The Afrikan Black Coalition invited controversial Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan, 78, to their annual conference held at the University of California, Berkley on Saturday.
With over 300 students in attendance and more watching the speech via webcast, there were mixed reactions from the students and the UC administration because of his racist and radical comments made both in the past and in his speech.
"I believe the (Black Student Union) had every right to bring Farrakhan," ASUC Senator Noah Ickowitz told San Francisco Bay Area FOX affiliate KTVU as he passed out petitions against Farrakhan's appearance, "but we are hurt by Farrakhan's words."
Other students in attendance, including UC junior Mariah Cochran, were inspired by the speech. "In my opinion, (it) was mainly about black empowerment - focused on black students," she told The Daily Californian.
"A provocative, divisive figure with a long history of racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic speech," is how UC President Mark Yudof described Farrakhan in a statement released Saturday. "But, as I have said before, we cannot, as a society or as a university community, be provoked by hurtful speech to retreat from the cherished value of free speech."
Farrakhan's initial message was not to be particularly racist, however. "All of you are being deceived by what you call education," he said. Whether black students are being deceived by educators with a hidden agenda or Farrakhan is deceiving them with radical statements is ultimately for the students to decide.