African American Faiths

African American Faiths


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


Home Online with PayPal

Or Send contributions to: ChickenBones: A Journal / 2005 Arabian Drive / Finksburg, MD 21048  Help Save ChickenBones

African Americans have been “damaged by excessive assimilation” into

 the spiritually corrupting core values — individualism, materialism,

and critical relativism — of late capitalist culture



African American Faiths

Show Innovation, New Divisions

— from Religion Watch (2000) 


African-American Christians and other believers are facing a new pluralism, both with new religious movements emerging and in practices that are causing new divisions. That was one of the conclusions of a conference on “The Spiritual State of Black America” which drew hundreds of church leaders, activists, scholars, and laity to Atlanta in May.

In the online newsletter Sightings (May 16 and 17) Robert Franklin reports that the gathering dealt with such trends as the growing appeal of Islam in the African-American community; the emergence of independent megachurches; the federal government’s expectation that local congregations expand their role in providing needed social services; the exodus of men and young people from traditional congregations; and the womanist (black feminist) demands for equal opportunities in ministry.

Franklin notes that the most unusual news during the conference was the emergence of a movement of Baptist pastors designating themselves as bishops. Most of these Baptist bishops are “dynamic, entrepreneurial, neo-Pentecostal ministers who have developed megachurches and understand themselves to be reappropriating the clerical titles and styles of the New Testament.” This practice  has been criticized by traditional Baptists who eschew such episcopal trappings of authority.

The concern that black churches are losing their social role was sounded by John Hurst Adams, senior bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, who declared that since the post-civil rights movement period, African Americans have been “damaged by excessive assimilation” into the spiritually corrupting core values — individualism, materialism, and critical relativism — of late capitalist culture. Franklin adds that the self-help theme prominent in black churches was evident in symposium on how congregations could become more involved and skillful in sponsoring housing development projects for low-income people.

A session on the continuing growth of Islam in black communities also dealt with the changing nature of the nation of Islam. Both Muslim leaders affirmed the recent moves in Chicago by Wallace Muhammad and Louis Farrakhan to reconcile a decades-old spat between the competing heirs to Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X. But a debate broke out between Muhammad, a mainstream leader and son of the late Elijah Muhammad who founded the Nation of Islam, and Minister Ava Muhammad, who serves as the regional representative of Louis Farrakhan.

Minister Ava Muhammad is also the first woman to be appointed head of a local mosque. Tension grew in the audience as Muhammad respectfully indicated that he could not contravene the core teachings and practices of Sunni Islam by acknowledging Minister Ava as a full-fledged imam. Black church specialist Lawrence Mamiya asked whether or not Farrakhan’s bold move in appointing the first and only female imam in the Islamic world would be rebuffed by more orthodox Muslims as he seeks to be embraced by the global Muslim community.

Franklin adds that “a listener at the conference could conclude that the spiritual state of black America is, like the rest of the nation, a mixed bag.” There is enduring vitality in the traditional black churches and, as the Baptist bishops illustrate, there is plenty of exciting innovation. A growing number of people are exploring alternatives to Christianity and others are voting against organized religion in favor of sampling personalized spirituality and self-help rituals.

“But the bad news is that a growing percentage of youth have disengaged from the bedrock practices and institutions of the family, church, school, and workplace” and have embraced risky and criminal behavior. Blacks from Britain in attendance affirmed that this diagnosis is hauntingly familiar and accurately describes (maybe predicts) where blacks in England and Europe seem to be headed.

While black Catholics were not mentioned in Franklin’s report, new research suggests that they are strongly involved in social activism. With the leadership of black Protestant churches in social justice, community development and family health programs well documented in current research, Professor James C. Cavendish finds significant differences in the contributions to those programs by black Catholic parishes.

Writing in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (March), Cavendish finds that within black catholic churches, the social outreach programs are much more widespread than those of white catholic congregations. he adds that those black Catholic churches that have parish councils and leadership training programs involved with congregational activism, are more effective in community ministry than those with less organized leadership.

Those black catholic parishes with visibly stronger lay leadership in outreach programs are more effective than those which stay with traditional hierarchical governance. From this Cavendish concludes that a black Catholic denominational affiliation “may be less significant than the particular congregation’s own internal structure.” Those congregations with strong lay participation are the ones on the front end of community outreach. (Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion).

Installation of Ava Muhammad 

As Imam by Louis Farrakhan

Minister Louis Farrakhan made history with the unprecedented appointment of Minister Ava Muhammad as the Southern Regional Minister and Minister of Muhammad Mosque No. 15. Farrakhan installed Ava Muhammad before a capacity crowd July 28, 1998, at the Hillside Chapel Truth Center in Atlanta, Ga., pastored by the Rev. Dr. Barbara L. King.

