THE PALTRY turnout for an African-American political convention that Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan promoted as the next step after the Million Man March was in a way more evidence of the power of that earlier event.
Thousands of African-Americans who participated in the 1995 rally in Washington said the experience was spiritual and personal. They praised Mr. Farrakhan for staging it, but insisted the march was not about him. Sure enough, only a few hundred registered for the black political convention last weekend in St. Louis, an event that Mr. Farrakhan's surrogates had predicted 30,000 would attend.
African-American voters aren't seeking out the NOI minister for political advice. He does better convening audiences to hear his mimicry of Booker T. Washington's post-Civil War message that the best help is self-help.
Other black leaders ignored the Farrakhan political convention that was supposed to send Democrats and Republicans a message. Jesse Jackson has been busy trying to turn out the vote for President Clinton, having said he believes a Dole victory would hurt poor blacks.
Perhaps his convention would have been a success had not Mr. Farrakhan squandered the momentum of the Million Man March. Rather than immediately trying to organize participants as a political force, he began planning his recent tour of some of the most despotic regimes on the face of the Earth, including Sudan and Nigeria, which bring new meaning to the term "black-on-black crime."
African-Americans don't expect to gain anything from Mr. Farrakhan's courting of Iraq's Saddam Hussein or Libya's Muammar el Kadafi, who has promised the NOI leader a $1 billion loan to help black people in this country. The U.S. government will never let him collect.
Although African-American voters may agree with Mr. Farrakhan that they are ignored by one major political party and taken for granted by the other, they obviously have no confidence in his politics as an alternative.
Pub Date: 10/06/96