Five-Percent Nation

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The Five-Percent emblem, also known as the Universal Flag of Islam (I. Self. Lord. And Master.)[1]
One of the few extant photographs of Allah the Father (formerly known as Clarence 13X)the founder of the Nation of Gods and Earths

The Five-Percent Nation, sometimes referred to as NGE or NOGE, the Nation of Gods and Earths, or the Five Percenters, is a movement founded in 1964 in the Harlem section of the borough of Manhattan, New York City, by a former member of the Nation of Islam, Clarence 13X, who was named Clarence Edward Smith at birth, and who ultimately came to be known as known as Allah the Father.

Allah the Father, a former student of Malcolm X, left the Nation of Islam after a dispute with Elijah Muhammad over the fact that Elijah taught that the white man was the devil, yet did not teach that the black man was God.[2] Allah the Father also rejected the assertion that Nation's biracial founder Wallace Fard Muhammad, was Allah and instead taught that the black man was himself God personified.[2] Members of the group call themselves Allah's Five Percenters, which reflects the concept that ten percent of the people in the world know the truth of existence, and those elites and agents opt to keep eighty-five percent of the world in ignorance and under their controlling thumb; the remaining five percent are those who know the truth and are determined to enlighten the rest.[3]

Initially, the Nation of Gods and Earths, as it is known today, was viewed as little more than an offshoot of the Nation of Islam (NOI). While the Nation of Gods and Earth has been characterized as an organization, an institution, a religion, or even a gang, representatives of the Nation teach that Islam is a natural or mathematical way of living, not a religion. The New York City areas of Harlem ("Mecca") and Brooklyn ("Medina") were named after notable Islamic cities by members of the organization.[4][5] Other areas include Detroit ("D-Mecca"), New Jersey ("New Jerusalem"), Chicago ("C-Medina"), Queens ("the Desert"), Connecticut ("New Heaven"), St. Louis ("Saudi"), Seattle ("Morocco"), and Dallas ("the Sudan").[6]

The Nation of Gods and Earths teaches that black people are the original people of the planet Earth, and therefore they are the fathers ("Gods") and mothers ("Earths") of civilization.[2] The Nation teaches that Supreme Mathematics and Supreme Alphabet, a set of principles created by Allah the Father, is the key to understanding humankind's relationship to the universe. The Nation does not believe in a mystery God but instead teaches that the Asiatic Blackman is God and his proper name is Allah, the Arabic word for God.[2]

Founding[edit]

The Nation of Gods and Earths was founded by Allah the Father after he left the Nation of Islam's Temple Number Seven in Harlem, New York (the same temple where Malcolm X was a minister from 1960 to 1963). Multiple stories exist as to why Allah and the NOI parted ways: some have him refusing to give up gambling; others have him questioning the unique divinity of Wallace Fard Muhammad, whom the NOI deified as the True and Living God in person; or his questioning of Fard's Godhood due to the fact that Fard was born of a Caucasian mother.[7] The story states that Allah the Father was then disciplined by the NOI and excommunicated in 1963, but another version of events says that he left on his own free will along with Abu Shahid,[8] who agreed with Allah's questioning of Wallace Fard Muhammad. That same year Allah met James Howell, a sea merchant, who would later become known as Justice, and Allah's closest associate until his death.[9]

Allah the Father proselytized the streets of Harlem to teach others his views based on his interpretation of NOI teachings. After failing to reach elder adults whom he saw as already set in their ways, he found success with street youth.[10][11][12][13][14][15] On October 10, 1964, this young group formed the First Nine Born of what became known as the Five Percent Nation, or later the Nation of Gods and Earths.

He taught the 120 Lessons to his young followers (who came to refer to him as the Father), but instead of teaching them to be Muslims, he taught them that they were God the same way he was. The women who came into Allah's growing movement to study along with the males were taught they were symbolic of the planet Earth, because women produce and sustain human existence as does the Earth. The NGE does not consider itself a religion—its position is that it makes no sense to be religious or to worship or deify anyone or anything outside of oneself because adherents, themselves, are the highest power in the known universe, both collectively and individually.[16]

In addition to the 120 Lessons, Allah the Father taught a system he developed called Supreme Mathematics, which can be compared to a version of the Jewish mystical traditions of Kabbalah or even more closely Gematria, or the Arabic Abjad numerals. In this system, the numbers from one to nine, and zero all represent principles and concepts. Coming together to discuss the Supreme Mathematics is the most fundamental regimen of the NGE. Whenever members meet, they discuss about the Supreme Mathematics and 120 Lessons and relate them to life.

