Thursday, July 10, 2014

Walking While Black in America

Calif. highway patrol beating demands more than cops probing cops, say analysts

By Starla Muhammad -Assistant Editor- | Last updated: Jul 9, 2014 - 1:22:55 PM

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The family of a woman seen on video struck repeatedly by a California highway patrolman is filing a civil lawsuit against the department on her behalf. Shock and outrage was the response to the latest videotaped violent law enforcement encounter involving a Black woman and a cop, this time happening on the side of a Los Angeles freeway.

Cell phone video of the July 1 incident shows a uniformed California Highway Patrol officer repeatedly striking 51-year-old Marlene Pinnock in the head.
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In this July 1, 2014 image made from video provided by motorist David Diaz, a California Highway Patrol officer straddles a woman while punching her in the head on the shoulder of a Los Angeles freeway. The woman had been walking on Interstate 10 west of downtown Los Angeles, endangering herself and people in traffic, and the officer was trying to restrain her, according to a CHP assistant chief. The officer, who has not been identified, has been placed on administrative leave during an investigation. Photo: A/P World Wide Photos

'How dare we tell China or some other country about human rights violations? We see them sitting right in our front door'
—Dr. Julianne Malveaux, activist and president emerita of Bennett College for Women

According to police, Ms. Pinnock was walking barefoot alongside the Santa Monica Freeway, ignored commands to stop and became “physically combative.” Nothing in the police report says or suggests she was armed. 

The video shows the woman struggling and trying to sit up while the officer punches her in the face and head until an off-duty law enforcement officer appears and helps handcuff her.

Passing driver David Diaz recorded the incident and provided it to media outlets including The Associated Press. He told the AP in a phone interview July 4 that he arrived as the woman was walking off the freeway. She turned around only after the officer shouted something to her, he said.
“He agitated the situation more than helped it,” said Mr. Diaz, who started filming soon after.

The officer, whose name has not been released, was placed on administrative assignment. Ms. Pinnock was arrested and at Final Call presstime was still being held in a hospital on an involuntary psychiatric hold at the Los Angeles County Medical Center.

Chris O’Quinn, asst. chief of CHP, said there was no need for an independent investigation and the department’s “internal investigation process is very, very detailed.”

“As of today, we are investigating this use of force and (the) status is that we are looking into why he (officer) came into contact with the pedestrian on the freeway and what transpired and as of now the investigation is ongoing,” Officer Edgar Figueroa, CHP public information officer told The Final Call. He said no charges have been filed against Ms. Pinnock and that “everything is still under review.” There is no timetable for how long the investigation could take.

Pinnock’s family attorney Caree Harper announced plans July 6 to file a lawsuit stating the mother, grandmother and great-grandmother received multiple injuries on her face, arms and shoulders.
The Final Call left messages for Atty. Harper but received no response.

There have been calls for a federal investigation into the incident.

“There were many times on the tape where he could have just put handcuffs on her and he just kept beating her and that is unnecessary,” said Dr. Julianne Malveaux, activist and president emerita of Bennett College for Women. The community and leadership response in this case should be as vocal as it was for Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Florida teen shot and killed by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, she added. That case, in which Mr. Zimmerman was acquitted of murder, touched off a nationwide firestorm of activism. 

“Just like those leaders who went to Florida, rallying around Zimmerman’s slaughter of Trayvon Martin, there needs to be some people, the same leaders, in Los Angeles, rallying around this sister,” said Dr. Malveaux.

Mental health, instability, treatment and how law enforcement is trained to deal with these issues must also be addressed, she added.

Attorney Nkechi Taifa, a social justice attorney, agreed.

“The woman was barefoot. Obviously something might not have been right about her. At what point is your training supposed to kick in and say this person might need some services as opposed to the type of brutality that ensued?” asked Atty. Taifa.

Dr. Malveaux agreed an independent investigation is needed.

“They should take every effort to make sure that this is fully investigated and does not mean simply a group of police officers checking on another police officer. They need some civilians on the committee that investigates this incident. They do not need to make this an internal matter,” added Dr. Malveaux.

