WHO ARE: The Nation of Gods and Earths
Sometimes referred to as NGE or NOGE, the Five-Percent Nation, or the Five Percenters is an American organization founded in 1964 in the Harlem section of the borough of Manhattan in New York City by Clarence Smith. While Smith is known most commonly at large as Clarence 13X, he is referred to by his contemporaries and students as Allah ( the Arabic word for God) or the Father. Adherents call themselves "five percenters". Initially, the Nation of Gods and Earths was viewed as little more than an offshoot of the Nation of Islam (NOI). While the Nation of Gods and Earths has been characterized as an organization, an institution, a religion, or even a gang, representatives of the Nation teach that it is a way of living.
The Nation of Gods and Earths teaches that the Original Man, ("original" meaning the Origin of all ( the BlackMan) is God and the Original BlackWoman is a personification and representation of the planet Earth, and through the Identification of Supreme Mathematics and Supreme Alphabets as created by Allah himself, people can transform and possess their true potential. God and the devil are represented tangibly in the nature of humanity. The NGE does not believe in a 'Mystery God' but rather believes that the potential of becoming Devil and God exists within one.
The Nation of Gods and Earths was founded by Allah 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 questioning his position as God due to the fact that Fard was born of a Caucasian mother. The story states that Allah 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, who agreed with Allah's questioning of Wallace Fard Muhammad. That same year Allah met James Howell, a sea merchant, who would later become Justice, and Allah's closest associate until his death.
Allah hit 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 the disenfranchised street youth which, unlike the NOI, included whites and Latinos. This young group formed the "first 9 born" of what officially became the 5% Nation on October 10, 1964. In December of that year, Allah was shot in a basement gambling den called the Hole. After surviving the shooting, he assumed the name Allah, and, according to some, boasted that he was immortal.
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 nation to study along with the males were taught they were symbolic of the planet Earth, because it is the planet on which God produces life (hence the female practitioners using Earth as their title). The NGE, then, is more of a cultural practice than a religious one and, in fact, the group does not call itself a religion at all. Its position is that it makes no sense to be religious or to worship or deify anyone or anything outside of oneself when adherents themselves are the highest power in the known universe, or Supreme Being, both collectively and individually.
In addition to the 120 lessons, Allah taught a system he developed called Supreme Mathematics, which can be compared to 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 Gods and Earths meet, they speak about the Supreme Mathematics and 120 Lessons. This dialogue is referred to by the Five-Percent as building, which is the eighth degree of the Supreme Mathematics, and it means to add on to the cipher, a completion of a circle of 360 degrees. Gods and Earths can build their minds, which means to elevate or add on to the knowledge one has. Building also refers to the building of their physical bodies, their financial status, or institutions, among much more that the principle of Build can represent.
Representatives of the Nation of Gods and Earths view themselves (men of their Nation) as their own God (both individually and collectively as the Original Man). Gods and Earths sometimes refer to themselves as scientists, implying their search for knowledge and proof, and not beliefs in theories. The do not refer to themselves as a religion. In recent years they have sought constitutional protection for their identity as a "God Centered Culture". According the Five Percenter Newspaper, "God first means that it is no longer a judicial arguement, centered means everything we do is about God. Culture is the practices and principals of a people at any given time."
The teachings of the Nation of Gods and Earths are passed on through oral tradition, much like the griots of West Africa. 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—both developed by Father Allah—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.
Origin of Five-Percent title
The term Five Percent comes from NOI doctrine that sees the world 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 and corporations 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 BlackMan of Asia. Asia refers to the whole planet Earth, or Pangaea.
The Universal Language
The Supreme Mathematics is a system of understanding numerals alongside concepts and qualitative representations that are used along with the Supreme Alphabet. The Supreme Mathematics is taught to be the highest system of mathematics, used to give qualitative value to numbers in addition to quantity. For example, the numeral 1 symbolizes Knowledge, 2 symbolizes Wisdom, and 3 represents Understanding. The system (similar to numerology), is claimed to maximize a person's logical thinking in order to solve life's problems.
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 Roman alphabet. 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. The corresponding mathematical number of each letter is also important to the alphabet's use. This symbolic alphabet was developed with assistance from Justice by Father Allah after splitting from the Nation of Islam, after which he developed his Supreme Understanding.
The Twelve Jewels
The Twelve Jewels are considered a companion to the Supreme Mathematics and the Supreme Alphabet, as axioms by which one should live.
1. Knowledge 2. Wisdom 3. Understanding 4. Freedom 5. Justice 6. Equality 7. Food 8. Clothing 9. Shelter 10. Love 11. Peace 12. Happiness
The Universal Flag is the group's official trademark, which consists of a sun, moon, star, and the number seven. According to its doctrine, it represents the Original Family as the following:
- Seven—The number held sacred in many ancient and modern traditions. In Supreme Mathematics, the number seven represents Allah.