Teachings[edit]

Basis[edit]

Representatives of the Nation of Gods and Earths view themselves as Gods (both individually and collectively as the Original Man).[11] Gods and Earths sometimes refer to themselves as scientists, implying their search for knowledge and proof.[17] According to the Five Percenter Newspaper, "God first means that it is no longer a judicial argument; centered means everything we do is about God. Culture is the practices and principles of a people at any given time."[18]

The teachings of the Nation of Gods and Earths are passed on through a modern oral tradition. The advancement of a God or Earth is based on his or her memorization, recitation, comprehension, and practical application of the Supreme Mathematics and the Supreme Alphabet and also the 120 Lessons, sometimes referred to as degrees, a revised version of the Supreme Wisdom lessons of the NOI, originally written by Wallace Fard Muhammad and Elijah Muhammad.[10][13][19] The anthology Knowledge of Self: A Collection of Wisdom on the Science of Everything in Life by Supreme Understanding details the teachings of the Nation of Gods and Earths.[20][21] Wakeel Allah has written In the Name of Allah: A History of Clarence 13X and the 5 Percenters and The Naked Truth: From the Goal Mind of Abu Shahid, the Elder of the Nation of Gods and Earths. [22]

Origin of Five-Percent title[edit]

The term Five Percent comes from NOI doctrine that sees the world's population divided into three groups: 85% of the people are blind to the knowledge of themselves and God, while 10% of the people know the truth, but teach a lie for their personal gain; seen as part of this 10% are religious leaders that teach that God is an incorporeal being (hence the term mystery God). The 10% can also include the governments of the world that deceive and mislead the majority of the world through most of the available media outlets. The remaining 5% are the Poor Righteous Teachers—those who do not subscribe to the teachings of the 10%, as they know and teach that God is the Asiatic Black man.

The Universal Language[edit]

Supreme Mathematics[edit]

The Supreme Mathematics is a system of understanding numerals alongside concepts and qualitative representations that are used along with the Supreme Alphabet.[13][19] The Supreme Mathematics is thought to be the highest system of numerology in the NGE, used to give qualitative value to numbers in addition to quantity. How the values associated with each number were derived are currently unknown. The numerals are as follows:

  • 1. Knowledge
  • 2. Wisdom
  • 3. Understanding
  • 4. Culture Freedom
  • 5. Power Refinement
  • 6. Equality
  • 7. God
  • 8. Build Destroy
  • 9. Born
  • 0. Cipher

Supreme Alphabet[edit]

The Supreme Alphabet is a system of interpreting text and finding deeper meaning from the NOI Lessons by assigning actual meanings to the letters of the Latin script. For example, the first letter, A, stands for Allah; the 12th letter, L, stands for Love, Hell, or Right; and the 13th letter, M, stands for Master. This Supreme Alphabet was developed with assistance from Justice Cee by Allah the Father. The method by which letters were associated with certain values is unknown.

Myths and Realities[edit]

While Five Percenters have been portrayed as racists and as anti-Caucasian, this is not the case. In fact, Allah the Father worked closely with John V. Lindsay, the Mayor of New York from 1966-1973, and his aide, journalist Barry Gottehrer.[23][24] The Allah School in Mecca, previously known as the Street Academy, was founded in 1966 through the Urban League, with the help of the then-current Republican mayor of New York, Lindsay, and Gottehrer. Wakeel Allah's In the Name of Allah includes of photograph of Allah the Father along with Mayor John Lindsay and a group of Five Percenters on an airplane ride to a civic event organized by the mayor.[25] There have been, from the organization's inception, and there are presently many Caucasian Five Percenters; however, the most well-known is John Michael Kennedy, a Caucasian youth who Allah met, educated, and renamed Azreal.[26] Michael M. Knight's The Five Percenters includes a photo of a gathering of Five Percenters that includes Barkim, who Knight describes as "one of the earliest white Five Percenters" and his siblings.[27] Knight's book also includes two photos of Allah with Gottehrer, who Allah called "Moses."[28]