Amirah Sankofa Kweli, national minister of information for the New Black Panther Party, said from what she saw of the video it is a clear case of police brutality and excessive force. The community must organize around the issue of police brutality, she added.

“We can go about it in taking it to the streets in a very responsible manner, informing the people through education and letting them know exactly what’s going on because some of us don’t know about it,” Ms. Kweli told The Final Call.

She said citizen review boards are critical in terms of having a system in place to monitor police action. Defining “excessive force” cannot be left up to police departments, she added.

The Final Call asked if the U.S. Justice Department should be called in to investigate and review this latest incident.

“Having them come and review? They’ve been reviewing all these different cases and nothing has ever come of this. We’re still getting beaten, abused. They’re still Tasering, it’s lawful and it’s causing people to die and have heart attacks,” she said.

Atty. Taifa said many times police feel they can get away with brutality. If a pattern of abusive behavior is subsequently uncovered, litigation, a federal probe that could initiate civil rights actions could happen as it has in other states, Atty. Taifa told The Final Call.

As one goes down the police hierarchy, discretion increases, she explained. “The cop on the block, on the beat, the California Highway patrolman that perpetrated this case have so much  better discretion at their disposal and as a result they feel that they are accountable to no one and they feel that they are justified in what they are doing.” 

“How dare we tell China or some other country about human rights violations? We see them sitting right in our front door,” said Dr. Malveaux. 

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Friday, July 4, 2014

This Holy Month of Ramadan: Cultivate the Character of Allah in yourselves

By Imam Sultan Rahman -Guest Columnist- | Last updated: Jul 1, 2014 - 9:40:03 PM

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“O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may guard against evil.” ~ Chapter 2:183, Holy Qur’an

Ramadan Mubarak! Blessed Holy Month of Ramadan to us all!
In spirit and deed, we join nearly 2 billion Muslims around the Islamic world in the annual fast of the Holy Month of Ramadan, the 9th month of the lunar calendar. We rejoice at its coming and thank Allah (God) for another opportunity to observe the rites of self-purification of the heart, mind, body and spirit for the purpose of self-improvement to better the condition of ourselves and people through self-discipline and seeking to attain nearness to Allah (God).
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It is through prescribed self-restraint, during this month, that Allah (God) says He Teaches us how to “guard against evil’ or develop Taqwa—God-consciousness. We are all equal in the Eyes of Allah, except in one way: Our duty, our God-consciousness (Taqwa). It is by our duty that Allah (God) differentiates us in accord to our vigilance of our duty toward Him and our fellow human being.
It is in this month that we are asking for Allah’s help and His mercy. It is mentioned in the Tradition of Muhammad (peace be upon him) that in the beginning of the Holy Month of Ramadan, the Gates of Allah’s Mercy are opened to the Believer. We see a type of this blessing that comes upon us when we begin our fast. When we begin our fasting, we see it may be a little difficult to get into the swing of the fast, if we have not been preparing ourselves.

Sometimes we may forget we are fasting, especially in those first few days or weeks. We might find ourselves with a mouth full of water during fasting time, two or three days into Ramadan, and in the middle of swallowing and we catch ourselves “Ahhh! My God. I’m fasting.” It is habit that when we are thirsty we drink, hungry we eat, when we want sex, we have sex, and when we want sleep—we sleep. It is this habitual behavior we pick up that makes us continue to drink, eat, have sex, and sleep even when we do not need it. 
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The Month of Ramadan’s Fast is a habit breaker as it takes about 21 days to break a habit we have a month to break the ego of self. It is a common mistake that we accidently eat or drink something during the Month of Ramadan, without thinking or intentionally doing so. This makes the food or drink taken, considered to be a gift from Allah (Most High). We are granted forgiveness and should continue our fast upon recalling. This is truly a fast of Mercy. However, do not let deceptive intelligence take over and we complete a meal or a full glass of water–all the while thanking Allah (God) for His gifts! (Smile.) This would most definitely break your fast and the day missed would have to be made up.

