From The Final Call Newspaper

Clashes, anger erupt with demands to reopen America

By Brian E. Muhammad Staff Writer @globalpeeks

People attend a demonstration against the government mandated lockdown due to concern about COVID-19 at the State House, April 18, in Concord, N.H. Photo: AP Michael Dwyer

As some governors are removing restrictions in the name of reopening the American economy wrecked by the coronavirus pandemic, there are strong calls by various political leaders and those in the medical and scientific field telling the American people to hold their “stay at home” positions, for their own safety.

“The Coved-19 Coronavirus have created a new reality for us,” said Ishmael Muhammad, the student national assistant to the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan in April 26 remarks at the Nation of Islam weekly broadcast at Mosque Maryam in Chicago.

“So, all of us are now under confinement. Some of us are upset and you see the protest,” said Student Minister Ishmael Muhammad. “I’m embarrassed to see how America is displaying herself before the world.”

Speaking via webcast, the Muslim minster disagreed with the efforts to relax stay-in orders against the Coronavirus.

“The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan has instructed us to follow the guidelines and the protocols established by government, scientists and doctors,” he said.

Members of the Boogaloo Movement attend a demonstration against the lockdown over concern about COVID-19 at the State House, April 18, in Concord, N.H. Photo: AP Michael Dwyer

With the echoes to stay in, comparatively there has been relatively small protests in some states demanding the temporary government protocols preventing free movement get relaxed. Despite U.S. Covid-19 numbers reaching near one million confirmed infected people and over 55,000 deceased and climbing, there is mass uncertainty and growing vitriol.

“With my daughter looking over my shoulder, I received this message on my phone,” wrote Atlanta Mayor Kiesha Bottoms in an April 23 tweet. She was referring to a vile text message she received the night before from that said “Nigger, just shut-up and RE-OPEN ATLANTA!”

“I pray for you,” Mayor Bottoms further wrote and quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ‘“Conscientious stupidity or sincere ignorance?’”

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr has directed the prosecution division of his office to investigate who sent the text.

Mayor Bottoms has been a vocal advocate of the “stay at home” policies and has been at odds with Georgia’s Republican governor Brian Kemp who announced he was allowing businesses like, barber shops, beauty and nail salons and bowling alleys to reopen in the state. According to the mayor there was no consultation with local officials statewide on the ramifications of the decision. By Final Call press time the state had 23,216 infected residents and 907 deaths of which 54 percent were Black.

Georgia is one of a number of states across the country where governors were either considering reopening economies or are facing pressure from business leaders or a small vocal group of protestors demanding it. However, at what cost, is the pressing question?

Health experts maintain relaxing measures to reopen the economy too soon may pose other unpredictable threats. If a second wave of the virus occurs, along with the cost of human life, the economy would shutter again, with potentially more severity.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell also stood with the stay at home protocol against the demand of business leaders of one of America’s highest tourist markets as well as a date given by the Louisiana governor to reopen its economy at the end of April.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat said the state should be able to begin to reopen soon and mandated a stay-at-home order until April 30, reported local WDSU-TV. Mayor Cantrell extended her order until May 15.

“The data will drive us and not a specific date,” she told the press on April 20, vowing not to be bullied to lift the order before the health safety of the people.

“We cannot fall into any false narratives ... when it comes to the public health of our citizens, and there is no economy without public health, hand in hand,” said Mayor Cantrell, also a Democrat.

It is a complicated equation balancing the government interest and public interest in the unprecedented pandemic, Jamie Mayo, long time mayor of Monroe, Louisiana told The Final Call in a telephone interview.

“We all, as elected officials are in a tough situation,” said Mayor Mayo, adding, “the economy has changed, but human life is very important too,” He said his number one priority is human life.

“Now having said that, we know that business is the heartbeat of our country,” said Mayor Mayo. But there has to be caution in reopening everything to the public, he explained.

“If you open things back up to the way it was, whatever progress that you’ve made trying to flatten the curve, there’s going to be a surge in infections again,” said Mayor Mayo. “We’re in a new normal now.”

When asked about Louisiana Gov. Edwards projected timetable, Mayor Mayo said the projected date is not a solid date for everything to be open.

Mayor Mayo supports a “measured approach” and “not a wholesale approach” to opening the economy. However, reopening should not be rushed.

The governors in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are also being cautious while Florida reopened some of its beaches with social distancing guidelines. Republican governors in South Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi and Ohio are following suit.

Although such moves are being made, coupled with isolated protests to reopen, polls show most Americans believe it’s premature and unsafe to ease the restrictions. A mid-April 2020 Kaiser Foundation poll found 80 percent of Americans supports strict shelter-in-place policies compared to 19 percent who say the measures pose “unnecessary burdens” and “cause more harm” than good.

A Washington Post-University of Maryland poll said 65 percent of Americans believe it will take until after June to safely resume gatherings of 10 or more people.

According to the U.S. Labor Department, while the debate on re-opening the economy escalates, Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on job security.

Labor Department figures show 26 million people filed for unemployment since the onslaught of Covid-19. Economists forecast that the unemployment rate for April could go as high as 20 percent replete with a steep fall of the American economy comparable to the Great Depression of the 1930s and surpassing the recession of 2009. Managing the crisis is one thing, the long hall may be another say economists.

“Latest American unemployment claim figures suggest one in six workers - or 26.4 million- have lost their jobs since this crisis emerged. Supporting them now with benefits is one challenge; creating jobs for them once normal trading resumes is another,” explained Dharshini David, economist and author of “The Almighty Dollar.”

Like the disparaging higher numbers of Blacks who have contracted and succumbed to the virus, Blacks and Latinos are experiencing a heavy toll economically as well. They are typically among the first to be laid off in recessions.

The government doesn’t track the jobless claims data by gender or race, a survey by the University of Southern California found that 21 percent of Blacks and 18 percent of Latinos say they have lost jobs in the past month, compared with 15 percent of Whites.

