Tuesday, September 25, 2018

From The Final Call Newspaper


‘Serving God’s Purpose’ - A message of hope and guidance to spiritual leaders

By Starla Muhammad and Tariqah Shakir-Muhammad



The Hon. Minister Louis Farrakhan




Rev. T.L. Barrett




CHICAGO—The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan inspires, uplifts, educates and warns regardless of where he speaks or who is in the audience. For over 60 years the Muslim leader has dedicated his life to spreading the teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad in the U.S. and abroad. His ability to delve into and mine from scripture—both Bible and Holy Qur’an—that which benefits the masses of Black and oppressed people resonates with Muslims, Christians, Hebrews and even those that claim no religion.

Despite a continuous onslaught of negative rhetoric and unfounded and baseless propaganda spewed by his enemies, Min. Farrakhan continues to be welcomed by those who admire, love and respect him.

The Minister recently delivered a powerful and enlightening message to an ecumenical gathering of clergy and laypersons during the monthly Pastor’s Prayer Breakfast sponsored by the American Clergy Leadership Conference (ACLC) in Chicago. The Sept. 22 gathering was held at the Life Center Church of God in Christ pastored by the Rev. T.L. Barrett.

He told the crowd prior to the Minister’s address that people should treat each other as if they are in the presence of God. It’s God who exhaled in man and man who inhaled, said Rev. Barrett. In introducing his brother in struggle, Rev. Barrett said he always admired the humility demonstrated by Min. Farrakhan which was exemplified as he watched the 85-year-old sit disciplined and respectful during the near-nine-hour funeral service of the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin weeks earlier in Detroit. “When I entered the sanctuary, I saw all of the luminaries on the platform; Bishop T.D. Jakes, Rev. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Bill Clinton and the most dynamic brother on the planet, Min. Louis Farrakhan,” said Rev. Barrett as the audience erupted with applause.

During the funeral service for the music legend, Min. Farrakhan was seated predominantly on the dais but did not speak nor was he formally acknowledged by the bishop of the church where the funeral was held. This drew anger and concern expressed by thousands—many who were non-Muslims—who took to social media platforms expressing disappointment that Min. Farrakhan did not speak.

“I was not the least bit disturbed in Detroit, I smiled for nine hours because those who saw the worst in them, I really saw the best in them so I was not bothered by an apparent disrespect because my brother bishop, he embraced me on that rostrum and ushered me to that seat and hugged me and we shared love between us. But somehow, sometimes as men of God, not mature yet in the mind and spirit of God, we fear men as we ought to fear God. So in not wanting to hurt the feelings of others he didn’t mind trying to hurt mine. But you can’t hurt me,” said Min. Farrakhan.

The greatest symbol of love

Jesus was the most magnificent of all the prophets because he was the embodiment and personification of love, Min. Farrakhan explained. “In Jesus, the Messiah, is the in-dwelling mind and spirit of him who originated the heavens and the earth,” he said.

When you know Jesus and are one who has surrendered your will to do God’s will, you are not disturbed by the ignorance of those you have been commissioned to serve, Min. Farrakhan added.

He spoke of the responsibility of the church to spiritually resurrect the Black man and woman through giving Blacks a thorough knowledge of self.

“I am not offended by my people because I know who they are,” said Min. Farrakhan.

“Jesus was never offended by the people whom he was sent to save. He knew their condition and he knew who put them in that condition. So the scripture says he came to save his people from what? Sin. So why would he be bothered from their sins if he came to save them from their sins?” asked the Minister. “Because he looked beyond their sins and knew who they were, so he wasn’t talking to the sin, he was talking to the hidden presence of God that resides in his people.”

Jesus came to resurrect his people from the dead state that they were in, the Minister explained. “He had the mind and spirit to look beyond their faults to address their needs.”

In the book of Genesis in the Bible, where it describes the beginning of creation being “void” meaning having no shape or form. To be void, means having no validity, it is null, ineffective, useless and worthless in the beginning, the Minister explained.

“He (Moses) wasn’t talking about the earth in its original creation, he’s talking about a people in need of liberation who had been made void by the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade who had been brought to nothing—not valid, not legally binding; useless, worthless. Worthless because they didn’t have a connection to heaven and that’s why they were void.”

You and I as Black people are a destroyed people, he continued.

“You’re not respected by those who move things in this world. You’re like the dust of the earth. Dust is matter that has no purpose. It is only God that can take nothing and make something out of nothing, give it form and give it expression and then breathe into it and make it able to serve his purpose.”

Jesus connected disease and being ineffective with sin which is a good connection. Anytime we are victims of sin we are bound, not left free, because the spirit, energy and gift of God is limited by the sin of the sinner which is what Jesus came to free us from, the Minister explained.

Jesus came to free us not from the physical bounds of slavery but from the slavery of material things and our low desires, he continued.

“When Satan wants to get to you, he’s like a snake and wants to know where you’re coming from, what do you desire and then in your desire he tricks you. All of you have desires. All of us have things that we want, and Satan is boss in his world,” said Min. Farrakhan. Satan is trying to show himself as God in various areas of influence, Min. Farrakhan explained. But Satan’s offers always come with “conditions.” Min. Farrakhan challenged those that are charged with teaching and preaching the word of God to be steadfast and preach it in its true form.