- Sun—Another symbol of the male, Knowledge, the Truth, and the Light. The points around the sun symbolize the expanding consciousness.
- Moon—The crescent moon symbolizes the women and wisdom.
- Star—The five-pointed star symbolizes understanding and children as the beginning of a new sun.
The eight outer rays (points) of the Sun have also been spoken as representative of the core components Nation of Gods and Earths’ teachings:
- Supreme Mathematics
- Supreme Alphabet
- Student Enrollment (1–10)
- Lost & Found Muslim Lesson #1 (1–14)
- Lost & Found Muslim Lesson #2 (1–40)
- English Lesson C-1 (1–36)
- Actual Facts
- Solar Facts
The last six of these bodies of lessons (1–10 through Solar Facts) are collectively called 120.
Gods and Earths hold 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 Nation. These Parliaments usually take place in public parks and in schoolyards.
The Show and Prove is an annual event that takes place in the Harlem section of Manhattan every second weekend in June (on or before the June 13 anniversary of the Father's assassination). 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. However, some regions where the Nation is active may hold events close to dates in honor of the Father'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. Many take further steps and eschew meat altogether, often opting for veganism or even a stricter diet of raw fruits and vegetables.
Influence and interactions
City Hall and the Urban League
The Five Percent established a headquarters in the Harlem section of Manhattan. The Allah School in Mecca, previously known as the Street Academy, was founded in 1966 through the Urban League, with the help of the Republican mayor of New York, John Lindsay, and his assistant, Barry Gottehrer. The agreement reached between The Father and the Urban League was a payment of one dollar a day.
The first programs instituted in the school contained 10 to 30 youth, state certified teachers, and three street workers. Graduates of the street academy would transfer to an academy of transition and then on to college preparatory school. The Father disagreed with the program originally instituted at the Urban League, and so the curriculum was later turned over to him to manage, while the daily programs switched to math, English, and self defense.
The schism between The Father and the NOI led to numerous confrontations. The murder of Father in 1969 remains unsolved, but it has been widely blamed on the Nation of Islam. The group known as Moorish Americans believe the FBI and the New York Police Department were heavily involved. The murder was a blow to the movement, but according to the direct orders of Clarence 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 an acting leadership role was assumed by his good friend Justice. In the years to follow, the Gods and Earths gained a varied reputation, from being known 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 called an unruly and confused group of African-American teenage thugs and even categorized as a gang by some.
The gang label has caused much trouble for adherents to the teachings 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. 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.
The Nation has vigorously defended itself against these accusations. Its newspaper The Five Percenter condemns those states that "attempt to define us in ways that seeks to criminalize us". It goes on,
Like a bunch of religious school kids claiming their path to God is the only one there is, they seek to disqualify the Blackman being God. Instead they claim we are anything but Gods finest, they call us a gang, a security threat group, an organization, a sect and renegade Muslims. Name calling is juvenile, but their true purpose is an attempt to use justice as a tool to punish us for not following their religious concept of God. They want to invalidate us in the eyes of the watching world because they dont want the truth we teach to be accepted on any level.
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.
There have even been problems for Nation members interested in changing their legal names. 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.
From the early 1980s, the Nation of Gods and Earths has propagated their teachings throughout the United States, as well as abroad. This spread was in part due to early adherents teaching when away at college or in the military, and more famously due to 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, Black man is God, the Black woman is Earth, and through the inner esoteric powers of the Gods and Earths, 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 highly regarded MCs of the late 1980s–early ’90s conscious rap era, Rakim of Eric B. & Rakim 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 who were even more explicit with allegiance to the NGE, most notably Brand Nubian, Poor Righteous Teachers, Wu-Tang Clan, Killarmy, Public Enemy, and Common. The popularity of these acts sparked a boom of new NGE students.
Many terms that originated as Five Percent jargon have been adopted into hip hop slang. Popular terms such as word is bond, while having significantly older roots than the Nation of Gods and Earths, were believed to have gained prominence through its use of the term, referring back to the original Nation of Islam's and the Five Percent's shared 120 Degrees.
Five Percenters in New York City were even known as a visible presence at parties around town 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.
Other examples of hip hop acts who have spoken words associated with Five Percent teachings include Busta Rhymes, Digable Planets, J-Live, Nas, and up-and-coming Roc-a-fella records artist Jay Electronica.
In popular culture
Supreme Allah is a fictional character of the HBO drama Oz, a five percenter 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.
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