Who is Louis Farrakhan? 11 things to know about the Nation of Islam leader, black activist

Published: Tuesday, February 06, 2018 @ 2:25 PM

Minister Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, speaks at a press conference near United Nations headquarters on June 15, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Mario Tama/Getty Images
Minister Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, speaks at a press conference near United Nations headquarters on June 15, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)(Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Louis Farrakhan, a prominent African-American religious leader and black activist has drawn both scorn for his anti-Semitic comments and praise for his advocacy for the black community throughout his life

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Here are 10 things to know about Louis Farrakhan:

1. He is the leader of the Nation of Islam.

In 1955, Farrakhan joined the Nation of Islam, an African-American movement and organization rooted in elements of traditional Islam and black nationalism.

In 1964, Farrakhan condemned his rival Malcolm X, a prominent figure in the Nation of Islam at the time. But when Malcolm X broke with the Nation of Islam over political and personal differences with then leader Elijah Muhammad, Farrakhan took his place as minister of Harlem’s Temple No. 7.

When Malcolm X was assassinated, Farrakhan replaced him as the organization's national spokesman. In 2000, Farrakhan appeared on "60 Minutes" with Malcolm X's daughter, Qubilah Bahiyah Shabazz, and said he regretted that his writings may have influenced others to assassinate him, CNN reported.

Farrakhan was disappointed when he was not named Muhammad’s successor following his death. He instead led a breakaway group in 1978, which he also called the Nation of Islam. Farrakhan’s group preserved the original teachings of Muhammad, unlike his successor, the fifth of Muhammad’s six sons.

2. He was born in New York.

The 84-year-old religious figure was born Louis Eugene Walcott on May 11, 1933, in the Bronx borough of New York City. He and his family eventually moved from the Bronx to the Roxbury neighborhood in Boston.

>> On AJC.com: Louis Farrakhan: Nation of Islam security force will protect Beyoncé

3. He studied music as a youth, and eventually became a playwright and film producer.

According to Brittanica, Farrakhan studied music while attending Winston-Salem Teachers College, but dropped out after three years to pursue a career in music.

He went on to perform on the Boston nightclub circuit and was known as “The Charmer.” Farrakhan was a violinist, guitarist and singer. He often sang political lyrics to Caribbean music.

According to CNN, Farrakhan wrote two plays, "The Trial" and "Orgena,” which is “a Negro" spelled backward.

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4. He married his wife Khadijah in 1953, and they have nine children.

Farrakhan (then Walcott) married Betsy Ross in 1953. She’s since changed her name to Khadijah. The pair has four sons and five daughters together.

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5. He’s known for his controversial anti-Semitic, anti-white and anti-homosexual comments.

Farrakhan came into the American public light when he began supporting Rev. Jesse Jackson’s bid for the presidency. However, when he praised Adolf Hitler, calling him “a very great man,” Farrakhan set off conflict with American-Jewish voters. He would eventually withdraw his support. He’s denied being anti-Semitic.

6. He was also active in the fight against drugs and crime, advocating for clean living and black self-help.

Farrakhan often blamed the American government for conspiring to destroy black people with AIDS and addictive drugs, according to Brittanica.

Under his leadership, the Nation of Islam created a clinic for AIDS patients in Washington, D.C., forcing drug dealers out of public housing projects and private apartment buildings. The Farrakhan-led movement also worked with gang members in Los Angeles to do the same.

He continued to advocate for African-American economic independence.

>> Related: Muslim Americans are more accepting of homosexuality than white evangelicals, Pew research says 

7. He came into the political realm when supporting Jackson's bid for the presidency.

Farrakhan also later filed a lawsuit against President Ronald Reagan, claiming his administration’s sanctions against Libya and travel ban violate freedom to worship and freedom of speech.

He’s been criticized for his early association with anti-American leaders like Libya's Moammar Gadhafi and Cuba's Fidel Castro, but has dialed back his rhetoric in recent years.

>> Related: Rev. Jesse Jackson diagnosed with Parkinson's disease

8. In 1991, Farrakhan was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

After his diagnosis, Farrakhan toned down on the racial rhetoric. He suffered a reoccurrence in 2007, but after a long surgery, the prostate and cancerous tissue were removed.