“Most gospel preachers preach what the master says is right. The government says ‘Roe vs. Wade,’ a woman has a legal right to an abortion—legal, but God didn’t give you the right to kill the fruit of your womb. He gave you the right to reject whoever wants access to your womb.”

“Your wombs, sisters, are sacred because that’s the workshop of God,” he continued. “The prophets are created, the wise men, the sages, the scientists—everything that you want is answered through your prayers through the womb of a woman.”

Feeding from a ‘student of the word’

Throughout his message, Min. Farrakhan frequently related scripture from the Bible and Holy Qur’an as examples pastors, student ministers and members of the church and mosque should follow.

“We’re fashioning a brand that excludes religious intolerance,” Rev. Barrett, a longtime friend and companion of Min. Farrakhan, told The Final Call. He believes the Minister’s presence at the church was a perfect example of unity between different faiths.

“We’re fashioning a brand that includes all faiths, all religions because we’re God’s children so how we choose to express our love and relationships with God, we feel it must be respected by all brands of religion.”

Sharon Clark told The Final Call that she enjoyed and was inspired by the Minister’s words. “His entire message was moving, bringing us back to order. Us as women, bringing us back into the household (and) understanding the trick of the enemy and helping us to bring our men back up so we can take control of our children again,” she said.

Her husband, Rev. Cornelius C. Clark, agreed wholeheartedly. “He has such a command of scripture, both the Qur’an and Bible. It’s obvious he’s a student of the word so I’m fascinated as a preacher to hear one of the most intelligent Black men at the top of the list,” he stated.

“Whenever the Minister speaks, it is absolutely phenomenal,” said Rev. Clark, who dedicated and sang two songs to Min. Farrakhan prior to his message.

Hazel Brazelton, an elder member of the Life Center C.O.G.I.C., said she always enjoys hearing the Minister. “I love how he speaks. I listen to him on YouTube all the time. … He touches on everything that I need to hear. That feeds my soul,” she said with a smile. “He touched in on a lot of bases such as basically respecting the woman and a woman giving respect to a king, a man (and) a man bringing something to the table.”

Beronsha Johnson was happy to receive an invitation to the breakfast event. He said he listened to the Minister while serving a 21-year sentence in prison and was moved by his lectures.

“It’s a lot of things you can gain from this and I think he’s a great person. The way he presented himself, how could you deny a person who doesn’t lie, steal, cheat, fornicate? It’s a lot more things I’m pretty sure I could learn so I will be back for more,” he said.

Shortly before the end of the program Min. Farrakhan was presented with a gift basket of fruit and sparkling grape juice to represent the “fruit and nectar of the gods” and a certificate of appreciation for his 60-plus years of service in the Black community.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

From The Final Call Newspaper

Hell, high water and a struggle to survive
By Brian E. Muhammad - Staff Writer |

COLUMBIA, S.C.—The destruction of land, property and the interruption and loss of life came with what meteorologists characterized as the “storm of a lifetime” and worst hurricane in recent years.



But, placed in the social context of history and the southern states it touched, some asked if the onslaught of Hurricane Florence was divine judgement against America.

The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, patriarch of the Nation of Islam, cautioned God is angry about America’s long and bloody history of injustice, persecution and oppression. In his pivotal book, “The Fall of America” published in 1973, Mr. Muhammad wrote God will deploy rain, hail, snow and earthquakes to chastise and break the power of America.



“We see them now covering all sides of America, as the Holy Qur’an prophesies curtailing on all her sides. And these judgments would push the people into the center of the country, and there they would realize that it is Allah (God) Who is bringing them and their country to a naught,” wrote Mr. Muhammad.

He said God will use the snow and ice as a weapon in a day of war against the wicked. “All up and down the coast to the Carolinas, the rain takes up where the snow leaves off,” Mr. Muhammad wrote.

All around the southern border of America, storms raged. There were tornadoes and heavy rains and more storms were on the way—one right after another.

Virginia, Georgia, North and South Carolina have a long history of mistreating Black people.

In recent times, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, Mr. Muhammad’s national representative, has echoed the warnings, to watch weather God has weaponized.

Hurricane Florence did a menacing slow dance across the Atlantic Ocean, taking its time before making landfall at Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina. It wreaked havoc on other coastal towns in North Carolina and that was only the beginning.

Florence’s winds weakened as it drew closer to land, dropping from a peak of 140 mph before downgrading to a Category 1 hurricane from a terrifying Category 4. It was later downgraded to a tropical storm but it still punished the Carolinas and other parts of the East Coast.

National Weather Service forecaster Brandon Locklear said in a video briefing North Carolina would see the equivalent of up to eight months of rain in a two to three-day period. Several lives were reported lost in the days to come.

By Final Call press time, Accuweather reported at least 22 people died, including a mother and infant killed after a massive tree split their home in Wilmington, North Carolina.


Toppled trees land in the yard and on a home in Wilmington, N.C., after Hurricane Florence made landfall, Sept. 14. Photo: AP Photo/Chuck Burton


The National Weather Service said remnants of the storm will hit the Northeast and mountain regions of southern Virginia could also see flooding potentially experience mud and landslides from Florence’s heavy rains.

“Remnants of Florence will be pushed towards the Northeast where areas from Northern Pennsylvania through central New York towards Boston could pick up some heavy rain,” said CNN Meteorologist Michael Guy.

