In a move to capitalize on Louis Farrakhan's appearance before a men-only audience tonight at the Baltimore Arena, the Nation of Islam plans to offer "manhood training" classes throughout the city beginning Saturday.
Minister Jamil Muhammad, leader of Baltimore's Muhammad Mosque No. 6, said yesterday that the classes for black men would focus on "how to be a better father, husband and provider, to take financial responsibility, become socially activated and be spiritually reinvigorated."
The black separatist group's manhood training classes include self-defense and survival skills, but Minister Muhammad said there is "no weapons training or any silliness of that kind."
Baltimore is the eighth stop on Minister Farrakhan's "Let Us Make Man" tour, which began in January and has drawn crowds. The Nation of Islam leader has vowed to lead a million black men in a march on Washington next year.
A series of women-only rallies featuring Minister Farrakhan began Saturday night in Atlanta, Minister Muhammad said. He said that he expects a women-only event in Baltimore within "30 to 60 days."
Minister Farrakhan, whose history of anti-Jewish remarks has mired him in controversy, will be protested by two Jewish groups this evening. People Against Hate, a Baltimore group, will be joined by Rabbi Avi Weiss, leader of the New York-based Coalition for Jewish Concerns, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. outside the arena, 201 W. Baltimore St.
Larry Cohen, an activist with People Against Hate, said the small demonstration was intended "just to show our presence against the anti-Semitism and racism that he's spewing out."
The Baltimore Jewish Council, which contends that such protests draw attention to the Nation of Islam and enhance Minister Farrakhan's credibility among blacks, will stay away, said Arthur Abramson, the group's executive director.
"We hope that the rhetorical extremism and anti-Semitism that have come from him in the past are not repeated on this occasion," Dr. Abramson said. "Because of the brilliant way he has been able to manipulate the media, he has attracted major crowds and attention, and this has only helped him."
Minister Farrakhan's speeches on this tour have "dealt almost entirely with the spiritual issues that govern a man getting a grip on himself," Minister Muhammad said. "There is not among us a fascination with Jews or pointing the finger at some enemy or demonizing someone as the cause of all our problems."
However, People Against Hate noted that The Final Call, the Nation of Islam newspaper that is widely sold in Baltimore, has regularly run articles on anti-Jewish themes such as "the secret sinister roots of Jewish economic power."
Minister Farrakhan will bring a "fiery, uplifting, self-empowering and self-valuing message" to a packed house at the 13,000-seat arena, Minister Muhammad predicted. Street vendors of The Final Call have been distributing tickets to the free event, and it has been advertised on local radio stations. The event begins at 7 p.m.
Minister Muhammad said yesterday that "out of 13,000 brothers expected tomorrow night, surely hundreds will become members" of the Nation of Islam. He added that "thousands more will become better members of what they already belong to. . . . If you're a Republican, be from the party of Lincoln. If you're a Christian, be a good believer."
At other stops on the tour, Minister Farrakhan, 61, has chastised black men for failing to see God's spirit in themselves and for treating one another with disrespect.
"When I get finished with you tonight, the next time you want to shoot your brother . . . you will think twice," he told a similar gathering last month in Atlanta. "The next time you want to sell drugs to your brother, you will think twice."
Tonight's speech will mark Minister Farrakhan's second Baltimore appearance this month. During an NAACP-sponsored black leadership summit here June 12-14, he spoke at Bethel A.M.E. Church in West Baltimore, took part in a "town hall meeting" at Dunbar High School in East Baltimore and was a visible presence at summit sessions at NAACP headquarters.
Two other groups, the Citywide Coalition and the Baltimore Homeless Union, will hand out fliers at the arena tonight announcing a meeting to organize an interracial city youth movement.
The meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. tomorrow at Union Baptist Church, 1219 Druid Hill Ave.