In his opening remarks, Minister Farrakhan said:

“Beloved brothers and sisters, today is an historic day. It is fitting and proper that I come to this holy place with the Reverend (Dr.) Barbara L. King to officially install the first female minister of a mosque in the history of Islam.” 

In response to her appointment Minister Muhammad said:


“It is my fervent prayer that I succeed in my assignment, in order to help the Minister in his effort to destroy the myth that women are inferior beings who cannot preach the word or shepherd the flock. Through my appointment, Min. Farrakhan is manifesting the liberating force and power contained in the Teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.” 

Who Is Ava Muhammad?

A gifted researcher, lecturer and writer — an author of  five books, Minister Ava Muhammad was born and raised in Colombus, Ohio, and went to law school at Georgetown University. She is a member of the New York State Bar Association.  She resides in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband Darius Muhammad, an accomplished photographer and publisher.

Ava Muhammad was chosen to head Muhammad’s Mosque 15 in Atlanta, Ga., one of the largest mosques in the country. In addition to administering day to day affairs in Atlanta was named Southern Regional Minister, giving her jurisdiction over Nation of Islam mosque activity in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and parts of Tennessee.

She is in great demand at churches, conferences and institutions of higher learning.  She has been featured in Essence Magazine and is a frequent participant in the Essence Music Festival Empowerment SeminarsLooking Ahead Magazine honored her as on of Georgia’s “Most Powerful and Influential Women.”   The Islamic publication New Trends named her one of the 5 most important Muslim women of the 20th Century.

As well as being a Minister for the Nation of Islam, criminal lawyer Muhammad has authored such books as Queen of the Planet Earth; The Rebirth; and Rise of the Original Woman.

As the Nation of Islam’s national spokesperson and the first woman to lead a mosque, Minister Ava Muhammad addresses such issues as

Reparations for Blacks:  Who is Able to Prosecute This Case?

The Role and Responsibility of Women in the Advancement of Society

The Current State of Black America: How Will It Affect the Future of this Country?

The Effect of the Media on the Minds of the American People

A Bio-Chronology & Reconciliation

of W.D. Muhammad and Louis Farrakhan

Minister Louis Farrakhan is the Muslim leader most familiar to Americans. But he commands the allegiance of only a fraction even of African-American Muslims: His Nation of Islam today boasts only 20,000 to 50,000 members, says Prof. Sulayman Nyang of Howard University. Nevertheless, the charisma of Farrakhan attracts huge crowds, as the Million Man March demonstrated, but few of those in attendance actually convert.  On White Supremacy in Christianity  / On The Reality of Allah

Warith Deen Mohammed, an imam–leader of prayer–and the son and successor of the black separatist Elijah Muhammad, has up to half a million solid supporters, and perhaps 1.5 million followers more loosely affiliated. He has championed unity among Muslims of different races and made significant headway, though desegregation is still a work in progress. “I’ve become almost a fanatical supporter of the United States government,” he told U.S. News. “To me, the vision of the Founding Fathers is the vision that we have in Islam.”

1933 — W. D. Muhammad (30 October) was borns the son of Clara and Elijah Muhammad. The birth of this “favored child” was foretold by W. D. Fard, founder of the Nation of Islam, who named him Wallace Delaney Muhammad and predicted he would succeed his father, already tapped to be Fard’s successor, as head of NOI. Louis Farrakhan was born the same year.

1951 — W.D. Muhammad began working in the NOI hierarchy after completing high school. 

1961 — W.D. Muhammad refused military draft and was sentenced to three years in jail. While there, he began reading mainstream Islamic doctrine, and noticed contradictions with NOI theology. 

1963 — W.D. Muhammad’s ideological rift with his father caused him to leave NOI.

1965 — After the assassination of Malcolm X, W.D. Muhammad returned to the NOI ranks

1969 — W.D. Muhammad suspended by NOI for his “dissident views.”

1971 — W.D. Muhammad again suspended by NOI for his “dissident views.”

1975 — Elijah Mohammed died. The day after, W.D. Muhammad, Elijah’s son, was named Supreme Minister of Nation of Islam. This decision was unanimously approved during Savior’s Day celebrations on 26 February 1975. W.D. Muhammad publicly shunned his father’s theology and black separatist views and began a process to reformulate his father’s beliefs and practices to bring NOI closer to American Sunni Islam. 

W.D. Muhammad met privately with Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat in Chicago.

Wallace D. Mohammed relaxed the strict discipline and harsh rhetoric of the Black Muslim movement and changed changed the group’s name. This reformation resulted in the splintering of the organization.

