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Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan marched with Austin community leaders and residents on Aug. 27, part of his organization's national peace campaign to address the rampant violence happening on the West Side.
Farrakhan kicked off his campaign earlier this month and had made several public appearances at various community events on the West Side, a rarity for the minister whose activism is largely based on the South Side.
On Aug. 18, Farrakhan made a surprise visit to U.S. Rep. Danny Davis' annual Back To School Picnic and Parade at Columbus Park. This past Saturday, the minister met with 29th Ward Ald. Deborah Graham at her community office. Monday's march started at Chicago Avenue and Cicero, with the minister joined by 37th Ward Ald. Emma Mitts.
Farrakhan announced his "Taking it to the Street" peace campaign in the Nation's Final Call newspaper on July. 25. The organization's Fruit of Islam (FOI) - the nation's security force - would lead the campaign, along with the minister. South Shore's "Terror Town" on the South Side was the first stop, the Final Call reported.
The minister's Aug. 20 West Side appearance took place outside the black-owned Lawndale 10 Cinema theater complex, 3300 W. Roosevelt Rd. A crowd of about 500 people enthusiastically welcomed the minister. Flanked by the FOI, Farrakhan greeted the crowd first in Arabic, expressing God's peace.
"If there ever was a time that we need it, that kind of peace in our community, it is now," he said. "Some of you may ask now, Farrakhan, why are you and the members of the Nation of Islam here at this time? We are here to see about you. We are really here to see about you at this time, because we really, really love you, and we are committed to not only to love you in words, but in deeds."
The peace campaign calls for Farrakhan and the FOI to walk in neighborhoods, interact and dialogue with young people in hopes of steering them away from violence. Following the Lawndale 10 appearance, the minister and his security detail departed for Douglas Park just south of the theater, the first of several "hot spots" he planned to visit.
"I am glad I am on the West Side today, and I am going to stay on the West side and stay with you until we can make a real difference," the minister said.
Speaking at Davis' Aug. 18 event concerning the senseless violence, an impassioned Farrakhan remarked, "There is so much death in our community, not committed necessarily always by the open enemy, but we have become enemies of self and one another," he said. "We are doing things to each other today that in the darkest days of slavery, we never did to one another. So for us to be loaded with guns, and those who are not practiced at shooting, they just shoot, and innocent babies are dying in their homes, on the porch, or somewhere at the wrong place at the wrong time."
Also in attendance were Davis, former Cook County commissioner Bobbie Steele and several other elected officials.
"We got a lot of hot spots that we have to touch," Farrakhan said, winding down his message. "I am asking our conciliate and our congressman to take us to wherever the killing is going on, wherever the violence is greatest, that's where we want to go because those young people are not killing because they want to. They got a spirit in them. They are angry and they are bitter, and they are sometimes angry with us, their parents."
Farrakhan then sought to answer the question of why they're angry.
"Forty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement opened up America so that we could sleep where we want to, live where we want to, go where we want to, vote for whom we want to, and we thought we had reached the Promise Land, and we never taught our children of the long hard road that we came across to bring our children to life. And while we were busy chasing a dollar, or whatever we were chasing, our children did not know the struggle, so if our babies don't know the struggle, then they can't continue the struggle, so one generation comes and another one goes, but the struggle remains the same."