One factor noted is the ability to work from home. A study by the Center for American Progress found that Whites are more than twice as likely as Blacks to say they can work from home and 50 percent more likely than Latinos.

Although Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Georgia reopened some businesses, they continued to see a surge in unemployment claims recently. New York and Michigan reported fewer applications. Georgia reported a drop in claims.

The gloomy economic picture was met with protests—which have largely been viewed as political—for states and local governments to reopen non-essential businesses.

There were small pockets of protests in Pennsylvania, California, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota. Virginia, North Carolina and other states. Under “Operation Gridlock,” “End the Lockdown” and the hashtag “ReOpen,” organizers argue that forcing healthy people to stay home is “tyranny.”

“Government mandating sick people to stay home is called quarantine,” said a ReOpen Virginia press release. “However, mandating healthy citizens to stay home, forcing businesses and churches to close is called tyranny.”

Angry demonstrators obstructed roads, blew car horns, waved flags, chanted and yelled expletives; but conspicuously absent was social distancing and personal protective gear. They carried “I Do Not Consent” and “My Rights Are Essential” placards. Others openly carried semi-automatic weapons, in imagery that raises the question, can the crisis lead to anarchy in America?

In this April 15, file photo protesters carry rifles near the steps of the Michigan State Capitol building in Lansing, Mich. Protesters drove past the Michigan Capitol to show their displeasure with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s orders to keep people at home and businesses locked during the new coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak. Photo: AP Paul Sancya

However. for these anti-lockdown protestors, a Yahoo News/YouGov poll, showed only 22 percent of Americans supported their demanding an end to their states’ restrictions, while 60 percent opposed them. Despite Trump’s messaging, even Republicans oppose the protests 47 percent to 36 percent. Asked whether they agree or disagree with President Donald Trump’s “LIBERATE” tweets some saw as fueling protesters, only a quarter of Americans say they agree.

Meanwhile, as Mr. Trump is seeking re-election in November, he is becoming anxious to restart the economy.

“I think he’s incredibly desperate,” said political analyst and commentator Wilmer Leon to The Final Call. “He’s becoming more erratic and he’s becoming more irrational the longer this thing plays out.”

Until what President Trump called the “invisible enemy” entered America, the economy and jobs was his rallying cry for another four years in power.

“What they’re trying to do is they’re trying to balance public health against the economy and instead of treating this as a humanitarian crisis, a public health crisis, you hear him using the jingoistic language of war,” said Dr. Leon. “That’s very dangerous language.”

Whenever America finds itself in crisis, it goes to war. “We’ve got a war on drugs…terrorism…now we got to deal with this virus,” he explained.

“When you use that jingoistic, saber-rattling word narrative, one of the things that comes with war is collateral damage,” said Dr. Leon. “You sit back, and you calculate how many people you expect to die from the actions you’re about to take.”

Dr. Leon contends the Trump administration has come to some decision that there’s an acceptable number of the American people they are willing to sacrifice, so long as they can save the economy—as a cost of doing business.

Some public officials are willing to take the trade-off. They see the economic impact of coronavirus worse than the impact on public health. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said that some risks had to be taken to avoid fiscal collapse.

“There are more important things than living,” Mr. Patrick told Fox News host Tucker Carlson April 20. “And that’s saving this country for my children and my grandchildren and saving this country for all of us,”

“We’ve got to take some risks and get back in the game and get this country back up and running.”

The coronavirus has exposed in real time, the “unraveling of a great nation” that has been predicted by Nation of Islam patriarch the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and warned presently by his top student, Minister Farrakhan.

He has continuously warned that America is engulfed in “affliction,” “distress” and burden.

The Minister warned America of what was on the horizon earlier this year in Detroit at the Nation of Islam’s Saviours’ Day Convention in his message, “The Unraveling of a Great Nation.

“When you unravel something, you undo twisted, knitted, or woven threads; you investigate and solve or explain something complicated or puzzling,” he explained.

“The condition of America is puzzling. The world is looking at a country going to hell. The world is looking at a president who wants to be king; when the Constitution and the founding fathers were trying to run away from what they suffered in Europe under the kings,” stated Min. Farrakhan in his Feb. 23 remarks from the TCF Center.

“There’s a verse in the Qur’an, it’s in the 16th surah, the 92nd verse and it says, ‘Be not like her who unravels her yarn, disintegrating it into pieces, after she has spun it strongly.’ Her here is not talking about a woman, as such, but if you see somebody knitting something, with a design, and they leave it not secured one stitch; and then the same woman who stitched it strongly starts pulling on the yarn that she has knitted until it comes to pieces. That’s what’s happening to America as we speak,” he added.

“I strongly recommend and advise our community and all people of goodwill to seek and to follow the guidance of the Honorable Minister louis Farrakhan during this Covid-19 pandemic,” said Abdul Haleem Muhammad, Southwest student Regional Minister for the Nation of Islam and Minister Farrakhan.

“The American people, particularly this generation, appear to be quite spoiled,” Student Minister Muhammad points out. “The sacrifices made by the American people during the Great Depression and World War II…the draft of the Korean and Vietnam Wars appears to not be appreciated by this generation,” he said.

“Post 9-11 we were told go back to business as usual. We spent trillions of dollars on a war without any tax increases, in fact, taxes have been cut. And we have deployed a volunteer army again and again.”

Student Min. Haleem Muhammad said the American people have not shared in the pain. so now after a few weeks of lockdown there’s a revolt and it’s being inspired from the White House itself.

“The president’s motivation is reelection. The governors in many of the red states motivation is political power and the businesspeople…is money,” he reasoned. “For the small businessman and the working family, it’s survival.”

It is as Minister Farrakhan points out in his book “Torchlight for America,” the American leadership suffers from “greed and inordinate self-interest.”

With lives versus money on the line the American people have to decide concerning their lives.

“If we’re going to make it through this pandemic, it’s going to require all of us to sacrifice for something bigger than ourselves,” said Student Min. Haleem Muhammad.

