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Next week Minister Louis Farrakhan’s Million Family March will take
place in Washington, D.C., In describing the political purpose of the
march, Minister Farrakhan said, “We must produce a popular force that is
spiritual, that is moral, that is politically mature, and economically
mature, so that it can become a tangible factor of power that can no
longer be denied by those who manipulate power.”

The minister strongly emphasizes the danger of that political
manipulation. “Because the real power is not with the people we vote in.
The real power is those that manipulate the people that we vote in.
Unless we can deal with the manipulators in this country, we can forget
about justice rolling down like a mighty stream and all that kind of
talk. We can proclaim liberty, but it has to come from a force coming
up from the people who are wise, who are mobilized, who are organized,
who are politicized.”

Farrakhan identifies a severe crisis in American democracy. “It is
clear from watching the political debate that has been going on in the
country for the last several years,” he says, “that there has been a
steady erosion of the principles of democracy.” The minister points to
policy manipulation by corporate special interests, to “a tremendous
degree of dissatisfaction” with government, and to a “continuous decline
in voter turnout and participation in the last few presidential
elections.”

With these words Minister Farrakhan is inspiring hundreds of
thousands of African Americans, together with Latinos, Asians — and
whites, who are explicitly invited to participate — to make a broad
political statement about grass-roots activism, democracy and coalition
building. This year’s event marks five years since the Nation of Islam’s
Million Man March on Washington, a moving spectacle of political and
personal responsibility which thrust Minister Farrakhan — however
momentarily — into the national political spotlight.

Next week also marks another significant, though far less noticed,
anniversary in the minister’s political life. On Oct. 17, 1990 — just
10 years ago — Minister Farrakhan traveled to New York to announce his
endorsement of my independent run for governor of New York State, a
campaign that was designed to win a permanent slot on the ballot for the
independent New Alliance Party and to create an alternative to the
Democratic Party for black New Yorkers. (Fifty thousand votes for a
gubernatorial candidate creates a party, under New York law.)

On that day, Minister Farrakhan, together with the Rev. Al Sharpton
my longtime friend and colleague, endorsed my candidacy and called for
the creation of new options in Black politics.

Minister Farrkhan’s visit to New York grew out of a several-year
process in which he and I dialogued intently on the question of black
electoral participation. In my first “ballot status” run in 1986, I came
under heavy attack by the New York media for being a “friend of
Farrakhan” though interestingly at the time he and I had never met. But
after that media circus, he and I did come to know one another.

During the buildup for the 1988 presidential race — in which Jesse
Jackson was making his second run for the Democratic nomination for the
presidency and I was running for the presidency for the first time — I
worked hard to share my views with the minister about the importance of
independent politics and what I believed was the imminent failure of the
Democratic Party to prioritize the Black Agenda.

The Minister and I met for hours at a time in Baltimore and
Philadelphia, discussing the notion that black leadership needed to
build new alliances and a new political approach for our people. During
the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta, while Rev. Jesse
Jackson — who had beaten Al Gore in the primaries — was roundly
disrespected by the Democratic hierarchs, Minister Farrakhan convened a
meeting of 3,000 African Americans at the Wheat Street Baptist Church.
He and I addressed the crowd about the black community having come to a
crossroads. He challenged Rev. Jackson to go beyond the confines of
Democratic Party racism, and I urged black America to use my independent
presidential candidacy — on the ballot in all 50 states that year — to
make a statement that the era of blank checks to the Democratic Party
was over.

During the next several years, Minister Farrakhan and I remained in
touch though he pulled back from the national political stage and
electoral politics in general. When I ran for governor in 1990, he
reemerged briefly in an effort to help me create a black-led political
alternative, but vanished again. He became embroiled in internal Nation
of Islam politics and his own efforts to withstand the constant barrage
of attacks on him from the political establishment and the media.

In 1995 he resurfaced with the Million Man March, which is credited
with having produced a million new black male voters in the 1996
presidential elections. But the question of independent politics
remains, at least for now, unspoken by the minister. Joseph Lieberman’s
“overture” for a meeting with Minister Farrakhan and the Congressional
Black Caucus’ ardent support for this year’s march are indicators that
however much the Democratic Party may have and will continue to
repudiate Farrakhan, there is a recognition of the growing levels of
dissatisfaction among black Americans with the two parties. The
minister, given his history with me and the independent political
movement, could uncork that dissatisfaction — something the Democratic
leadership deeply fears.

For years I have worked hard to bring the growing power of
independent politics to the black community. In the last several years
we’ve made tremendous headway. New York’s Independence Party, one of the
two most significant state parties in the independent movement (the
other being Gov. Jesse Ventura’s Minnesota Independence Party) has more
than 15,000 black registrants. An empowerment coalition that now governs
Independence elected Dr. Jessie Fields, the prominent African American
physician to its Executive Committee. The State Committee is 25 percent
people of color. Poll after poll show that 35-45 percent of Black
Americans — particularly young people — consider themselves
independents and want to align with a new political party. My continuing
effort is to create such a party.

My best wishes to Minister Louis Farrakhan and to the many thousands
– perhaps even millions — who will mark this anniversary with him. I
salute all of you. I’ll be marking the 10-year anniversary as well –
the one where Minister Farrakhan proclaimed his support for black
political independence. Ultimately, that is the road to creating “power
than can no longer be denied by those who manipulate power.”

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