Hate group leader Louis Farrakhan appeared in Charlotte last weekend. Local LGBT-friendly politicians' appearances at his events have stoked controversy. Photo Credit: Robert Lahser/Charlotte Observer.
Hate group leader Louis Farrakhan appeared in Charlotte last weekend. Local LGBT-friendly politicians’ appearances at his events have stoked controversy.
Photo Credit: Robert Lahser/Charlotte Observer.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Some local elected officials and candidates are coming under scrutiny this week after attending events headlined by hate group leader Louis Farrakhan, who has a long history of anti-Semitic comments and hostility toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. Among them is openly lesbian Charlotte City Councilmember LaWana Mayfield, who attended a Farrakhan speech on Oct. 13 and refused on Thursday to condemn Farrakhan’s prejudiced comments.

Farrakhan is a long-time leader of the Nation of Islam, a predominately African-American Islamic group described as a “black separatist” hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, or the SPLC. The Montgomery, Ala.-based SPLC, respected for its work in tracking hate groups and their leaders, has long listed the Nation of Islam alongside two other black separatist groups and hundreds of other identified hate groups ranging from neo-Nazis to right-wing anti-gay extremists.

Mayfield: Farrakhan ‘doing God’s will’

Mayfield, who in 2011 became the city’s first openly gay or lesbian elected official, was among several other elected officials and politicians at an Oct. 13 Farrakhan speech at Little Rock A.M.E. Zion Church. There, Mayfield sent a message of supposed support for the hate group leader on Twitter.

A screenshot of Mayfield’s Farrakhan tweet, shared by Ratliff. Click to enlarge.

“Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan at Little Rock AME Zion Church doing God’s will not his own,” Mayfield wrote with an accompanying photograph of Farrakhan at the church’s pulpit.

On Thursday, Mayfield said she was previously aware of Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic and anti-LGBT record but she attended the event anyway as an invited local elected official.

“Yes, I am aware of his comments. I’m also aware that as an elected official, I am to represent all the people in my community not just some people in the community,” she told qnotes. “I attended the event as an elected official because we were invited to the event.”

Despite her seemingly supportive Twitter message, Mayfield said her attendance at the event shouldn’t be judged harshly.

“Me being in attendance as well as others who were in attendance wasn’t necessarily a show of support or condemnation,” Mayfield said. “As an elected being invited, there are a lot of events that I have attended and that I will attend as an elected official representing the entire city and specifically District 3.”

Mayfield declined to say whether she thought Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism and anti-LGBT hostility are a part of “God’s will.” Her messages on Twitter are common fare, she said.

“The tweet that I sent out was different comments that he said during the event,” Mayfield said. “So, yeah, I tweeted throughout the event but I also tweet throughout most of the events I attend. Every event I attend I tweet out what’s going on, what’s being said. There are some things that he said that I agree with but that doesn’t mean that I agree with everything he says.”

Mayfield refused to condemn Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic and anti-LGBT hostility.

“No, I’m not going to condemn a man for his past, just like I would not want anyone to try to condemn me for my past,” she said. “Each day that we live there is a hope that we are going to learn and we’re going to grow and we’re going to do something better than we did the day before. So, why would I condemn because that’s not my place. That’s the place of God.”

Pressed further to condemn Farrakhan’s comments, rather than Farrakhan as a person, Mayfield still declined. “It’s not my place to condemn anything that someone else does, whether it’s in the past or it’s in the future,” she said. “That’s their pathway and their road with their religious beliefs in getting to greater enlightenment.”

Other politicians attend

Mayfield was joined by other local politicians at the Farrakhan event at Little Rock, including Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners Chair Harold Cogdell and Commissioner Vilma Leake. Leake also attended Farrakhan’s Sunday rally at Bojangles Coliseum, where she sat on stage behind Farrakhan, according to The Charlotte Observer.

