Who Speaks For Us? The Prisoners

[Editor’s note: The following article is based on an address delivered October 12, 1980 by Minister Farrakhan during a benefit in Defense of freedom fighter and then-political prisoner Geronimo Pratt.]

In The Name of Allah, The Beneficent, The Merciful.


Minister Louis Farrakhan

Sacrifice is the unselfish giving of what one needs for one’s self to accomplish an end that is greater than one’s self. The scriptures of the Bible and Holy Qur’an are full of examples of sacrifice. The history of Black struggle in America is full of examples of sacrifice. The history of the freedom struggle for our Brothers and Sisters around the world is full of examples of sacrifice. It hurts when men and women among us sacrifice for the liberation of a people and the people become ungrateful for the sacrifices they gave.


It is not enough to praise Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Nat Turner, Nobel Drew Ali or any of our brave Freedom Fighters. What we must do is take the principles that they lived and died on and be willing to sacrifice to see the end for which they lived and died. Then, and only then, will our living not be in vain and their sacrifice not have been in vain.

In the church, there is a gospel song, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” There never has been a teacher of valid principles for the liberation and survival of Black people in this country who has not been persecuted by the United States Government, maligned, falsely accused, vilified by this system, and we were there. We always have been there, but many of us take the position: “Yes, I do remember Garvey. He was a great man. You never heard a Black man talk like Garvey.” But when Mr. Garvey was talking, where were you? Were you a member of the UNIA? No. Why don’t you join? You are not willing to sacrifice, but you are willing to ride on the sacrifice of others.

We were there when Noble Drew Ali preached, when Malcolm X spoke, when the Honorable Elijah Muhammad called, and when the Panther Party called. We were there, but where were we? Many were on the sideline: “I do not have the guts. I do not have the courage.” You are unwilling to sacrifice, but you stand there ready to reap the gains of all those who are willing to give their life.

Many of the Black intellectuals and leaders did not march with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. until it was safe. It was humble Black Brothers and Sisters who joined those marches and were beaten for a Black man today to lay in bed with a White woman and talk about the gains of Dr. Martin Luther King.

It was the Brothers and Sisters in cities like Watts, Detroit, Cleveland and Newark, who paid an awful price so that bourgeois Black people could walk into corporate America and earn fat salaries, but yet they do not care about Geronimo Pratt and those like him who suffered to make it possible.

“Malcolm was my man,” you say. But when “your man” was blazing the trail, where were you? You were comfortable on the sideline, letting him preach on the radio and television, but you stayed behind the door until you thought it was comfortable?

Many criticized Elijah Muhammad, calling him counterrevolutionary, because they did not truly understand revolution, but romanticize about it. The root of revolution is light. There is no motion without light. Light causes the motion of our planet. This planet makes its revolution around the sun by the power of light striking Earth at its equator, causing Earth to spin and producing the four seasons. The introduction of light and knowledge to a people who are asleep under the foot of oppression causes an idea of revolution to germinate in their minds. There is no revolutionary who is worth his salt or his sense that throws away his life. He wisely maneuvers in order that the revolution may live.

The Honorable Elijah Muhammad was not a fool. He studied America beyond your imagination. He studied her laws beyond your lawyers’ ability to understand the law. He was a wise man who knew the time and the seasons, and he worked according to the time and warned us of the time.

But since many did not understand his actions, they judged him as a counter revolutionary—while it was the light of Muhammad that started them on their motion. As long as Allah (God) gives me breath, no one is going to take anything from him and his sacrifice, while riding on the air that that man gives them.

Malcolm X was not a revolutionary until he met the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. He was like most of us, wanting something better, but not knowing how to go after it. Many of our people said the Muslims just want to talk and sell papers. But Muhammad was wise; he said, “Yes, Brother, for now.”

How can we build a revolution without the idea of that revolution in the heads, hearts and minds of the people? How can we get Black people to make a sacrifice for an idea when we do not trust each other? We have to build a record of trust among our people, which means you have to adopt principles that encourage and promote trust.

So the revolutionary that he was, he said, “Let me direct your anger to something within you that is counterrevolutionary”—but he did not call it counterrevolutionary. He simply said let me direct your anger to something in you that is against the rise and liberation of our people.

