Misrepresented in the media as a black parallel to the Hell's Angels, portrayed as everything from a vicious street gang to quasi- Islamic revolutionaries, The Five Percenters are a movement that began as a breakaway sect from the Nation of Islam (NOI) in 1960s Harlem and went on to impact the formation of hip-hop.Read more...
Misrepresented in the media as a black parallel to the Hell's Angels, portrayed as everything from a vicious street gang to quasi- Islamic revolutionaries, The Five Percenters are a movement that began as a breakaway sect from the Nation of Islam (NOI) in 1960s Harlem and went on to impact the formation of hip-hop. References to Five Percent language and ideas are found in the lyrics of wide-ranging artists, such as Nas, Rakim, the Wu-Tang Clan, and even Jay-Z.
The Five Percenters are denounced by white America as racists, and orthodox Islam as heretics, for teaching that the black man is Allah. Michael Muhammad Knight ("the Hunter S. Thompson of Islamic literature" -The Guardian) has engaged this culture as both white and Muslim; and over the course of his relationship with The Five Percenters, his personal position changed from that of an outsider to an accepted participant with his own initiatory name (Azreal Wisdom). This has given him an intimate perch from which to understand and examine the controversial doctrines of this influential movement. In Why I Am a Five Percenter, Knight strips away years of sensationalism to offer a serious encounter with Five Percenter thought.
Encoded within Five Percent culture is a profound critique of organized religion, from which the movement derives its name: Only Five Percent can act as "poor righteous teachers" against the evil Ten Percent, the power structure which uses religion to deceive the Eighty- Five Percent, the "deaf, dumb, and blind" masses. Questioning his own relationship to the Five Percent, Knight directly confronts the community's most difficult teachings. In Why I Am a Five Percenter, Knight not only illuminates a thought system that must appear bizarre to outsiders, but he also brilliantly dissects the very issues of"insiders" and "outsiders," territory and ownership, as they relate to religion and privilege, and to our conditioned ideas about race.
- ISBN-13: 9781585428687
- ISBN-10: 158542868X
- Publisher: Tarcher
- Publish Date: October 2011
- Page Count: 293
- Reading Level: Ages 18-UP
- Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.4 x 0.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.5 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2011-09-12
- Reviewer: Staff
Music fans familiar with the Wu Tang Clan or Erykah Badu have heard references to the Nation of the Gods and Earths, better known as Five Percenters. This small group of proto-Islam believers relies on a philosophy that defines the black man as the Original Man or God, manifested as Arm Leg Leg Arm Head, or Allah. As a -born white man born in the suburbs, Knight (The Taqwacores), most recently educated at Harvard University, spends a good deal of the book exploring his difficulty in adopting the Five Percenter philosophy as a white man with insecurities about not being black, because most Five Percenters are African-American. His erudition and street credibility are on full display as he expounds—sometimes haphazardly—on subjects from abolition to the history of female sexuality that can be found at the intersection of feminist thought and religion. The result is a fascinating and unwieldy collection of his explanations of navigating his existence as a distinctly hated symbol in a world designed to exalt black men who have been taught to disparage white men. (Oct.)