From The Final Call Newspaper

Black voters, Black issues and the 2020 election

By Starla MuhammadManaging Editor @simplystarla23

DETROIT—It happens every presidential election cycle like clockwork. Political candidates vying for the highest office in the land begin scrambling for the attention of one of the most significant constituencies in U.S. politics—Black voters. Black people, particularly Black women are unabashedly viewed by political analysts and observers as the backbone of the Democratic Party. They’ve proven it time and time again.

As the 2020 election looms and Democratic Party candidates jockey for position to become the nominee in the frantic bid to unseat President Donald Trump, the scramble is underway.

Several of the 20-plus candidates have descended on national Black conventions and conferences, rolled out Black agendas and plans, appeared on the popular hip-hop radio show The Breakfast Club and have even forcefully broached topics of White supremacy and systematic racism as they increase efforts to “secure the Black vote.”

In the last presidential election of 2016 Blacks voted overwhelmingly (90 percent) for the Democratic candidate, including comparable shares of Black men (88 percent) and Black women (92 percent), reported the Pew Research Center. The country’s first Black president, Barack Obama served two terms largely due to Black voter support and turnout. While former Vice-President Joe Biden still enjoys a healthy lead among older Black voters, that lead is being challenged, though remotely, by Senator Kamala Harris. Younger Black voters are not sold on Mr. Biden. Others are also trying to gain ground with Black voters.

Just ahead of the second scheduled Democratic debates held July 30 and 31, candidates made rounds at major Black gatherings for the National Urban League, Rainbow Push, National Action Network, NAACP and the South Carolina Democratic Party Convention. In the upcoming months, photo ops at soul food establishments, stumping with members of the Congressional Black Caucus and speeches from pulpits at Black churches will most certainly be on the schedule of several presidential hopefuls.

However, just as in years past, questions on what Black folks can and will get in return for their loyalty remains to be seen.

What should Black voters demand and what are the key issues they are analyzing?

It is clear Black Americans are not a monolith when it comes to what issues they value most. Answers vary, depending on geographic location, age, socio-economic background and other variables. Criminal justice reform, student loan debt, wage and income equity, foreign policy, education, reparations and environmental justice are just a handful of the issues Black voters are concerned with. And, for some, having a president other than the current occupant of the White House is all they want. A June survey commissioned by the Black Economic Alliance gave a glimpse into what some Black voters felt was important when it comes to advancing economic opportunities for them and their families. The survey found a three-way split on the top issues on the minds of Black American voters, with 77 percent of respondents saying affordable health care, college affordability and creating more jobs with benefits were “extremely important issues,” reported Politico.

The Final Call interviewed Black voters, activists and analysts at the 110th NAACP National Convention held July 20-24 in Detroit about critical issues and the outlook for 2020.

“It don’t take no Ph.D. to figure this out,” Dr. Wendell Anthony told a crowd prior to the Presidential Candidates Forum at the convention. He was recounting what he told a reporter that asked him what Black people wanted. “We want healthcare just like everybody else, we want good jobs like everybody else, we want income equality like everybody else. What the hell do you think we want? We want a life, like everybody else!”

Dr. Anthony, pastor at Friendship Chapel in Detroit, serves on the NAACP National Board of Directors and is president of the Detroit Branch NAACP, the largest branch in the country.

“This ain’t difficult, there is not no magic to this. We want what everybody else have. We want to be able to have a good house, a good community, good schools, good education, live safely and when we get stopped by the police we don’t want to have to go home in a box! We want the same damn thing everybody else wants!” he said.

Ten presidential candidates spoke at the July 24 forum in Detroit: Mr. Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Cory Booker, former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Republican Governor Bill Weld. Moderated by journalist April Ryan, each candidate answered questions on a variety of issues.

Sen. Harris, Sen. Warren and Mayor Buttigieg have introduced some semblance of Black-targeted plans and policies they vow to implement if elected president. Sen. Harris recently touted her plan which calls for a $60 billion investment in Historically Black Colleges and Universities. She is an alumnus of Howard University, an HBCU. The California senator proposed a plan to spend $12 billion on entrepreneurship programs aimed at the Black community. Mr. Buttigieg introduced his Douglass Plan, named for abolitionist Frederick Douglass as “A Comprehensive Investment in the Empowerment of Black America.” It encompasses a variety of areas including economic investment, healthcare, education and criminal justice reform. Sen. Warren proposed her plan to address the economic hardships of “women of color,” Blacks, Latinas, Native Americans and Asians.

Media personality, political commentator and entrepreneur Roland Martin explained that key voting issues vary and ultimately it is a personal decision.

“If you’re an African American that lives in a rural part of the country, if you live in a city, if you’re a homeowner versus a renter; you’re a student versus somebody who’s never gone to college, so it varies. So, what I would suggest is for the individual to sit down and say, ‘what are the three most important things to me?’ ” he told The Final Call.

“Look at whether it impacts your family, whether it affects your community, your city, your state, and then go from there. They may be local issues. Then the question is how that person does who is in office, how will they impact that particular issue because a lot of people don’t know how to connect the dots. So, we’re not a monolith and so we have different interests and concerns.”

For 18-year-old college sophomore Darion Dawson, he has one concern: student loan debt. Any candidate proposing free college or drastically reducing college debt has his attention. “I’ve been struggling with going to college. It’s very expensive but it’s just crazy that you have to be incarcerated in order to get free education. Why can’t you get free education while being out of jail, which is good,” said the mechanical engineering major. He is from San Francisco but is attending Xavier University in Louisiana.

Mr. Dawson wants the next president to not be as divisive as Mr. Trump. “I look for a candidate more worried about getting the people together and making the country a better place for all people, especially us Black people,” he added.

Michael Childress agrees. He is president of the DuPage County NAACP just outside Chicago. “I think the number one issue that affects Black people and we don’t seem to realize it, but it’s really presidential oversight because this guy has pretty much said he can do whatever he wants. If a person gets to the point where he can do whatever he wants, that means he has no boundaries. And usually when you run across people with no boundaries when they turn their wrath on someone, it’s usually us as Black people, people of color, the powerless, those are the people that they’re really going to take advantage of and the tool that they’re using is racism,” said Mr. Childress.