The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan has stated,“The Fast of Ramadan, the Discipline of Prayer and Reflection through the reading of the Qur’an at prescribed times during the days is the greatest aid in developing discipline.” Prayer and fasting strengthens our discipline. We must purge the Enemy’s mind and thoughts from ourselves. We fast externally by abstaining from marital relations with our wives and husbands and from eating or drinking any beverages during the daylight hours. We are not only fasting externally (physically) from eating, drinking, and the passions during the daylight hours but we are also fasting internally (spiritually) by staying away from arguing, anger, lewd behavior, gossip, and other negative character traits, while seeking to cultivate the best of ourselves through self-restraint.  Fasting in Arabic is called Sawm, which means “to be still” or “to be motionless” as it relates to a specific activity or desire by practicing restraint.

Allah says in the Qur’an in Surah al-Furqaan, 25:63, “the servants of the Beneficent are they who walk on the earth in humility and when the ignorant address them, they say: Peace.” When someone ignorant comes to you with ignorance, do you respond with the like and become ignorant like that ignorant one? Or do you maintain your stillness, maintain your peace and give to that brother or sister who is in ignorance and turmoil a prayer of Peace? Surely, they are in need of Allah’s Peace to be upon them.

The Honorable Elijah Muhammad has stated in How To Eat To Live, “The Muslims do not eat nor drink from before sunrise until she, the Sun, has set. If you take it, the fast of Ramadan with them (the Muslims) you are doing the right thing until this evil world has vanished.”
We are practicing fasting of the eyes by not looking lustfully at the opposite sex. We are practicing fasting of the tongue by controlling ourselves from speaking obscenity. We are even fasting with our feet by not taking ourselves where we should not be. How can we say we are fasting if we are standing in a night club surrounded by temptation and lewdness?
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The ear should be fasting. We don’t spend our time listening to music all day with low influences designed to fan the fires of passion and other “pastimes” such as indulging in sport and play.  The Prophet (peace be upon him) has said, “He who does not desist or stop from obscene language and acting obscenely during the period of fasting, Allah has no need that he did not drink or eat.” Every aspect of ourselves should be subjected to the stillness of restraint from engaging in immoral activities as well as activities that are empty or vain.

The Holy Month of Fasting in Ramadan is a secret between the Believer and Allah (God), Most High. For Allah knows best of our fasting; He knows if we are keeping to clean thoughts, the pure actions. He knows whether or not we have cursed our brother or sister out. He knows if we’re sneaking in the refrigerator in the midday. These are aspects of the self that we must eradicate by changing these bad habits of egoism that we all have suffered from.

We are not fasting to lose weight. We’re fasting to lose our egos. If we fast with the right mindset, we are putting aside the basic hungers of life. When we are able to put our hungers aside the Enemy cannot control us through our stomachs and low desires. What beautiful advice we have from the Holy Prophet of Islam in these words, “cultivate within yourself the Attributes of Allah (God).”

Who among us is vying or competing for a level of God-consciousness that would allow us to stand out among people because of our good works toward others as one seeking the path of the Straight and Narrow? Not for the sake of vanity but the pleasure of Allah (God). In a Tradition of the Prophet (Peace be upon him), he was asked by one of his companions, “(What do you say about when) a man does a deed for the sake of Allah, and people love him for it?” The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “That is the immediate glad tidings of the Believer.”

In the love of people for a person and his or her good works Allah sends us good news of the reality of our belief. If you are one that people have said, “Oh, that’s a good brother. I can always count on him. That’s a good sister. What a beautiful support to the community that brother is.” Know that reputation you are building with the brotherhood and sisterhood is the confirmation of the same reputation that you’re building with Allah (God), Most High, when our intent is pure.

