Interview with Sonia Sanchez

What was the image that Black men had within the Nation? What was your sense of that?


The image of Black men in the Nation was one of, um, ah, the FOI. The FOI, the Fruit of Islam, was an organization that came over as being extremely strong, ah, extremely powerful, ah, extremely protective. Ah, and they brought back the whole aura of Garvey, ah, that whole era where you came in, you came into uniforms, you came in and you didn't mess with them. They was some bad bloods, you know what I'm saying. I mean you did not mess with the FOI; when they came out on the street, people said, "Ah, um, yes sir, mm hmm." But, even the brother who came into the Nation and just wore the suit every day--uh, they had to wear a suit, ah, into, into the temple, whatever. Ah, and you saw the brother selling the paper on the street. It was an image of, like, an upright brother, you know. I've come from ah, being powerless to a position of bei--having power. I'm selling a newspaper. And, they were like pushing newspaper on you and you bought that paper, you know. Ah, and they really believed in that: brothers going around selling fish that came from ah, from Latin America, if you remember, Central America at that time. Ah, brothers selling bean pies, ah, brothers with businesses. It was like a sense of, of, of people trying to do, be correct with each other. That people weren't going to hustle you out of anything. And, you, you could trust them. You could trust the sisters; you could trust the brothers. And, so therefore, in that sea of Blackness you were home and you didn't have to, you could let down and say, simply, "These people will, are good; they can take care of me."