In the days leading up to Florence making its way to the U.S. coastline, state of emergency and mandatory evacuation orders were issued by the governors of Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina with nearby Georgia closely monitoring the storm.

More than a half a million people were estimated to have evacuated, while others opted to “ride it out.”

Myrtle Beach resident Monique Burgess decided to leave for Orlando, Fla., where she has a brother.

“It was a last minute decision. I typically do not evacuate,” Ms. Burgess told The Final Call.

She left with her 72-year-old mother and two teenaged sons. Like many people who live along the coastline, hurricanes are nothing new for her.

Conway, S.C. educator and high school coach Michael Hopkins, 58, preferred to stay. “We are hunkered down right here,” Mr. Hopkins said. He remembered going through Hurricane Hugo in 1989 when he evacuated to Columbia which was hit harder by that storm.

“I’m trusting and believing … opening the house up to anybody who don’t have anywhere to go or don’t feel safe at their dwelling,” he added. The coach said his family has a generator and food, but also “understands this is God’s will too.”

Hurricanes are not new in these areas, but the patterns and magnitude of Florence were erratic. Government and public safety officials weren’t taking anything for granted. They began mobilizing quickly ahead of the disaster.

Common advice to residents was “prepare for the worst and hope for the best” and officials implemented special state of emergency rules.

While forces were being marshaled in effected states for Florence, a magnitude 2.6 earthquake struck McCormick S.C. on Sept. 13 near the border with Georgia, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The agency said it was the fifth this year. The largest earthquake in the area was a magnitude 5.1 in 1916. Moderately damaging earthquakes strike the Carolinas inland every few decades, and smaller earthquakes are felt about once each year.

As Hurricane Florence slowed to a crawl meteorologist said that meant a life-threatening storm surge and excessive rainfall over a wider area for a longer period of time.

In North Carolina, live video of bending trees, flooded streets and homes with people who decided to wait it out were seen on weather networks.

Hundreds of calls inundated the North Carolina Emergency Management Agency requesting rescues of people trapped with water levels rising in their homes. Thousands were in the dark as electric power went out.

Other images showed an American flag withered and torn, appearing to be overcome by the high winds of Florence.

Although state and local city officials in the affected states united to address the advancing storm, President Donald Trump chose the timing of Hurricane Florence to politicize and deny official death toll figures from last year’s Hurricane Maria that crippled Puerto Rico.

Mr. Trump has been embroiled in controversy over federal handling of the disaster that initially reported 64 deaths, which later rose to 3,000 fatalities.

With Hurricane Florence President Trump declared a major disaster in North Carolina and South Carolina and approved Federal aid for the states. FEMA, the-Federal Emergency Management Agency website said the money supplements recovery efforts in the affected areas.

Federal funding is available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency protective measures, FEMA said.

A Sept. 11 Bloomberg.com article predicted Hurricane Florence will be among the top ten costliest disasters on record, costing an estimated $27 billion in damages when done. 


Tony Thompson looks at damage at his mobile home, Sept. 16, in Newport, N.C., following Hurricane Florence. Thompson lost his home and most of his possessions. Thompson says he feels lucky to be alive. Photo: Robert Willett/The News & Observer via AP


But, estimated insured losses were lower, ranging from $3 billion to $5 billion, according to CoreLogic a data and analytics company. Goldman Sachs, a Wall Street bank, said they could go as high as $10 billion to $20 billion, reported USA Today.

Statistics from the National Hurricane Center showed among United States hurricanes, Katrina at $160 billion was the costliest storm on record followed by Hurricane Harvey ($125 billion), Hurricane Maria ($90 billion), Hurricane Sandy ($70.2 billion) and Hurricane Irma ($50 billion).

In 2017 alone, there were a total of 16 “billion-dollar” weather events in the U.S., costing a cumulative $306.2 billion, breaking the previous record of $214.8 billion in 2005, said Bloomberg.

Serious questions arose about the fate of thousands of inmates at prisons in mandatory evacuation zones.

Media reports began circulating about South Carolina not relocating inmates to facilities in safer areas despite Governor Henry McMaster telling the press Sept. 11, “we’re not going to gamble with the lives of the people of South Carolina. Not a one.”

The State Newspaper said South Carolina Department of Corrections Spokesperson Dexter Lee admitted inmates would not be moved. “Right now, we’re not in the process of moving inmates,” Mr. Lee said. “In the past, it’s been safer to leave them there.”

Newsweek reported Virginia evacuated 1,000 inmates from one facility and elected to keep inmates in place at other jails, ordering additional food and medicine.

By early evening Sept. 14, the day the storm struck, 650,000 people were without power in North Carolina and tens of thousands were without electricity in South Carolina.

This is part of the challenge states face in emergency situations, said experts. Many people are not prepared when disasters come.

“You have to have a plan,” said Shahid El-Shabazz, owner of S2 Consulting Services.

In disaster emergencies, people must understand how much they are on their own and have knowledge of how federal and state agencies operate, he said.

“There are not enough emergency response or public safety personnel to save everyone,” Mr. Shabazz said. “If you don’t prepare for yourself, for your family, for your loved ones, not everyone is going to be saved.”

Mr. Shabazz has been in the fields of law enforcement, security, emergency management and emergency preparedness for 30 years. “You have to have a plan,” and practice it before an emergency happens, he stressed.