Additionally, at least one other candidate for the county commission also attended the Little Rock event. Democrat Kim Ratliff, who “retweeted” or shared Mayfield’s laudatory Twitter message, told qnotes on Wednesday that her attendance at the event was for a friend and campaign volunteer.

“I’ve got a diverse campaign team,” she said, adding that one of her volunteers is a Vietnamese man who recently converted to Islam. “I went to support him. I went to be with him and to support him.”

Ratliff said she was not aware of Farrakhan’s hate speech before attending the event, but said she didn’t hear anything that would have made her leave the meeting that day.

“Really, a lot of what he was saying was different things that leaders should do,” she said. “Some of the things that he was saying, it was like, ‘Yeah we do need to do a better job of that.'”

Had she known about Farrakhan’s hate speech prior to attending, Ratliff said she still would have gone.

“My volunteer supports me and so it wasn’t even about Farrakhan. It wasn’t about the Nation of Islam or anything like that,” Ratliff said. “If you and I were friends and you asked me to do something because I’m your friend, I would go in support of you. That’s really why I went.”

On Thursday morning, qnotes emailed all members of the Charlotte City Council and Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners asking if they had attended the event, if they were aware of Farrakhan’s history and status as a hate leader and if they would condemn his past remarks.

Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx and Charlotte Councilmembers John Autry and Claire Fallon each said they did not attend and condemned Farrakhan’s remarks.

“I will always reject hate speech whether it’s from the pulpit or in front of a women’s reproductive health clinic,” Autry said. “We have no place in our society for such rhetoric.”

“I condemn hate in any form,” said Foxx.

“I did not and would not attend any thing he spoke at,” said Fallon. “As far as I am concerned it would be like me sitting with David Duke or Flip [Benham].”

Neither Cogdell nor Leake have yet to return comment.

Endorsements questioned

Mayfield’s, Leake’s and Ratliff’s attendance at the Farrakhan events has prompted at least one call that their endorsements from a local LGBT rights group be rescinded.

Republican Wayne Powers, who is running for an at-large seat on the county commission, told qnotes that the Mecklenburg LGBT Political Action Committee, or MeckPAC, should strip Leake and Ratliff of their support.

“I would call upon MeckPAC to rescind the endorsement of any candidate or elected official who expresses or demonstrated support for Mr. Farrakhan, and that would include Ms. Mayfield,” Powers said.

Powers said the politicians did seem to support Farrakhan.

“There’s a difference between attendance and enthusiastic support,” he said. “LaWana tweeted and signaled to people who follow her that she was in enthusiastic support of Louis Farrakhan as did Kim Ratliff.”

Still, Powers said the decision will ultimately be up to MeckPAC. “”I will leave it to MeckPAC to honestly determine whether attendance itself signifies support or curiosity,” he said. “I did not attend and would not attend so as not to give even the impression of support for his morally repugnant message of hate and bigotry.”

Powers has been an outspoken advocate of the LGBT community, both during his campaign and his former tenure as a radio host with the local news-talk radio station WBT. He said his positions, including his opposition to May’s anti-LGBT state constitutional amendment and his support for domestic partner benefits for public employees, has cost him among some conservative voters.

Powers was not endorsed by MeckPAC in the primary or in the general election. He previously criticized the group this week for what he calls “an overwhelming record of overt partisanship.”

On Thursday, he broadened his criticism.

“I stand up and do go on record and it costs me when I do but I do it anyway,” he said. “These other people like Kim Ratliff, they go on record, it costs them nothing and they don’t mean it because they’ll show up at a Farrakhan rally.”

Rescinding an endorsement isn’t difficult, Powers added, pointing to a Charlotte Observer decision this year to rescind their endorsement of Mecklenburg County Commission Vice Chair and former Ninth Congressional District Republican primary candidate Jim Pendergraph after he questioned President Barack Obama’s citizenship and sided with a controversial Arizona sheriff accused of racially profiling Latinos.

“There shouldn’t even be a breath of hesitation,” Powers said.

