Downtown Miami

Farrakhan addresses police shootings of black men at Overtown rally

Dozens wait outside the historic Mount Zion Baptist Church in Overtown to see Louis Farrakhan speak Wednesday, July 30, 2015.
Dozens wait outside the historic Mount Zion Baptist Church in Overtown to see Louis Farrakhan speak Wednesday, July 30, 2015. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

As the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March in the nation’s capital approaches, Louis Farrakhan spoke to a large crowd on Thursday night at a church in Overtown.

The historic Mount Zion Baptist Church, which in the past has served as a meeting place for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders, hosted Farrakhan in his first speech in Miami in about 20 years.

Mount Zion filled to capacity by about 7:30 p.m., and several dozen people were not able to make it in.

Before the speech, Florida International University student Andre Brennan, 26, said he had recently started watching videos of Farrakhan’s oratory online, and had been impressed.

“His words are very powerful,” Brennan said. “I like the way he says we should, as individuals, seek out how to be greater.”

Rhonda Sekhmet, 26, said she wants to attend the rally commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March in October to hear Farrakhan’s ideas about what African Americans can do to advance civil rights.

“And I want to hear, specifically, what can be done here in Miami to advance black people’s situation,” she said.

Two decades after the historic march in Washington, D.C., a rally will be held on the mall on Oct. 10. According to the Washington Post, leaders across the country are coordinating an effort to attend the event. This time organizers hope to attract a diverse cross-section of people, including Native and Hispanic Americans, to a rally that is being promoted with the hashtag #JusticeOrElse on social media.

According to the Twitter feed of Brother Jesse Muhammad, a blogger and member of the Nation of Islam who attended Thursday night’s gathering, Farrakhan spoke about respect for women, religion and race relations in America. Journalists from mainstream media outlets such as the Miami Herald, WLRN-FM, CBS 4 and others were not allowed into the church for the event.

“Every time they kill a black man, beat a black woman, we’re being radicalized,” Muhammad quoted Farrakhan as saying.

Farrakhan said it was necessary to return to the site of the Million Man March to demand justice.

“We want to go back to Washington to demand from the government what we have paid for with our sweat and blood,” he said.

Farrakhan called for the Million Man March in 1995, when hundreds of thousands of African American men descended on the National Mall for one of the largest gatherings in U.S. history. The theme of the march was to promote family values and dedication to the community among black men. Men from an array of backgrounds and classes attended the historic march.

As the leader of the Nation of Islam and a prominent public figure, 82-year-old Farrakhan is noted for his outspoken commentary on social and political issues. In June, he announced the October rally at Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., where he pointed to recent police shootings and the mass killing at a church in South Carolina while criticizing race relations in America.

“Yes, all lives matter, but the only reason you’re here is because black lives are being slaughtered,” Farrakhan said to the crowd on June 24, according to the Associated Press.