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It was a unique sight Monday when men wearing bow ties spent hours wishing residents of the South Jamaica Houses “as-salamu alaykum” as they waited for the leader of the Nation of Islam, who arrived by police escort just as the exterior lights were starting to come on at the 40 Projects.
“It’s a great honor to be here in Jamaica, Queens,” Louis Farrakhan told the crowd of more than 100 that gathered to listen for about half an hour as the minister spoke about the need for communities of color to look within to address problems such as gun violence and poverty.
Farrakhan said he was prompted by a shooting in Chicago to embark on an international tour that brought him early Monday to Newark, then Brooklyn and finally to South Jamaica.
“Now I heard that there’s some killing that has been going on in this area. Is that true?” he asked, the crowd’s answer letting him know he had heard the truth.
According to the latest NYPD statistics, murders in the 103rd Precinct, which covers the projects, were up 66 percent over last year, from six to 10.
“This killing of self and each other has to stop. The hatred that we show for one another, that means we are no longer the people of God,” Farrakhan said. “We’re becoming something terrible because what we’re doing to one another we never did during the darkest days of slavery.”
The issues of gun violence and the city Police Department’s stop-and-frisk program have been inseparable this summer. But whereas southeast Queens political and civic leaders have looked toward working with the NYPD to improve police-community relations, Farrakhan said people would have to look toward God to change their condition.
“Now if you’ve got a little weed on you, that’s an excuse to do you harm, throw you down on the ground in front of your friends and family, handcuff you,” he said. “You can rise above any condition that you are in. All you need is knowledge .... But now don’t think that the enemy who made us slaves is gonna teach us what we need to know to be free of him,” he said.
Farrakhan said that even if President Barack Obama could get a jobs bill through Congress, those jobs would probably not go to African Americans, and he urged the black community to invest its money in itself.
“We live all up on top of each other, and that’s not healthy living either, you know, and we don’t get along well with each other. Now think about this: Look at all these apartments. Suppose we were neighbors, really neighbors and loved each other,” he said. “You could turn this place into an oasis.”
Shawn Latiner, 27, said he thought the minister’s words might have an effect on young people, but “maybe not overnight. Like he said, if you want to change, it has to come from within.”
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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