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Back to kitchen, Farrakhan exhorts women in speech TTC


Boston -- Louis Farrakhan, the Islamic minister who angered many women when he barred them from attending a speech here last winter, returned on Wednesday night and delivered a speech that only women could attend.

Mr. Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, faces sexual discrimination complaints filed with a state agency because women were kept from the city-owned theater where he delivered the speech on March 10.

He told a thousand women packed into a stifling church on Wednesday night that the complaints against him were just another attempt by critics to silence his message.

"If I come to your city to try to talk to the black men causing the crime problem in your city, why do you want to oppose me?" he asked.

Mr. Farrakhan urged the women to embrace his formula for a successful family. He encouraged them to put husbands and children ahead of their careers, eschew tight, short skirts, stay off welfare and shun abortion. Mr. Farrakhan also stressed the importance of cooking and cleaning.

He urged women not to abandon homemaking for careers.

"You're just not going to be happy unless there is happiness in the home," he said at a church in the Dorchester section, not far from the Roxbury neighborhood where he was reared by a single mother.

"Your professional lives can't satisfy your soul like a good-loving man."

Earlier in the week, Mr. Farrakhan, speaking at a public high school in Hartford, Conn., urged hundreds of black and Hispanic men to help curb crime and drug use. Meanwhile, dozens of young men wearing red, white and black bow ties barred female reporters from hearing the speech at Weaver High School in the Blue Hill section, a predominantly black neighborhood in Hartford.

Reports had been swirling for days that white men and women of all races would not be allowed to attend the speech.

But the coalition of local groups that organized the event, which included a branch of the Nation of Islam, had assured Hartford school officials and the local news media that everyone would be welcome.

White men, in fact, were allowed into the auditorium, but women who tried to enter were prevented from doing so. A member of the Nation of Islam blocked a woman reporter from entering the school, saying "Get out, you're not allowed here."

Hartford school officials said Thursday they were surprised by this turn of events. The city's assistant superintendent of schools, Nicholas LaRosa, said school officials had been promised by Mr. Farrakhan's representatives that his speech would be open to everyone.

"Apparently, they changed their minds at the last minute," Mr. LaRosa said.

In March, Mr. Farrakhan angered Boston officials who said that the Nation of Islam promised that his speech would be open to all.

Robert A. Bennett and his wife, Marseline Donaldson, were among those angered that the Boston speech was closed to women.

"It was raining, and they wouldn't let my wife in," said Mr. Bennett, who is 61. "I couldn't leave her out there, so we both left disgusted."

They filed two of the three complaints with the State Commission Against Discrimination, which is negotiating with the Nation of Islam to reach a financial settlement without a public hearing.

Mr. Bennett and his wife, who are from the South, said the exclusion reminded them of the days of segregation.

"It was kind of a flashback," Mr. Bennett said, "the feeling of somebody telling you you can't go in -- then because you were black, now it's because you're a woman."

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