Yusef Muhammad, former president of the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters, agreed. Knowledge is paramount to handling and surviving disasters, he said. “You have to be aware before you can prepare,” he added.

Yusef Muhammad suggested four steps: Get informed. Develop a plan. Prepare an emergency kit or go bag in case you have to evacuate. Reassess your plan over time and make sure your survival kit is up to date.

“It has a way of bringing people from all walks of life together, because we all want to live, to survive,” observed Yusef Muhammad.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

From The Final Call Newspaper

A bizarre tale: An unexplained cop shooting of Black man killed in his home brings tears, fears and questions

By Jihad Hassan Muhammad -Contributing Writer-



Botham Shem Jean


DALLAS—Botham Shem Jean could not have imaged that his last night on earth would be a Thursday night in the comfort of his own home in the Cedars neighborhood—where people walk dogs, enjoy nearby restaurants, and view the latest films at a new cinema.

He certainly could not have guessed his life would be taken by a Dallas police officer, who had no business in his home. Her gunfire should have been reserved for protecting and serving, and keeping a neighborhood safe from rogue criminals.

Botham, a native of the Caribbean nation of St. Lucia, was no such person. The 26-year-old professional worked at PricewaterhouseCooper. A religious man of God, he would often lead songs with joy at his church. He mentored young people.

Why did he lay in a pool of blood and why did a 30-year-old White police officer, Amber Guyger, kill him? Her claims and the official account is as bizarre as the death is tragic. Police say Off. Guyger worked a 15-hour shift, got off duty and returned to the Southside Flats apartments in the Cedars neighborhood. She lived on the floor below Botham. Still in uniform, she went to the door of his apartment, on the wrong floor, and with its distinctive red door mat. She claims she mistook Botham’s apartment for her own Sept. 6, entered, and shot the Black male inside in the chest. He later died at a nearby hospital.

Dallas police officer Amber Guyger, charged in fatal shooting of unarmed neighbor Botham Shem Jean.Police say Off. Guyger worked a 15- hour shift, got off duty and returned to the Southside Flats apartments in the Cedars neighborhood. She lived on the floor below Botham. Still in uniform, she went to the door of his apartment, on the wrong floor, and with its distinctive red door mat. She claims she mistook Botham’s apartment for her own Sept. 6, entered, and shot the Black male inside in the chest. He later died at a nearby hospital.

Community activists, members of the press, and others are already raising questions about a possible police cover-up. The changing narratives about what happened that night and unanswered simple questions from the family and their attorneys are causing concern. “What happened that night?” is the question posed over and over again to Dallas District Attorney Faith Johnson, a Black woman and a Republican.

The earliest reports, on Friday morning Sept. 7, said Off. Guyger put her key in the door of the wrong apartment on the wrong floor and it did not work. Botham answered, saw the uniformed officer, and moments later he was shot dead, police said.

The story has changed: Now the media is parroting the official police account that Off. Guyger entered the apartment with the wrong key, with the door unlocked. She saw Botham in the shadows and opened fire, thinking he was a burglar. Despite online rumors, Botham’s family and different investigating agencies say Off. Guyger did not know him.

Blood was taken from the officer to ascertain if she was impaired due to controlled substances or alcohol at the time of the shooting. Test results have not been released.

“The way Botham was killed is astonishing to most sensible people not only in America but around the world, since Botham was from the island of St. Lucia. It is now an international incident, with the world watching to see if his family will receive justice like the officer would have if the situation was reversed. Black people in America have been killed by police in some of the most unbelievable manners,” said Benjamin L. Crump, one of the Jean family attorneys and a leading lawyer in cases where Blacks have been shot and killed by police officers or gun-toting Whites. He was brought to public notice for his handling of cases like the 2012 shooting of teens Trayvon Martin in Florida and Mike Brown, in 2014, in Ferguson, Mo.

Dallas-based lawyer S. Lee Merritt represents the Jean family as well. Every time the family has visited the district attorney, they leave with the simplest questions unanswered, he said.

As she addressed the press Sept. 7, Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall described the killing as “a very unique situation” that had more questions than answers. Chief Hall, in that same press conference, initially declared that a warrant for the charge of manslaughter was in the works. She added that the investigation of the shooting had been handed over to the Texas Rangers in an effort at transparency, and to have an independent entity examine the case.



Allison Jean, left, the mother of Botham Jean who was shot and killed by Dallas police officer Amber Guyger in his apartment on Sept. 7, stands with Botham’s brother Brandt, second from left, and sister, Allisa Charles-Findley, along with attorneys Benjamin Crump, second from right, and Lee Merritt, right, during a news conference, Sept. 10, in Dallas to give comments about the officer that was arrested.

The Texas Rangers have jurisdiction throughout the state to investigate potential crimes and police shootings. After interviewing Off. Guyer, the Rangers, with the cooperation of the district attorney’s office, decided not to issue an arrest warrant, according to the police chief, who is a Black woman. No arrest was made. Off. Guyger was free until Sunday evening, Sept. 9, when she was arrested and charged with manslaughter. She was released on $300,000 bond.

Many in the Black community here, others throughout Dallas, across the United States, and on the island of St. Lucia, aren’t happy. People say they are angry over the lack of answers and three days of preferential treatment given to Off. Guyger. Botham came to America and graduated from Harding University in 2016.