The Five Percent has been considered chauvinist and even misogynist; these assertions are also incorrect. Prince Allah Cuba correctly finds that some Gods have grown preoccupied with male supremacy since the death of Allah, and this preoccupation has resulted in the minimization of all things female--from the crescent moon on the nation's flag being made smaller and eventually nearly hidden by the seven, to the lack of parity in the God-Earth dyad.[29] However, it is important to note that every Five Percenter each constitutes a divine being in his or her own right; consequently, while some males have attempted to standardize the truncation of women, others describe the Black woman as the Black man's equal and a Goddess.[30] Mecca, a Five Percenter and the female lyricist of the rap group Digable Planets, offers a analysis of not only the equality of women but of their indispensability, for without woman, no man can exist:

We need to know that there is a feminine and masculine principal or consciousness that is considered the God or the Creator. It’s not a male, like religion will tell you. It’s a mother/father principle, a masculine/feminine principle.

The feminine principle is what gives birth to the universe. It’s what brings creation forth, so there has to be an acknowledgement and respect for her in order to bring back the balance. In religion, in Christianity and in Islam, in all religions … it’s a perverted piece of the truth, when it doesn’t hold the woman on a pedestal.[31]

In a similar vein, Just I C Equality Allah asserted that gender equality is an inherent aspect of ALLAH:

How can woman not be God as well as man? First of all, we are the Arm Leg Leg Arm Head (Allah). There is no gender type, we all have the components that make the physical. Allah is the all in all. How can we be the all in all if "all" isn't included?[32]

It is most important to note that neither Allah the Father nor Justice considered women to be secondary or subordinate to men. Female Five percenters described themselves as "Gods."[33] Justice declared that a Five Percenter named Tawanna had wisdom and knowledge so deep that she was "more God than some of the men!"[34]

Customs[edit]

The Five-Percent Nation holds events known as Universal Parliaments in various cities—usually once a month—to build on their interpretation of the Supreme Mathematics, lessons, and to discuss business concerning the NGE.[35] These meetings usually take place in public areas and can be held anywhere.

The Show and Prove is an annual event that takes place in the Harlem section of Manhattan every second weekend in June. Gods and Earths converge from all over the world at Harriet Tubman Elementary School for this gathering, which includes a marketplace, performances, and speeches in the school's auditorium and a science fair in which children participate.

The Nation generally does not recognize traditional holidays, most notably those associated with religion such as Christmas or Easter. Instead, they change the meaning and celebrate how they want to. However, some regions where the Nation is active may hold events close to dates in honor of Allah the Fathers's birthday (February 22) or the official founding of the Nation (October 10).

Dietary laws of the Five Percent dictate that adherents are forbidden to eat pork or any pork-based by-products as well as all other scavengers (shrimp, crab, lobster, etc.). Many take further steps and eschew meat altogether, often opting for veganism or a raw food diet.

Influence and interactions[edit]

Conflicts[edit]

The schism between Allah the Father and the NOI led to numerous confrontations. The assassination of Allah in a Harlem housing complex in 1969 remains a mystery. The murder was a blow to the movement, but according to the direct orders of Allah before his death, some of his earliest disciples, a group of nine men who were called the First Nine Born carried on the teachings, and his friend Justice assumed an acting leadership role. In the years to follow, the Gods and Earths gained a varied reputation, from presenting themselves as outstanding members of and contributors to their communities who at one time quelled a potential rebellion when Martin Luther King was assassinated, to being identified as an unruly and unintelligent group of easily confused African-American teenage thugs and even categorized as a gang.[10][12]

The gang identification has caused much trouble for adherents to the teachings of the NGE in the United States. As the Nation has either gained students within the prison system or seen those who at least allege adherence to NGE teachings become incarcerated, the preceding gang reputation brought those with even remote NGE affiliation to be designated as security threats in states such as Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and South Carolina.[36] Literature has been banned from institutions in these and other states, and inmates have been denied privileges enjoyed by those of other persuasions. Such rules were relaxed in 2004 in New York to allow registered sincere adherents to study teachings personally but not share with unregistered inmates during their incarceration.[37]

The Nation has tried to answer these accusations by denying them. Its newspaper The Five Percenter condemns the states who impose restrictions on their practice as those who "attempt to define us in ways that seeks to criminalize us".[38]

In Michigan the Nation challenged a ban on the group's literature among prison inmates after an inmate was designated a security threat until he renounced his membership. Judge Steven Whalen found no evidence that group advocated violence and recommended that it be recognized as a legitimate belief system.[39]

In July 2008, a man in Staten Island, New York already known in the Nation as Black Cream Allah was denied a legal adoption of the name because a judge felt it was sacrilegious and sounded like the name of a hip hop record. He has since filed a second petition for the amended name Original Kreeam Shabazz.[40]