On Wednesday, MeckPAC Steering Committee Chair Scott Bishop addressed concerns over Ratliff’s appearance at the Farrakhan event.

“This is one event that Kim Ratliff attended with someone whose been anti-gay in the past,” Bishop told qnotes. “I’m not going to hold one event against someone. We talked to Kim and we know why she was at the event. We explained to Kim what we know about Louis Farrakhan and his anti-gay stances. She understands that.”

Bishop said he, too, has been at events in the past which he attended after being invited and where anti-gay speakers had taken the stage. “I don’t think you can hold that against anybody,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that just because I attended that event that I support that person.”

Bishop said MeckPAC “feels confident” in Ratliff and says she has been supportive of LGBT issues, including her work on the anti-LGBT constitutional amendment this year.

“Her willingness to want to reach out to us when she is elected shows me that this one event does not sway her opinion,” he said.

Bishop was not available Thursday for comment regarding Leake or Mayfield.

Farrakhan’s mixed and controversial history

Criticism of Farrakhan and those who support him comes as a sort of mixed bag. While there is no doubt Farrakhan is a hate leader and his Nation of Islam is a hate group, many still respect them for the positive ways they have been able to influence the African-American community.

Bishop Tonyia Rawls, founder and pastor of the predominately LGBT and African-American LGBT Unity Fellowship Church of Charlotte, told qnotes that social justice work across varying lines of difference is often sensitive.

“It isn’t clean and neat and easy and tidy. It is messy work,” she said. “But it is worth fighting.”

Rawls said it is important to view Farrakhan in context.

“Many of his positions I have not agreed with and some of the positions I have supported, in terms of empowerment of people of color and even some of the ways he and the Nation of Islam have made great strides in fighting HIV and AIDS,” she said. “I do not agree with many of the positions of Minister Louis Farrakhan but I also do support some of those positions that support people of color.”

Farrakhan’s place in American history is complex. He rose to power in the Nation of Islam in 1977. He’s been credited with providing positive leadership for urban African-American men and providing an identity of solidarity within the African-American community after centuries of oppression and decades of tumultuous civil rights struggles.

The Southern Poverty Law Center even acknowledges that racism, where it exists within black separatist groups like the Nation of Islam, “is, at least in part, a response to centuries of white racism.” Still, the SPLC says “it believes racism must be exposed in all its forms.”

“White groups espousing beliefs similar to black separatists would be considered clearly racist. The same criterion should be applied to all groups regardless of their color,” the group says on its website. “If a white group espoused similar beliefs with the colors reversed, few would have trouble describing it as racist and anti-Semitic. Although the racism of a group like the Nation may be relatively easy to understand, if we seek to expose white hate groups, we cannot be in the business of explaining away the black ones.”

Rawls is understanding of the concerns and stands solidly opposed to hate.

“I stand strongly in support of the Jewish community and against anti-Semitism and stand strongly in support of gay, lesbian, bi and trans and the right for gay couples to marry,” she said. “I do not support the way that anybody uses their power and a position in any way to harm any population.”

Yet, given Farrakhan’s history within the African-American community, it is hard to dismiss him entirely.

“For many in the black community, that is a place that we are able to learn how to as responsibly as possible grapple and own the need to hold our sisters and brothers accountable in whatever way is deemed appropriate and also make sure that the baby is not thrown out with the bath water where there are points of intersectionality where we can work together.”

Leaders like Powers remain unconvinced.

“The greatest hatemongers in the world always have a positive message,” he said. “They always talk about God. David Duke talks about God. David Duke has positive things to say, as does Louis Farrakhan. Benito Mussolini made the trains run on time but he was still a fascist. People cloak themselves in positive things but the core of who they are and what their real message is is rotten and putrid and repugnant.”

Powers said he is “shocked and repelled” that an openly gay elected officials and other LGBT-friendly officials would support Farrakhan.

“I don’t understand that and what is happening here, that there is a conflict here,” he said. “Yes, you can agree with the outer message, the wrapping on the package, but when you open that package up and see what is really inside, it’s repugnant.”

