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The object, apparently, was to come across as a serious figure. Quanell would not be trifled with. Until just before the press conference, he worked as an aide to state Representative Ron Wilson, and he said Wilson advised him on how to handle this story. So when he was asked how many suits he owns, Quanell refused to reply. Later, he reported that Ron Wilson had agreed this was not a serious question, and Ron Wilson had proposed several alternatives.
"He offers insight into a segment of our community that people only read about and see on TV," Wilson has said of Quanell. "If we're going to save the black community, we're going to have to have individuals like Quanell X to guide the way."
Wilson wouldn't speak with the Houston Press, however, nor would City Council members Jew Don Boney and Michael Yarbrough, nor Pastor Michael Williams of Joy Tabernacle Baptist Church, nor anyone Quanell suggested to vouch for him as a revolutionary. There was only silence surrounding Quanell, and in the silence, for all his work, Quanell did not seem the man of the people at all, but the man without people, a revolutionary still at the beginning of his career.
His desire to help his people seemed always intertwined with his desire to help himself, and when he was told this, he agreed without pause. "I wouldn't expect you to say anything else," he said, for the same had been told of Elijah Muhammad and Louis Farrakhan, and to Quanell, anyway, getting ahead in the world just seemed the Nation of Islam way.
Then Minister Robert Muhammad emerged from the secret halls of the Nation's local mosque. He said that Quanell is a very intelligent, very passionate man of great potential, but also one who has much to learn. Muhammad wouldn't specify which of the Nation's rules Quanell broke, but the punishment could be anything from a 90-day suspension for lying to a one-year exile for fornication to an indefinite banishment for drug use.
The Nation's code of silence also weighed heavily on Quanell, but he could not help offering a clue. "Study Malcolm's history, man! Study it! Study it!"
To be born into the Nation of Islam was to understand the world in a radically different way. While pregnant with Quanell, his mother met an ex-con who had salvaged his life by joining the Nation. A wanderer until then, she became a lieutenant in the MGT -- Muslim Girls Training. She learned how to be a good wife and mother, and in December 1970 she gave birth to a son. They wanted to name him after the Muslim holy book -- the Qur'an, as the Nation spells it. Religion forbade that, so they dropped the "r" and called him Quanell.
From the day of his birth, it was drilled into Quanell that white people are the devil. All of history seemed to support this. Black Americans had been robbed of everything that could bind them together, except what white people had done to them. Slavery and its aftermath became the basis of a new faith, which sought to restore what had been lost.
Quanell accepted the whole history: The messiah arrived in the Detroit ghetto in 1930, a door-to-door salesman of silk. Wallace Fard said his silks were African silks, and he talked a lot about Africa, and before long, his customers began gathering to hear him. He told them what kind of food is good for an African, and when they accepted that, he told them about African religion.
By 1934, a Temple of Islam had been opened, and Fard was calling himself the "Supreme Ruler of the Universe.'' Then he disappeared forever. In his place rose his chief minister, Elijah Muhammad, who pronounced Fard an incarnation of Allah and himself the "Messenger of Allah.''
And what Allah told Elijah Muhammad to tell the black man no other Muslim had ever heard. The black man was born in Africa some 66 trillion years ago, he wrote, after a mighty explosion separated Earth and moon. Great civilizations rose and fell. Black people were generally happy, except for "the big-head scientist,'' Yakub. Exiled for attempting to start another religion, Yakub chose to avenge himself upon Allah by creating a race of devils. He began grafting from black people "the brown germ'' and breeding it with other brown germs. The lighter these offspring became, the more devoid of humanity they were, until finally, after 600 years, it was done. "The blue-eyed devils" had arrived.
"If that's not true," said Quanell, "then prove to me where you come from."
The promise of the faith is not an afterlife, but the prospect of being left alone -- the prophecy that God will soon end the reign of the white devils. Elijah Muhammad never suggested learning to live with them. Black people who have fallen down today were chained down by white people yesterday, and to lift them up, Elijah Muhammad appealed to their anger and pride. Go after the men in the gutter, he told his ministers. They will be the most grateful and loyal followers.
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