TUSKEGEE — Daphne Calhoun, a junior at Booker T. Washington High School in Tuskegee, has aspirations of becoming a historian and studying past achievements of African-Americans.
Friday, however, it was the future that Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan challenged Calhoun, 17, and other Macon County high-schoolers in attendance to focus on as he delivered a message on the importance of education and other topics at Tuskegee University’s Patterson Hall.
“It’s never too early to get your mind set on where you want to go in life,” Farrakhan said to students from various schools in the county, including Tuskegee’s Booker T. Washington High School.
Farrakhan challenged the youth in attendance to emulate the quality of self-sufficiency of their high school’s namesake, citing Washington’s autobiography “Up from Slavery.”
“Washington used his knowledge to try to lift the veil of ignorance off other people,” said Farrakhan, 79. “That veil is not all the way up. That means there’s more work yet to be done.”
While he encouraged the students at the event to strive for knowledge, Farrakhan said that knowledge must have a strong moral underpinning rooted in a positive self-image.
“If you don’t like the way God made you, how can you love him?” Farrakhan asked. “When you look at the blackness of your skin in a white-oriented society, how do you feel?”
Farrakhan charged black parents with the responsibility of communicating to their children the struggles of past generations.
“If you tell them where they came from…you’re not teaching hate,” Farrakhan said. “No Jewish child is without the knowledge of the Holocaust.”
Farrakhan’s address was part of a three-day visit to the historically black institution and comes at the invitation of TU’s Muslim Student Association and the Black Belt Deliberative Dialogue. Prior to him speaking at TU Friday, audience members viewed a short film titled “World Friendship Tour” documenting Farrakhan’s worldwide travels following the Million Man March, an event he organized.
Farrakhan’s message resonated with Calhoun, a junior at BTWHS.
“He really inspired me today. I learned a lot,” Calhoun said following Friday’s event. “I look forward to learning more about our people and what I can do to help.”
Also impressed with Farrakhan’s message was Walter Hairston.
“I’d heard his name before and about what he does and I just thought it’d be really cool to come and learn from him,” said Hairston, 17, also a junior at BTWHS. “The main point he made was not to let anybody hold you back from what you want to do. He made it clear that if you want to do something, chase it with your whole heart.”