Rawls said she is confident in Mayfield’s judgement.

“I do know LaWana Mayfield is someone who stands for justice and equality,” she said. “I know her to be a woman of justice and equality for her whole career. That’s what she has fought for and paid high prices for.”

[Ed. Note — This writer served a brief term as a volunteer member of the Mecklenburg LGBT Political Action Committee’s steering committee during his hiatus from the newspaper this past spring. He no longer serves on the organization’s committee and had no special or prior knowledge of the organization’s general election endorsements or endorsement process.]

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.

18 replies on “Gay council member, others attended anti-gay Louis Farrakhan events in Charlotte”

  1. This slanderous article just goes to show you that despite their “minority” status, the White LGBT community or at least their media is just as anti-Black and hateful as many of their counterparts in the mainstream media are.

    Farrakkhan and his movement is now and has been for 50 years, a pillar of the Black community. Calling for Blacks diss them for your unscrupulous notions is not going to happen. The paternalistic slave master relationship is finished already! Deal with it!

    1. As a black gay man, I made it a point NOT to attend Farrakhan’s Million Man March. He has said many ugly things about gay black men which he has not apologized for:

      I love my people who are lesbian, homosexual, transgender. Don’t make no difference, I love you. But I have to teach you that which will make us more pleasing in the sight of God because his wrath now is coming down on America and on the world. And if you’re not on the right side, you will receive a terrible chastisement. You’re not a beast.” – Speech in Jackson, Mississippi, 3/25/11

      “We see pimps with a cross around their neck. We see hustlers. We see adulterers, fornicators, lesbians, homosexuals. If you can’t preach what Christ says, then get the hell out of the pulpit. If you can’t stand up for what God says, then why are you trying to represent a God that you are misrepresenting?” – Saviours’ Day, Rosemont, Illinois, 2/27/11

      “You think you know Jesus Christ?… If you knew him, why is there so much drunkenness, so much drugs, so much fornication, so much adultery, so much homosexuality, so much lesbianism, so much murder, so much crime? And all of you got a cross around your neck proclaiming a man that hasn’t got nothing to do with the madness we do in his holy and righteous name.” – Holy Day of Atonement, Memphis, Tennessee, 10/18/09

      1. In all of your examples The Minister condemned all our sins not just the sins of the homosexuals. The problem that many of us have with the Gays is that you refuse to acknowledge that your behavior is sin. I use to be an adulterer, but i never tried to say that my behavior was not sin. I did try to excuse it, but I never tried say that God was pleased with it. Allah(God) can not heal us until we admit that we are wrong.

        1. Because being gay is not a sin. We can argue over Biblical interpretation (and if we did, I would have you up waaay past your bedtime my friend) but that is not the point. The point is how is it that a gay city council member can say that Farrakhan is doing the work of the Lord when his words and the ignorance behind his words have maligned her as a person. The absolute mind-boggling irony is something she seems to be trying to ignore and she simply can’t.

          1. Ignorance is a lack of knowledge on any system of knowledge and those who know or read the Bible or Quran can easily point to the the abomination of homosexuality or the sin of lying , stealing , murder, fornication or be adultery-all of which we can forgiven for if we repent.
            Your problem is not with the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan , your problem is with God , Himself. Minister Farrakhan is like the bold Jesus who warned the people and reminded them of God’s Word out of his desire to save them from the wrath of the God he be believed in . He told the truth regardless to whom or what.
            Both you and he are easily found in the verses of scripture .Who will win?

