Ebony S. Muhammad (EM): Tell me how you were introduced to the Teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam.
Abel Muhammad (AM): I was introduced while I was in high school by a brother, Aden, who was about a year or two older than me. He was always a little peculiar. He never wore jeans. He looked totally different from everybody else. He would always come with a big bundle of papers that I had never seen before. It was the Final Call; now I know but I didn’t know at the time. He wouldn’t talk to us (the 3 Mexicans that shared a table with him) really. He was always reading. One day I looked at the top of the paper which said, “A.I.D.S. Treatment Found in Africa”. It was around October in the early 90s, and AIDS was a huge deal. Everyone was talking about an epidemic. I asked him if I could read it, and he said yes and that it was only $1. I remember the first thing that came to mind was, “how could this be real and I don’t know anything about it”? At the time I don’t remember reading the Minster’s articles or knowing who the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad was.
One day I saw him reading a book called, “How to Eat to Live” and on the cover it said, “From God in Person”. I asked him about it, and he just said that it was a book he was reading. I don’t think he really knew how to approach me or take my questions. After reading How to Eat to Live I began doing everything the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad said. For some reason it clicked. It just made sense to me, and it answered a lot of the questions I had as a young child. Even though it said “black, black, black…” and it had a lot of “white man devil”, it didn’t faze me negatively or positively. I was more focused on what he said; it just made sense to me. If he said that it takes 24 hours for your food to digest and to eat one meal a day, that’s what I did.
So I asked the brother, “What else can I read”? We never really had a conversation about Islam, and I don’t think he knew what to make of it because I was a Mexican brother asking him about this. He responded, “I think the next book you should read is Message to the Blackman. I can get it for you. It’s only $10”. I gave him $10, he brought me the book and it just blew me away. It answered everything I’d ever wanted to know. I was a fan of Public Enemy so I heard the name Farrakhan, but I didn’t know who he was or how to make the connection. I still didn’t really know who Honorable Elijah Muhammad was.
He never invited me out to the mosque, and to this day I don’t know where this brother is. He just kind of gave me what I needed, and I went seeking knowledge on my own. What really got me was his example in school and being who he was regardless of what others were doing or saying. He wasn’t trying to fit in with everyone else.
From reading Message to the Blackman I remember seeing little mentions of Latin America and Mexico, but I had a lot of questions. So I looked up the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad in the library. I got all of his books. It was then that someone said that I should go to the mosque. I didn’t even know what that was. They said you should go hear Minister Farrakhan. I remembered he had an article in the Final Call, and I remembered his name from the Public Enemy song, but that was all I knew of him. So I began going to the Respect For Life bookstore and getting some of his tapes.
I came out to the mosque for the first time in 1994, and my first Saviours’ Day that I attended was 1995, “Jesus Saves”. During my first meeting at the mosque, it was on a Wednesday and Brother Ishmael and Brother Rasul were teaching, I accepted. I accepted in 1994, but I didn’t get registered until 1998. The thing that kept me from registering was the responsibility that I felt was connected to it, and I didn’t see anyone else that was Hispanic or Latino in the mosque. I felt like it was right, but I didn’t have proof. I found out that Brother Ishmael and Brother Rasul were raised in Mexico and were the Messenger’s son, but I still felt like that was different. Then I met Minister Ishmael’s wife at the time, Sister Raquel, who was from Mexico and their family, and felt that I was getting closer. So I just decided, in 1998 that this was right. I can’t figure it out on the outside; I have to be inside the house. I intend to help those from other backgrounds, Latin American and Native American, so that they don’t have to go through a five, six, or seven year process. They know its right; they just don’t see themselves in it.
EM: As the Latino representative of the Nation of Islam, what message would you like to offer the Spanish speaking brothers and sisters who may not know much about the Nation of Islam and their role in the Nation? How would you like to express to them that it’s not just for Black men and women only, but it extends to all of the Original family?
AM: What I always try to stress in the community, colleges that I visit, and churches is that we seek unity amongst our own people with an eye out for holding on to the unity of other groups who are oppressed and struggling for justice. The Black community in the United States is our number one, natural ally. Even when teaching about the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, I try to get them to look past the language used. The language has a purpose for Black people, but it also has a purpose for us. Right now if you go into Mexico and the Latino communities (all over-Central America and the Caribbean) the darker groups, who you would call Black people, are the ones who are most in need of assistance and help and are the ones suffering. Those of us here in America who are mistreated by Caucasians, we go into our home lands and mistreat the darker ones and the more indigenous looking brothers and sisters. We have to address that problem internally, and we can’t without the Teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
I love the language that the Messenger gives us, Black and Original, because it allows all of us to come under that umbrella without excluding anyone. I think that we should use, in the mosque, that bigger language with the brothers and sisters on the outside who look in. They don’t realize that they have access. They feel excluded from it, because it’s always been “Black” Muslims. If we listen to what the Minister is teaching, it’s giving us access to the bigger field. When our Lessons say, “…with the 2 million Indians…”, everyone in the Western Hemisphere has indigenous roots. Those who were brought here, who are not from here but are from Africa, uniting with those from the East is not such a foreign thing. The ones in the West were originally from the East, so it’s like one big circle.
