Imam W. Deen Mohammed made this opening presentation at the Annual Conference of the Urban League's Minneapolis, MN Chapter on December 6, 1991.): Part 3
Imam W. Deen Mohammed
[...''Black creativity is changing America," John H. Johnson, Editor & Publisher — "The Browning of White America/' Ebony. August '91 issue]
Ebony Magazine had a special not so many months ago. I cannot recall the issue right now. I am just now thinking of including this because it goes well towards helping me say what I want to say. That special issue was devoted to sharing with Ebony Magazine's readers the great influence that the soul of the African American people has had on American culture. It spoke of how our great performers in the arts, especially the singers and musicians, have influenced the shaping of the soul of the American people.
Impact Of Soul Folks
This is my language, but I am sharing with you what I understood to be the message of that special issue of Ebony. We now have a big world of soul children, and it is not only in America. Believe me, black baby, we are the parent of them all. You can go even now in Muslim lands and will find a different personality in many of the youngsters. Even some of the older people are beginning to indicate that they have that same personality, the personality of the soul folks.
So we are making some impact not only on American society but on the world society. The criticism from some sounds racist. I don't think all of them are racists- Some are just disgusted with us and our situation; then, they sound like racists. They used to say the "blacks produce nothing but babies". Now I even wonder about that. Some are not producing babies anymore; they are producing monsters. Now, you invited me here, but you did not expect me to talk your talk. But you want to give us a chance to have our say, and I appreciate it. It is a great opportunity.
A Resource: Softening The Spirit And Emotions
As I said, even now among Muslim societies abroad, if you go among them you will find a likeness of yourself in the way they talk, in the way they walk and move. You will say, "Hey, a little bit of soul rubbed off on you!" And this our spirit and emotions is a great resource. If we have a characteristic in our spiritual make up or in our soul that has helped soften the stiffness of other people — and believe me, I know that stiffness to be in the typical English. I know of some Irish who will call them "too stiff'. If we as soul
folks have helped to soften the stiffness of other people, then that is a great resource we have.
I think we should find ways to use that in a conscious way. We should be conscious of it and use it. If you have talents and material resources and you don't consciously employ those things, then it is just like not having them. And pretty soon you are going to lose them. So I think pretty soon we will lose this kind of situation we have in society where we are influencing the birth of soul children. For now I am sitting and watching some white people on television, and they have me moving. I forget their color and really don't know what color they are. And some of them, although they are white folks, are taking our children with their music and their soul.
A people will move by the music of nature. We will brag to ourselves, "We are natural." So the hardness and stiffness of the European American was not natural. Now, I don't call it natural the way we see our youngsters walking. And there are a whole lot of things we are doing that I don't call natural. It is terribly exaggerated, and I think we need the department of psychology to explain all of it.
The Test Of Naturalness: Power And Wealth
We have not been tested like other people. We are being tested now and are failing the test. Many of us are coming into wealth and coming into money and have too much "freedom." When I say "too much freedom", I mean we are corrupting the term freedom. And when you stretch freedom to approve immoral behavior, illegal behavior, unlawful behavior, and disrespectful behavior, then I think we have too much freedom.
But I still think we are the most natural on the whole. Now don't go by the individual, for you will lose miserably. On the whole we are still more natural than most other groups of people. It is because, I repeat, we have not been tested enough yet. When you [we] rise into a situation to have competitive power and great wealth, that may all change. We need the Mercy of God, and if that is not with us we are doomed. When the test comes, we will fail.
We do need to capitalize on this naturalness that we have. If we are a people who love or appreciate and identify with the music of nature. (By music of nature I mean the arts, humanity, the beauty of life and nature, and all of this love for the wonderful nature). If we have that nature, then it should progress from the love for the music and dance of nature to the business of nature. Now other races are way ahead of us because they have moved up from that love for the music and dance of nature to a love for the business of nature.
Motivation And Healing: Contemplate On Heavens
I love to watch those programs on television on the virgin world, life in the raw, the world of plants and animals, etc. This time it TV program was interrupted by a presentation on some retired astronauts who are making a puzzle game to serve to make more children and students aware of the space program and the developments and progress. The person presenting this project said that "space is a motivation for better performance in math and in science."
I believe that as a religious person. I believe that our religion "Islam" is saying to us in its scriptural language that what motivated the intellect of man more than anything else was his looking at the sky and contemplating on the heavens. Now, we live in these cluttered and clustered cities like New York and others. But the sky is still there though obstructed! for us to look at night. If we would just come outside of the house sometimes and just look at the sky on a clear nice day or night, we would save our streets a lot of destruction and save our homes a lot of problems.
This visual contact with unaltered nature has a healing affect that you cannot even get by paying $50 to $75 to the psyche. A people who love naturalness should also love a healthy, prosperous relationship with nature. We need to become more nature oriented, not just to think ourselves to be the natural people on earth. We need to become more nature oriented.
Coming to the cities and leaving the rural south separated us from the land and from the life, from the developing and growing life. That means a lot to the development of not only the soul but also the intellect of a people, especially for a people who have been held back. And we are a people who have been held back by slavery. Slavery is just about a hundred years behind us, and that is not far.
African American Men Not Extinct
Look at Colin Powell. Now, some of you will call this Uncle Tom talk and will say, "We don't want to hear that Tom talk." And I'm going to hear about this. But look at Colin Powell and his position in the Military Army. He is one man, but there are many others, and in science, in the media, in television and in entertainment, in business. We have not nearly enough, but we do have some giants and the situation is improving. This is in spite of this reality we are calling "the vanishing of the African American mate".
Now, I am sure that we know that that statement is not saying that we are actually really and truthfully fearing that we are going to become extinct. I know I am not in that bunch. If you are that pessimistic, don't include me in that bunch. I am not looking down the road to extinction. I am proud of my growth behind me and hope it will improve ahead of me. But there are too many, a great number of our young men, who are facing extinction. In fact, many of them are already extinct.
If you are going around with no head on your body, you are already extinct. There are too many on the death bed. But would we be wise to give so much attention to those on the death bed and not give fair attention to the living? So I say that we need to concentrate also on being competitive in a changing world. We need to concentrate on building special minds. We need to concentrate on special people who qualify for special investments. Invest our money and our minds and whatever we have in those youngsters who qualify for our "magnet schools."
We need that, and I don't think we are doing nearly enough. I think if we would also have along with this concentration on the disappearing or vanishing of our young men a concentration on investing in the best of our young men and in the best of our people, we will get more respect for ourselves and more cooperation from our selves. And I will leave you to talk about the other folks.
Thank you very much. Peace be on you.