        2. Im going to say this” I was a drug dealer and did some other things” I was a bad person, but THMLF had the balls; to talk to me like a man.Who cares if you are gay, your bedroom is your business; you get bad when you put it out their and we see it.Lastly I can beat my wife, then tell people to mind their business, when she comes outside(black eye)yea okay

    2. Mr Bazin, with all do respect you know nothing about this media outlet and their background… They have employed and treated like family people who are multi cutural which I Know in the SOUTH doesn’t exist, your are either one of the other but some of us are more than one race and of several nationalies. That range from African American, Jewish, Italian, Ukrainian Jewish, German, Carrabian American,Irish, among others i’m not sure of everyones herratige. But to make that comment is setting the South back even further … As for Lawanna I have always respected her but of being of several nationalities incuding Ukrainan Jewish and L of lgbt I am hurt that she supports an anti-semite and I will pray for her but the bashing of Qnotes as an media outlet needs to STOP they are as diverse can be they go to every event they can.

  2. This is very confusing. Anyone in the LCBT community who supports this man – may as well be supporting the genocide of all in the LGBT community. That is what he stands for. The genocide of anyone who believes different from him. He has stated so on many occassions. He is not a “pillar” of the black community. He is a man who advocates death to all non-white Americans and all LGBT no matter their race. Attendance at his ralley under the guise of being an elected official representing your constituants is an insult –

    1. CMS.. oh now you resort to saying Farrakhan is advocating murder? I hope GoQNOTES.com is aware of libel laws with respect to such accusations.

      In any case your assertion are pure, unadulterated B.S.! Farrakhan has never called for the murder of the LGBT community or the murder of non-white Americans and for you to post such libelous slander displays either an extreme lack of character and disrespect for truth on your part or a pernicious ignorance to the 10th degree!

      It is understandable to disagree with someone but please, save you straw man fallacies for folks who don’t know any better! Get of friggin’ grip already!

      1. The Nation of Islam, Malik Zulu Shabazz’s New Black Panther Party ALL advocate genocide – I would suggest you spend some time on the internet doing research rather than believing what you are told, try youtube, you can hear them in their own words

        1. Nonsense and I am quite familiar with the Internet thank you!

          Matter of fact I just watched Farrakhan’s whole Oct 14 Charlotte speech @ noi.org and it was quite superb, oh and by the way, I just couldn’t find the part about the genocide of non-whites you keep referring to!

          If you want to be real, as opposed to some future imaginary genocide comitted by your perception of the boogey man Farrakhan here in America, you only need to look at the real life twin genocides of Native Americans and Blacks imported in chains.

  3. This is very confusing to me. Anyone in the LCBT community who supports this man may as well be supporting the genocide of all in the LGBT community. That is what he stands for – The genocide of anyone who believes different from him. The Nation of Islam IS not the Muslim faith we associate. He has stated on many occassions that all non-blacks should be exterminated. He is not a “pillar” of the black community. He is a man who advocates death to all non-white Americans and all LGBT no matter their race. Attendance at his ralley under the guise of being an elected official representing your constituants is an insult –

  4. Let’s not be naive. If we lived in a world where LGBT kids were able to come out without fear of harassment, fear of safety or persecution or if we lived in a world free of bias and prejudice — I would have not have a problem with Council-Member LaWana Mayfield choosing to attend the event or as she says to “not judge” Farrakahn. BUT we don’t live in that world — AND LGBT youth are victims of depression, homelessness, hate crimes and suicide because of supposed “religious” leaders like Farrakahn (especially LGBT youth of color). Regardless of “who” Lawanna claims to represent, we need our elected officials to stand up against discrimination and hate in all its forms — that includes speakers who are known HATE GROUP leaders (as defined by the Southern Poverty Law Center). Would we feel the same way if this was Fred Phelps? Tony Perkins? Why do you think the Mayor condemned Farrakahn’s actions? Yes, LaWanna is a nice person — but leadership (as a City Council member) means having a backbone and taking an unpopular stance, especially when LGBT young people depend on us to do so. To do otherwise is shameful.