“You or I would be arrested if we went to the wrong apartment and blew a hole through a person’s chest killing them,” said Atty. Crump.

Allison Jean, Botham’s mother and her family, arrived in Dallas over the Sept. 7 weekend. She spoke of her son’s love for humanity at a Sunday church service. “He was my pride and my joy. There are times you feel like giving up, I could not give up because of Botham,” said his grieving mother.

Atty. Merritt has been vocal, calling out a double standard that favors police officers. They do not get charged when committing crimes any regular citizen would be prosecuted for, he noted. Off. Guyger, though off-duty, was in uniform when she killed Botham. “If there is probable cause that a crime has been committed in this jurisdiction, it is incumbent upon the district attorney’s office to issue an arrest for the officer involved,” said Atty. Merritt.

The family was angry no immediate arrest happened, appearing to show a double standard in the favor of law enforcement, without anyone providing an explanation, Atty. Merritt added. Botham’s senseless death is another tragic killing of an unarmed Black man at the hands of those sworn to serve and protect the public, he said.

Blacks in Dallas are growing tired of gross injustice, police violence and plan to organize for justice, said activists.

Yafeuh Balogun, a community organizer and member of the grass roots collective Guerrilla Mainframe, said the manslaughter charge is not enough. “We will focus to get the charges upped from manslaughter to murder. Chief Hall and the Dallas District Attorney’s office have fumbled and showed a lack of transparency and clarity with the case. This shows the community a lack of accountability,” he said. “So our focus is to pressure Republican D.A. Faith Johnson, whose campaign slogan was ironically justice not politics.”

Days before Botham’s killing, Roy Oliver, a former police officer from the Dallas suburb of Balch Springs, Texas, was convicted of murdering 15-year-old Jordan Edwards. Now Dallas again watches events unfold after a White officer killed an unarmed Black man, who was an upstanding citizen.

“We expect Chief Hall to fire this officer immediately,” said Collette Flanagan, who founded Mothers Against Police Brutality (MAPB) in 2013 after her son, unarmed 25-year-old Clinton Allen, was fatally shot seven times by a Dallas officer. “Regardless of how the case is ultimately decided in court, this officer has forfeited any right to serve on the Dallas police force.”

“The official version of events in the shooting death of Botham Jean is all over the map,” said Sara Mokuria, co-founder of MAPB, whose father, Tesfaie Mokuria, was killed by Dallas officers in 1993. “The, ‘I-was-in-the-wrong apartment’ version lacks all credibility. And the mayor’s ‘let’s-all-come-together-moment’ is so tone deaf and false that it can only be taken as a cynical attempt to spin a murder,” she said.

“Suppose it was the other way around, and Mr. Jean had fatally shot Guyger after ‘mistakenly’ entering her apartment. Do you think for a minute he would have been granted bail, sent home on paid leave?” asked Ms. Flanagan.

Alshaheed Muhammad, Dallas Representative of Nation of Islam, said the killing of Blacks in Texas is nothing new. “The Honorable Minister Farrakhan has told us over and over again that the civility of this civilization is being peeled back like an onion. In the upcoming weeks, the world will see exactly what we’re dealing with in Dallas, Texas. I believe Almighty God Allah is showing us that separation is our only solution and the most intelligent option to our situation,” he said.

The Texas Rangers and the district attorney’s office are still investigating the case. Their findings will be presented to a grand jury, which will decide whether Off. Guyger faces a trial. Dallas County District Attorney Johnson reminded the press Sept. 9 that the grand jury could indict Off. Guyger, or not—or the grand jury could indict her on a charge other than manslaughter.

The Jeans are a well-respected family on the island of St. Lucia. Prime Minister Allan Chastanet came to be with the family in Dallas. “Allison did an incredible job of raising her son. We all in St. Lucia are extremely proud of Botham and what he represented and how he represented St. Lucia,” said the prime minister.

“As I look as his (Botham’s) younger brother Brandt, I think, ‘what will the next generation of people of color’s interaction be with law enforcement and will it end with deadly force?’ ” said Atty. Crump. Why didn’t Off. Guyger use her training as a police officer, why did she use deadly force? the attorney asked. “It made no sense when we first got the news, and it does not make sense today,” he said.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

From The Final Call Newspaper

Farewell to an angel - Aretha Franklin

By Richard B. Muhammad and Brian Muhammad


 
Aretha Franklin memorial service celebrates culture, commitments of a great, global icon


DETROIT—The Queen of Soul started her life and career in church and she was given a homegoing service in church—and what a service it was.

Thousands turned out for the funeral which capped several days of activities in honor of Aretha Lorraine Franklin. The funeral was held at Greater Grace Temple.

The church sanctuary was a mix of the high and the mighty and the meek and humble. Special invites went to the likes of former President Bill Clinton, Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. William Barber, politicians from the city to state to federal levels, movie and television producer Tyler Perry, religious leaders like Rev. T.D. Jakes and even Omarosa Manigault Newman, the former Trump administration aide, was in the sacred space.

The ordinary people of Detroit she loved were in the church as well. The family extended an invite to 1,000 people to attend the service—and set up monitors outside. The service was carried live on several television networks and received substantial coverage on others. Many stood in line overnight to enter the church, which holds about 6,000 people.

The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam was among the dignitaries. He sat on the main stage with President Clinton, Rev. Jackson and Rev. Sharpton.


