Farrah Gray Talks About His Relationship With His Father Khallid Muhammad
Helping Harlem’s homeless: Young entrepreneur takes philanthropy to the streets by NAYABA ARINDE Amsterdam News Staff Originally posted 3/1/2007. [To read the full text of this article contact the Amsterdam News for archives.]
The awards, chairman positions and board memberships Gray has amassed are numerous considering his youth.
Perhaps a much lesser-known fact among certain corporate circles, Gray is indeed the youngest child of the uncompromising orator and Black Nationalist Dr. Khallid Abdul Muhammad, whose staunch positions and actions created local, national and international headlines. Not to mention that he was the former Supreme Captain in the Nation of Islam under Min. Louis Farrakhan.
“We took different paths,” Gray conceded when asked. His focus is on economic empowerment through business and entrepreneurship, he said, “and my father was proud and supported me.”
From trade magazines to BET, his story has been told of striving through poverty to selling his company for a $1 million by the age of 15.
At 6 years old, Gray hand painted rocks and sold them to neighbors as paperweights. A year later, he got himself business cards reading, “21st Century CEO.” At 8, Gray co-founded Urban Neighborhood Enterprise Economic Club (U.N.E.E.C.)
From 12 to 16 years old, Gray created a myriad of business ventures that included KIDZTEL pre-paid phone cards. He hosted an interactive teen talk show and later executive produced a comedy show on the Las Vegas Strip. As the teenage owner of Farr-Out Foods, his strawberry-vanilla syrup reportedly generated orders exceeding $1.5 million in its first year.
A member of the board of directors of the United Way of Southern Nevada at the age of 15, Gray also became the youngest member of the board of advisors for the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce. As the youngest member of the African-American Leadership Roundtable, he was invited and met with President George Bush and the director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.
In December 2005, The Farrah Gray Prepaid MasterCard came out. Gray said the notion is to increase financial freedom and financial literacy.
Last April, Gray received an honorary doctorate degree of Humane Letters from Allen University.
Proclaiming, “I’m a Christian,” Gray said of his commitment to business-building and philanthropy, “My goal is to be richer than Bill Gates...I have two schools where I teach inner-city youth entrepreneurship;
A spokesperson of the National Marrow Donor Program, recently he worked feverishly to encourage Black people in America to join the Marrow Donor Registry, as he tried to help save the life of his older sister, Greek Gray. He joined rapper Nelly’s campaign, as he, too, tried to get bone marrow for his sister, Jackie.
While both women passed away in the last two years, Gray still stresses that with “Black people in America only making up 7 percent of the six million people on the registry, we need to create a greater awareness and get people to sign on.”
Dr. Gray’s business acumen is well-storied and much-applauded in the corporate world. The grassroots Black community however, has known the young man as the son of Min. Khallid Abdul Muhammad.
The fiery activist was the chairman of the New Black Panther Party, which brought the controversial Million Youth Marches to New York City, battling former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who failed to stop the first gathering in Harlem in 1998.
“He was loved by millions locally, nationally and globally around the world,” Gray noted. “To me, he was a father who I didn’t get to see as much as I would have liked. I got to see him during the summer and holiday breaks. But, whenever I was with him, he tried to show me how much he loved me, so we played basketball together, we went swimming. We’ve even gone hiking together. My father always wanted to give me quality father/son time.
“I was the youngest of three of his sons, and I am the youngest of five of my mother’s children. My mother and father separated when I was 6 weeks old. My father’s life was dedicated to activism, and activism doesn’t come with a salary, so I grew up very poor. My mother left my father.”
Perception belied the reality, Gray added. “My father would have access to nice things and cars because he working with the Nation of Islam.”
Muhammad held every position in the NOI. Ultimately he became the Supreme Captain, but a well-documented and un-reconciled split with Min. Farrakhan ended their decades-long relationship.
Reflecting, Gray recalled that when he was growing up the pressures of activism and lack of finances “meant that we could not eat, and my parents split because they had irreconcilable differences.”
Still, he maintained a strong relationship with his father, he said, who “supported my decision to take a different path from his because he saw that I was an entrepreneur for years. He would call the house, and I would always tell him what business I was launching, and as a loving, proud father, he would always say, ‘Congratulations son. Remember, the Black man and the Black woman built pyramids, so you can do anything.”
Gray stressed that his father was more than supportive of “my business ventures. He never interfered, he was always supportive. For example, in 1999 when I was 15 years old and I went to my meeting with former President Clinton to discuss entrepreneurship, my father felt, of course, that it had nothing to do with politics.
“He knew that what I gone through growing up, with us getting evicted from various places, with there not being money in the house. He knew that as a young entrepreneur, I remember calling him when I got $1.5million in sales for my food company Farr-Out Foods. When I was 6 years old, I first told him, ‘Dad, one day you won’t have to work so hard.”
Gray told the AmNews that his mother and grandmother retired when he was 14 years old, “and they have been retired ever since. I had two companies. I had a venture capital [business]. I would raise money for young people who wanted to start their own businesses, and I had the food company, Farr-Out foods. I had opened up an office and executive suite on Wall Street, when I was about 13. Dad would say, ‘Keep it up son. You can accomplish whatever you dream of.’ In 2001, I bought an 80 percent [interest] of Inner City magazine from Inner City Broadcasting.”
Like any son talking about a recently late close parent, Gray’s loss is self-evident in his intermittent pauses and sharp intakes of breath. His exhaling signals that he can continue the thought and the sentence.
“His last words were…when I called him…he was in bed with his wife…she said hello to me, and he said, ‘Well son, I’m not feeling well. I’m very tired, but I will give you a call tomorrow, but I love you, son.’ Those were his last words to me. The next morning I got a call that said he had suffered an aneurysm and that he was on life support. I flew to Georgia that day, and the doctor told me that he wasn’t gonna make it, and there was nothing he could do.”
Dr. Gray speaks quietly, but added, “I just remember hugging him and kissing him, even though he wasn’t conscious, I felt like that he and I would miss our father and son times together. I remember I thought that I really wish we had been able to go fishing together. We never got a chance to do that, but at least we got a chance when I did see him to play basketball and football, and go swimming and race up and down the street.
“This month marks six years that he has been physically gone [Feb. 17]. When people ask me about his political and social views—my response is, ‘He was my father.’”