“It goes, to me, deeper than the health care, which is a problem, kids in the border, that’s a problem. But when you have a guy that thinks he’s pretty much God, I don’t see much difference between him and Hitler. I mean what’s to stop him in a second term from building the ovens, the concentration camps? He’s already started them now. Who’s going to stop him if we don’t get him out of there in this next term? He’s already defied every subpoena, every rule of law. Again, there’s no boundaries to what he feels he can get away with.”

Environmental activist Mustapha Ali said as he travels the country problems of racial disparities in the environment are still prevalent.

“We have 200,000 people dying prematurely from air pollution. We have water quality issues and infrastructure issues inside of our communities that are poisoning us and putting our lives in danger and putting our children’s lives in danger. We should also be, when they’re having these conversations about jobs, we should be very clear that when people talk about a new clean, green economy, that we want to make sure that we have ownership in that space. That less than two percent of the businesses that have been created, you know, and wind and solar and all these other things that are important that people talk about, are owned by people of color,” said Mr. Ali.

“When we get to African Americans, that number shrinks even more. So, we’ve got to be focused on making sure that there will be accountability if we are not given the opportunity to create our own businesses in this space,” he added.

When asked what Black voters must do to hold those they support and elect accountable for the promises they make, Mr. Ali said it must be a collective effort. “Beyond a conversation, I think that we should be actually pulling together all of our various organizations that we have trust in. And we need to be putting together the plan of the individuals that we want hired in the next administration. Who are the African Americans that should be running the Environmental Protection Agency, should be running HUD, should be running the Department of Labor, that should be running CDC?” he continued.

“We should be also be looking at the White House and the positions that exist inside of there. What we should also be focused on for these campaigns and other types of positions that sometimes are forgotten we need to make sure that our folks are the ambassadors, as well, especially to our own countries and others. So, there are a number of different positions that we should be putting forward a list of names and then holding people accountable if a significant number of those individuals are not being hired,” said Mr. Ali.

In Philadelphia, Black voters are concerned about rebuilding distressed communities said Rodney Muhammad, president of the Philadelphia NAACP. “We’re witnessing urban decay. The biggest cry in the city right now is gentrification. Too often by the time we cite gentrification, the arrow has already left the bow and many deals have already been made and it’s going to be a real uphill climb for us,” he said. There is also the concern of growing gun violence and a growing distrust Blacks have toward government and elected officials, he explained. Mr. Muhammad is also the student minister of the Nation of Islam’s Muhammad Mosque No. 12 in Philadelphia.

Terrance Williams of Gary, Indiana, works in security. His main concern where he lives is affordable housing. “In Gary, we’re hurting,” he said. There are so many abandoned houses as the result of the once vibrant steel industry in the city collapsing, so it has been tough, he said. He has not decided on any particular candidate to throw his support behind yet.

“They (candidates) speak to the separation of the children from their parents (at the border) here in the United States as though it is something new to this country and it’s not,” said Yolette Green, a union activist from New York. “Our people have been separated from their land and from their families and we were brought here against our will and it is as though that is not prevalent today as though it has been forgotten. Other people’s plights have been presented as more important than ours when in this country we are still enslaved, mentally and physically,” she said. Reparations for Black people is an important issue for her and free education for Blacks would be a start, she said.

Janis Dunn is from the Dallas-Fort Worth area and is president of Tri-Cities NAACP, which covers Cedar Hill, Desoto and Duncanville, Texas. Criminal justice reform and reparations are key areas for people in her area. She said for candidates that talk about criminal justice reform, “we want to make sure it comes to fruition.”

Blacks must continue to mobilize even after elections to pressure candidates to keep their word, she explained. “We register a lot of people to vote but what we don’t do is get them back to the polls. We can register thousands and thousands but if we don’t get them back and excited about it then we’ll never change anything. It’s about mobilization.”

Tammy Greer Brown lives blocks from where Eric Garner was choked to death by a New York cop. The Justice Department recently announced it would not charge the officer in his death.

She serves as advisor for the NAACP Youth Council for Staten Island New York. She is also on the steering committee for Moms of Black Boys United, a group that fights against police brutality and misconduct and fights for law enforcement policy changes on local, state and national levels. Criminal justice reform and education are the issues most critical to her.

“I have a Black son who has been arrested, who has been targeted,” she said. “My concern more than anything is that Black men and my son have been targeted. I’m tired of seeing our Black men die. I’m tired of seeing our Black males die; not just Black men but our Black boys die and I’m tired of seeing my daughter, who’s afraid of the police, come after school and be targeted to identify suspects.”

Ben Chavis, president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, said Black organizations must work more in unity in their work for the whole. “The solutions to our problems are in our own hands. They’re not in the hands of the White House. They’re not in the hands of corporate America; they’re in our own hands,” said Dr. Chavis, whose group is composed of Black newspaper owners across the country.

“Our greatest challenge is to turn to one another, not against each other. The absence of unity is going to affect voter turnout for 2020, it’s going to affect public policy. We now have more brothers and sisters in the Congress in the United States than ever before. But the inaction of legislation like the Reparations bill (HR 40) is coming to support the study. We already know the answer is that we should have massive reparations to repair the damage that has been done. While the larger society needs to study the problem, we already know the problem because we’ve lived it,” added Dr. Chavis, who previously served as executive director of the NAACP.

“I like the theme of this convention, ‘When We Fight, We Win.’ But we have to be clear on what we’re fighting for, not just what we’re fighting against. Everybody’s against Trump but what are we for? It has to be freedom, justice and equality, economic empowerment, economic development and overall unity not only in America for Black people but throughout the African Diaspora. Unity for African people all over the world ought to be our top priority.”

