Ebony S. Muhammad (EM): Tell me about the first time you heard the Teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad. How old were you and what was going on in your life at that time?
Mother Evelyn Muhammad (MEM): I’m from Boston, Massachusetts, and I believe it was 1952. My brother, who is about a year and a half older than me, is a musician. I was also studying classical music at the time. He came to me one day and told me about these Muslims. Now, at that time you had musicians that came from all over to play in some of the Boston night clubs, especially from New York. My brother knew some of them and used to play with them. So he was telling me about this husband and wife that he met who he wanted to introduce me to. Some of the musicians, the ones from New York, used to smoke pot, and I told him, “No, I don’t want to meet them”! He replied that they were Muslims and not into that kind of stuff. So he introduced me to the couple, and they were such a beautiful couple. They were followers of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. They came from Ohio. After meeting them I became interested. In high school we read a little bit about Muhammad and all of his wives, but I really wasn’t quite familiar with Islam. My brother wasn’t either, but he knew that it wasn’t like the foreign Muslims. At the time there was a small group of Muslim followers of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad in Boston, and they met in someone’s apartment or maybe sat down and conversed at a restaurant.
I went to one of the meetings, and I met a sister there who was a friend of Sister Hilda. Sister Hilda was the sister of Brother Malcolm [X]. So, we became close and she began teaching me about the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam. I really became interested in it. She told me that her brother, Malcolm, was in prison outside of Boston and he was about to come out in about four of five months. I stayed close to these two sisters as they were teaching me about the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam. She introduced me to her younger brother, Wesley, and another brother Isaac from Detroit. I’ve never met anyone like that. Well, I hardly ever went out of the house (laughing). They were such refined men, and they were telling me all about the Nation of Islam and about Brother Malcolm. He had an older brother, Wilfred, who was a minister in Michigan, and he used to go to the prison and teach them Islam. They wanted me to go to the prison and meet Malcolm. What? You want me to go to a prison (laughing)? I told them I was scared to death. They went on and on about this brother and how he could teach and so forth. So I said okay I’ll go. I went, and I was really blown over by the way Brother Malcolm was teaching. He was strong in what he was teaching regarding the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. So that was really a big opening for me to see how powerful the Teachings and the Nation of Islam was, because they were all so excellent and polite. It was just a beautiful thing to see.
So I became involved with a small group of Believers. I was a teenager, and there were other teens and a few older brothers and elders. We were out teaching in the street, and this is what I don’t see today. Our young people have all these computers and all these things to distract them. I was in my last year of high school. When I got out of school at 2:30 P.M., I would head out to the street with the other young sisters and brothers to invite people to come hear the lecture about the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
When Brother Malcolm got out of prison he had to go back to his home state for a year, and then he came back to Boston. That’s when things really picked up. He was like a F.O.I. (Fruit of Islam) Captain. He would talk to us and tell us things like, “When you talk to a person, always find something on them to remember them by”. He would give us all these clues on how to judge people. He would take a whole group of us down to the Boston Commons and he would talk to us. He was really a wonderful teacher. He would stop people and ask them, “Would you like to go to this ‘meeting’? There’s going to be a man who’s teaching this Sunday”. He wouldn’t tell them too much, just enough to get their mouths watering. Of course when they got down there it would be him teaching (laughing). He was really a fisher of men.
It was a young group of us. One of the youngest was Mother Khadijah Farrakhan’s sister, Sylvia. She must have been maybe sixteen or seventeen years old. She was in early. My brother and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan both went to the same high school, and of course he knew Minister Farrakhan.
It was in the summertime and we were in front of a restaurant called the Chicken Lane. It was Brother Malcolm and Brother Joseph (who later became Brother Yusuf and the Captain in New York). We were trying to get Minister Farrakhan to join the Nation. At that time he had his calypso band and it was really nice. So we went to hear him play in his calypso band and he was shaking the maracas. We were also out trying to get people to hear the Teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. See, at that time there really weren’t a lot of things keeping us. We had televisions, but there were probably about three stations on it and it didn’t stay on all night. They just didn’t have a lot of entertainment.
Brother Malcolm brought us, and I don’t know how it happened but we were invited to meet the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. It was about eight of us, men and women. We had dinner with him. He was so nice, and the family was too. It was really a beautiful and wonderful time to meet the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and his wife, Sister Clara Muhammad. We were really excited!
I used to do speeches and teach on Sundays. It all started with one Sunday Brother Malcolm didn’t have anyone to open up. Apparently the brother who was supposed to introduce him wasn’t there. So they asked me to go up and introduce him. It was down in the basement of someone’s home. So I got up and opened up for Brother Malcolm. I could only teach the little bit I knew, but I knew that what I did know was the truth.
