To the black community he’s a champion of black causes such as empowering husbands and fathers through his Million Man March and strengthening the nuclear black family.
To the Jewish community, he’s a rabid anti-Semite who has called Jews “bloodsuckers” and claimed that Jews were responsible for slavery.
Apparently, the two views won’t converge when Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, headlines a live town hall program, Friday, March 11, at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, Downtown. He is expected to address the topics, “The Disappearing Black Community and How We Can Get It Back.”
The program will be broadcast as part of “The Bev Smith Show,” which originates in Pittsburgh and is nationally syndicated.
Farrakhan’s appearance doesn’t mean the August Wilson Center subscribes to his views, according to André Kimo Stone Guess, its president and CEO.
He said American Urban Radio Network, which produces “The Bev Smith Show” and partners with the center to bring a town hall series to Pittsburgh, is the entity bringing Farrakhan here.
“They wanted to bring Minister Farrakhan in and that’s just part of the program,” Guess said. “They have editorial control. I didn’t want to tell them who or what to bring… we’re not embracing his (Farrakhan’s) viewpoints one way or another.”
Whether the center hosts any given speaker or program is determined by whether it fits in with its mission, he continued.
“We believe in dialogue,” Guess said. “You can’t just dismiss anyone out of hand, say they’re different and we’re dismissing them as that. One thing the center is is inclusive.”
Asked hypothetically if the center would ever permit a member of the Ku Klux Klan to speak there, Guess replied, “Absolutely, if it were in the scope of what we were trying to do.”
Farrakhan’s attacks on Jews continue unabated.
“Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism never went away,” said Oren Segal, director of the Center on Extremism at the Anti-Defamation League, Washington, D.C. “He never truly acknowledged his anti-Semitism, let alone make amends for it or apologize.”
In the last 18 months, in fact, Segal said Farrakhan has given several speeches that have been “rife” with conspiracy theories about Jews, about Israel, discussing Jewish control of the government, Jewish control of finance in Hollywood.
“He’s left no doubt whatsoever anti-Semitism remains a central part of his message,” Segal added.
Farrakhan is currently promoting a new book put out by his organization titled “The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews.”
“Essentially, what this books does is insult the integrity of the Jewish religion,” Segal said. “It distorts history; it essentially argues that slavery in the New World was initiated by Jewish ship owners and merchants.”
The Nation of Islam infrastructure, which Farrakhan controls, “is geared toward demonizing Jews, and this has been especially true in the last 18 months are so,” he added. “It is troubling that some mainstream leaders, including elected officials in some parts of the country, continue to ignore this blatant record of anti-Semitism. It provides him with the level of credibility that, A, he does deserve, but, B, would not be afforded to any other known anti-Semite in this country.”
A spokeswoman for the American Urban Radio Networks did not return a call from the Chronicle seeking comment.
“We are not in any way shape or form saying we agree with everything Rev. Farrakhan says,” Guess said. “This is an open forum. You can come, get tickets and voice your views on the subject.”
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at email@example.com.)