From The Final Call Newspaper

What can be done in the Covid-19 fight for Black lives?

By Barrington M. Salmon Contributing Writer @bsalmondc | Last updated: Apr 21, 2020

People wait for a distribution of masks and food from the Rev. Al Sharpton in the Harlem neighborhood of New York, after a new state mandate was issued requiring residents to wear face coverings in public due to COVID-19, April 18. Photo: AP Bebeto Matthews

Covid-19 has carved a deep and deadly path through Black communities across the U.S., snatching the lives of Black Millennials, Baby Boomers and the elderly. The reasons are varied, many and complex.

Beyond the obvious alarm are questions about what Black people must do to protect themselves but an equally important question is what’s available from city officials, the state and federal government of a medical, health, social or economic nature that can stop or stem the disproportionate killing of Black people?

Answers have been generally hard to come by, but in Black communities around the country, individuals and groups have sprung into action, whether to raise money for healthcare providers, set up food banks or create public service announcements to offer psychological advice to Black people stressed out about being suddenly unemployed, not having money to pay the rent, food, utilities or other bills or being fearful of catching Covid-19.

The coronavirus has fundamentally altered the way Americans live, at least in the short-term. Public schools, colleges and universities are closed for the foreseeable future. Businesses large and small are shuttered and about 80 percent of the United States—almost 300 million people—are sheltering in place or living in a state that is under a mandatory lockdown. Hospitals are overwhelmed, staff are trying to save lives and offer medical care without adequate personal protective gear. Doctors and nurses have detailed the shortage of gowns, masks, ventilators and other medical gear and equipment.

Experts warn the U.S. is short on ICU beds and ventilators needed to treat the disease. Trying to prepare for the worst, hospitals were ramping up their capacity and setting priorities. One proposal would draw doctors out of retirement, others are canceling elective surgeries, and calling for setting up “Covid Cabanas” to treat suspected coronavirus cases, setting up tents outside main facilities, and more.

Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, has been a persistent critic of the U.S. government’s response. “We are so incredibly underprepared for a major onslaught to hospitals, which is basically now inevitable,” he told Yahoo News. “We have to look at Italy and see what happened and I think we’re actually in worse shape. We don’t have enough hospital beds; we don’t have enough ICU beds. And by the way, even if we had the 100,000-plus ventilators that we actually need, we don’t have the staff to operate them.”

Much of the blame for the federal government’s anemic response, the slow ramp up of tests and other resources nationally, and the almost blanket denial of Covid-19’s spread by federal officials has come to rest at the feet of President Donald Trump. From the beginning, critics charge, he has downplayed the crisis, at one point calling it a “hoax,” blamed the pandemic on foreigners and Democrats, and shut down air travel from Europe to the U.S. in a futile effort to stem the proliferation of the disease.

It is customary when dealing with a virus of this nature, epidemiologists and other medical experts say, that the first steps in reining in the disease is to have extensive testing and contact tracing to ascertain who has the disease and where and how it’s spreading. However, the Trump administration has ignored this advice and has left testing to the states. This haphazard approach is exacerbated by the fact that there are not nearly enough test kits or test kit parts to administer the needed number of tests.

“There aren’t enough numbers because we don’t have testing,” said Dr. Ebony Hilton, an associate professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Virginia, in a recent interview. “The World Health Organization has testing available in January that we could have been using but we chose not to. Sixty countries were testing 10,000 people a day. We have only tested about 2.3 million people.”

An investigation by Nature magazine of several university labs certified to test for the virus discovered that they have been held up by regulatory, logistic and administrative obstacles, and stymied by the fragmented U.S. health-care system. Even as testing backlogs mounted for hospitals in California, for example, clinics were turning away offers of testing from certified academic labs because they didn’t use compatible health-record software or didn’t have existing contracts with the hospital. Researchers warn that if such hurdles remain, labs trying to join the effort to fight coronavirus might end up spinning their wheels.

As long as there remains this confusion and lack of leadership from the federal government, critics say, it’s unlikely that those African Americans most under threat from the coronavirus will be getting tested anytime soon, despite pressure from Democratic lawmakers, governors and other political leaders.

At Final Call presstime, Johns Hopkins University reported that there are 795,960 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. and at least 42,604 people have died. The totals include cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other U.S. territories, as well as all repatriated cases.

Blacks face higher U.S. coronavirus death rates by population and Latinos suffer the highest death rates in New York, noted CNN during an airing of its special, “The Color of Covid,” that aired April 19.

“In the states where data could be collected and that covers just over half of them, African Americans are dying at two and a half times the rate of Asian Americans, three times higher than Latinos and 3.6 times higher than Whites and in Michigan, Blacks make up nearly half of the death toll but they are only 14 percent of the population. That is a huge difference,” said CNN host Don Lemon, during the broadcast. In at least eight other states in the Midwest, South and East, the death rate for Blacks exceeds the population rate by more than 20 percentage points, he added.

A range of health experts note that Blacks face a higher risk of exposure to the virus, because significant numbers of them are concentrated in urban areas and are working in essential industries. About 20 percent of Black workers reported being eligible to work from home, compared with about 30 percent of their White counterparts, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Dr. Ramel Kweku Aky refi Smith, a Milwaukee-based psychologist and mental performance coach, said the question about what must be done to protect Black bus drivers, post office employees, restaurant workers and those in the medical field is a tough one. Why? Because those entities one would assume is working to protect Black lives during this pandemic are not. Blacks should not look to the federal government, most in state government or city officials, or hospital systems to save Black lives.

“Social determinants is where you’re born, raised, study, eat, live, work, age and die,” he told The Final Call. “And as social determinants go, we’re at the low end—low birth rate, miseducation, increased school suspensions, unemployment, over-eating, multiple children out of wedlock, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.”

He added: It’s nation time. How insane is it that you look to the oppressor to save us when that oppressor isn’t generally concerned about the fate of your people? We have to save ourselves. We’ll never get equality from people who never saw us nor will ever see us as equals.”