Hip hop[edit]

In its article on Five Percenter Jay Electronica, Vice Magazine stated in regard to the Five Percent Nation: "It's a movement that's been affiliated with hip-hop from the very beginning, coining terms like 'ciphers' and 'dropping science' and influencing everyone, World's Famous Supreme Team, Big Daddy Kane, Jay-Z, Rakim, Wu-Tang Clan, Brand Nubian, Common, Poor Righteous Teachers and Nas. With these artists, and any others associated with the Five Percenters, music was more than just a message."[41]

The Nation of Gods and Earth has propagated its teachings throughout the United States and abroad. In the early 1980s, this spread was in part due to early adherents teaching when away at college or in the military and, more famously, because of the rise of hip hop music. The main theme of the NGE doctrine spoken on hip hop records were the teachings that black people were the original or first human life to walk the planet, that the Blackman is God, the Black Woman is Earth, and through the inner esoteric powers of the God and Earth, the youth can transform and possess its true potential, which seems to overthrow the overbearing oligarchy by becoming just rulers of themselves. This especially meshed well with conscious themes found in other golden-age hip hop recordings.

Early hip-hop acts affiliated with the Five Percenters, and who spread its teachings through hip hop, include two MCs of the late 1980s–early '90s conscious-rap era—Rakim of Eric B. & Rakim[42] and Big Daddy Kane. These two acts, as well as some of their other contemporaries, infused Five-Percent teachings and symbolism throughout their music and videos. This reputation brought fans of Rakim in particular to refer to him as the God MC. Not soon after Rakim and Kane's heyday rose acts that were even more explicit with allegiance to the NGE, most notably Brand Nubian, Poor Righteous Teachers, Wu-Tang Clan, Killarmy, Sunz of Man, Gravediggaz and Busta Rhymes. The popularity of these acts sparked a boom of new NGE students. Even the Caucasian hip hop group 3rd Bass cited NGE lessons in the song "Triple Stage Darkness" and other songs.[citation needed]

Five Percenters were the innovators behind early hip-hop slang, including "Word is bond", "Break it down", "peace", "droppin' science", and "represent".[3][43] Many MCs employ the technique and terminology of the Supreme Alphabet to create acrostics, acronyms and backronyms in their rhymes. For example, in the song "Wildflower," Ghostface Killah rhymes, "I'm God Cipher Divine," spelling G-O-D in the Supreme Alphabet.[44][45] Furthermore, Raekwon breaks down the science of his life story on the track "North Star," rhyming the words "sun, moon, and stars, rock on".[citation needed] The RZA directly rhymes the Twelve Jewels of life's objectives on his later work with Gravediggaz, rhyming in succession Knowledge, Wisdom, Understanding, Freedom, Justice, Equality, Food, Clothing, Shelter, Love, Peace, Happiness.[citation needed] He regularly wears an eight-pointed star pendant with a number seven and a crescent, which can be seen on the cover of his album The World According to RZA.

Five Percenters in New York City were even known as a visible presence at parties during hip hop's formative years of the 1970s. Scene pioneer DJ Kool Herc recalled that while there was a heavy gang presence in attendance, the Five Percenters were also there as a de facto peace-keeping element.[46]

Other examples of hip hop and R&B acts who are (or have been) associated with Five Percent teachings include Killah Priest, Digable Planets, J-Live, Nas,[47] Erykah Badu, Queen Latifah, Planet Asia, and Guru.

In popular culture[edit]

Maurice Broaddus's alternate history story "(120 Degrees of) Know the Ledge" centers on an analogue of the Five Percent Nation called "The Lost Nation", and quotes actual Five Percent doctrines.

Supreme Allah is a fictional character of the HBO drama Oz, a low intelligence gang member who is serving time for murdering a man who laughed at him during a dice game. He often preaches Five Percent philosophy while simultaneously dealing drugs. He is portrayed by Lord Jamar of the hip hop group Brand Nubian, who himself is a Five-Percenter.

In his one-man Broadway show, Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth, Mike Tyson states that a Five Percenter friend changed his life around by telling him to stop robbing and embrace his new-found family, which consisted of trainer Cus D'Amato.

In Victor Lavalle’s 2016 novella The Ballad of Black Tom, the main character makes use of the Supreme Alphabet.

Notable current and former members and associates[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]