When the Latinos come to hear the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan speak, they feel the connection. However, when they go to the study group locally or when they visit the mosque locally do the feel that same message? Not that I think that people are purposely trying to make people feel unwelcome. We just have to get out of the norms and customs that we’ve gotten into that aren’t up to the modern time right now.
EM: How do you think that we, as Black Muslims, can be more open to including Latinos without making it seem so uncomfortable?
AM: I think that’s the biggest thing. It goes back to what Master Fard Muhammad wanted, “Accept Your Own and Be Yourself”. I feel, sometimes, this friction, even in the mosque, because brothers and sisters feel as if somebody else is coming to take something that is “mine”.
EM: The Minister has mentioned that thought process of entitlement or exclusivity that exists.
AM: Right. It’s a dangerous thing. What God came to give freely, you cannot limit, because it puts you in another area that is a very dangerous area to be in. I think the brothers and sisters are somewhat afraid or have trepidation or are just not sure. However, the Nation has a history of Latin Americans being in the mosque. You have reports of one of the top salesmen of the Muhammad Speaks being a Puerto Rican brother out of Milwaukee. At Saviours’ Day 1968 Emmanuel X Villalobos spoke before the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and was his representative in Mexico City. There were five places where the Teachings were taught in Mexico. The Messenger lived in Mexico. Why would it be so farfetched? The Messenger said that black is not regional, black is not local, but it’s Universal. If you teach black then you teach everyone. Well why would that be relative unless your scope is intended to teach everyone?
When the Messenger asked what Teachings he should give the Mexicans, he said to give them the same Teachings. So the body of believers has to be stronger in recognizing that you don’t lose anything. God isn’t going to rob you of anything when you see a Mexican, a Native American, an Asian coming in. When you see them coming, how does that take anything from you? That’s what’s missing.
The Latino perception of Black people is the same as the Caucasian, because of the media that has been put out there. The only thing that can challenge that is the Teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. It makes you re-evaluate everything about yourself, your people, their people, and then that relationship builds. Yet, if we try to keep it for ourselves, then the Mexican brother might say, “Well that’s just black stuff. All right, I’m not black. You’re telling me I’m not black, well I don’t want your black stuff”. When they hear the Minister, they say, “That’s our guy”. So we can’t try to make them into something they’re not by always saying “Black man” when they don’t see themselves as black.
The baby language is so much deeper than just curse words or speaking out of turn. It’s a way of thinking, which is expressed in the language. If you don’t see me as a brother, it’s going to reflect in the language. It’s not about learning Spanish, although it’s good if you can do that. However, if you are an example of cleanliness, uprightness, which is what our people are looking for, nobody can resist that.
EM: It’s interesting that you mentioned learning Spanish, because the Minister has encouraged us to learn Spanish, Arabic, and French. Do you think that it would encourage more of a bond if one takes the initiative to learn the language?
AM: If you’ve ever gone anywhere in Latin America or know anyone from Latin America, there is such as strong sense of culture and family, and that’s how Caucasians have made their way in. They learned the language. Once you learn the language the people embrace you. Whether your motive is wicked or evil, it’s the fact that you took the time to study so that you could effectively communicate with me.
That is an endearing quality to people. It’s difficult for them to resist you. It’s like a wooing process. Ask a Black brother or sister who has learned the language, and they’ll tell you how the doors have really opened for them. They see someone who has suffered like them and has an understanding of their suffering who can now communicate effectively. The Minister is absolutely correct, because how can you address a people’s ills if you can’t speak their language? You can’t serve if you can’t communicate effectively.
EM: You’ve talked about the family structure. I think that is something we, as Black people, are lacking because of what we went through. I think that is a wonderful asset in bonding with the Spanish speaking community, which would be to learn more about family, sensitivity, and sharing.
AM: There’s a natural sensitivity that comes based off of that family structure. Black people have become hypersensitive in a negative way. A great example of that is when the former President of Mexico said Mexicans would do the jobs that not even Black people would do. Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton said that it was a racist statement. It was the Minister who defended that president’s statement saying that it was a fact. He was making a statement based on a social reality that the jobs that the least in this society would not do, our people from Mexico will come and do them. That’s not a racist statement it was a statement of fact. Not that it’s without reason, but we cannot be so sensitive to where we will not recognize truth when it’s being spoken. The sensitivity is due to not knowing ourselves. You’re more sensitive in a negative way when you don’t have the proper perception of yourself. That comes from not having a solid family base.