The Honorable Elijah Muhammad writes in Message to the Blackman in America, pg. 84, Islam “heals both physical and spiritual ills by teaching what to eat, when to eat, what to think, and how to act.” Let us in this Holy Month look into our fasting as a means of cultivating our character by staying away from obscenity and acting ignorantly toward one another. Let us conquer our desires. Let us through righteous works, good deeds, and self-discipline conquer the darkness of self by going to war with the ignorance of self and the ignorance of society in this month.

(Imam Sultan Rahman Muhammad is the National Imam of the Nation of Islam and resident Imam of Mosque Maryam National Center, tweet him @ImamSultanM or email him at sultanmuhammad@me.com.)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

FROM THE FINAL CALL NEWSPAPER

The Nation of Islam represents hope urban America needsBy Jehron Muhammad | Last updated: Jun 12, 2014 - 4:27:30 PM

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All across the U.S. and abroad, the F.O.I., Muslim men of the Nation of Islam bring positivity and brotherhood.

Harry Belafonte, known as much for his civil rights activism as his singing and acting, spoke to the Associated Press and repeated similar remarks at the NAACP Image Awards, suggested the “voice” of Black leadership is absent from the discussion of gun violence.

“What really concerns me is the ingredients of the discourse,” then 85-year-old Belafonte said.  “Where is that (in the Black) community? Where is that voice? I think the Black community, the Black leadership needs to stir it up.”
Stir it up the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam did long before Mr. Belafonte spoke.
Beginning in the summer of 2012 he personally led the men of the Nation of Islam (Fruit of Islam) into crime ridden and drug infested urban neighborhoods. At the height of this foray into the “streets” of America, the outreach included 109 cities.
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The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan at 81-years-old continues to lead by example, in efforts to quell the violence that afflicts so many Black communities.
“Since the founding of the Nation of Islam in the 1930s, crime prevention and rehabilitation have been two of its primary aims,” according to Shaun L. Gabbidon in his 2004 article: “Crime Prevention In The African American Community: Lessons Learned From The Nation of Islam.”

Published by “Souls: A Critical Journal Of Black Politics, Culture, and Society,” Gabbidon wrote: “From reforming street criminals and convicts to its forays into private security and the transformative effects of the Million Man March we can learn much from the numerous efforts by the Nation of Islam to prevent crime in the African American community. With its earliest attempts, the organization cemented an image that it refused to give up on those African Americans at the lowest rungs of society. As such, it was able to show that everyone is salvageable. The formula was simple: Teach individuals about themselves, give them work opportunities, and continue to nourish their development physically, mentally, and spiritually.”
 
Min. Farrakhan, unlike other leaders, and his followers bring to urban America an empathetic ear. The Minister explains reasons why young, so-called hustlers are involved in illegal activity. Their actions are based on survival strategies and not knowing another way, he has said.
 
When the Minister brought the men of the N.O.I. into the ’hood, he brought “a product” that showed there is “another way.”
 
He once said in a discussion the product “we’re advertising” is not fish that the N.O.I. once sold. It’s the “fish (men and women) that was caught by God,” through the teachings of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad, “scaled, cleaned (and) sent back into the community that’s dying,” he said.
 
Elijah Muhammad, “the eternal leader of the Nation of Islam,” he said, summed up what the men and women of the Nation, following his example, represented to urban America.
 
Elijah Muhammad, a divine man, once said of himself, that he was like “a piece of junk that God took off of the junk pile and polished up and put back on the junk pile, to show the other pieces of junk what they could become if they allowed him to teach them.”
 
Farrakhan called walks through the streets, the “first venture into the hood,” suggesting he and the Fruit of Islam were just getting started.       
 
During a broadcast last year in the 58-part series “The Time And What Must Be Done,” the Minister spoke of the “pain and hurt of the inner city” residents he spoke with in Chicago neighborhoods. A feeling of hope and possibility would follow if President Obama “came into Chicago and met with those parents that have lost their children,” and then got “in [his] bully pulpit” and “preached to us as one that is truly compassionate,” Min. Farrakhan said.
 
Others, including Rev. Jesse Jackson and Father Michael Plfeger, have asked President Obama respond to the murder rate in Chicago that included the shooting of 15-year-old high school student Hadiya Pendleton, who performed during the president’s second inauguration.
 