9. He co-organized the Million Man March in 1995.

One of largest demonstrations in Washington, D.C., history, the Million Man March (or the Day of Atonement) involved 12 hours of speeches directed at black men to promote self-improvement and encourage them to take responsibility for their families and communities.

>> Related: The Million Man March's understated inclusivity

10. He gave what was known as a farewell speech in 2007.

An aging and ailing 73-year-old Farrakhan delivered a “last public address” on the Nation of Islam’s annual Saviors’ Day in February 2007, calling for Christian-Muslim unity.

He said Jesus and Mohammad "are brothers who come from the same eternal God."

"How dare us try to split up the prophets and make them enemies of each other to justify our being enemies ... If Jesus and Mohammad were on this stage, they would embrace each other with love. If Moses and the prophets and Abraham the father would be on this podium with all the prophets, they would embrace each other,” he said.

Farrakhan later spoke at the Justice or Else rally in Washington, D.C., in 2015 and at a Tehran, Iran, rally marking the 37th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic revolution, CNN reported.

In 2017, Farrakhan strongly criticized President Donald Trump’s foreign policy agenda involving the Middle East and North Korea. 

>> Related: Trump isn't the anti-Israel candidate Louis Farrakhan is looking for

11. In 2018, Farrakhan made headlines, again.

According to the Daily Caller, a new photo of Farrakhan and former President Barack Obama at a Congressional Black Caucus meeting in 2005 emerged last week.

“The journalist who took the photo said he suppressed its publication to protect Obama’s presidential aspirations,” the Caller reported.

And on Monday, Democratic Illinois Rep. Danny Davis defended him for being an "outstanding human being," inviting harsh criticism.

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Self-proclaimed white nationalist banned from Seattle gym

Published: Monday, February 19, 2018 @ 12:07 AM

A Seattle gym banned Greg Johnson, a self-proclaimed white nationalist. (Photo: KIRO7.com)
A Seattle gym banned Greg Johnson, a self-proclaimed white nationalist. (Photo: KIRO7.com)

A self-proclaimed white nationalist was banned from a Fremont gym after the owners learned he is a leader in the alt-right community.

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The owners of Northwest Fitness Project say Greg Johnson is longer welcome there.

“The trainer terminated his contract and we banned him from the gym,” said Kyle Davis, a co-owner of the gym.

It's a move that has some people wondering if it violates a city ordinance that says "places of public accommodation" can't discriminate based on a person's beliefs.

But the owners of the gym say that ordinance doesn't apply -- because it’s not a public space. To use the space, you must be the client of a trainer.

“There’s no open gym membership, it's not like people can come and go as they please,” Davis said. “Trainers come and run their own businesses out of this location."

“There's a right of first refusal of the independent trainer. And (the trainer) chose to not work with him anymore due to the harm it would cause his reputation, and not wanting to be associated with those views,” Davis said.

The Southern Poverty Law Center calls Greg Johnson an "international figure for white nationalism” and “one of the leading voices of the far-right.”

In September 2017, the New York Times interviewed him undercover and posted it on its website.

In the interview, Johnson says, “I would identify myself as a white nationalist. That states the goals I have politically.”

When asked about people who are Jewish, Johnson says, “The solution would ultimately (be) to expel them.”

Davis said he’s disturbed to hear Johnson’s views.

“I would feel threatened, yes,” he said. “I'm converting to Judaism, my fiancée is Jewish and we want to raise our kids Jewish.”

The owners say after Johnson was banned, a white nationalist publication told followers to post negative reviews on the gym's Yelp and Facebook pages.

“We were at a five (star average review); it went down to a three,” said Matthew Holland, the other co-owner of Northwest Fitness Project.

But hundreds of people supported the gym on social media, helping it bounce back.

“Now we're to like a 4.8,” Holland said. “We have a great community and we didn't realize how awesome they all were. Going through a rough time like this, it was just so encouraging.”

The Puget Sound Anarchists first published last week that Johnson lives in Seattle. It’s also how the gym owners found out about Johnson’s beliefs.

