tales that North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey has some Black folks under his thumb. I ain’t sayin’ it’s true, I’m just sayin’.

I think we’d do well to listen to what Farrakhan has to say. I think some people have been hoodwinked and bamboozled through misrepresentation to develop a distorted image of Farrakhan. I ain’t sayin’ he’s never said anything dumb, I haven’t heard everything he’s ever said.

But I know the brother speaks some naked truths about America. Despite fear of reprisal or intimidation, if anybody needs to hear some truths about our society, it should be Black folks.

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