(l-r) Shirley Caesar, Jennifer Hudson, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, Cicely Tyson



(l-r) Ronald Isley, Chaka Khan, Judge Greg Mathis, Yolanda Adams



(l-r) Min. Louis Farrakhan, Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, former U.S. President Bill Clinton.


Min. Farrakhan donated 90,000 free copies of The Final Call newspaper to the city and people of Detroit. It was a special reprint of Final Call coverage on the life and legacy of Aretha Franklin published immediately after her death. In a statement published in the newspaper’s centerfold, Min. Farrakhan said, “Her songs, her soul and her voice did not only reach our ears, but reached our hearts, our souls, and our spirits to lift us above where we were and caused us to survive the horror, the tyranny of our painful existence as ex-slaves, free slaves, Jim Crow sufferers, our souls yearned for relief. She supplied that balm to our pain.

“In 1972, when I was minister in New York City, Temple No. 7, the police attacked our mosque. Within a few hours, Aretha Franklin came to the mosque, to my office, and said that she saw the news and came as quickly as she could to stand with us and offer us her support. … We marveled at her show of courage, fearlessness which was rooted in her profound love for her people and her desire for justice for us.”

Bishop Charles Ellis III of Greater Grace Temple officiated the Aug. 31 service, blending scripture readings, musical performances, tributes and mini-sermons as well as messages from close friends, like Smokey Robinson, and her grandchildren.



(l-r) Isaiah Thomas, Tyler Perry, Pastor Charles Ellis


Grandson of Aretha Franklin speaks at her Aug. 31 funeral as other relatives look on.


Black Twitter, Black radio and Black text messages and conversations noted the Minister was seated on the dais but did not speak. At one point there were 43 pages of comments on the subject taken from the @louisfarrakhan Twitter page.

There was a lot of anger with one caller telling a Detroit area talk show host, the governor of Michigan should have been cut from the program. Detroit pastor Jim Holley, who made remarks, told The Final Call that he would have gladly relinquished his time to have the Minister speak.

But in a Sept. 3 interview with The Final Call, Min. Farrakhan said when his office reached out to Earline Franklin, Aretha Franklin’s sister in law, he only requested to be present at the funeral and did not ask to speak. “I just wanted to be present with the family as one of the mourners. And even though I was invited to speak at the tribute concert, I told them I really didn’t come to do that. Though I was offered the chance to speak I never availed myself of that opportunity,” he said. Six-thousand tickets to the concert Aug. 30 in downtown Chene Park were distributed. He was escorted to a private room where Franklin family members and celebrities welcomed him.




The Minister thought he would be seated behind the family or friends at the funeral. He was seated on the dais. Many pastors, celebrities and well-wishers came to greet and take photos with Min. Farrakhan before and after the funeral. (See editorial pages 16, 17.) Rev. Barber and Rev. Michael Eric Dyson were the only speakers to mention the Minister by name. With his statement in each Final Call newspaper, the Minister said he did not feel the need to speak. He had already shared his sentiments and expressed his love for Ms. Franklin.

While Black Twitter and radio stations exploded with questions about why Min. Farrakhan did not speak, Whites and Jewish leaders, like Atty. Alan Dershowitz, condemned the Minister’s appearance. And, they demanded that Mr. Clinton explain his presence on the same stage as the Minister.

The Final Call blasted “Jewish hatred” and “hate speech” spewed against the Minister. “How dare you,” declared an editorial. “How dare you presume and demand an explanation after all you have done to us and all we have suffered and still suffer at your hands. Even the White politicians who spoke were connected with policies that ill-affected and still ill-affect the lives of Black people. Yet they were given a moment to honor a woman who helped Blacks survive in this hellish nation and who actually contributed to making America better.

“How dare you blame us, the victims of your evil and wicked planning and damnable actions against us, and then slander a man who has devoted 62 years of his life to freeing us from your grip. Your lies and delusions are so deep, White America and powerful Jewish forces, that you spew misinformation, twist truth and would bludgeon into submission anyone who would come near a good man and a movement, the Nation of Islam, devoted to the salvation of Black people. … You are the oppressors and you are the ones that we should be ashamed to be associated with. Your entire history in is written in the blood of the darker peoples of the earth,” said the editorial. (See coverage, photos on pages 16 and 17.)



Greater Grace Temple in Detroit was filled to capacity with dignitaries, entertainers and guests for the homegoing service for Aretha Franklin. The life and legacy of the iconic singer was celebrated during a nine-hour service that featured gospel songs, testimonies and reflections of her life. Ms. Franklin died Aug. 16 and the city of Detroit honored her memory with various public events. Photos: Andrea Muhammad


Honoring Detroit’s favorite diva and a world class artist


Ms. Franklin’s musical accomplishments were acknowledged, but the gratitude was not just for Grammys and other honors but for a voice and spirit that touched hearts. “Her voice brought peace,” observed her granddaughter.

Over her 50-year career, Ms. Franklin came to be regarded as the greatest singer of any style or genre.



Pallbearers carry casket of Ms. Franklin after conclusion of Aug. 31 service.


She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to go with 20 No. 1 R&B hits, 18 Grammys and more than 100 singles on the Billboard charts. In 1987, she became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She was one of the few people known globally by a single name, “Aretha.” In her beloved city of Detroit, she was often called “Re Re” and seen as a member of the family. At age 76, she died Aug. 16 of pancreatic cancer in her home.