From The Final Call Newspaper

A President Who Wants To Be King
By James G. Muhammad, Contributing Editor

Farrakhan warns Trump, America of God’s Judgement and offers a way out 

Mosque Maryam, the headquarters of the Nation of Islam, was standing room only as Min. Farrakhan delivered an important address July 21 in Chicago. The mosque sanctuary was standing room only so an overflow crowd had to be accommodated in a downstairs prayer room and in the Muhammad University of Islam located next door. The crowd enthusiastically embraced the Minister's message.

CHICAGO—America is in great confusion today, and her institutions are being challenged by a president who really wants to operate as a king, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan told a capacity crowd at Mosque Maryam that spilled into the adjacent Muhammad University of Islam July 21.

The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan spoke at Mosque Maryam, in Chicago, July 21.

Speaking for the first time this year at the historic headquarters of the Nation of Islam, Min. Farrakhan explained the country is ready to go to war with Iran and wants to use Black bodies “to achieve their wicked aims.”

“President Trump is literally destroying the republic that the Founding Fathers wanted to guide and gird it against what they suffered in Europe from kings, so clashing is going on,” he explained. “[Trump] has a feeling that he’s greater than a president. He feels he’s not bound (by the Constitution) so he’s interfering with those institutions. He just feels he could do better if he was the lawmaker.”

Mr. Trump has walked away from an agreement former President Barack Obama made with Iran, an agreement upheld by powerful permanent members on the UN Security Council. Mr. Trump also didn’t like that the agreement called for the return of some of Iran’s billions of dollars in U.S. banks, the Minister said. 

President Donald Trump Photo: U.S. Army photo

Going to war would put America into much more debt than it’s currently in and Congress would have to go to the Federal Reserve Bank to print more money, he said.

“America is provoking Iran, but the world is not afraid of America,” the Minister said, “but our president wants the world to fear him.”

Mr. Trump has warned that if Iran enriches its uranium to a level that could produce a nuclear bomb, then Israel will attack and the U.S. will support Israel, Min. Farrakhan continued.

“When you are guilty of evil and you see that (Iran) has the technology to get a bomb, your fear of them having it makes you do things. Mr. President, it would not be a wise move for you,” the Minister warned.

Standing on the rostrum of his teacher, the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, the Minister wore a jeweled green fez and held a folder containing notes for his speech but put them aside to address a concern after hearing the gracious accolades about him from speakers prior to his keynote address.

They put me on such a high pedestal that I was a little uncomfortable, the Minister said. “You gave me something that I have to clean up, so you won’t fall into idolatry. I am learning as you also are learning,” he warned.

Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and Jesus understood their mortality and warned against idol worship, he said.

“When you’re an idolater you want to negate aspects of time … you don’t want your idol to go,” he said. “But if you’re a wise person you accept the Will of God who is Master of the law of life and time.

“Jesus is a great man but he’s not to be worshipped, and that’s the mistake the people make. I am a becoming person. God is not becoming, He is!” the Minister said. “God isn’t satisfied with us as we are so He sends a prophet or messenger with a scripture … so we can function on a higher level of civilization. Jesus wanted us to walk after him.”

God has given me a message for our president, for White, Black, Brown and Red, letting us know that in the time we have entered, none of us can escape the Judgement of God, the Minister continued.

Referring to Master Fard Muhammad, teacher of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, the Minister explained that this man born to fulfill the Will of the Originator is called Mahdi. In Arabic the word means “a guide,” but it is insufficient to describe Master Fard Muhammad, the “self-guided one” who comes to guide all back to the straight path of God, he explained.

The presence of God is to set down tyrants and to bring truth that destroys falsehood, Min. Farrakhan continued. Truth sometimes is not easy to understand. Since Satan has corrupted religion, when falsehood is destroyed the people awaken and rise up, he said.

“Falsehood is losing all over the world. The masses of people are awakening … so Satan is angry,” said Min. Farrakhan.

President Trump, an ardent denier of climate change, may have a point, the Minister said, because “Al Mahdi,” the self-guided one, “is not just a guide for human beings, he’s a guide for the forces of nature itself. Some of these chastisements are being guided.”

America is surrounded by the Judgements of God and climate control is important in the context of war, but there is no space on earth that has received as many calamities from the weather as the United States of America, he said. 

Heavy rainfall flooded the intersection of 15th Street and Constitution Ave. in Washington, D.C. on July 8.

Earthquake damage to SR 178 between Trona & Ridgecrest in California.

Glaziers, some as large as a small state, are melting and raising the ocean levels, the Minister warned. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said, and the Holy Qur’an bears witness, that Allah (God) would curtail America on its sides … the coasts are going to be flooded, he warned.

Heavy rains fell in Washington recently and flooded the sub-basement of the White House, letting President Trump know that He (God) can touch you wherever you are, said Min. Farrakhan.

The 6.4 and 7.1 earthquakes that hit an area of California where the Navy owns 100 million acres of land left a fissure that can be seen from space. The wheels (known as UFOs) have been seen by Navy pilots out there. Those UFOs are real, he said. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught these “wheels” are small crafts from a huge Mother Wheel, a craft that is a humanely-built planet that is a half mile by a half mile, that has the power to destroy America. They are spoken of in the Bible in the chapter Ezekiel.

When truth is present, those who upheld falsehood become angry with the bearer of truth, the Minister explained. The enemies of Jesus were the scribes, Sadducees and Pharisees, the Jewish leadership of that time, he said.

Today’s Jewish leadership is angry at the Minister because he has exposed the wicked teachings of the Talmud and warned America in 1984 that its so-called democracy was being taken over by special interests and the power of Jewish money.

Min. Farrakhan explained that Babylonian Talmudist Jews have moved throughout the earth wherever wealth is generated and exploited the people. He cited the examples of sugar cane and tobacco, which meant wealth in the Caribbean. When cotton became king, Talmudist Jews moved to the Delta region of the United States. When oil became king, they moved to the Middle East, he said.

“The Torah is the book of scriptures containing laws to Israel. Moses taught the enemy the Torah which is righteous law. … The righteous Jews study and follow the Torah. The wicked Jews follow the Talmud,” he declared.

