Minister Farrakhan is giving the Nation of Islam’s annual Savior’s Day Speech in Detroit on Sunday, and I’ve been asked to participate in a roundtable for this event, which may be his last, due to his failing health.

My feelings about Minister Farrakhan are mixed.

On the one hand there are critiques of white supremacy, of black leadership, that for a number of reasons only Farrakhan has made.  The Nation of Islam as an economic and social engine provides him the relative freedom to go places nobody else goes.  Last year’s State of the Black Union event was hosted by a local mega-church minister who had given his support to Bush during both elections and afterward.  Of course he wasn’t the only minister–a number of black ministers have expressed support for Bush.

But while other panelists at the State of the Black Union event tiptoed around the issue lightly, only Farrakhan called the ministers out for who they were.  Black people need to hear this critique, and they need to hear it made eloquently and powerfully.

But on the other hand Farrakhan’s mode of leadership as expressed by his speeches and his organization, is anti-democratic with a capital A. Because he literally represents the mouth of God to folllowers, he can’t be wrong.  Because the organization is private, there is no transparency (we can’t see the books, nor all of his activities).  Because the organization is private there is no way for citizens in general who are NOT members of the Nation of Islam, to hold him accountable.  What this means inevitably is that Minister Farrakhan rather than being a “black leader” should be thought of more as a “black voice”.  In fact I’d make similar cases for Sharpton and Jackson.

I expect the Minister to skirt around WHO his successor will be.  But at the same time I expect him to deal head on with the possible crisis that the Nation faces after he passes, to keep what happened to the Nation when Elijah Muhammad passed away, from happening to the Nation again.