Louis Farrakhan speaks in North Charleston

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan speaks Saturday night at the Royal Baptist Family Life and Banquet Center on Abraham Avenue in North Charleston. Gregory Yee/staff

Controversial Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan gave an impassioned speech Saturday night to hundreds of local residents who packed an auditorium in North Charleston.

For more than two hours, Farrakhan told the crowd at the Royal Baptist Family Life and Banquet Center that they needed to embrace their black identity and live as true children of God by taking control of their community, economy, education and politics.

"You cannot make North Charleston yours until you own it," he said. "They see some value in North Charleston, and they want to take this from us."

Farrakhan's message emphasized black power and unity between Christians and Muslims in the community. He touched on the legacy of slavery several times.

"All the good that you all do, you do it in the white man's name," he said, pointing to the Rev. Isaac Holt Jr. of Royal Missionary Baptist Church. "Isaac Holt, a good man, but Holt is not his name. Holt is the name of the former slave master of his great-grandfather."

Farrakhan's message meandered between religious topics to black identity. During a particularly fiery segment, he urged the crowd to take hold of their communities and of their blackness.

"You are the people of God, but you are in a state of death," he said. "Here we are, the symbol of America, and they brought you to America, stripped you. ... Barack had an African name. Barack Obama but he's working for white people. He's the CEO of a corporate entity called USA Inc."

Farrakhan compared the black community to the biblical figure of Lazarus, dead in the grave and beginning to stink.

"You've been in your grave 400 years and you've got a stench. ... Fornicating, adultery, lying, pimps, hustlers, gamblers, thieves," he said. "Look at yourselves."

Commenting on the election, Farrakhan spoke about both candidates with contempt.

"Here's Lucifer and Satan competing for your vote," he said. "You always had to choose the lesser of two evils. So I've got to look past the evils to vote for them to ruin me. How are you going to vote for the warden when it's time for you to get out of jail?"

Farrakhan has faced stiff criticism over the years for comments perceived to be anti-Semitic and homophobic. He has also spoken out against race mixing, known formally as miscegenation.

His speech included a number of anti-gay and anti-lesbian comments. He also espoused anti-vaccination rhetoric toward the end of the marathon talk.

But for many in the crowd, hearing the iconic religious leader speak was a thrill.

And with the election days away, some were hoping to walk away with some clarity on how to vote.

"I told my wife I would like to see what side (Farrakhan's) on," said Nate Shivers, a North Charleston resident. "He's straightforward. ... I believe every citizen should vote. Man or woman, they should be glad that we have that right."

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Reach Gregory Yee at 843-937-5908. Follow him on Twitter @GregoryYYee.

Gregory Yee covers breaking news and public safety. He's a native Angeleno and previously covered crime and courts for the Press-Telegram in Long Beach, CA. He studied journalism and Spanish literature at the University of California, Irvine.

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