Thousands of mourners paid homage to Ms. Franklin at Greater Grace Temple.


Her departure was stylish and substantive—from the gold casket to the changes of clothing during the week’s public visitations. Her arrangements were handled by Swanson Funeral Home, who transported her body in a vintage 1940’s hearse. It was the same hearse that carried her father to his final resting place. She was accompanied by a police escort and a fleet of pink Cadillacs to a Detroit cemetery, another tribute to lyrics from a hit song. Detroiters lined streets to say a final farewell to the Queen.

Testimony to the sheer beauty of her Blackness and connections with her struggling people dominated the service.

And, even in departing this life, Ms. Franklin was pushing the struggle forward. Several speakers called for reconvening the leaders and luminaries assembled to deal with political, social and survival issues Black America faces.

The near nine-hour service was a culmination of formal events that began with Ms. Franklin lying in repose at the Charles H. Wright African-American Museum. Thousands trekked through the museum for two days for the public viewing. Another viewing was held at New Bethel Baptist Church where Ms. Franklin grew up and where her father, reverend and civil rights leader C.L. Franklin, served as pastor.


A proud celebration of Blackness


From Fantasia taking off her shoes on stage before singing to energetic, upbeat gospel songs, praise breaks and anecdotes, it was an international event proudly steeped in, rooted in, bathed in the Black cultural experience.

“She sang in our key and taught the world to hear it,” said Rev. William Barber, whose activism in North Carolina and demands for justice for Blacks, poor and oppressed people, have thrust him into a national spotlight.

No matter when she sang or where she sang, her music provided a divine message and America’s current moral crisis needs the gospel of Aretha, Rev. Barber declared. Her singing made you want to stand up and fight back against narcissistic leaders and declare we will not accept anything less than respect, he added. “Aretha told us respect was non-negotiable,” Rev. Barber continued. He also called for a meeting of leaders and movers and shakers present to discuss 2018 midterm elections and political strategy.



Floral arrangements surrounded Ms. Franklin’s casket at the museum viewing and funeral service. Lines of pink Cadillac’s was a fitting tribute to the Queen of Soul and her hit song, “Freeway of Love.” Photos: Andrea Muhammad


“She remained herself all her life,” observed Rev. Michael Eric Dyson, another son of Detroit and Black intellectual. “She is now the queen of our souls. Long live the queen!”

Aretha refused to sell out; some people sending letters because they don’t want to be here in all this Blackness, declared the author and academic. But, he advised, you need to come, dip your toe in and bathe in it. Like other speakers his words brought applause from the crowd as leaders, activists, celebrities and ordinary Black people were exhorted to continue the struggle.

When Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) was acknowledged from the stage there was applause. She stood, crossing both arms across her chest in the “Wakanda Forever!” salute that became a sign of Black pride through the record and stereotype breaking movie “Black Panther.”

Rev. Dyson’s letter reference appeared aimed at former President Obama, who Ms. Franklin supported. She sang at his first inauguration. The first Black president wasn’t at the spirited homegoing service for an extraordinary woman, freedom fighter and entertainment industry giant.

Judge Greg Mathis, another son of Detroit, shared his final conversation with the Queen. It was about the continued water crisis in Flint, Mich., where water was diverted from Lake Michigan to the polluted Flint River poisoning people. They have stopped giving bottled water to people but have not resolved the crisis and health hazard, he said. He and Ms. Franklin discussed the need to challenge the injustice. When he appeared a little hesitant, having jumped into the fray before, Ms. Franklin had a ready response. “You scared?” she said. “You supposed to be from Detroit!”

“Greg, I want you to go to Flint and sock it to ’em,” she said, according to the former Detroit judge, who now resolves disputes on a popular television show. And, he said, Michigan’s governor spoke here, but “I’m on my way to Flint.”

Calls to continue the struggle

Judge Mathis met Ms. Franklin while working with the Rev. Jesse Jackson. She enjoyed a long and close relationship with the civil rights leader and his organizations.


One of Ms. Franklin’s signature hits was titled, “Respect.” Photo: Monica Morgan


Rev. Jackson implored the crowd to be active voters in tribute to Ms. Franklin. When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. couldn’t make payroll and was vilified and attacked, Aretha and Harry Belafonte went on an 11-city tour, he recalled. They raised and gave money to Dr. King without getting paid and in one venue, tear gas was pumped through the air ducts, he said.

In 1970, Jet Magazine reported that Ms. Franklin stood ready to post Angela Davis’ bond whether $100,000 or $250,000, if allowed by the courts. Ms. Davis, then a 26-year-old former UCLA philosophy instructor and Black Panther Party leader, was being held in New York without bond pending extradition to San Rafael, Calif.

Civil rights advocate Sharpton called on Black America to teach President Trump the meaning of “Respect”—another homage to one of Ms. Franklin’ greatest hits.

Ms. Franklin was a civil rights activist, feminist before feminism, and human rights advocate when none of it was popular, he said. He, like other pastors and common people, thanked Ms. Franklin for her personal generosity, financial support of cause-oriented Black groups and concern for the less fortunate. Most of her work was done without fanfare.