But there is a way to delay the judgement, the Minister advised Mr. Trump. Applauding the stance of the four Democratic freshmen congresswomen—Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), Alexandria Occasio-Cortez (New York) and Ayana Pressley (Mass.)—Min. Farrakhan repeated that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad called on the U.S. government to give Black descendants of slaves eight to 10 states and supply their needs for 20-25 years.

He further explained that Blacks could rule states in the South simply by taking advantage of their population and using their vote wisely with a vision in mind.

“You have to see that (Elijah Muhammad’s offer) is in the best interest of America’s future,” the Minister warned. “God is punishing America for what you have done to the Black, Brown and Red people—particularly the Black whom God is after, but you won’t let them go.

“If you sat down sincerely with the desire to do something for Black people, I can guarantee you that the harshness of the weather will change. But the weather will increase in severity to help the president humble himself before God,” he concluded.

A bearing of witness

Excited student ministers lauded Min. Farrakhan’s good works and his impact on their lives in testimonies prior to the speech.

(L-R) Student Minister Daniel 10X, Student Min. Abdul Hakeem Muhammad , Student Youth Minister Tahirah Muhammad, Student Min. Abel Muhammad, Student Min. Ishmael Muhammad, National Assistant to Min. Farrakhan

Daniel 10X, a student minister in Chicago who opened his own business as a result of hearing the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad through Min. Farrakhan, shared advice from his mother.

“Don’t take things for granted. Always give your best effort to show appreciation,” she told him. “The most dangerous thing we can do is take the man of God for granted,” he added, referring to the Minister.

In a world where truth is mocked, Min. Farrakhan has never backed down, Student Youth Minister Tahirah Muhammad told the audience. She referenced the words of Min. Farrakhan that the Bible is 25 percent history and 75 percent prophecy, but the enemy presents it as more history than prophecy.

“The enemy took prophecy and made it history so that you would be walking with Jesus and wouldn’t know it,” she said.

European Regional Minister Abdul Hakeem Muhammad reviewed the British history of how in the 15th century Queen Elizabeth I and Capt. John Hawkins had a conversation about bringing Africans into slavery. Doing so would bring “the wrath of God” on her people was the queen’s initial response before agreeing to the scheme, Min. Hakeem Muhammad, who is based in London said.

Centuries later it was Queen Elizabeth II who agreed with her Parliament to ban Min. Farrakhan from England, he said.

“The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said that Black is universal. What you will hear today is a universal message from a universal man of God. I’m honored to be before you as a Mexican Black Muslim,” said Student Minister Abel Muhammad, the national Latino representative of the Nation, to loud applause.

“We want you to have an open heart. You will hear today knowledge and wisdom that come from on high. You will hear the voice of God,” Student Minister Ishmael Muhammad said in his introduction of Min. Farrakhan.

Tyler Pridgen, 20, a student at Fisk University, sat in his seat nearly an hour before the speech in a mosque already more than half full. It was his first time at Mosque Maryam. He became acquainted with Min. Farrakhan after seeing him on “The Breakfast Club” show.

“The Minister caused a total shift in my thinking. Instead of listening to music driving to high school I would often listen to the Minister,” he said. “I want to go into international trade.

“Not too many organizations are in the streets trying to unify and make our community better like the brothers in the Nation. I was impressed coming into the mosque watching how the FOI operate in code with each other,” he added.

From The Final Call Newspaper

Remembering Elijah Al-Amin: A collision between an innocent victim, White fear and White supremacy

By Barrington M. Salmon Contributing Writer @bsalmondc

This undated photo provided by Serina Rides shows her son Elijah Al-Amin. Photo: AP Serina Rides

The sheer audacity and the ruthlessness of Elijah Al-Amin’s death is reverberating far beyond the Circle K convenience store where a man—two days out of prison—walked up behind him while he was getting a fountain drink, stabbed him twice in the back and then cut his throat.

Elijah, 17, died shortly after in a Phoenix area hospital in the early morning hours of Independence Day.

Elijah Al-Amin, 17, was stabbed to death at a convenience store in Peoria, Arizona.

Black parents across the country are holding their children closer, pulling them aside to warn them of the ever-present dangers for children of African descent in America and praying for them every time the young people leave the house.

And in Phoenix, Elijah’s parents, family and others stunned by his murder, are hoping justice will prevail.

Michael Adams has been charged with first-degree premeditated murder. Photo MGN Online

Law enforcement officials identified the killer as Michael Paul Adams, 27. Elijah had stopped at the convenience store after work and walked into the store followed by Mr. Adams. Witnesses say there was no conversation or any type of confrontation prior to Mr. Adams’ attack. The police found Mr. Adams walking nearby the convenience store.

And according to probable cause documents filed by Peoria, Ariz., Mr. Adams confessed, telling them he felt unsafe because of the rap music Elijah was playing. According to court documents, Mr. Adams yelled at detectives and said “rap music made him feel unsafe because in the past, he was attacked by people who listened to that music genre.” Mr. Adams is also said to have told detectives he “needed to be proactive than reactive and protect himself and the community from the victim.”

Mr. Adams was booked into the Maricopa County jail on suspicion of first-degree premeditated murder and held on a $1 million bond. His arraignment was scheduled for July 18.

In his first court appearance, Mr. Adams’ lawyer Jacie Cotterell told the court he’s mentally ill. She repeated her assertion in a TV interview where she accused the Arizona Department of Corrections of releasing Mr. Adams without sufficient supervision or resources.

“They released him to the streets with no holdover meds, no way to care for himself,” Ms. Cotterell said. “This is a disabled person and he’s been released into the world and left to fend for himself. And two days later, this is where we are.”

Ms. Cotterell said Adams needs to be treated for his illness, not sent to prison. She also said she wants to see policy changes and more resources and psychiatric help made available for incarcerated individuals while they’re behind bars.

“I believe that this crime was preventable,” she said. “Policy is all well and good, but when policy fails, I think a reasonable person and reasonable people would agree policy needs to change.”

Corrections department spokespeople said Mr. Adams had not been classified as seriously mentally ill and was not on prescription medication at the time of his release. He was given contact information for social service providers, they said. “He was no longer under the department’s legal jurisdiction and the department had no further legal authority over him,” a spokesman said in a statement.

