Minister Louis Farrakhan urged black people to take the future into their own hands during his keynote address Sunday at the Nation of Islam's annual day of atonement.
"Ain't nobody going to do something for us; we're going to have to do it for ourselves," he said to more than 8,000 people at the Tampa Convention Center.
The event marked 15 years since the Million Man March was held in Washington, D.C., which Farrakhan, a polarizing figure whose remarks on Jews and whites have been considered racist, helped organize.
That was a chance for black men to show the world a vastly different picture from the one portrayed in the media, a Farrakhan assistant said.
Today, Farrakhan reminded the audience, the work is still not done. The same lessons apply now: atonement, reconciliation and responsibility.
The choice of holding the Nation of Islam's convention in the bay area underscores the organization's growing relationship with the Church of Scientology, based in Clearwater.
Connected by shared interests in improving literacy and ending drug abuse, the organizations forged a bond years ago in which members of the Chicago-based Nation of Islam were trained to administer Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard's study techniques and drug-treatment programs.
During the four-day convention, Nation of Islam members had the chance to attend a "study tech" workshop and buy books from World Literacy Crusade, a tutoring program that uses the teachings of Hubbard.
The organizations' relationship became prominent in 2006 when Scientology honored Farrakhan, who was unable to attend, during its annual Ebony Awakening awards ceremony at the church's Fort Harrison Hotel in Clearwater.
In March, some Nation of Islam members including Farrakhan toured an anti-psychiatry museum in Los Angeles run by the Scientology group, Citizens Commission on Human Rights.
Farrakhan's reaction to the museum showed interest in what he saw.
"When the minister went through and saw the evolution of psychiatry, and then he saw how they are using the law, and how they are using almost every human emotion and making it into a disease, the minister said, 'I pray to my Allah that he blesses me to destroy all of them because these people are impacting not just black people but all of humankind,' " said Tony Muhammad, a Nation of Islam representative.
The visit was reported on the Nation of Islam's website, FinalCall.com.
In a taped Aug. 22 sermon also on the website, Farrakhan referred to Scientologists as "our friends," sprinkled his talk with Scientology terms and appeared to say he wants Nation of Islam members to study Scientology.
Earlier that month, the website reported, a Nation of Islam contingent visited Scientology's Clearwater campus and raved about its stay at the Fort Harrison Hotel. Group members also said they received "nerve assists" in which fingers are moved across the front and back of a person's torso. Scientologists say the procedure gets the body in communication with the "thetan" or spirit, relaxing muscles and straightening the spine.
In his speech Sunday, Farrakhan made no direct references to Scientology.
He said the media and the white race were some of the causes of the oppression black people have suffered over the years. That can be overcome, he said, with knowledge.
Once you free a human being from ignorance, he can no longer be a slave, Farrakhan said.
"Ignorance is the enemy of God," he said.
Shelley Rossetter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3374.