WASHINGTON, D.C. — Confirming many of the Jewish community's worst fears, several of the most notorious black anti-Semites in the country are planning a two-day conference prior to the Nation of Islam's upcoming Million Man March.
Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan has called on African American men to join him for a "day of atonement" in Washington, D.C., on Monday, Oct. 16 to demonstrate that they will take more responsibility for their communities and commit themselves to a restoration of values.
But during the weekend before the march, a Black Holocaust Nationhood Conference here is featuring speakers known for their claims that white racists and Jews are responsible for the problems plaguing the black community.
The speakers include some of the most virulent anti-Semites and conspiracy theorists in the African American community, including former Farrakhan spokesman Khalid Abdul Muhammad and City College of New York Professor Leonard Jeffries.
Jewish groups say the conference confirms the concerns they have had all along — that the march and events surrounding it will create a dangerous environment that promotes Farrakhan's anti-Semitic views and moves him toward mainstream acceptance.
The conference "underscores the danger and concerns we have about aspects of the march, particularly as it relates to who's organizing it and who's behind it," said Jess Hordes, director of the Anti-Defamation League's Washington office.
The ADL recently took out full-page newspaper ads, assailing the leader of the march, Farrakhan, for his anti-Semitism and racism.
Hordes said the conference is particularly inappropriate in light of the march's stated goals of "atonement" and declaration of responsibility.
"This is scapegoating, this is bigotry, this is prejudice, and self-help can't be built on this kind of foundation," Hordes said.
The conference's organizer, Malik Zulu Shabazz, chairman of the Washington-based Unity Nation, has said that Farrakhan has given the conference his blessing and embraced its speakers.
Shabazz gained notoriety in the pro-Farrakhan community for leading anti-Semitic chants at Howard University student rallies last year. Shabazz formed the Unity Nation while a student at Howard.
March organizers reportedly have denied that the conference has any connection to the march.
The pre-march conference is scheduled to be held at two public high schools in Washington. The 14 scheduled speakers include teachers, clergy and writers.
Muhammad has called Jews "bloodsuckers," and Jeffries has accused Jews of financing the slave trade and plotting with the Mafia to oppress blacks through racist images in the media.
"The program that's been put together — whether it's with the benign approval of Farrakhan or not — consists of people who have been supporters of his approach and people whose major focus is to fan hatred and bigotry against whites and Jews," Hordes said.
Meanwhile, the first national survey of public opinion about the Million Man March reveals that an overwhelming majority of blacks support the march.
At the same time, many of those who approve of the event's mission express concerns about the sponsorship of Farrakhan and another primary organizer, Benjamin Chavis, former executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
According to the Washington Post-ABC News survey, half of black Americans have heard about the march, and of those, 84 percent said it was a good idea.
Asked about Farrakhan's call for an economic boycott on the day of the march, 37 percent said they would not go shopping, 22 percent said they would skip work or school and 13 percent said they would keep their children out of school.