Interview by Charlene Muhammad
Karen Farrakhan wears many hats. She is most widely recognized as the wife of Mustapha Farrakhan, Supreme Captain of the Nation of Islam, mother to their 5 children (4 daughters and 1 son), and daughter-in-law of Nation of Islam and world leader, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and his wife, Mother Khadijah Farrakhan.
When I heard about what she was doing, I just had to call her! I had the pleasure of speaking to Sis. Karen about her non-profit effort, and how it became her goal and passion.
Charlene Muhammad (CM): How did Women of Destiny come about?
Karen Farrakhan (KF): I started the program in 2008 and my goal and passion has always been to try to empower young girls and women. Being a mother of four daughters and one son, and people throughout my life have always told me how they’ve admired me and my children. I believe you have to share what you have with people. When people see our family unit together, they ask how can they achieve what we have, that whole nucleus? That was a defining moment for me to say I’ve got to do something because there are too many of us that are suffering.
CM: Did you get those comments about the unity and solidity of your family coming from within and without the Nation of Islam?
KF: Both, wherever we go. In the Caucasian community, some people would say, “Man, you’re nothing like we thought.” Or, “Wow, you parents are so supportive of your children and in general what I would hear often is you’d be surprised but your children act as if you’re sitting right there even when you’re not around. When my children were growing up I monitored what they watched on TV and I never let them watch anything with sexual connotations in it. I know that seems kind of hard to do, but on days when I was tired I’d put on the Discovery Channel or something about nature, but over all we really were mindful. So if they were with someone who had on a show or went to the movies, they’d say, “Karen, your children covered their faces during those parts,” which really made me very proud and comforted that they were getting it.
CM: What was your motivation for Women of Destiny? When I heard there was a HIV component, I perked up, because my oldest sister had HIV and passed away after she grew tired of taking her meds. She was fatigued, but she left twin girls, uninfected, who are in their teen years today.
KF: Sorry for your loss. My motivation was one of my speakers, Dawn Breedon. I grew up with her in New Jersey and our families have a lengthy relationship. She wrote a book, Remember to Breathe, and I wanted her to share her story with our people, our girls, and let them know that there are so many things to consider while choosing a mate and that there is life after contracting this disease. To make young women aware that there are things that you can do to prevent spreading it to your offspring. If you catch it in time and do the proper things your doctor tells you to do, you can virtually have a baby that’s not infected with AIDS.
You mean Dawn Hendricks-Milhouse (below right)
CM: What type of response have you received?
KF: Well, let me tell you this. I had a major surgery in 2005 and went on a trip about a month after the surgery. I was talking to Shaquille O’Neal’s wife, (Shaunie), and I was telling her, “Wow, you have the resources to really empower our community. I don’t mean with just your money but to actually set up some places where you can really have an impact and help our little sisters and that your name can live on.” I shared with her my passion about empowering young girls and really helping them understand their value as young women and to make them realize that high school is like a microcosm of your life but there’s life after high school. To make them know not to settle and with knowledge and wisdom make sound decisions that they won’t have regrets when they get older. So to answer your question many mother’s have been eagerly encouraging me to just go on and step out and do it. In 2008 I developed the program and Dawn and I discussed her speaking out here but since I’m not currently funded, it was difficult to see how I could bring her here to speak. Thanks to Allah we made it happen. Allah opened up a door to provide for me to do everything that I’m doing. It was just an affirmation that it’s the right time.