Ms. Cotterell’s focus on Mr. Adams’ mental illness has angered activists, the public and parents Rahim Al-Amin and Serina Rides.

“It still feels like a really bad dream,” Ms. Rides told a reporter on Good Evening Arizona. “I just can’t foresee how I’m supposed to do this every day, live without my son because somebody says they have a mental issue, because of my son’s passion for music … this definitely is a hate crime. He specified exactly Hispanics, Native Americans and African Americans. He specified that, he specified rap. That’s not a hate crime?”

If Mr. Adams was such a threat, so unstable, she said, why was he released back into the community?

“The world really messed up because that man took my son’s life. I don’t want any parent to suffer like this like his father and I,” the distraught mother said during the interview. “The Department of Correction needs to figure out how to assess these people. Somebody has to be responsible for that. The hardest part is … is learning to live without my baby …”

Elijah’s death trended on social media under the hashtag #JusticeforElijah and Twitter users, Elijah’s friends, family, activists and others were demanding that Mr. Adams be charged with a hate crime.

Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the national Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said on Twitter, “This murder is a hate crime that must be investigated by the DOJ.” Another Twitter user, K’La@kalahspeaks said: “And yet again another name to add to this already full flag of unarmed black men, women and children, but it’s a ‘mental health’ issue. No, it’s a ‘too much melanin.’ #JusticeForElijah.”

This tragedy is eerily similar to the murder of Jordan Davis, 17, who was shot and killed at a gas station in 2012 by 47-year-old Michael Dunn, who fired into the car with four Black teens because he objected to their loud music argued with Jordan about it. Mr. Dunn is serving life in prison.

Hilario Muhammad, protocol director of the Nation of Islam mosque in Phoenix, said he had learned that Elijah worked at Subway, had worked late, gotten off of work, got a ride and stopped at the Circle K.

“He was catching a ride with a friend who worked at Subway with him,” Mr. Muhammad said. “He was a young man of good character, with no priors. Everybody is devastated because of the reason why he died. What’s making people angry is that lawyer is using the mental illness defense. He confessed to the murder and there was a video camera in store.”

Phoenix resident Susan Marie Smith could barely contain her anger.

“It is a system of discrimination that the Department of Justice has allowed to keep happening. A Black man with no weapons is killed and the system will allow him to plead insanity,” the entrepreneur and former veteran said. “It’s the justification of bullshit. He said ‘I’m gonna kill this nigga.’ ”

Mrs. Smith said she’s pretty sure he “knows the system and that if you say that Black people are threatening or look intimidating,” he’ll get off. The cops always get off with that verbiage and they know how to frame the narrative, she said.

“We’re hearing a contradiction with the state of his mental health. They say when he got discharged, he was supposed to be on medication. But prison officials also said he didn’t need any. They’re trying to make the department responsible for his mental health. The killer had enough sense to know right from wrong or he wouldn’t have followed him. He had to think how to confront the young man and he attacked him from the back, that’s strategic. It’s clear he was angry at Black people. Maybe he got his ass kicked by some Blacks in prison and saw this as a way to get revenge.”

“The family should sue the state if he was released while mentally ill.”

Eric Muhammad, his wife—owners of the Urban Arizona News Journal newspaper—and other interviewees described Arizona as a racial tinderbox with the couple saying they’ve seen groups like the Patriots, Neo-Nazis and other Whites becoming more assertive, particularly in public meetings, since Donald Trump became president.

“It’s very interesting. A lot of people feel that we’re actually targeted by police,” Eric Muhammad explained. “This is a very conservative city, run by non-Blacks. There was a larger Black community when I came in 1991. Now a lot of people are coming here. It looks like there’s a resurgence of consciousness.”

Yet at the same time, Mr. Muhammad’s wife Constance added, there is the increased presence of Whites who resent the presence of Black people and take issue with any attempt by them to assert themselves or their rights.

We live in a time, interviewees said, when seeking to constrain Black movement, thoughts and speech feels right and natural to more than a few White people.

Georgetown Professor Robin Marcus captured the sentiment in an earlier interview.

“In the last few years, there’s been a rising tide all over the world of White people alarmed by the rising tide of Blackness,” she told The Final Call. “It is the strain of American Whiteness that has had enough and found a leader who’s so overtly for them. He’s gotten in the house and opened all the doors.”

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery reminded the public in a press conference that “Elijah did nothing wrong” and didn’t do anything to provoke the attack. While some have focused on Mr. Adams’ mental health history as a possible motive, Mr. Montgomery encouraged people to shift the narrative back to Elijah, who was the victim.

“Elijah did nothing wrong,” stressed Mr. Montgomery, the father of a teenaged son, who at one point choked up. “He was at a convenience store. He was just in there shopping, buying whatever a 17-year-old boy is going to buy.”

Elijah’s parents said the same as they described their son in glowing terms.

“He was a good kid, very good kid, always wanted to help people in general,” Rahim Al-Amin said in a television interview shortly after his son’s death. “He was just my son, I mean, he was just a good kid going to school. ... He was just a good kid. It’s unfortunate this happened to him. He liked to play sports, he always wanted to help others. He was just a clown, was happy-go-lucky, that’s was who he was. I could say a lot of things about my son but …”

Elijah’s mother said her son was a smart, caring young man who loved to laugh, rap music, loved videogames and loved his family, always looked after his brothers and sister. Elijah was slated to be a senior this year at Apollo High School, would have turned 18 at the end of July, was in the ROTC and wanted to become a Marine and start his own business.

Milwaukee-based mental health expert and licensed psychologist Dr. Ramel Kweku Akyirefi Smith said he thinks what happened represents a failure on multiple levels.

“Corrections knew he had significant health issues. The lawyer said so,” said Dr. Smith, who is also an author, and mental performance coach. “He had had no follow up with anybody. He apparently had mental health issues and was in jail for being violent. He had a propensity to be violent.”