We had so much time to delve into these Teachings, when now these children are playing with games. This Caucasian really knows what he’s doing to keep our people away from these studies. We were all just high school students. We had brothers who were graduates from high school and older people, but it was just a small group. Praises be to Allah, within two years we got our temple number, Number 11.
My parents had died in an automobile accident; my father, my stepmother, and my younger brother. We used to go over to New York, Temple Number 7. Brother Sultan was the minister. I was crossing the street in Boston, and I met Brother Louis and I told him I was on my way to Chicago. The Honorable Elijah had written me. Before all of that, I was on my way to Virginia, because that’s where my father was from, to see the family and to take care of some things. Brother Malcolm helped me a great deal. He really brought me through, because my older brother was out of the country. I stopped by Temple Number 4 in Washington, D.C. They used to call me up to teach all the time wherever I would go. Brother Lucius Bey was the minister there at the time. There was a sister there who liked Brother Malcolm, and she and her mother got this thing together to try to get me in a whole lot of trouble because Brother Lucius Bey asked me to speak. So his wife and this sister’s mother reported me saying these awful things. It just hurt me so bad. So when I finished, I went back to Virginia and back to Boston, I wrote the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and told him how terrible they treated me and accused me. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad wrote me back asked me to come to Chicago to be a secretary. All Praise Be to Allah.
So as I was saying before, I was crossing the street and saw Brother Louis, and I told him I was on my way to Chicago. This was in 1954 right before Saviours’ Day 1955. That was the last time I saw him. He went to Chicago for Saviours’ Day. He had an engagement at this night club. I think Brother Wahid had also spoken with him to come out to Chicago. There was this little hotel around the corner from the National House, and I was going there to visit some of the Believers from Boston who were there, and guess who was in the lobby with me? Brother Louis, his wife, and their little daughter Sister BJ (laughing). Of course they were on their way to Saviours’ Day. Those were some good times.
Brother Louis had a hard time. Whatever he tells you…The brothers used to wear what they called “foot foolers”, because there were no soles on the bottom of their shoes. The brothers wore suits in the Nation, and these were young people. They would go to the second hand store and get themselves a nice suit and find some shoes. What the Minister is teaching is the absolute truth. Shortly thereafter, he started having children. It was difficult. Mother Khadijah, at that time, used to bake bean pies to help with the groceries.
EM: What were the M.G.T. & G.C.C. (Muslim Girls’ Training & General Civilization Class) like at that time?
MEM: They were up to date. They were wonderful. We had wonderful teachers. Most of them were the elders. Some of the sisters had met Master Fard Muhammad. Sister Mary Ali told us one time when they arrested the believers for keeping their children out of the public school, they had arrested the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and Master Fard Muhammad. They told us how they went down to the station and were beating up police left and right (laughing). When we used to visit Detroit, the M.G.T. would tell us about how Mast Fard Muhammad taught them how to waltz, and He would dance with a glass of water on His head. They used to tell us some wonderful stories! I loved going to Detroit. When we went from Chicago to visit Boston we would stop in Detroit. The Muslims were just so beautiful and so kind. You knew something was happening here.
When we were working for the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, we didn’t get to go to M.G.T. class often, because we had our own M.G.T. class right in the National House. All of us had to learn to serve and set the table. They used to take three of us, different ones every night, down to prepare the table and do some of the light cooking like salad plates. We were able to see how they were cooking though. We would have to bring a nice gown to wear at the dinner table, because he had guests, quite a few guests at times. The guests just couldn’t believe it. Although we working at the office, we would bring a nice gown to change into on those evenings. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said, “Even at home, the wife should wear something nice at the dinner table and look very feminine”. Mother Clara would tell us anything she saw wrong, any little thing. She was really a wonderful, beautiful woman. She was a good mother to us all.
They used to decorate the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s home every Saviours’ Day. They would make the drapes and the upholstery. Sister Ethel and Sister Lottie did an excellent job. They didn’t know anything about the power sewing machines; they would use the regular sewing machines. They knew how to sew back then. They would make their own uniforms. They were wearing the Princess at that time, with the cape and the headpiece. We did the two-piece with the tunic and the skirt. So I was telling Sister Ethel about the power sewing machine and eventually they got one.
We had dress shops, the bakery, the brothers barber shop and woman’s beauty salon. Sister Ethel had a really nice shop with jewelry, gloves and handbags. On the other side it was the brothers’ shirts. Then she opened another shop with fashionable clothes. It was a few years later when we opened up the first factory with uniforms of all different colors. We had a calendar with different squares for the month and we would have a different color for the month. That was all over the Nation. Things just kept on evolving. It was wonderful.
EM: Speaking as a wife of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, how did he prepare you all (the family) for his departure?