Johnson did not comment.

The gym said it heard Johnson left the area.

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Several sinkholes open in Florida neighborhood, threaten homes

Published: Sunday, February 18, 2018 @ 11:24 PM

Several sinkholes opened in a Florida neighborhood. (Photo: WFTV.com)
Several sinkholes opened in a Florida neighborhood. (Photo: WFTV.com)

Several sinkholes opened in The Villages Thursday, threatening several homes, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said. 

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Four homes have been evacuated. Officials said the largest of the three holes is 35 feet deep and 18 feet wide. 

One of the sinkholes that opened up is outside Frank Newman’s home.

He said he heard strange sounds and wasn’t sure what was going on.

“At about 12:30 I was watching the Olympics when I heard something that I thought was thunder,” Newman said.

Hours later, he found out what was actually going on.

“My front door bell rings about 3:10. It was a policeman saying, ‘You got to get out of your house,’” Newman said.

Marion County Emergency Management was also at the scene and said that utilities to the four closest homes have been disconnected as a precaution.

The sinkholes go beneath two of the homes.

Photos: Sinkholes open in Villages neighborhood

Cracks formed outside Newman’s neighbor’s home and a hole opened up near her front door.

“In her house, she is seeing cracks inside the house on the floor and stuff,” Newman said. “She can’t get her car out of the garage because the garage door won’t open.”

Signs have been placed outside some of the homes warning the houses have been condemned.

Golf course officials are draining a lake to help the situation. Utilities officials said that if a water main break occurs, they will be able to handle it, but 20 homes could potentially lose water service if that happens.

Residents were allowed to briefly return to their homes to pick up some belongings.

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Broward County Sheriff visits Parkland school shooting victim in hospital

Published: Sunday, February 18, 2018 @ 8:57 PM

Victims of the Florida High School Mass Shooting

The Broward County sheriff said he was honored to visit a young student who survived the Feb. 14 South Florida school shooting that's left a community reeling. 

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The Broward County Sheriff's Office published a photo of Sheriff Scott Israel holding the hand of Anthony Borges, 15, in his hospital room.

"Fortunately, he is recovering -- but has a long road ahead with more surgeries needed," the Sheriff's Office posted. "Please join us in praying for the swift recovery of Anthony and all the other victims of this horrific criminal act."

The Sheriff's Office said in the Facebook post that Borges was shot five times during the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Seventeen people, including students and staff, were killed in the shooting.

Nikolas Cruz, 19, who admitted to the shooting, remains in custody at the Broward County jail after being ordered held without bond on 17 counts of premeditated murder.

As memorials for the shooting victims continue, students are demanding tighter gun control and walkouts are being planned in the wake of the tragedy. 

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Florida sheriff pushes for 'game changer' program to arm teachers

Published: Sunday, February 18, 2018 @ 7:50 PM

Shooter Reportedly In Custody In Florida High School Shooting

Sheriff Grady Judd in Polk County, Florida, went on the news Saturday to talk about the so-called “Sentinel Program” as a possible legislative response to mass shootings like the one that happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last week, that left 17 dead.

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Judd called the program a “game changer” by arming select educators whose backgrounds have been vetted thoroughly, who have been psychologically evaluated and trained in weapons more intensely than law enforcement by state standards.

The sheriff argued that the solution is not something he wants, but it’s something that must happen.

“We have got to wake up, wake up and understand that we have to have … specially trained people that have concealed firearms that can run to the threat and protect our children,” he said.

“Do you know that there is gun control on every campus in Florida -- and, I would submit, across the United States -- that you can’t bring a gun on campus. And no one does, except the crazed person, the active shooter. There has to be a line of defense,” Judd said.

“There’s no absolutes in life, but I can tell you this: At least two coaches were killed standing in front of and trying to protect kids. Don’t you believe it would be a game-changer if they had a gun to defend the children?”

Students and parents have responded to the mass shooting perpetrated by Nikolas Cruz by calling for stricter guns laws in Florida.

Many participating in the #NeverAgain campaign seem to agree that they don’t want to arm teachers, but want “genuine, lasting change.”

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