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Detroit — An estimated 16,000 faithful heard Nation of Islam minister Louis Farrakhan touch on themes of self-determination, justice and commitment for improving black America and included critiques of the Democratic and Republican parties.

He criticized laws “written by Republicans” that denied blacks the same opportunities as whites. Then he quickly asked: “What have the Democrats done for you?”

“They look right at you because they want your vote,” he said. “I don’t care what they promise.”

He even had a few kind words for the Detroit police chief.

The charismatic, often-fiery Farrakhan delivered his “Divine Instructions and Commands 2016” keynote address inside a packed Joe Louis Arena on the final day of three-day Saviours’ Day convention in Detroit. The convention honors the birth of W. Fard Muhammad, founder of the Nation of Islam, and the Great Mahdi of the Muslims.

Detroit is considered the mecca of the Nation of Islam because the Temple of Islam in North America was first established here in 1930.

“(Detroit) was the mecca of industrialization but it became the mecca where the knowledge and wisdom of black men and women was found,” said Farrakhan, who over his two-hour speech, described Detroit as a “great city,” described abortion as “ a crime,” criticized leaders “who lie in the name of religion” and encouraged African-Americans to provide financial support to black-owned banks and business.

Farrakhan, 82, also told black men to protect black women and encouraged black women to use discretion with men unworthy of them.

Farrakhan remarked favorably about Detroit Police Chief James E. Craig, who he said provided a motorcade for arriving Nation of Islam officials “like that given to President Obama and others when they come to the city.”

“I really like (Craig),” Farrakhan said. “I know you aren’t supposed to like police, but there are some good ones ... every Muslim is not good and it would be good to get some of them out of our ranks.

“I believe he is a good man and we can work together to make Detroit the No. 1 city in America for police-community relations.”

Farrakhan said a call by the Nation of Islam for a boycott of white-owned businesses between Thanksgiving and Jan. 1 resulted in the loss of billions in sales nationwide at a time when businesses normally report peak profits.

He encouraged such tactics, he said, and in turn, said “redistributing wealth” — investing in black-owned businesses and properties — should be a goal. He said Detroit is a good city on which to focus such attention.

“The whole city is up for sale,” said Farrakhan. “You have the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Dan Gilbert, who has bought up much of downtown and is redoing buildings. ... This isn’t doing anything for you.

“Detroit can be the new mecca,” he said. “It can be great, great city. And it’s 83 percent black.”

Farrakhan called on some of the multimillion-dollar contracts for rebuilding Detroit to be distributed to blacks. “Let us be millionaires,” he said.

He also said blacks should sit down with “the millionaires” who are part of the Detroit Tigers, Lions and Pistons and should be encouraged to invest in neglected black neighborhoods. He said black investors should “pool resources” to make neighborhoods desirable.

“Look at all the old homes going for $5-$10-$15-$20,000,” he said. “All they need is someone to take them over, fix ’em up, and give them some love,” he said. “Don’t go moving off into white neighborhoods. Look at your own neighborhoods and make them ’hoods we desire.”

Farrakhan encouraged Detroit residents to start asking questions like “Who is bringing food in?” (to neighborhood stores) and “What is its quality?”

He also touched on medical marijuana centers in the city and the March 1 deadline for existing dispensaries to make a bid to legally operate in Detroit.

“And that’s good because medical marijuana could be used to help people who are being addicted to prescription drugs,” he said. “God made the weed. I used to smoke it, too.

“But when I smoked it there was a divine reason: ‘God made it. It has to be good,’ he chuckled, then added quickly, “Stop lying to yourself.”

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

(248) 338-0319

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