At times, World Link’s Save Our Cities prayer rally on the State Capitol steps last Saturday seemed more like a political rally with elected officials and speakers from the NAACP, the Nation of Islam and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference speaking to the crowd.

“Right now, the rights that were won in the ’60s are being eroded,” declared state Rep. Randall Gaines, D-LaPlace. “The Voting Rights Act that they fought for in the Selma to Montgomery (Alabama) march, the Voting Rights Act that was passed by Lyndon Johnson in 1965, has (been) eviscerated and been struck down, so we about to lose our voting rights.”

State Rep. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, told the crowd that the country is deteriorating because of bad policymaking decisions “by people we vote for — or don’t vote for,” and encouraged everyone to vote and take 10 people with them.

“They have a plan,” Barrow said. “They have a plan. I can tell you, some of us are not included in it.”

Ahmed Muhammad, a national youth representative of the Nation of Islam, rapped, “46 million blacks in America, if we can come together, we can rule overnight. We need unity, in this black community. The society, they lied to me, telling me I could be anything that I tried to be, but the American dream is obsolete, so we gotta do our own thing, put our own money in our own banks, and our own schools. We gotta do it differently.”

Minister Abdul Rashid Muhammad, head of the local chapter of the Nation of Islam, said if Malcolm X and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. were still alive, “they would be standing together, standing in unity, working together for brotherhood.”

He announced a Million Man March in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 10 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first march declared by Minister Louis Farrakhan.

Muhammad told Dr. Charles Steele Jr., president and CEO of the SCLC, that “the Nation of Islam will work with you to make a difference for our people.”

Steele thanked him and told the crowd that the Nation of Islam saved his group from closing years ago when it couldn’t pay the bills.

Steele also credited Baton Rouge for starting the civil rights movement. “If it was not for Baton Rouge, there would have been no Martin Luther King,” he said.

Steele roused the crowd with soaring rhetoric, proclaiming, “God gave us a vehicle to freedom. Let me tell you, God ain’t coming down right now, but He sent me. I got God in me! I ain’t scared of no racists! I ain’t scared of no Ku Klux Klan! I ain’t scared of no scaredy negroes! I’m ready to die for a cause!”

He revved the crowd up even more with a call-and-response chant, “Fire it up! Fire it up! We ain’t gonna take it no more! Fire it up!”