Dr. Smith said, there are some critical realities that Blacks must come to terms with. One is that they are consumers who must, if they are to survive, become producers. Another question is where are Black people going to get their food from?

“Let’s become our own sovereign nation with our own army and militia and sovereign land,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with going backwards—let’s have our own schools, businesses and other ways to generate income. This is a perfect time for reparations.”

Dr. Smith said he and a number of his colleagues have been producing public service announcements (PSAs) that are airing on different television stations and other platforms. Others have embraced telehealth and virtual therapy.

“African American groups are pooling together to produce PSAs and are participating in online forums,” he said. “That’s the beautiful thing about Black people. In times of crisis, we are always our own counselors. There are groups on Zoom who have been a great help to the community.”

Professionals have produced segments dealing with the coronavirus, strategies to cope, how to research to amass information, what to do if you’re having suicidal thoughts, and other mental health tips, he said.

Dr. Smith and other critics point to a systemic failure—politically, economically and in health terms—at the highest levels. There has always been an expectation, a social compact that the American public gave their consent to be governed and that in return there were certain protections that the government would provide.

That had been shattered as we are witnessing a political party which is uninterested in providing for the needs of anyone but the rich. Social safety net programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program have been slashed; the GOP has tried and failed more than 60 times to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, which if successful, would throw more than 20 million Americans off of Obamacare; and even as tens of millions of Americans are jobless because of Covid-19, Republican leaders are devising ways to deny workers the unemployment insurance due to them.

Dr. Hilton has been on television, has made presentations at teleconference calls hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus and is using every communication method and opportunity to educate Black people about Covid-19, share health tips, and encourage African Americans to eat fruits, vegetables and healthy meals, walk frequently, drink enough water, get enough sleep, try not to get stressed out.

She, like Dr. Smith, acknowledges that White physicians and hospital staff and much of America’s health care system treat Blacks differently.

“Black people have been dying from chronic diseases like cancer, high blood pressure, heart and kidney disease. Why would we expect, with a virus like this, not to be similarly affected?” asked Dr. Michael A. LeNoir, an Oakland-based allergist and immunologist who served as the 114th president of the National Medical Association. “Eighty percent of those who contract the virus will recover and of the remainder, people will die.”

Dr. LeNoir—both as the leader and a more than three-decade member of the NMA—has for decades worked to eliminate health disparities and advance the quality of health among African Americans, communities of color and the disadvantaged.

He said he and his NMA colleagues have been advocating for the national implementation of Medicare for decades. In the face of the often-distressing state of the health of Black people, Dr. LeNoir and other medical professionals and experts stress the importance of men, women and children being more pro-active in their personal care as a way to offset the socio-economic and living conditions in which many find themselves. Race, he asserts, is a major determinant in health care outcomes.

“There are two parts to this, health disparities and health care disparities,” said Dr. Lenoir. “It’s how we’re treated by hospital systems. White doctors look at Black people differently. Race always defines everything as Black and White. The issue is not oppression. If I had a heart attack, I’d want to be wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase versus overalls because I’d be treated better. There are several aspects to the problem. In terms of self-equity, we are powerless. We don’t have a health care system that gives us equal access.”

Dr. LeNoir, who has been practicing medicine since 1977, helped organize the African-American Wellness Project (AAWP). He believes that while the health care system is slowly changing to eliminate the disparities in evaluation and treatment, that change isn’t occurring fast enough. He and the organization characterize the current health care climate as a managed care system where costs continue to rise and both providers and consumers are unhappy.

Surviving the systems seems more important than changing it, he said. So the wellness project’s focus is on emphasizing the importance of lifestyle and health, prevention, screening and early detection. In addition, the group wants Blacks to become more sophisticated as they navigate the health care system and for them and other consumers to be alert and vigilant when they do not receive quality care. One of the project goals is to create a network of sensitive, caring experts to support the Black community’s health needs.

Dr. Hilton said it’s not from the lack of trying that Black people have been unsuccessful in breaching the proverbial walls of healthcare, social policy and other areas in an effort to get what the community needs.

“We’re in the middle of where they all overlap—individuals are left voiceless to influence the wider community and hospital systems,” she said. There are many vocal activists in every sector trying to do work. But the Black community lacks wealth in a country where everything is tied back to the dollar. If it doesn’t earn money, proposals are usually nixed,” said Dr. Hilton.

One thing government officials can implement in the Covid-19 fight is to set up testing and triage centers in Black neighborhoods, noted Rashawn Ray, a David M. Rubenstein Fellow at the Brookings Institute. “Predominately Black churches may be ideal locations for testing, triage, and treatment. Black churches continue to be the glue that holds many Black communities together. During this crisis, they are proving essential for Black families by giving out food, laptops, and funds. Building on the proposed Health Empowerment Zone Act, Black churches can serve as ‘health action zones’ to bridge federal, state, and local resources with community resources,” he wrote in an April 10 article, “How to reduce the racial gap in COVID-19 deaths.” Implementing paid leave and hazard pay for essential workers, instituting a living wage and universal health care are also critical solutions to save Black lives during this crisis, noted Mr. Ray.

(Final Call staff contributed to this report.)

From The Final Call Newspaper

A NATION MOURNS A GENTLE GIANT: Long live the work and spirit of Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad!

By Daleel Jabir Muhammad and Nisa Islam Muhammad The Final Call @TheFinalCall

NEW YORK—Mention the name Student Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad of New York and a smile will come across the face of whoever you are talking to. Affectionately known to some as the ‘people’s pastor,’ ‘the relationship minister,’ who was a wise scholar of the teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, staunch defender of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, and East Coast regional representative of the Nation of Islam and Student Minister of the historic Mosque No. 7 in Harlem, passed away April 11. New York and the Nation of Islam mourns the passing of a brother, mentor and friend in Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad.

