1.) What are the Nation of Gods and Earths (Five Percent?)
The Five Percent began as an offshoot of the NOI (Nation of Islam) back in 1964 by Clarence 13X who was a minister in Mosque no. 7 under the tutelege of Malcolm X. The movement was started because Clarence 13X rejected the notion that Wallace Fard was God Incarnate (see NOI). He began teaching that the black man himself was god. Five Percenters also depart from NOI in their teaching of the Supreme Alphabet and Supreme Mathematics, an arcane system devised by Clarence 13X wherein each letter or numeral denotes a concept with an accompanying parable. "A" stands for Allah, "B" is Be or Born, "C" is See and so on. This process is known as "dropping science".
Supreme Mathematics - teaches that numbers 0-9 means:
1 - Knowledge
2 - Wisdom
3 - Understanding
4 - Culture/Freedom
5 - Power/Refinement
6 - Equality
7 - God
8 - Build/Destroy
9 - Born
0 - Cipher
2.) Why do they call themselves members of the Nation of Gods and Earths or Five Percenters?
Clarence 13X taught that eighty-five percent of the population is made up of ignorant, unlearned and uncivilized people who need to be led (mostly churchgoers). This eighty-five percent are believed to have no "knowledge of self". Ten percent of the population have some knowledge of self [i.e. the real truth], however, they use this knowledge to wield control over the eighty-five percent vs. "liberating" them [most baptist preachers, including Rev. Jesse Jackson are believed to be in this category]. Lastly, he considered the remaining five percent to be those who thought/believed like himself and his followers. The "poor, righteous teachers", the ones who do possess knowledge of themselves, their origins, and the way the world system really is -- and additionally, the way in which the new world order will come about. Their job/mission is to educate the eighty-five percent to what this hidden or veiled knowledge really is. [In the last few years, they have preferred to be called the Nation of Gods and Earths. The men are referred to as "gods" and the women are referred to as "earths"] - I have been informed recently by a member that Allah "The Father" , Clarence 13X, said that after 1967 they would no longer be known as the 5% Nation of Islam, but as Allah's Nation of Gods and Earths.
3.) How did this message spread?
This message was delivered as a street rap that mesmerized New York City youth.
They won converts by the hundreds. Today the group numbers in the tens of thousands
in NYC alone. This message was also well-timed, as the 1960's were obviously a time of great struggle for blacks in America. This was a message [very similar to the black supremacist doctrines of the NOI] that made black youths feel superior in a world where they were viewed as wholly inferior.
4.) How popular is it?
Well it is popular among many African-American male youth, especially in poor, urban areas. However, this thinking is also embraced by well off individuals. Its popularity is helped along by many R&B/Hip-Hop artists. Erykah Badu, Nas, Common, Wu-Tang, Busta Rhymes, and countless others have their lyrics laced with 5% doctrine. In addition to using these beliefs in their music some rap artists like Rakim, Big Daddy Kane and Lakim Shabazz have used the 5% flag on their album covers. Their numbers are believed to be in the hundreds of thousands, however they personally claim many more members. The concentration of Five Percenters is believed to be the highest on the East Coast, not coincidentally to be the location of the birth of rap and hip hop music. The major cities that boast the largest African-American populations can be known to have a significant number of Five Percent adherents. These cities include: New York, New Jersey, New Haven, Washington D.C., Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Baltimore and Atlanta (to name a few). This belief system has been embraced by some internationally as well.
5.) What are the requirements for membership?
The requirements of "official" membership in the Five Percent are unclear. They do not have organized affiliation. A Five Percenter will frequently say that they simply came into knowledge of self, or better yet, the "fact" that the "Asiatic Black Man" is God... It is more a way of life and they would shun any reference to them being a "religion". They do refer to "knowledging 120" (120 refers to their lessons which are virtually identical to the Supreme Wisdom originated by Elijah Muhammed and W.D. Fard). This question of whether they have knowledged (mastered/understood) these lessons appears to be rather important because often you will hear them say: "I knowledged 120 in [plug year in here]". In many dialogues or "builds" among themselves, disagreements are usually met with challenges to a member's knowledge of 120.
Suffice it to say that this step of absorbing the lessons likely separates the babies from the seasoned, and at the same time can expose a perpetrator. As indicated on a section of their homepage, they appear to really keep up with the rap artists level of commitment to their teachings, regardless of whether or not they pepper their lyrics with their lingo.
There are also, Parliaments and Schools that the members attend, which are rallys/meeting places where lessons are distributed and members can listen to speakers and meet others.
6.) Do they have a holy book or some by-laws?
NGE/Five Percent concepts are often circulated as lessons. They are made up of the following:
Additionally there is an emphasis on knowing the history of the Five Percent, having an understanding of the Nation's flag and being aware of Clarence 13X's legacy. Another lesson, Teachings for the Civilized, is also of some interest. There is an underground newspaper that is offered by subscription only. I have also discovered a newsletter called The Black 7. You can download a pdf version of it here. (warning: potentially long download depending on your connection). The lessons and paper have a wide circulation in prisons, where the Five Percent have mounted a significant outreach campaign. Underground books are circulated as well. Common terminology that originated with the Five Percent: "Break it down", "droppin' science", "sup G [God]?", "word", "peace", "word is bond", and "represent".
Links that you can access to get more info:
ęBlack Apologetics Ministry 2001-2003