“This is also a failure of the criminal justice system and society at large for allowing racism to persist. It’s the media and Donald Trump who’s made rap music appear to be the trigger. He felt he was doing a ‘service.’ In this environment, our color and skin is weaponized. Even this young man’s light skin was no protection. This is even worse than Trayvon (Martin). He was minding his own business. I don’t care if the music was on his hip, on his head or in the car. This should not have happened.”

What the country is seeing play out now is a legacy of White supremacy, Dr. Smith said. “They’re seeing a person of color and see everything that’s negative and evil,” he said. “I don’t give Trump that much credit. He allowed people to show their true colors. It’s no longer political correctness. This is America in 2019. But this has always been America. Now all this is in full bloom. Are we doing enough to defend ourselves? No! No, we aren’t doing enough. It’s like a bully. He’s going to mess with you until you fight back and kick his butt.”

“Because we don’t do anything it’s allowed to go on. Until there’s retaliation, they’ll keep doing it. My people built this land and I’m not going anywhere. We must demand reparations, land and money. We have to come together to be effective. Until there’s unity, we’ll be vulnerable.”

From The Final Call Newspaper

‘Black snow’ from sugarcane harmful to Black, poor communities in Florida?

By J.S. Adams Contributing Writer @niiahadams

Thick black smoke plumes from sugarcane fields near Belle Glade, Fla., a predominantly Black community west of West Palm Beach and just south of Lake Okeechobee. Residents watch as red-orange flames engulf the sugarcane fields as the industry prepares for harvesting season.

These annual burnings, which take place from October to March, May or June, make it easier for farmers to harvest the sugarcane.

‘Black snow’ or ashes fall on top of vehicle in Glades community. Photos via Stop Sugar Field Burning Now/Facebook

However, the side effects leave the residents of Belle Glade, South Bay and Pahokee with respiratory problems and a poor quality of life.

While these burnings have been going on for several years with groups rising up to combat them, a recent lawsuit against the Florida sugar industry has brought it to national light, bringing attention to an issue that has forced residents to take a stand.

The lawsuit, filed by the Berman Law Group in June, seeks to permanently end the pre-harvesting burning, obtain economic and property damages, and health monitoring, particularly for children, the poor and elderly.

Horses graze in a field near the U.S. Sugar Corporation's mill and refinery in Clewiston, Fla. Nov. 8, 2001. Photo: AP Photo/Amy E. Conn

“The firm has been working on this issue for a long time prior to me joining,” said Joseph Abruzzo, director of government relations for the Berman Law Group. “What put them on track was several clients alerting them to what was occurring with them and that spawned the investigation into hiring the experts (and) finding what was in the air of the Glades community.”

Joining the fight in this lawsuit is Frank Biden, the younger brother of Presidential candidate Joe Biden, and former NFL player Fred Taylor, who grew up in the Glades community. In a video produced by the Berman Law Group, both agree the burnings need to stop.

The sugar industry burns about nine million tons of sugarcane foliage on 400,000 acres each year. EarthJustice, a legal group for environmental organizations, says the burning puts out more than 2,800 tons of hazardous pollutants into the air annually. According to the Sierra Club, an environmental non-profit organization, the sugarcane is burned in order to rid the plant of its outer layer so that the sugar stalk will remain.

Patrick Ferguson, the organizing representative for the Sierra Club’s Stop Sugar Field Burning Campaign, said health issues due to the burnings are a major concern.

“Exposure to pre-harvest sugar field burning pollution has been linked via medical research to many negative health impacts including respiratory diseases, cancer, cardiac disease, and poor infant health outcomes,” he said. “Many of the campaign volunteers either themselves suffer from respiratory issues or have family members who do. Some of our volunteers have young children who have to use breathing devices during the 6-8 months long harvesting season when sugarcane is burned.”

The lawsuit alleges that due to the burning, harmful pollutants are released into the air. It creates “black snow” during burn season, or ashes that fall down onto the Glades communities. Because of this, children in the Glades communities use breathing machines at night and walk to school with trash bags over their head to protect them from the black snow.

“There’s a lake, they have issues,” Mr. Abruzzo said. “I wasn’t too long ago out at one of the churches and multiple ladies had on white dresses. They know when the ash falls on your dresses ... . You can’t swipe it away because it will create a black line. You blow it. The black snow is right in front of their faces, on their car, over their homes and worst of all, it’s in the lungs of the children and elderly.”

The Poor People’s Campaign held an event in Belle Glade where residents, pastors and activists had the chance to share their experiences about the burnings.

Steve Messam

Steve Messam, a pastor born and raised in Belle Glade, shared how his father came to the United States from Jamaica as a contracted migrant worker hired to cut the sugarcane. The pastor got involved with the Sierra Club’s campaign because he noticed many of the people he knew were suffering from breathing difficulties.

“They were suffering from a lot of respiratory issues, whether it was asthma or allergies,” he said during Poor People’s Campaign gathering. “A lot of people were also dying from cancer at a crazy rate.”

Mr. Ferguson says the black snow and air quality affects not only health issues, but the community’s quality of life.

“You’re talking about the harvesting season lasting from October to May, some of the best months to be outside and enjoy the Florida weather and during days when large amounts of toxic burning takes place, people in the region are often forced to stay indoors,” he said.

Alina Alonso, director of the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County, said the health department uses a website called to monitor air quality within the region. She said air quality counts remnants that come from ash and into the air. The website measures air quality ranging from good to hazardous.

“Only those who are sensitive to the smoke or burnings will be affected by moderate,” Ms. Alonso said. “But if it gets above 100, then that’s unhealthy for everyone.”

Mr. Ferguson said many doctors in the area suggest options for residents that aren’t always reasonable.

Pre-harvest sugar burning in the Glades. Photos via Stop Sugar Field Burning Now/Facebook

“One common thread that we continue to hear is that doctors tell residents from the communities heavily impacted by pre-harvest sugar field burning that the best long term solution for their health issues is to move to an area with better air quality, which many residents don’t have the resources or the will to do so, nor should they have to do so,” he said.

Back in 2015, the Sierra Club filed a legal action asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate the burnings.