Student Min. Abdul Hafeez

In the heart of the United States, New York State has become the epicenter of the scourge of the coronavirus pandemic which has now claimed one of New York’s most prominent leaders to serve the Black community.

“I am praying and staying up through nights seeking that I might be able to understand more clearly God’s purpose for taking His servant at this time in this manner from this virus. As my spirit is troubled as I write these words, I will continue to seek the answer of Allah and be patient as the answer unfolds,” wrote the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan in an official statement.

“But know this, he was not an ordinary man. His service in the Nation and to our people was not ordinary. His commitment to the total liberation of our people here and wherever they are on this planet, was not ordinary,” the Minister stated. (See complete statement on page 21.)

Words of condolences, memories of cherished moments and reflections of the great works of Student Minister Hafeez Muhammad poured out in New York City and throughout social media upon news of his passing. Hafeez Muhammad was 56 years old.

Many of his contemporaries expressed reflections on his love and work in the community including clergy, elected officials, activists and those who were touched by his untimely passing.

There are some men whose impact is so thorough that their absence hurts entire communities with such a searing pain. There are some men whose legacy is so completely intact and powerful, that it is a never-ending tribute. Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad was such a man.

“We are deeply saddened to inform you of the loss this morning of Student Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad, Eastern Regional Minister and Representative of The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and The Nation of Islam as a result of the COVID-19, Coronavirus. Our beloved Brother and friend was a sincere, devoted, faithful servant of The Honorable Elijah Muhammad and The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan in the Cause of Allah,” said an official statement released by Student Minister Ishmael Muhammad, national assistant to Min. Farrakhan on behalf of Min. Farrakhan and the NOI Executive Council.

“We mourn his loss and thank Allah for his dedicated service and sacrifice for our Nation. He will truly be missed. Our prayers and thoughts are with his lovely, faithful wife, Sister Loray Muhammad, his children and family. May Allah lift the burden of sorrow from our hearts, comfort his family and our Nation and grant us His Peace. Surely Allah is the Best Knower and to Him is our eventual return,” read the statement.

A life of humility and service

Abdul Hafeez Muhammad was a gentle giant of a man and lived a life of generosity, humility and a greatness of spirit. News of his passing sent shockwaves across the country and the Nation of Islam.

Student Min. Hafeez was described as “a Brother’s Brother.” He was a man of the community, a mentor, man of faith, an activist, a supporter of the oppressed and disenfranchised, a community treasure, counselor to the people, and an honest and open role model.

Whether it was for an event she was involved in, an article she was writing for the Daily Challenge, or the Amsterdam News; or for an interview for her Back to Basics radio show, Minister Hafeez, “was assured,” said Nayaba Arinde, editor of the New York Amsterdam News. “He was always just a phone call away. He always put his family and community first.

We thank him for his selfless service. We love him eternally for always giving of himself. Ase!” commented Ms. Arinde.

Imam Izak-El M. Pasha of Masjid Malcolm Shabazz in Harlem, said, “to Allah we belong and unto Allah we return. We send our condolences to the family and community of our beloved Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad and ask Allah to grant him an excellent and peaceful place in Paradise, for the good works he has done on the earth.”

Calling him a “leader, brother and friend,” Reverend Dr. Robert Waterman expressed condolences on behalf of the board and membership of the African American Clergy and Elected Officials Coalition.

“I am saddened that we have lost a great soldier. Minister Hafeez has served his community. He was a great man, an intellectual and a powerful Man of God. I was blessed to know him and work alongside him. He will truly be missed by all. While I am saddened by the loss of such a great brother, his commitment and love for his community and people were unmatched and I find comfort in knowing his memory will live on for generations,” said Rev. Waterman. “Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad, Thank you for your courage, invaluable service, strength and resilience. May Allah be pleased,” he added.

Viola Plummer of the December 12th Movement expressed she had lost “another son.” “We, our movement, December 12th have lost one of our most precious brothers. I will always remember the young Kevin X, the mature Kevin Muhammad and our Student Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad. Our people at this time are experiencing his loss as almost incomprehensible. Minister Hafeez performed the marriage ceremony of one of my children and he officiated the funeral at the passing of my husband. We will never forget, I will pass to my children, the peppermint he said that would remind us always of the sweetness of life. In your faith, I know that Allah received him,” said Ms. Plummer.

Omowale Clay, also of the December 12th Movement told The Final Call, “Hafeez is someone you think of in terms of his words and deeds. He is someone who used to say, ‘any day above ground is a blessing.’ He was always at service to people. Some people pass through life without leaving a mark. He left a mark,” said Mr. Clay.

“I’m proud to have lived in the time of Min. Hafeez. He made this time important. He’s in the category of important people. You can’t think of him without thinking of his words and deeds.”

Fredrica Bey, founder of Newark’s Women in Support of the Million Man March, worked with Student Min. Hafeez on many projects. “May Allah be pleased with our magnificent brother, servant and believer, Brother Minister Hafeez, who is one whom we could all call on anytime. He was always there for the Women In Support of the Million Man March. He ‘walked the walk,’ and his work speaks volumes to his well lived life,” said Ms. Bey.

New York’s Imam Abdul Malik was a longtime friend of Hafeez Muhammad. “I’ve known him for over 35 years. I visited him in his home. He was a warrior and a faithful servant. He was dedicated to the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. He gave me the warmest greeting recently in Detroit,” during the Nation of Islam’s Saviours’ Day Convention in February, he said.

New York Assembly Member Charles Barron knew and worked with Student Min. Hafeez for decades. “Brother Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad and I marched in the streets of New York City together, along with Minister Henry Muhammad of Muhammad Mosque No. 7C in my beloved East New York, Brooklyn, to protest police terrorism and self-destructive community violence. We sat on panels together that dealt with the issues of gentrification, education, health, poverty, housing, mass incarceration, homelessness and more. You name it, we were on it! The very last forum I shared with my beloved Brother Minister was when Minister Ava Muhammad came to New York to Temple No. 7 to deal with the topic of separation, which I support!” he said.