You remember all of those marches that took place, particularly in 2006 after the Millions More Movement. There were marches all over the country regarding immigration reform. No leader called that. There is no Hispanic leader. There are a lot of local activists and very few regional political leaders. However, they’re not well established. There are none who are spiritual, none who are true activists of the caliber of a Reverend Jackson or Reverend Sharpton, much less the Minister. That’s not just here; you can go in Mexico and won’t find anything like that. You had a community without leadership that was able to mobilize millions of people based on this “sensitivity” on the positive side. They are thinking, “Hold on they’re saying we’re not citizens and they’re talking about deportations. Well that’s going to affect my uncle, my aunt, that’s going to affect my cousin. I can’t let that happen, I got to go and do something. Let me go out and march”. It goes all the way to the youth. You have the young brothers and sisters who are in Arizona walking out of the schools to protest. You have the ones in Chicago, in what they call, “Coming Out”, and what they’re doing is having press conferences declaring that they are undocumented.
You have some who got accepted into college on a full scholarship, but they can’t use it because they’re undocumented. Yet, they’ve been living here since they were three years old. So what does that do to the rest of the Mexicans who are looking at that? This isn’t right. So now, the beautiful thing about it, it’s affecting Black people. It’s touching a chord now that it didn’t touch five years ago when they tried to divide us. You have the rappers who came out and did a remake of a song by Public Enemy called “By the Time I Get to Arizona”. Talib Kweli made a song called “Papers Please”. This is specifically aimed at supporting the Mexicans and Indigenous people.
If you ask me it’s because of the work of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad going back 70 and 80 years, including the 30 years under the leadership of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. The number of Latinos here in American have grown tremendously from what it was back in the 50s, but why doesn’t that reflect in the Nation? It’s beginning to sparkle a little bit now, but it’s still not to the degree that would be satisfying. I think it’s because the language still has not evolved. I think we are underestimating what people are willing to accept, and we’re not willing to do that which would be more difficult but advantageous. I think by the Will of Allah, that it will be covered quickly, not by words but by circumstances.
EM: Are there regional representatives in place to help you spread this word that Islam and the Nation of Islam is for the Latinos as well?
AM: Yes. There are various regional representatives. The Western Region and the East coast are doing very well. The difficulty, however, is follow up. If we just do it once, it’s not going to do what it’s supposed to. We can go plant the seeds, but if we don’t go back and water them what will happen? They’ll wither and die. We have some things going on Chicago in the next couple of months that once it is introduced it will help. The thing we are dealing with is Black people in America who are so destroyed that need so much attention similar to a patient in the E.R. They are in the worst condition, but then you also have others who are injured; maybe not to the same degree but do we just let them lay there until they get in a worse condition? Nonetheless, for a brother or sister who is still learning about their own history, their own culture, etc. it is a lot to then ask them to learn about someone else’s. I don’t know how fair that it to ask someone to do that. I don’t know how practical or effective that would be.
There are enough of us in the Nation now, Latinos and others, who should begin focusing on our specific target. It’s not about ethnicity, but if you’re a doctor figure out a way to get the message over to other doctors; we need them. If you’re a teacher, give this message to other teachers. That’s what I thought the Millions More Movement was for; to have specialized areas to work in. There are ways to do it and for those believers who have the heart to do it, they should head it up. More importantly than anything else, it’s about being the example. I want to be that.
EM: When you mentioned not wanting to ask Black people to learn about another culture or people when we are still learning about our own, I think that it would be a wonderful thing to do so on the basis of forming a support base. I say that in my field of Thanatology, that it’s important to have a strong support base. I think that it would make things much easier and less of a struggle by embracing others who already have that strong sense of family. I think that both can be done, there just needs to be the right perception.
Pharmacy Around The World online
US Overnight Pharmacy online
AM: In truth, if you are learning these Teachings and you come across other groups of people you will see yourself in them. If you haven’t seriously taken on the study you won’t see it. I don’t expect for somebody who isn’t studying themselves to now go and study someone else. That goes for both communities. It’s not about trying to make Mexicans into Black people. That’s not our experience and you shouldn’t want it to be. It’s not intelligent to do that. They will reject it. I never really took issue when hearing someone say to me, “Black man” or “Black brother”, because I understand the bigger picture. However, I know the psyche of my people, and they don’t see themselves as Black. You have to understand the mind of the people. Do you then not introduce a new language to them? No, that’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is there should be a de-emphasis on that particular part (the language) and focus more on the Teaching, and the language will start to make sense.
EM: Thank you so much for your time Brother Abel.
AM: Thank you!
(Follow Brother Abel on Twitter @AbelMuhammad)