The memorial had a decidedly Detroit flavor, indicative of the city’s great history, but mainstream leaders came to show respect. In addition to Republican Governor Rick Snyder, there was Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and former President Bill Clinton, who said he and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, “started out as Aretha junkies or something,” long before he ascended to the White House.

“She lived with courage, not without fear, but overcoming her fears,” said the president. “She lived with faith, not without failure but in overcoming her failures.” She took this massive talent and “perfect culture that raised her and decided to be the composer of her own life’s song,” he said.

“She called me, the little Black girl from the east side of Detroit, and said she was proud of me,” recalled former suburban mayor Brenda Lawrence, who now serves in the U.S. House of Representatives. Women have to be strong enough to embrace other women, she said. And she and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) are seeking to have the Congressional Medal of Honor bestowed on the woman who inspired her. Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones and Mayor Mike Duggan announced support to rename a major street and downtown park and amphitheater after Aretha. Rev. Jasper Williams delivered a controversial eulogy.

“Her status as a queen, unlike others who inherit, was earned,” said former United States Attorney General Eric Holder in remarks from the pulpit. “God sang through her.”

Entertainment giants laud Aretha

Noted actress Cicely Tyson, writer and director Tyler Perry, talk show host Whoopi Goldberg, and music mogul Clive Davis listened. “God knows we have been blessed,” said Ms. Tyson. “What a triumphant gift that you have given the world that they have been able to experience,” she said to the Franklin family. “Aretha was the sum total of her life’s experience, and she shared that with us through the soul songs she sung.” The award-winning actress completed her remarks with a tribute to Aretha based on a poem by Black poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar.

“I signed her to Arista Records and five years turned into more than three decades,” said Mr. Davis.

“My prayer for you is that God will allow you to grieve in waves and (it) not come crashing on you all at once like a tsunami,” said Mr. Perry in remarks directed to the Franklin family. He recounted losing his mother and developing a friendship with Ms. Franklin. Journalist Roland S. Martin and the entire cast of Tyler Perry’s “The Haves and the Have Nots,” were present as it was Ms. Franklin’s favorite show.

Ariana Grande graced the audience with Aretha’s classic “Natural Woman” and “What a friend we have in Jesus” was sung by country singer Faith Hill. The Clarke Sisters, considered gospel music royalty, sang their mega hit “Is My Living in Vain.” Bishop Marvin Sapp sang “Perfect Peace.” Chaka Khan performed “Going up Yonder” to the delight of the crowd.

Vanessa Bell Armstrong, together with the Williams Brothers, sang Ms. Franklin’s “Precious Memories.” R & B singer Ron Isley, with tears in his eyes, talked about his friendship with Ms. Franklin that went back 60 years. He sang “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” A touching tribute came as her second son, Eddie, sang “Mercy, Mercy Me” in honor of his mother.



This white hearse transported the gold casket of Ms. Franklin to her final resting place. Photo: Andrea Muhammad


Gladys Knight performed, backed up by the Aretha Franklin Concert Choir. Shirley Caesar, another gospel icon, encouraged the family, in song and words. “To be absent from this playhouse is to be in the presence of the Lord. All we can say is keep on, Aretha,” said Ms. Caesar. “God will take care of you.”

Rev. Joanne Watson, a former city councilwoman, said her longtime friend loved her city, her father, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the reparations movement, and the human rights movement.

Ms. Franklin paid for her own Christmas parties, birthday parties and made sure she was paid in advance, added Rev. Watson. She helped people in Detroit who needed help quietly, feeding people, burying people and supporting leaders and clergy.

“She was the world’s queen, greatness and authenticity of Detroit,” Ms. Watson declared. “She was in class by herself, she will forever be our angel queen,” she said. “She is Queen Mother raised to the ancestral realm. Thank you God for her life.”

Former Detroit Piston and basketball great Isaiah Thomas, a close family friend, helped pay for a free tribute concert as part of commemorations. He described Ms. Franklin as a positive force in a troubled nation.

“When the world was telling us, ‘ain’t no way,’ she found a way to inspire all of us with hope, with love and dreams through her music,” Mr. Thomas said. “Her voice—her soulful instrument—found a way to soothe and deal with its troubled past.”

Motown Records giant Smokey Robinson reminisced about meeting Ms. Franklin at eight-years-old, through her brother Cecil, and hearing her sing as a child. “The world is celebrating you,” Mr. Robinson told his “oldest friend” before singing “My Buddy,” and expressing his love for her.

A delegation representing President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa was among those packed into the Greater Grace Temple sanctuary.

Stevie Wonder told the audience, “The reason we are here today is because of love, how much we loved this woman.” Love is the only thing that can deliver the nation and the world, he continued. “We need to make love great again. Because Black Lives Do Matter,” he said. “Because all lives do matter.”

He closed the service singing the lyrics, “I’ll be loving you always.” The funeral service rose to a crescendo as singer Angie Stone, actress and singer Jennifer Lewis, and two gospel artists, joined in collaboration, blending stirring music before final prayers. Pall bearers carried the gold coffin out of the church for internment in Woodlawn Cemetery, followed by the Franklin family.

Jennifer Hudson sang “Amazing Grace” and Jennifer Holliday performed an emotionally-charged “Climbing Higher Mountains” during the funeral recessional. At the Queen’s request, Ms. Hudson will play Aretha in an upcoming movie.

Long Live the Queen.