MEM: He told us. He took my daughter Marie into a room downstairs and he told us it was time that he was going to leave to go up to Master Fard Muhammad to a higher spiritual life. He said that he may be gone for about three years or so, but he would return with Master Fard Muhammad.
Well we saw that his son, Wallace, was teetering back and forth and the Hon. Elijah Muhammad was watching him. He had sent his sons, Wallace and Akbar, and another brother to Egypt to go to the university to learn Arabic. When they came back home they were converted. He was doing some teaching, and Wallace could teach very well. Every now and then he would teeter off a little bit. Who knows what the real basis and cause was. We always loved Wallace, he was a very nice person to be with, but things changed.
So when the Honorable Elijah Muhammad became ill and we had gone to see him at the hospital, he told us that if he wasn’t able to make the Saviours’ Day, he wanted Minister Louis Farrakhan to be the speaker. However, of course the family wasn’t going to have that. Minister Farrakhan honestly loves the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s family so he would not interfere with what they wanted to do. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad would tell us things about how it was all going to fall, everything. However, we couldn’t imagine, but everything would be destroyed. Nevertheless, he said that when they hear my voice…and he said that it would be three years and some months. So our family and the Minister’s family just came together. It was just very hard and very painful to see everything the Believers put their life savings in and worked so hard for disappear and to see them throwing away things like nothing.
Well we went out and heard Wallace a few times, and his speech was so ugly about his family especially his father. We couldn’t take anymore, so we just stopped going. They changed their names and dressed in robes. So we just held on to each other, we held on to each other until finally Minister Farrakhan stood back up and rebuilt the Nation of Islam.
EM: What was that like, seeing him stand back up?
MEM: Oh it was wonderful! Absolutely! He was the one. The Messenger sat him in his seat and told us to follow him. He said he was worth more than all of the gold and diamonds in the Earth, and through him he would get all, he didn’t say some, he said all of his people. That was sure enough, enough for anyone to understand. But you know with that situation (fall of the Nation), a lot of people really lost their minds. It was so devastating. We had a part of the city to ourselves. We had everything you could think of. We had a department store, two floors. We had an import store. We had everything that we needed.
Marie Muhammad (MM): Everything except that hospital.
MEM: He tried everything to get that hospital, and it shut down and everything. They never reopened it. He wanted a hospital so bad, but they wouldn’t let him. But we had everything we needed. He had his own jet plane. His grandson, Sultan (Brother Herbert’s son), went to aerial school to learn how to fly the plane. Due to the Messenger being stuck in the house, checking mail and working in the office, he liked to drive as well. So late at night he would drive us home. He would drive us all the way down to Lake Michigan and then back. He used to tell us, “That’s where all the rich folks live and one day this will be all yours”. He said, “The dollar bill will be so bad that they’ll be wrapping them up like cigars and smoking them”. Look what’s been happening with the dollar bill, it’s not worth two cents. They’re just printing paper.
So a lot of times he would drive us home and drop us off. It would give him a chance to get some fresh air. He used to tell us a lot of stories. This is another thing I think we can see today…he said, “They’re building homes over there. They already have homes in places. Nobody’s living in them. You know they like to live in the deserts in tents”. Look at all those places they’re building in Dubai. They’re not that many people over there. The rich can’t even travel like they used to. You see what’s happening in Greece.
I can bear witness to everything he has told us, and that which has not come into fruition as of yet will come. I bear witness to everything. The blessings and sitting around the table to hear him speak. The guests and ministers who would come for dinner, he would tell them, “Don’t ask me any questions unless you ask me questions about the Lessons”. We haven’t touched the depths of the Lessons.
EM: As the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan preparing us for his departure, what words would you like to share regarding your experience with the departure of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad?
MEM: Whatever the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan tells us, like the Honorable Elijah Muhammad told us. He didn’t tell the big body, but when he called Brother Minister up on the stage he told them enough. He said to follow him. We know this, and the Honorable Minister Farrakhan has proven himself over and over again. I, as a believer, have seen him grow from a young man from 20 years old, and I have seen his growth and spirituality and love for the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. He is preparing us now. We can’t be foolish to think that it will happen in the far off future. We’re looking at it. He’s trying to prepare us now. He’s putting it in all of the CDs and DVDs in our face to follow the instructions he’s giving to us. Have the faith! It’s a test. We didn’t have to (Prior to 1975), but we did for a reason. Wallace made it happen, for a reason. Is it just the material things? Is that what we’re in the Nation of Islam for? I can only say for myself we should be looking and listening to his (Minister Farrakhan’s) words. He is trying to carry us through this now. We got short notices (with the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad); today we’re getting long notices and it is wisdom.
EM: Thank you very much.
MEM: Oh you’re welcome dear.