  5. As you can see, it’s always the guilty (or those who feel guilty) that speak out and make accusations without facts, with the exception of A.mcewen who at least used quotes (to no avail). Let us all use logic instead of what fits us personally for whatever reason: 1.) If it were in gods plans to allow homosexuality, then it is within the realm of possibility that everyone could decide to by homosexual, right? Well, if the who works were homosexual, you who are homosexual, yet alive, would not have a life to speak for because only a man and woman can give life. 2.) If Min. Farrakhan were to advocate death for LGBT or whites, believe me, a lot of you would be dead. 3.) only those opposite if SOME of his message (all thought it be just a fraction if his message) always take the snippets, but not the entire message because of emotion. I’m sure a dog that was treated as a human it’s whole life would find it utterly abhorrent to put him in a dog house out back, feed him Kibbles & Bits, and call him a dog. 4.) lastly to A.mcewen, the quotes above we’re not a slight to LBGT as people, but to the ACT. If you were completely honest you could’ve noted the fact that he has said, “he loves his gay and homosexual brother and sister”, but he doesn’t agree with the ACT. And he is not the originator, Jesus was one of the first to condemn it, hence Farrakhan’s reference to the bible, that everyone claims to so love. And all have failed to mention that Farrakhan always says, “I speak for my people, and the poor” and often says “for the poor whites” because these are who need a voice.

  6. Amazing how people want to assign to Farrakhan the very things that blacks have suffered for 450 years in this country. Some are angry that they didn’t choose Farrakhan. The Holy Day of Atonement (Million Man March) was successful without the aid of major media, corporate sponsors, or philanthropic organizations. It was called by a man who is hated without a cause. On a Monday (work day). And the low estimates of attendance hover around the 750,000, while the highs are around 2 million. Even if you just count the low estimates, why did they show up? Who called them? AND WHY ON EARTH ARE FOLKS SO ANGRY ABOUT IT? Black man do for self. Protect your women. Clean up yourself internally and externally. Pool your resources.

    Only someone who is happy to exploit a people whose spending power is in the $trillion range.

  7. @A.mcewen if suicide=sin, and if the whole world were to b gay=the extinction of mankind, then i would say that it is sin, how you can argue your way out of this is not logic, but anemotional fixation, in which you’d rather point the finger at everyone else, instead of yourself. We can go blow for blow about what is sin and not, but it clearly is not a natural thing, meaning in the order if creation, but that’s besides the point. At least she can see herself as apart if the black community FIRST and her sexual preference second, that’s why. Thus man has spoken for the black community for 50 years if his life, gay and straight. But because you are don’t know who you are as a person FIRST, you tend to pull the trigger to defend your sexuality first, which “should” only be a portion of who you are.

  8. Nowadays any black man with the guts to speak up about the moral condition of society is branded a “homophobic bigot”.
    I have been to some of the Nation of Islam’s meetings and yes members do believe that black people should marry each other, primarily. This makes them no exception to other races. When it comes to black people loving who they are and doing for self, white liberals and gays start getting worried and defensive. It surfaces their deep seated fear of black power and pride in heterosexuality combined. When we forge the two elements euro-centric “democracy” loses its strength in the minds of black people, potentially causing a cultural shift that gays and liberals fear simply because they realize the result is not compatible with tolerating injustice, lies or sexual immorality.
    Like it or not Minister Farrakhan is a moralist who says what he means and means and does what he says. The best part of all this is that very few people can say the same about the politicians who they’ve elected to represent them. Democracy is economic power and majority rule even if the resultant laws are morally reprehensible. Slavery in America certainly was a prime example of this.

  9. I’m concerned that people are supportive of the man who has been accused of causing the death of another man, or are you all just going to ignore the Malcolm X assassination? This is absurd. Even if he weren’t the leader of a designated hate group, he still is under the cloud of suspicion connected to the murder of one of his own. His comments about LGBT people are NOT simply against “sin,” but against the people he perceives as guilty of committing those “sins.” You who are defending him are defending a traitor, a bigot, and a fraud. Why any “man of God” needs the wealth he has should be enough of a red flag to expose everything else about him that is unseemly. And elected officials are allowed to decline invitations, so don’t give me that crap.

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