Many Chicago residents asked President Obama to show the same empathy to his adopted hometown, and it’s spiraling out of control murder rate, that he showed by his attendance at a memorial service for the slain children of Newtown, Conn.
 
Mr. Obama responded initially through the First Lady, who attended the funeral of young Pendleton, but then came to Chicago himself and used his bully pulpit to highlight Chicago’s unique problems.
Though many gave the president praise for his trip to Chicago, the court is still out on what his coming to the crime- riddled city represented.
 
During the presidential race America’s poor received little or no mention. Race primary was primarily focused on the middle class. This has come to mean to many that since Blacks represent an increasingly disproportionate percentage of the poor in America, they along with poor Whites, have all but been abandoned.
 
“They’re at their wits end with the problem of Black people,” Min. Farrakhan said. And since the government has “no solution,” he said, “God dropped it at our foot.” 
 
Part of the Nation of Islam’s belief involves the Biblical reference to the resurrection of the dead.  Not a physical resurrection, according to “The Muslim Program,” as outlined on the inside back page of every edition of its weekly publication, “The Final Call,” but the mental, social, economic and spiritual resurrection of Black people.
 
Farrakhan says, “Today more than ever, people are more willing to accept the kind of change that makes them moral.” 
 
The octogenarian recounting the 1970s and what led to the N.O.I. becoming a leading seller of frozen fish said, “It was when the men of the Nation (sold fish by) knocking on peoples doors.” He said the selling of fish “endeared the Fruit of Islam and the Nation to them because we brought them a product that they needed.”
 
The Minister asked, “What do they need more?”   “They need the civilizing message of God and the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. They need to find the path of love for one another and brotherhood.” If this occurs, he said, “Ninety-five percent of our problems would be solved.”
 
To buttress the N.O.I.’s outreach, Farrakhan has sat down with Christian pastors. He told pastors  the Nation has taken the same Bible they “preach from” and produced upstanding citizens, willing to give back to their community. Many were once called the “dregs of society.” He said to the preachers, “I can show you how to do it, so you can make (these kind of people) in your church and expand.”
 
Why hasn’t the Nation’s program of self-help and social and spiritual uplift been adopted by the wider Black community?
 
According to Gabbidon, “While the success and failures of the organization (N.O.I.) were consistently noted in magazine and newspaper accounts, few social scientists considered its efforts worthy of scholarly examination.”
 
That the Nation’s miraculous work of rehabilitation hasn’t been merged with the wider Black community is something worthy of scholarly research. The fact that the group has been vilified in the press and historically been the subject of negative government activity, like COINTELPRO, means success has come despite opposition—not because of any support or simply allowing the Muslims to act unhindered.
 
According to the January 1993 edition of the Atlantic Monthly, the N.O.I.’s problem, in part stems from how its been perceived by others, notably Whites, which is largely the result of being viewed through the lens of a hostile press.
 
“Thus,” wrote Nicholas Leman, “Elijah Muhammad, the founder of the Nation of Islam and a mentor of both Malcolm X and Louis Farrakhan, was legendary among blacks as a proponent of traditional values, an opponent of drugs and alcohol, a nurturer of ghetto small businesses, and a savior of habitual criminals, prostitutes, and other hard-core members of the underclass—but he was perceived by the larger world … as a preacher of hatred.”
 
Tougher gun laws, as Obama is advocating and round-the-clock police presence as Chicago’s police superintendent was said to be planning, won’t rid urban America of moral and psychological decay, and the predatory actions of youth trying to survive.
 
Elijah Muhammad once said, don’t condemn a dirty glass, stand a clean glass next to it. The infectious nature of his message and the moral fiber and psychological stability that it instills represents the substance the Black community has hoped for, and the evidence it’s impatiently waiting to see.
 
Jehron Muhammad, who writes for The Final Call from Philadelphia, can be reached at Jehronn@msn.com. Follow him on Twitter: @JehronMuhammad.