“The way sugarcane burning is regulated makes it an environmental justice issue as well. Regulations in place are based off wind speed and direction that prevent burn permits from being issued when the winds would carry the smoke and ash toward the more affluent in eastern Palm Beach County,” Mr. Ferguson said. “However minimal protections are in place from the toxic smoke and ash when they blow toward the lower income rural communities within the Everglades Agricultural Area. This leads the predominantly African-American and Hispanic population of the Glades communities of western Palm Beach County that are surrounded by over 75 percent of the total sugarcane acreage in Florida to disproportionately bear the negative impacts of pre-harvest sugar field burning.”

The alternative that’s offered to the sugarcane industry is green harvesting.

“The Florida sugarcane industry already green harvests in small amounts each year. Other countries around the world have been phasing out of burning altogether because of the negative health and environmental impacts of pre-harvest burning but also because of the many benefits associated with green harvesting as well,” Mr. Ferguson said.

Because of the pre-harvest burning, the Glades communities have suffered economically as well. Mr. Abruzzo said whereas Palm Beach county and the state of Florida have seen an increase in real estate values, property values for the Glades community remain stagnant.

Pre-harvest sugar burning in the Glades. Photos via Stop Sugar Field Burning Now/Facebook

“Everybody knows if you move out there, you’ll have to deal with four months of black snow over your home,” Mr. Abruzzo said.

Mr. Ferguson believes that a shift towards green harvesting can help improve the economic condition of the community.

“[It] can create more economic opportunities which are important especially for the lower income Glades communities,” he said. “What the sugar industry considers as trash can be used to generate more electricity, create mulch, biochar, biofuels, and can even be used to create tree-free paper products.”

Florida sugar companies have caught wind of the Berman Group’s lawsuit and say that they believe in their practices.

“The health, safety and jobs of our communities all are vitally important to U.S. Sugar,” spokeswoman Judy Sanchez told Treasure Coast Newspapers in a statement. “We are American farmers and stand behind the safety and integrity of our farming practices, which are highly regulated and legally permitted on a daily basis by the government. Our farming practices are safe, environmentally sound, highly regulated and closely monitored.”

Ms. Sanchez also said company officials “live in these Glades communities and raise our families here—our children and grandchildren—in the neighborhoods, schools and churches throughout these small, close-knit farming towns.”

Mr. Abruzzo said he’s looking forward to the company providing the names of those officials who live in the area.

“One of the most disappointing things since the lawsuit was filed is the propaganda that the sugar companies are helping lead that we are well aware of and without question will be discussing in depositions, primarily, that the lawsuits are trying to put sugar out of business. That could be anything but the truth,” he said. “The sugar companies profit in the billions of dollars per year. I’m sure they wouldn’t even notice on their balance sheets doing it a proper way and not harming an entire community. This would create more jobs if they do it by hand. At the end of the day, they just can’t burn.”

Mr. Ferguson and volunteers that work with him have spent the past four years pressing this issue. He said it’s something that must be known all around the country.

“There’s no reason the sugarcane industry should continue to put short term profits ahead of the long-term health and welfare of the surrounding residents, especially when there are so many benefits that can be gained from transitioning to green harvesting,” he said. “It’s time for the industry to become better neighbors to the surrounding communities by stopping the burn and switching to green harvesting.”

“I believe it’s a very good thing that attention is being paid to this very important issue. The Glades has been suffering for a very long time.” Mr. Abruzzo said. “Ultimately, I do believe that the law will be with the people. Once this is corrected, I believe the Glades will stop being one of the poorest places in the country. It will be vibrant and flourishing.”

Mr. Abruzzo said the first step after the legal filing is to immediately get the sugar industry to stop burning while the case is going on. This case is federal, but they also plan to file state and individual claims.

From The Final Call Newspaper

Feeling frustrated and betrayed in Flint

By Bryan 18X Crawford |

About 100 people filed into UAW Local 659 hall in Flint, Mich., to get a formal update and explanation as to why the new team of prosecutors dropped all criminal charges against city and state officials who had a hand in creating the worst ecological disasters to affect Black people in this country in recent memory.

Flint resident Ariana Hawk consoles her daughter Aliana, 4, nearing the end of a two-hour community meeting with Flint water prosecutors at UAW Local 659, June 28, in Flint, Mich. Hawk is the mother of Sincere Smith, who graced the cover of Time magazine at the height of the Flint water crisis in 2016. Michigan Solicitor Gen- eral Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy spoke to about 100 residents at a union hall in the city. Photos: Jake May/ Flint Journal via AP

The officials showed up on a Friday, June 28, to talk to Flint residents who have been without clean and safe drinking water for more than five years, and it's been three years since those responsible were hit with criminal charges for the decision. But in mid-June, the Michigan Attorney General's Office, led by the newly-elected Dana Nessell, dismissed all criminal charges against those who played a role in the water crisis. A total of 15 state and local officials had been charged with crimes as serious as involuntary manslaughter, with eight still awaiting trial before the legal maneuver was made. Seven others have already taken plea deals.

Michigan Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy stood in front of the audience and tried to justify their controversial decision.

"We know that you have concerns. We know that you have questions. And quite frankly we know that you're angry, "Mrs. Hammoud told the crowd. "We know that there are many deaths out there, yet to be investigated. And it is our obligation- when we accepted this position, when we take an oath to represent the people of the state of Michigan-to investigate those deaths. Those families deserve it."

Ms. Hammoud said that within a month’s time, their own investigation team uncovered approximately 20 million documents the previous prosecutorial team seemed to have been unable to find in the three years they worked on the case. She blamed Andy Arena, the former director of the FBI’s Detroit office, for failing to properly handle all searches related to critical documents. “We have received information that is absolutely relevant to our investigation that we have never had before ... . There were some phone dumps we never had. And the first thing we said, ‘If we don’t have this, what else don’t we have?’ ” asked Ms. Hammoud.

Representatives of the Michigan Attorney General’s office showed the audience a number of heavily redacted, critical documents related to the case that were uncovered during their review of the previous file. Kym Worthy, who was brought in by Attorney General Nessel to help with jumpstarting the new investigation, told the audience about the newly-discovered documents. “I’ve never seen anything like it. That causes questions. Was this a real investigation?” she asked.