If a Brother or Sister will not protect their own life, we cannot trust them to protect ours. If after the knowledge that cigarettes kill, you will smoke and sentence yourself to death, how can we trust a suicidal maniac with the liberation of our people?

How can pill users and cocaine snorters say they are for the revolution, but do not want to give up a pill, cannot sacrifice that which is against the good of Black people for the liberation that you seek? They want liberation, but they do not want to make any sacrifice.

How can we do the bigger thing, if we cannot do the little small thing that is asked of us? The Honorable Elijah Muhammad took our people’s anger against White people and directed it against narcotics, self-hate and the unwillingness to do for self. Before we knew it, that hatred became a force for liberation in us of all these counterrevolutionary aspects of our life.

After the Honorable Elijah Muhammad raised us to a degree where we stopped doing all those immoral things, he had to keep us busy. Many of us wanted to get a gun, but he said, “A gun in a fool’s hand and that fool will shoot himself.”

So we needed a little training. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad knew martial arts was not going to stop the White man’s guns, but it kept us busy and in shape. Then, he told us to sell Muhammad Speaks newspaper.

Those who criticized this did not understand what the struggle took. Elijah Muhammad saw the struggle, and said that we have to get our ideas and story into the hands of our people. The paper has a bullet in it, because we have to blow the top of ignorance off our people’s head. We have to make them see that they can accomplish what they will.

We ate one meal a day. He was teaching a revolutionary concept because before long, there will not be any food around and what we have, we will have to share.

When we love our guts more than liberation, we will become a traitor over a bowl of soup or a snitcher for a meal. But when we have learned to discipline our stomachs, we can learn to master all of our appetites. So we will not go to prison and become an enemy of our own rise by allowing something that is counterproductive for the good of Black people to come into our lives. Through controlling our hunger for food, we will have mastered our urge and the White man can no longer use us.

What was the Honorable Elijah Muhammad doing? He was making our people see us as a friend, as a concerned person, and making our people receptive to an idea that our people did not want or agree with: an idea of separation and doing for self.

Do you know how he was able to survive? When the police attacked our mosque in New York in 1972, it was not the Muslims who protected the mosque; the junkies came up out of the street. The people who many call the rejects of society ran to the mosque, turned over police cars, stopped sharpshooters from getting up on the roof; set fire to the policeman’s bulletproof vests and told them, “If you bother Farrakhan, all y’all are dead.” It was the people in the streets, because Elijah Muhammad was sinking his roots into the people.

Then, we would begin organizing block by block and street by street, because the respect, commitment and the love are already there. When we begin organizing people block by block, then we determine who gets into office, because we have developed organizational strength in our community.

I do not care how powerful the Shah of Iran appeared. When the people in his country rose up against him, the people moved him. When the people are organized, Geronimo Pratt is free, and there will no longer be any more political prisoners. We encourage this suppression by our unwillingness to sacrifice, discipline and organize ourselves properly against an oppressor and for our own liberation.

The government’s counterintelligence program saw in Geronimo Pratt, a Hannibal, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane and Khalid bin Walid all rolled up in one. They watched him in Vietnam. He was one of the most decorated Black men to survive the Vietnamese Conflict. They said, “As long as he is our n—-r, everything is all right, but if he ever turns against us, we are all in trouble.”

Why are they all in trouble? Because what he knows, he will teach it to others. His spirit is infectious and contagious. Then, he made the “fatal mistake” of joining the Revolutionary Movement, the Panther Party. They were beautiful, magnificent Brothers and Sisters. Many did not know it, but the Honorable Elijah Muhammad sat down with me one day and talked about the Panther Party.

He said, “Brother, whenever you speak, you put an umbrella out over the Panther Party. If they ask you anything about the Panthers, tell them they are our Brothers.” He did not want White people to ever believe that we were at odds with the Panthers, so that if they could separate us from our Brothers, whom they really were threatened by, then they would attack our Brothers, and the Muslims would sit back and say, “Good, they got rid of the Panthers.”