1976 — W.D. Muhammad forged ties with other American Muslim organizations and renamed his own the World Community of al-Islam in the West.  He changed his title from Supreme Minister to the more Islamic one of “Imam” and adopted the name “Warith Deen Mohammed.” Organizational membership was opened to all believers. Two years later, he changed the name of his organization to “American Muslim Mission.”

W.D. Muhammad, reportedly, received a gift of $16 million from Sheikh Sultan Ben Mohammad al-Qasmini, head of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, to purchase a mosque and build a school.

1977 — Farrakhan disagreed publicly with W.D. Muhammad over NOI’s move toward Sunni Islam, and took a minority of NOI members with him into a splinter group

1978 — W.D. Muhammad resigned as spiritual leader of the American Muslim Mission.

Farrakhan resurrected the Nation of Islam believing that Wallace Mohammed’s policies were lax. In this restoration, Farrakhan reclaimed the heritage and principles of Black separatism. He thus emerged as the most influential leader among the Black Muslim community. But his racial rhetoric were considered “un-Islamic” by orthodox Muslims.

1981 — Farrakhan announced restoration of the “old” Nation of Islam, and dissident group, loyal to Louis Farrakhan, resumed the NOI name and its variant Islamic theology and went forward with Elijah Muhammad’s NOI teachings. Farrakhan was more “media savvy” than W.D. Muhammad. 

1985 — W.D. Muhammad dismantled the leadership council he had set up. Each mosque then became an independent entity with its own name and leadership. Most remained affiliated to the successor organization, the Muslim American Society (also known as the Ministry of W. Deen Mohammed), based in Calumet City, Illinois

1992 — W.D. Muhammad was the first Muslim imam to offer morning prayers in the United States Senate, and later participated in two Interfaith Breakfasts hosted by President Bill Clinton.

1995 — Louis Farrakhan was responsible for the dramatic Million Man March.

1996 —  W.D. Muhammad was invited to meet Pope John Paul, II at the Vatican.

2000 (February) — At the Nation of Islam’s annual Savior’s Day celebration, Imam Wallace D. Mohammed of the Muslim American Society joined Farrakhan on the stage and the two men warmly embraced after Farrakhan declared, “We bear witness that there is no prophet after the prophet Mohammed!”


With that statement Farrakhan rejected the theology of the Nation of Islam under Elijah Muhammad and Farrakhan himself. Wallace Mohammed’s presence at the celebration—along with Sayyid Sayeed, secretary-general of the Islamic Society of North America, 4 million members strong and the major group for immigrant Muslims—indicates a willingness of mainstream Islamic organizations to accept Farrakhan’s efforts to move closer to orthodox Islam. 

But two years later the question remains as to whether rank-and-file members of the Nation of Islam are looking to follow Farrakhan in his move to orthodox Islam.

The American Muslim Council’s study indicates that blacks make up one half of all Muslims in the United States and are the fastest growing segment. But these growing numbers of African American Muslims are increasingly adherents to orthodox Islam, rather than the theology of the Nation of Islam.

Statement by W.D. Mohammed 

on Reconciliation with Louis Farrakhan

It’s easy for me to embrace Minister Farrakhan. Our families are together. We are really one family. Our friendship has not died, and it will not die. And the little problem, the small problem, that we’ve had along the way, struggling to present ourselves as God willed that we present ourselves, it’s not bigger than the word of God, the Qur’an, and it’s not bigger than Muhammad, the model for all human beings, for all people of faith. It’s very small.

So we see, we think, what have we done to bring about this togetherness? What have we done to bring about this closeness that we have this minute? What have we done to free our hearts so we can hug each other and kiss each other, as I did kiss my brother? What have we done to bring that about? Nothing but tried to find the way in the path of Islam, and Allah did the rest. Allah did the rest.

I want to say that Minister Farrakhan is a great leader. I’ve watched him over the years, since the passing away of my father and our fallen leader, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. I’ve watched him and I have done a little mathematics, a little calculation, and I’ve come up with progress for the Nation of Islam under the leadership of Minister Farrakhan. Whatever has troubled us in the past, I think we can bury it now and never look back at that grave. And never look back at that grave.

I was reading the Bible once, and I was reading it really so I could better understand Christian neighbors and respect them, as I should respect them, while trying to invite them to Islam. I wanted to be prepared to speak to my Christian neighbors with understanding of what they believe in. So I read the whole Bible from Genesis to Revelations, twice. Once I just read it to be reading it; the second time I studied it very carefully. I came across something that came to my mind as I was sitting there thinking over Minister Farrakhan and our new revived friendship and unity. I was thinking of it and I said to myself, “I think I’m going to tell Minister Farrakhan” This is for Minister Farrakhan.

