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BERKELEY, Calif. — Nation of Islam minister Louis Farrakhan delivered a speech to hundreds at the University of California Berkeley Saturday and some students took issue with parts of his message.
Minister Louis Farrakhan opened the Afrikan Black Coalition Conference at UC Berkeley Saturday, bringing together black students from colleges across the state.
The 78-year-old minister urged the 600 or so students to depend on themselves for jobs and learn more about black history. He also pushed a controversial book that alleges Jews dominated the slave trade.
“(He said) that Jews control the government and that you need to be their friends in order to be successful, that Jews control the media. To me, that was just so hateful and horrible,” said Noah Ickowitz, a UC Berkelely ASUC Senator.
“This is not hate, this is actual facts,” Farrakhan said.
Outside Wheeler Hall, a few students passed out petitions expressing their discontent with minister Farrakhan’s presence on campus.
“I believe the (Black Student Union) had every right to bring Farrakhan, but we are hurt by Farrakhan’s words,” Ickowitz said to students outside the auditorium.
The minister condemned the opposition and even discouraged dialogue between Jews and blacks.
“I personally don’t care if I ever get along if I’ve got to hide the truth to win a friend,” Farrakhan said to crowd.
UC President Mark Yudof decried Farrakhan as “provocative” and “divisive” following his speech at UC Berkeley.
“Louis Farrakhan is a provocative, divisive figure with a long history of racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic speech,” Yudof said. “It was distressing in the extreme that a student organization invited him to speak on the UC Berkeley campus.”
“But, as I have said before, we cannot, as a society or as a university community, be provoked by hurtful speech to retreat from the cherished value of free speech,” Yudof said.
But members of UC Berkeley’s Black Student Union said the overall message was inspiring.
“What I got out of it was how we as black students can take our education and utilize it to build the black community back up,” said Stephan Montouth. “We’re looking at the minister’s statements in terms of how to empower the black community not all of the other controversial things that he may have said in the past.”