When Geronimo Pratt joined the Panther Party, he became exceedingly dangerous. Al Prentice “Bunchie” Carter and John Huggins of the Panther Party, which were militant, passionate Blacks, and Ron Karenga of the US organization, which was a movement that was socialist-oriented with a nationalist tinge—it became the government’s policy to cause them to clash. Carter and Huggins were killed, and later Geronimo Pratt rose to leadership in the Panther Party. When he exemplified the skill of leadership, he became dangerous and the government trumped up false charges to get him off the streets, because that was the time that they were busting up every Black movement, beginning with the Panther Party.

What does that have to do with sacrifice and the struggle of our people today, you may ask? Unless you understand what happened yesterday, you are not qualified to deal today.


In the Bible, Jesus appeared in the Roman Empire. He was a revolutionary. His followers did not fight for Rome or pledge allegiance to Rome. They had another kingdom.

Jesus knew that, before he could get his people into the kingdom, he had to open the eyes of the blind, make the deaf hear, dumb speak, lame walk, and raise the dead to life. He had to take people who had paralysis and palsy and get their hands working again for self. He was working a marvelous work, not among the rich or intellectuals, but the masses—among the people from whom all true revolutions come.

Jesus was not successful with the classes, so he told his disciples to go into the highways and the byways to get the blind, lame and whore, and bring them to him. That is wisdom, if you understand. Then, the wise said Jesus was becoming too influential, because everyone was listening to him and Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they decided to kill both Jesus and Lazarus.

The chief priests searched among the 12 disciples of Jesus. They had a counterintelligence program working on Jesus from within. They found one who claimed to love the poor, but he was really jealous of Jesus because women were washing the feet of Jesus with a precious ointment. Judas became angry with Jesus and shouted that they were using expensive ointment that could have been sold and the profits given away to the poor.

This is how a crooked deceiver comes. People who are jealous masquerade their envy behind noble causes. Real rotten people always want to show how much love they have for the people, but in reality, their heart is so poisoned that they feel they can do a better job than the man whom God has appointed to do the job. Actually, Judas wanted Jesus out of the way.

As the chief priests sifted among the disciples, the government sifted among the Panthers, UNIA, the Human Rights Coalition, and all of our organizations looking for weak ones whose desire for their personal agenda is bigger than the cause of liberation. None of our weaknesses remain hidden from the White man. When we come into any kind of leadership, he starts sifting us immediately. But if we do not want anything but the liberation of our people, they do not have anything to offer you.

They had a mock trial for Jesus. False witnesses showed up and they cleared away Jesus’ true witnesses who could have said he was innocent. They put fear into the disciples and none of them showed up at the trial of Jesus. Who showed up at the trial of Geronimo Pratt?

Those wicked officials in the government had a counterintelligence program for the ’80s that will make J. Edgar Hoover’s COINTELPRO for the ’60s look cheap.

They hung Jesus on a cross, nailed his hands, put a crown of thorns on his head, pierced him in his side, put nails in his feet, took his robe, and had him naked. Gamblers stood at the foot of the cross, gambling for his robe.

This Biblical account is not to instruct us about a poor, pitiful Jew who was assassinated in the Roman Empire.

Jesus represents every revolutionary who stands for justice in an egalitarian society where there is no class or caste, and all men are equal under the law.

When we stand for these principles in this world, we are perceived as troublemakers and agitators. Our enemies decide that they have to get rid of us, but they do not want to shoot us outright; they want to crucify us in a public place for public ridicule.

They break the hands our leaders, meaning stopping the ability to work our ideas. They nail the hands and feet of our leaders, so that we are immobile, meaning our people cannot move.

In the Roman era, when they took men off the cross, they usually broke their legs. This represents breaking the support for their ideas among the people, so that no one who espouses their doctrines will be able to move. They intend on crushing that movement.


Black people must be free. Are you willing to make the sacrifice? It is better to do it willingly, because you are going to be forced into a position to sacrifice.

The first sacrifice you have to make is to sacrifice using and selling drugs, making pimps and whores out of our young men and women, being a stool pigeon for White people.

Let us not repeat history. Every Black leader who struggles for justice, let us never let the counterintelligence program in 2005 put us against one another as it did in the ’60s and ’80s.

Let us never let them interpret us to one another. Let us keep the lines of communication open that, even if we disagree with one another, we know where each other stands, and refuse to let the enemy come between us, telling you one thing and me another, that we may get on the battlefield with each other.

Stay strong, Black man and woman, and let’s stay together.