In the Bible, Minister Farrakhan, I read that a holy man had wanted to give sight to a blind man. And this holy man took mud and put it on the blind man’s eyes. I was very young at that time, Minister Farrakhan. That was over 25-years ago. I was very young. I said to myself, “Isn’t that a cruel way to help a blind man? He already has enough in his way of sight and then the man put mud in his eyes.”

We’ve had a lot of mud on our eyes, but the eyes are now washed and cleaned. And the mud didn’t hurt us, it helped us to see.

Sources: Religion Watch (2000); Susan McKee  

*   *   *   *   *

Louis Farrakhan (born Louis Eugene Walcott; May 11, 1933) is the leader of the Chicago-based Nation of Islam. He served as minister of major mosques in Boston and Harlem, and was appointed by Elijah Muhammad as the National Representative of the Nation of Islam, before the 1975 death of the longtime Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad. After Warith Deen Muhammad disbanded the NOI and started the orthodox Islamic group American Society of Muslims, Farrakhan started rebuilding the NOI. In 1981 he revived the name Nation of Islam for his organization, previously known as Final Call, regaining many of the Nation of Islam’s National properties including the NOI National Headquarters Mosque Maryam, reopenning over 130 NOI mosques in America and the World

Farrakhan is an African American religious and social leader and a critic of the United States government on many issues. Farrakhan has been both praised and widely criticized for his often controversial political views and outspoken rhetorical style. In October 1995, he called and led the Million Man March in Washington, DC, calling on black men to renew their commitments to their families and communities. In 1996, Libya‘s de facto leader Muammar al-Gaddafi awarded him the Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights. Because of health issues, in 2007 Farrakhan reduced his responsibilities with the NOI.—Wikipedia

*   *   *   *   *

Books by Marvin X

Love and War: Poems  / In the Crazy House Called America

 Woman: Man’s Best Friend Beyond Religion Toward Spirituality

Marvin X on YouTube   Marvin X Table  

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 – Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 – Don’t Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 – Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 – Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King

#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

*   *   *   *   *

Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin

By John D’Emilio

Bayard Rustin is one of the most important figures in the history of the American civil rights movement. Before Martin Luther King, before Malcolm X, Bayard Rustin was working to bring the cause to the forefront of America’s consciousness. A teacher to King, an international apostle of peace, and the organizer of the famous 1963 March on Washington, he brought Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence to America and helped launch the civil rights movement. Nonetheless, Rustin has been largely erased by history, in part because he was an African American homosexual. Acclaimed historian John D’Emilio tells the full and remarkable story of Rustin’s intertwined lives: his pioneering and public person and his oblique and stigmatized private self.

It was in the tumultuous 1930s that Bayard Rustin came of age, getting his first lessons in politics through the Communist Party and the unrest of the Great Depression.

A Quaker and a radical pacifist, he went to prison for refusing to serve in World War II, only to suffer a sexual scandal. His mentor, the great pacifist A. J. Muste, wrote to him, “You were capable of making the ‘mistake’ of thinking that you could be the leader in a revolution…at the same time that you were a weakling in an extreme degree and engaged in practices for which there was no justification.”

*   *   *   *   *

Laying Down the Sword

Why We Can’t Ignore the Bible’s Violent Verses

By Philip Jenkins

Commands to kill, to commit ethnic cleansing, to institutionalize segregation, to hate and fear other races and religions—all are in the Bible, and all occur with a far greater frequency than in the Qur’an. But fanaticism is no more hard-wired in Christianity than it is in Islam. In Laying Down the Sword, “one of America’s best scholars of religion” (The Economist) explores how religions grow past their bloody origins, and delivers a fearless examination of the most violent verses of the Bible and an urgent call to read them anew in pursuit of a richer, more genuine faith. Christians cannot engage with neighbors and critics of other traditions—nor enjoy the deepest, most mature embodiment of their own faith—until they confront the texts of terror in their heritage. Philip Jenkins identifies the “holy amnesia” that, while allowing scriptural religions to grow and adapt, has demanded a nearly wholesale suppression of the Bible’s most aggressive passages, leaving them dangerously dormant for extremists to revive in times of conflict.

Jenkins lays bare the whole Bible, without compromise or apology, and equips us with tools for reading even the most unsettling texts, from the slaughter of the Canaanites to the alarming rhetoric of the book of Revelation. Teaching Genocide

*   *   *   *   *

The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

*   *   *   *   *

Ancient African Nations

*   *   *   *   *

If you like this page consider making a donation

online through PayPal

*   *   *   *   *

Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


*   *   *   *   *

The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

*   *   *   *   *

The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

*   *   *   *   *


*   *   *   *   *






update 18 June 2012




Home   Religion & Politics  Turner-Cone Theology Index   Peter Eric Adotey Addo Table 

Post Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.