An airing of a new documentary chronicling the history of the Nation of Islam drew more than 200 people to the Richmond Recreation Center Saturday night.
“Lost Found: The African American’s Journey to Al-Islam,” traces Elijah Muhammad’s movement from its early 1930s roots in Detroit, MI, through its mid-century heyday and into its incarnations today.
The nearly two-hour documentary was produced and directed by Bay Area filmmaker and historian Shareef Nasir, whose Berkeley-based Mizan Studios is distributing the film. The Muslim Mission Center in Richmond sponsored Saturday’s event.
“This is an important film for understanding the African American journey,” said Lucky Braimah, a local merchant who came to the showing. “You can’t progress if you are uneducated to your history.”
The film relies heavily on a combination of striking historical footage – including some of Malcolm X’s more famous interviews and speeches – and modern day interviews with aging members of Muhammad’s inner circle. Among the points the film drives home are that the Nation was a vital force for empowerment among African Americans and that historical circumstance and cultural history came together to create a unique strain of Islam.
The Nation of Islam has a distinct philosophical tradition. Among its teachings are that black people in America constitute a nation chosen by a single God, Allah, and that the Atlantic slave trade ripped from them their history, language and culture. Among other beliefs outlined in Elijah Muhammad’s platform, written in 1965, are opposition to war and that God was revealed in 1930 in the person of W. Fard Muhammad, who established the Nation’s first mosque in Detroit.
The film was first released last month, and is available at Mizanstudios.com.
Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and Councilman Corky Booze were among those who watched the documentary in the packed recreation center.
During an intermission, both briefly addressed the crowd. McLaughlin said she had read many of Malclolm X’s writings and speeches.
“It is so inspiring to see this film, this history of Islam,” McLaughlin said.
Malcolm X’s assassination in 1965 and Muhammad’s death in 1975 were markers in the Nation of Islam’s transition. Muhammad’s son, Warith Deen Mohammed, became the leader of the Nation in 1975, moving the group in a more moderate direction, which included no longer calling for “separation” of the races. Some elements within the Nation broke away and started their own movements.
“Richmond is a perfect venue for this important film,” said event organizer Yusuf Nasir. “There is a strong Muslim center here, and people are open to seeing how our movement evolved into its peaceful and progressive form.”