“Most importantly, he was my friend!! We were both into leadership training and not only did he love teaching leadership, he did it well. He was a model of effective leadership. I shared many stages with him and of all the speakers, he spoke the longest, and was the most charismatic and captivating to the audience. People tuned in to every word he spoke and so did I. My Brother Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad loved his people and the people loved him back even more. I will be encouraging my colleagues to co-name a street after him, so that his legacy will live on forever.”

Outpouring of love on social media

On social media, photos and collages of Student Min. Hafeez and excerpts from his various lectures were posted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Thomas Jehad, a longtime Nation of Islam pioneer, posted pictures of Student Min. Hafeez on Facebook with the caption, “A magnificent soldier returns to Allah; he will be greatly missed, May Allah be pleased with him!”

Ayanna Muhammad also took to Facebook, writing in part, “You have touched the hearts of many and your spirit will never be forgotten.” Aqueelah Sabriyah posted that she would “never forget” Student Min. Hafeez and his wife “as a shining example of marriage” at the Nation of Islam Singles Retreat she attended.

“His words about the importance of marriage and proper courtship, demanding your rights always stuck with me. He was a great representative of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. I pray Allah’s peace be with his family,” she posted on Facebook.

Sentiments were expressed not only by members of the Nation of Islam, but others as well. Activist and author Marc Lamont Hill, hip hop legends Big Daddy Kane and Chuck D were among those that posted memories and tributes.

Businessman, hip hop producer and executive Russell Simmons, warmly reminisced about his fondness for Student Min. Hafeez on his Instagram page. “Our brother, Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad and his flock, stood strong at every community function, every rally; every action he made served his community. He was there when the community needed him and the Nation of Islam. He never sought the limelight or recognition. He was always in the back, yet he was the light that filled the room,” posted Mr. Simmons.

Source Magazine and The New York Amsterdam News also published articles about the passing of Minister Hafeez.

For Brooklyn historian Zaheer Ali, Hafeez Muhammad was a dear friend. He posted on social media: “Last year, while I was in the hospital in tremendous pain awaiting surgery, he called and left me a beautiful and uplifting voice mail message. Against my fears and anxieties, he fortified me with the belief that there was a righteous army with me!” wrote Mr. Ali.
“In 2018, he generously blessed me and the Brooklyn Historical Society with his oral history for the #MuslimsinBrooklyn project. It represents of course only a sample of his life’s work, but we are fortunate to have it as part of the permanent archive.”

A top soldier

Giving honor and sharing memories was also Student Min. Hafeez Muhammad’s longtime friend Bishop Johnny Ray Youngblood of Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church in Brooklyn. He poetically stated: “Heads are bowed, arms are wide stretched, hearts like flags fly at half-mast. Why? You must not know that a soldier has fallen. Brother Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad has been called from labor to reward,” said Bishop Youngblood.

“For 30 years plus he and I and others of the Greater Metropolitan Area of New York City have negotiated, celebrated, protested and prayed that the will of God would be known, heard and headed toward the lives of our people. Brother Minister Hafeez was tall, stood tall and spoke up on every occasion. Certainly, we are shaken by our loss but just imagine had we never had the privilege of knowing him, hearing him and working side by side,” he continued.

“In this moment, there is basic business to be carried out, which must be done. Just remember that the Will of God must everyday be done, hope must never be allowed to go on holiday and there was a time when my brother was a physical assurance that the struggle continues. Absent from our midst, always in our hearts and memories. Thanks be to God for the life and memory of Brother Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad.”

Newark, New Jersey Mayor Ras Baraka called Student Min. Hafeez “a good man and a top soldier.”

“His friendship and support never faltered, and he worked tirelessly for our people. He will truly be missed, and it will take ten brothers to stand in his stead, I pray God welcomes him with open arms and comforts his family knowing his job was well done,” said Mayor Baraka.

Abdul Hafeez came to the famous Mosque No. 7 in Harlem as a member of the Five Percent Nation of Gods and Earths.

“We were both in high school and the Five Percent Nation,” music producer Haqq Islam told The Final Call. “We came to the mosque and we were under Brother Minister Abdul Karriem. He asked Brother Hafeez if he wanted to be in the ministry. Brother Hafeez always had the gift of gab. He was loquacious. He loved the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and that started with the Five Percent Nation,” said Mr. Islam.

“He always had perfect logic. When he spoke he always commanded an audience. Even as a high schooler, when he led a cipher in the evening on the street there was a crowd. All the way back then he had a command of Islam and the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.”

But who brought Haqq Islam and Hafeez to the mosque? That was Steve Jackson, also a Five Percenter. Now Dr. Steve Jackson, former principal at Washington, D.C.’s Dunbar High School, he told The Final Call: “I’ve known him since he was just a kid. I came to the mosque first. Hafeez was brilliant. He knew his Lessons very well. We would have long conversations about the Nation. He had questions. He has always been a fighter for Islam. I’ve watched him grow,” he added.

“We were student ministers together. Brother Minister Karriem sent me to Baltimore as the youngest minister and Hafeez was sent to Brooklyn. He was an excellent orator and his heart was always in the right place. Everyone loved him.”

Minister Hafeez’s first teacher and mentor in the Nation of Islam, since 1980, was Minister Abdul Karriem Muhammad, aka “The General,” who described his brother as a “great worker in the cause of Islam.”

In the early ‘80s during the rebuilding of the Nation of Islam, Abdul Karriem Muhammad was the Eastern Region minister of the Nation of Islam. He told The Final Call, “We are hurting for him and his family. Hafeez was a great helper for Minister Farrakhan. From the day I saw him walk in the door, he has been a helper to the resurrection of the Black man, woman and child. My heart is aching. We take the work of the Nation of Islam very seriously and this is painful.”

Brother Kevin, became Kevin X, Kevin Muhammad then was given his holy name Abdul Hafeez Muhammad by Min. Farrakhan. Abdul means “servant,” Hafeez means “protector or guardian.” He was born September 20, 1963 and became a registered member of the Nation of Islam in 1981.

“Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad was a great lover of Master Fard Muhammad, the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. I never met a finer human being. May Allah bless his family and us with peace,” said Abdul Karriem Muhammad.

Student Min. Hafeez consistently soldiered in the streets with the Fruit of Islam (men of the Nation of Islam) of Mosque No. 7. Whether it was engaging with young people, consoling families who had lost loved ones to violence or just lending a helping hand, he was a positive and uplifting voice of leadership.

Student East Coast Regional MGT and GCC Captain, Johnna Muhammad knew Student Min. Hafeez for 37 years. “During this time, we have worked in various capacities, and the last 20 years serving as laborers over New York City. I will remember fondly his huge presence, great sense of humor and refreshing candor. I have always appreciated his huge heart and deep love for Master Fard Muhammad, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, and the believing community. His vast knowledge and representation of the teachings of Islam were profound. He embodied Islam and made it his mission to spread this truth to all whom he encountered,” said Johnna Muhammad.

“The resurrection of the mentally and spiritually dead was at the forefront of his mind at all times. He touched so many lives, near and far. He was a soldier in the army of Allah working till the very end,” she said.

“For my big brother—Original Salute! We are fighting for Islam! The mission continues!” said Johnna Muhammad.

Student Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad is survived by his wife Loray Muhammad, their children: Shahmel, Amirah, Amin, Salimah and Nadira; grandchildren Kalilah Iman and Amai True, a host of family, friends and the Nation of Islam.

(J.S. Adams contributed to this report.)

From The Final Call Newspaper

Covid-19 ‘state of emergency’ for Black America?

By Stacy M. Brown NNPA Newswire and Naba’a Muhammad The Final Call |


(NNPA/FCN)—Early data and deaths are showing Blacks are disproportionate victims of the Covid-19 pandemic based on health and other problems rooted in historical oppression and inequity.

Congressional leaders have called for more data collection and release of data based on race as the pandemic enters what the White House called a crucial phase in early April.

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., National Newspaper Publishers Association president and CEO, recently issued an alert concerning the pandemic and nearly 50 million Black Americans. “Black America is now in a state of emergency as a result of the disproportionately deadly impact of the coronavirus pandemic on our families and communities across the United States,” Dr. Chavis stated.

“Black Americans should stay at home and only leave home for critical life-essential reasons,” Dr. Chavis emphasized. And, he added, before the spread of the coronavirus, Black Americans were already disproportionately burdened with multiple preexisting health conditions, including asthma, diabetes, and heart disease, our communities are more vulnerable to the impact of the coronavirus, including higher rates of fatalities.”


But it’s not just the health status of Blacks that makes them more susceptible to Covid-19, it’s also their place in the workforce and society, observed Margaret Kimberly in a piece published by

“While those in the managerial class work at home and use teleconferencing to communicate with one another, less than 20 percent of Black workers have this capability,” she noted.

“We see this dichotomy play out as a group of mostly Black sanitation workers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, carried out a one-day work stoppage. They demanded protective clothing and hazard pay for incurring risks of Covid-19 infection while on the job. Whole Food employees and workers at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York, took similar actions, but the Staten Island strike leader was fired. Jeff Bezos didn’t get to be the richest man in the world by respecting workers’ rights.

“As higher paid individuals work at home, people who don’t have that luxury risk their lives just getting to their jobs. In New York City subways are largely empty, but not in poorer neighborhoods. Subway travel has dropped 90 percent overall in recent weeks, but at subway stations in the Bronx, the poorest of the five boroughs, ridership levels are unchanged for people who work as home health aides, grocery store employees and construction workers. Their plight is exacerbated as subway trains now operate less frequently and passengers are crowded together in defiance of all ‘social distancing’ rules required to prevent corona virus infection,” she added.

The columnist continued, “The structures that keep Black people persistently at the bottom of every positive measure and at the top of every negative indicator are firmly in place. It is no surprise that as the nation struggles with a preventable crisis that Black workers would be adversely impacted. Of course, the remedy supported by the Democratic and Republican parties does nothing to help.

“The recently passed $2 trillion stimulus bill is another give away to big business and wealthy individuals. It adds tax cuts for the rich on top of the tax cuts already enacted that have become a customary feature of American politics. The bill provides a measly, one time maximum payment of $1,200 to everyone who filed a tax return in 2018 or 2019. In neighboring Canada, the government provides $2,000 per month for four months to assist workers with the Covid economic downturn. $1,200 is chump change for people who are once again treated like chumps.”

To top it off, many cannot apply for unemployment benefits as state agencies can’t handle load and websites crashing, she wrote. “There should be no turning back to the pre-Covid-19 days of accepting the bipartisan austerity regime. It is dedicated to making life as miserable as possible for the masses of people and actively crushes any efforts made on behalf of even minimal change,” she argued.

Disproportionate loss of Black life

A Pro Publica report revealed that Blacks made up almost half of Milwaukee County’s 945 cases and 81 percent of its 27 deaths in a county whose population is only 26 percent Black.

Milwaukee is one of the few places in the United States that is tracking the racial breakdown of people who have been infected by the novel coronavirus, offering a glimpse at the disproportionate destruction it is inflicting on Black communities nationwide.

In Michigan, where the state’s population is 14 percent Black, African Americans made up 35 percent of cases and 40 percent of deaths as of April 3.

Detroit, where a majority of residents are Black, has emerged as a hot spot with a high death toll. “Michigan is being ravaged by COVID-19. As of Sunday (March 29) 132 people in the state lost lives due to the virus. Of that, ‘Detroit and suburban Wayne County combined account for 49 percent of all confirmed cases of coronavirus in Michigan—and 42 percent of the 132 deaths. That’s disproportionately high to Wayne County’s share of Michigan’s population, which is about 17.5 percent,’ ” wrote Harry Colbert, Jr., managing editor for the Black news outlet He quoted from a Crain’s Detroit Business report. Detroit has the nation’s highest percentage of Black residents at nearly 80 percent, he noted.