As much as $31 million of taxpayer money has already been spent on the previous investigation and legal proceedings. News of the dropped charges was not only a blow to the people of Flint, but added to a strong feeling of distrust of both city and state political leaders, and a feeling of despair that after their 62-month-long, ongoing struggle, justice may never be served.

Katia Kenney, 18, of Flint, Mich., volunteers as she loads cases of water into vehicles as non-profit Pack Your Back distrib- utes more than 37,000 bottles of water on April 22, 2019, at Dort Federal Event Center in Flint.

“They didn’t come to the community. We had reporters call to tell us that the charges were dropped and they wanted to know what our response was. Then we read about it in the paper,” Claire McClinton, a Flint resident and one of the driving forces in getting the story out to the world, told The Final Call.

During the meeting, when the floor was opened for residents to ask questions and speak their minds, the frustration and pain in the voices of those who took the microphone was palpable.

“Do you not realize how it felt when you released to the press dropping the charges without coming here first? Without any kind of communication?” Laura McIntyre asked angrily while addressing Ms. Hammoud. “You could have at least have said, we’re going to be doing something, but we can’t talk about it [right now]. Just any kind of acknowledgment that we existed before going to the press. And then waiting 15 days to have this meeting, it really hurt. It really did a lot to destroy a lot of trust.”

Arthur Woodson, a community activist and the first Flint resident to speak that evening, was unhappy with the terms of already accepted plea deals. “They got less time for poisoning over 98,000 people than somebody stealing a slice of pizza. People are dying. It’s hard to trust,” he said.

Marijoyce Campbell, a 65-year-old lifelong Flint resident, sheds tears as she gets choked up after speaking her mind during a community meeting with Flint water prosecutors at UAW Local 659, June 28, in Flint, Mich. Campbell said she had a "heavy heart" after learning about the new docu- ments and being told some materials the previous investigative team had were heavily redacted. Michigan Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy spoke to the residents, two weeks after dismissing charges against the former state health director and other officials.

“I cannot believe something like this can happen,” added lifelong Flint resident Marijoyce Campbell, fighting back tears. “Please, please tell me some heads are going to roll; that somebody is going to pay for all this murder, all this criminal activity.”

“I just feel they should’ve continued with the charges they already had,” Audrey Muhammad, a Flint resident who has been advocating for justice for the people of the city, told The Final Call. “The reason I say they should’ve kept going is this: Because this has been stretched out for so long, I don’t feel like there will be a true conviction on higher charges.”

Adding to the concern expressed by Ms. Muhammad is the fact that the statute of limitations on many of the charges are set to expire in approximately nine months. Ms. Worthy, however, tried to assure all of those in the room that justice would be pursued properly and much faster.

Detroit attorney Cynthia M. Lindsey stands alongside her clients Buffi Clements, 42 at center, and her sister, Brandi, as they talk about the death of their father Joseph C. Clements, who passed away from kidney cancer in July 2017 during a rally on the five-year anniversary of the Flint water crisis on April 25 outside of the Flint, Mich., water plant. Buffi Clements said their family believes his cancer was caused by drinking Flint tap water following the switch, and are currently part of a class action lawsuit. Photo: Jake May/ Flint Journal via AP

“We can’t tell you where we’re going to go, we can’t tell you where it’s going to lead, we’re going to go where the facts and evidence lead us,” she said. “I know that’s been repetitive but that’s the truth. Anything else would be irresponsible.”

While the initial cause of the problem, the switching of the water supply sourced from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to the highly polluted Flint River has been corrected, and a number of infrastructure repairs related to corroded pipes done, city residents are still relying on bottled water for their basic, everyday needs.

Bill Schuette, the former attorney general for the state of Michigan, defended his team’s investigation and the way it was handled. “We took the steps that preserved the evidence in this case. And our work was not done,” he said in a statement. “Two judges bound significant cases over for trial. And we were prepared to go forward with robust prosecutions. But this is not about prosecutor versus prosecutor. This has always been, and only been, a fight for justice for the families of Flint. We acknowledge it’s their case now and we wish them success in their pursuit of justice for the people of Flint.”

Some water activists are convinced the motive behind this disaster was a sinister one and bigger than the town of Flint, Mich. They see a battle brewing across the country and all over the world when it comes to water.

“People have to understand that water is the new money. It’s the new gold. People are actually investing in water,” Yonasda Lonewolf, an activist who organized and protested in both Standing Rock and Flint, told The Final Call. Dakota Access Pipeline protests began in early 2016 in reaction to the approved construction of an oil pipeline in the northern United States. Native American tribes worried about plans to run the pipeline from oil fields in North Dakota to southern Illinois, under the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and beneath Lake Oahe near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Many Native Americans saw the pipeline as a threat to clean water and to ancient burial grounds. Massive protests were held in opposition to the pipeline in 2016. The pipeline was eventually completed in 2017 through the actions of the Trump administration. But military and police violence against protestors and indigenous “Water Protectors” was stunning during the months of opposition.

“But why are people investing in water?” asked Ms. Lonewolf. “Because these corporations and greedy government officials are fighting to control the water … . I understand that, of course, they’re not going to give the people of Flint justice on their number one investment. So, with that being said, there have been so many people who have left and moved out of Flint, and the people who have stayed are poor and live below the poverty level. So they’re just waiting for them to leave because outside investors have already started to come into Flint for redevelopment.”

“I’ve stopped paying attention to what the politicians and everyone else has been saying and I’ve been trying to work on getting our people to understand about separation and that they’ve got to be prepared to do something for themselves,” Audrey Muhammad said. “We have to make sure we’re taking care of ourselves in this situation because we don’t know how long it’s going to take. But you still have some of our people who say, ‘No, they’re going to make this right. They’ve got to make this right.’ Well, while you’re saying that, what are you going to do in the meantime? Are you just going to allow yourself to die while you’re waiting on them to give you justice? Or are you going to get up and start doing things for yourself?”

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)