Mr. Colbert also reported, “Dr. Teena Chopra, professor of infectious disease at Wayne State University, said underlying health inequities are leading to more serious cases of Covid-19 among the state’s Black population.”

According to Pro Publica, Louisiana has not published case breakdowns by race, but 40 percent of the state’s deaths have happened in Orleans Parish, where the majority of residents are Black.

Illinois and North Carolina are two of the few areas publishing statistics on Covid-19 cases by race, and their data shows a disproportionate number of Blacks were infected, according to the report. In Charlotte, N.C., the Associated Press reported April 1 that Blacks were “disproportionately affected by Covid-19, according to data released by local health officials.”

“Figures from Mecklenburg County health officials show black residents accounted for 43.9 percent of 303 confirmed Covid-19 cases,” said the Associated Press, citing reporting by The Charlotte Observer.

“By comparison, the U.S. Census estimates from last July show African American residents make up only 32.9 percent of Mecklenburg County’s population,” it said.

Public radio station WBEZ reported April 5 that in Chicago, 70 percent of Covid-19 deaths were among Blacks. “The Covid-19 virus is killing Black residents in Cook County at disproportionately high rates, according to early data analyzed by WBEZ. While Black residents make up only 23 percent of the population in the county, they account for 58 percent of the Covid-19 deaths. And half of the deceased lived in Chicago, according to data from the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office,” said WBEZ radio.

“As of Saturday (April 5), 107 of Cook County’s 183 deaths from COVID-19 were Black. In Chicago, 61 of the 86 recorded deaths—or 70 percent—were Black residents. Blacks make up 29 percent of Chicago’s population. The majority of the Black Covid-19 patients who died had underlying health conditions including respiratory problems and diabetes. Eighty-one percent of them had hypertension, or high blood pressure, diabetes or both. As the virus continues to spread, the high mortality rate for Black residents is alarming,” the Chicago Public Radio station said.

“It can be more difficult for Black residents to practice social distancing because the population is more likely to use public transit and hold jobs that can’t be done from home. In poorer communities in the city, persons of color are also more likely to live in crowded homes, experts say,” said WBEZ.

In Illinois, the “number of Black residents with Covid-19 statewide is also disproportionately high. Blacks account for 38 percent of the confirmed cases in Illinois but they are only 14 percent of the population. The state has not released a racial breakdown for deaths, although Illinois is one of the few states that keeps Covid-19 data with a racial breakdown,” reported WBEZ.

While the CDC usually tracks disease including race, Pro Publica was unable to get numbers about the pandemic’s breakdown along racial lines. Five members of Congress blasted Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, saying the federal government is “currently failing to collect and publicly report on the racial and ethnic demographic information” for Covid-19 tests and patients.

The Democrats, in a letter, said, “Without demographic data, policy makers and researchers will have no way to identify and address ongoing disparities and health inequities that risk accelerating the impact of the novel coronavirus and the respiratory disease it causes.”

“Although COVID-19 does not discriminate along racial or ethnic lines, existing racial disparities and inequities in health outcomes and health care access may mean that the nation’s response to preventing and mitigating its harms will not be felt equally in every community,” said Senators Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, and Representatives Ayanna Pressley and Robin Kelly, who signed the letter.

“We know in the U.S. that there are great discrepancies in not only the diagnosis but the treatment that African Americans and other minorities are afforded,” stated Dr. Ebony Hilton, associate professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at the University of Virginia Health Systems.

“So, I want to make sure that in this pandemic, that Black and Brown people are treated in the same way and that these tests are made available in the same pattern as for white people,” Dr. Hilton said.

Medical experts have also sounded the alarm that the virus could well be transmitted through the air.

“Currently available research supports the possibility that (Covid-19) could be spread via bioaerosols generated directly by patients’ exhalation,” Harvey Fineberg, who heads a standing committee on Emerging Infectious Diseases and 21st Century Health Threats, wrote in an April 1, 2020 letter to Kelvin Droegemeier, the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Dr. Fineberg penned the letter in response to a request from the White House. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine convened a standing committee of experts to help inform the White House on critical science and policy issues related to emerging infectious diseases and other public health threats.

The standing committee includes members with expertise in emerging infectious diseases, public health, public health preparedness and response, biological sciences, clinical care and crisis standards of care, risk communication, and regulatory issues.

“The results of available studies are consistent with aerosolization of virus from normal breathing,” Dr. Fineberg wrote.

He noted an airflow modeling study that followed a coronavirus outbreak in Hong Kong in the early 2000s supports the potential for transmission via bioaerosols.

In that study, the significantly increased risk of infection to residents on higher floors of a building that was home to an infected individual indicated to the researchers a pattern of disease consistent with a rising plume of contaminated warm air.

A March 2020 Cambridge Research study of those with influenza revealed that 39 percent of individuals exhaled infectious aerosols, which experts noted that, as long as an airspace is shared with someone else, breathing in the air they exhale, it’s possible for airborne transmission of the coronavirus.

“It’s airborne,” Dr. Angela Guerrera, an emergency medicine specialist in New Jersey, told NNPA Newswire.

“If someone has the disease, they don’t have to cough and sneeze or spit. If you then go into their space, you can probably get it,” Dr. Guerrera stated.

Some experts said they are convinced that a primary reason that governments and organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have shied away from stating that the virus is in the air is to prevent panic and because it could take years and cost hundreds of millions of lives before indisputable evidence can be presented.

“We shouldn’t let perfect be the enemy of convincing,” Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota, stated.

A spokeswoman for the WHO told NNPA Newswire that the organization is focused solely on treatment and trials.

(Stacy M. Brown, a national writer for the NNPA Newswire, and his wife have tested positive for Covid-19. The Final Call and Black-owned newspapers across the country pray for their complete recovery.)