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Student Minister Tony Muhammad, rooted in love for a community that loves him too

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Brother Tony Muhammad has been very impactful, not only in this situation with Nipsey Hussle, but he has been consistent. His consistent effort, working with Crips and Bloods, dating back to ’92, so the measurement of success for me is through his consistency,” said Skip Townsend, former gang member who founded 2nd Call, a gang intervention organization in South Central.



By Charlene Muhammad, National Correspondent, The Final Call

LOS ANGELES—For more than two decades, Nation of Islam Student Minister Tony Muhammad has demonstrated a love, commitment and dedication to his people in Los Angeles that has grown into the pure and near perfect love displayed in recent days since the passing of beloved rapper/entrepreneur Ermias Asghedom a/k/a Nipsey Hussle.

When the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan appointed Min. Muhammad as his Western Region Representative over 20 years ago, the Georgia-born helper, affectionally called “Brother Tony” by many in the streets and from all walks of life—had never even been a minister of any Nation of Islam mosque before.

But when he touched down in L.A., ‘Brother Tony’ hit the ground running to help those most in need. His work was in the streets. His years of service with the Nation of Islam’s Western Region Headquarters, Muhammad Mosque No. 27, and tireless sacrifice, are bolstered by the love, sacrifice and support of his wife L’tonya and their children, Khallid and Asha.

Min. Muhammad’s extensive work has included helping to make peace among warring gang members and feeding not just the poor, but the Black community in general, like when he launched Your Farmers Market with local Black farmers. They provided boxes of fresh, organic produce to families in poor communities, including low income neighborhoods and residents in L.A.’s housing projects.

Whether speaking out for or praying with and for mothers of murdered children and their families, or bridging the gap between the police, city officials, and the community, Min. Muhammad has been a vanguard in promoting peace.

“Brother Tony Muhammad has been very impactful, not only in this situation with Nipsey Hussle, but he has been consistent. His consistent effort, working with Crips and Bloods, dating back to ’92, so the measurement of success for me is through his consistency,” said Skip Townsend, former gang member who founded 2nd Call, a gang intervention organization in South Central.

He said Min. Muhammad has a very impactful role in Los Angeles and everything that goes on there and said his mentorship has been key. Min. Muhammad mentored his mentors and now, those younger generations, Mr. Townsend explained.

“We’re often looking for his leadership and guidance, even if it’s just words of encouragement or whatever is going on in different situations. We often go to Minister Tony Muhammad for advice and leadership,” he said.

Min. Muhammad has always gone to battle with the police and anybody for the people and demonstrated that he’s willing to pay the price for peace.

Mr. Townsend said when he learned back in August 2005 that the LAPD had beaten and arrested Min. Muhammad on 63rd and Crenshaw during a community vigil for a victim of gang violence, he became a full-fledge believer that the Nation of Islam representative was definitely there for Black people.

“When anybody risks their life, their stature, their status in the community to help the people, I always take my hat off to that, so Minister Tony Muhammad has done that several times, going into the community and actually telling the truth. So, when we say go into battle with the police, it’s not just a battle, like we want to fight for something. We want to fight to make sure it’s the truth. That’s what the fight is for,” said Mr. Townsend.

Min. Muhammad has been honored by various community groups including Stop the Violence, Increase the Peace Foundation for his work. Recently, he received the International Association of Scientologists’ (IAS) Freedom Medal of Valor Award for his activism and peacemaking work in the cause of human rights.

He was honored for his efforts creating the United in Peace Peace Rides and UpFest. The Peace Rides have rolled more than 50 times, on the fourth Sunday of every month, with motorcycles, low riders, sports cars, and mini bikes, through 33 of the toughest neighborhoods in the inner cities of Los Angeles, promoting peace.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, Compton Mayor Aja Brown, other city officials and national politicians honored the Peace Rides with proclamations, thanking Min. Muhammad and all involved, including Christian pastors, street organizations, bikers, mothers of murdered children, and other community stakeholders.

In addition to those entities, Min. Muhammad thanks the street gangs, because they trust and help him. His work towards peace is constant and not an individual thing, but a team effort, Min. Muhammad has said.

Without the street gangs, he could never have accomplished what he has done, he has told The Final Call. He has shared consistently, that he loves South Central L.A., and will never turn his back on the streets of Los Angeles.

Part of what makes Min. Tony Muhammad fearless and unafraid to go into the trenches to help bring a healing to his people who suffer from violence, homelessness, mental health issues, unemployment, and other problems, is that he is obedient to his teacher Min Farrakhan’s guidance. He said he has followed the Minister’s guidance to mediate a ceasefire among the rival Bloods and Crips gangs.

In July 2016, Min. Muhammad along with rapper The Game, and many others, held the United Hoods plus Gangs Nation Peace and Unity Summit at Mosque No. 27, where approximately 2,000 people, including gang interventionists and concerned residents responded. Some Bloods and Crips sets made a peace treaty there.

In July 2018, approximately 100 desperate small community business owners appealed to him for help because their businesses were suffering due to construction on Crenshaw. Some of the entrepreneurs literally cried, saying the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s building of the Crenshaw/LAX underground light-rail line to ease congested traffic had been blocking access to their businesses, among other things.

In addition, they had been disqualified for grant funding for directly impacted businesses. Min. Muhammad met with the community business owners, as well as Metro officials and helped to handle some of their immediate unmet needs and developed an action plan to ensure their longevity and survival.

Part of why he’s been successful in service to the community is because people trust him, residents said. He has street credibility and has an integrity that’s real, no matter who he’s dealing with, many people have previously expressed to The Final Call.

“Minister Tony has been really, really important to both me personally and to Black Lives Matter in general, but also to the whole of the Black community,” said Dr. Melina Abdullah of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles and chair of the Pan African Studies Department at California State University L.A.

“As we talk about how Black people are vulnerable to police violence and abuse and killings, the question always comes to us, well what do we do for public safety? I think that what the Nation (of Islam) and what especially the Nation in Los Angeles has been able to do is step in and intervene when we need something,” she said.

Such was on the day the community was out at Nipsey Hussle’s procession following his celebration of life and memorial service at the Staples Center on April 11, according to Dr. Abdullah.

“The LAPD came in and they were pushing kind of a confrontational egotistical, disrespectful narrative so instead of talking to people … what they did is come in and police and tell people don’t sit on curbs. Well, we’ve been sitting out here since 1 o’clock, 2 o’clock in the afternoon, hours and hours have gone by. How are you gonna tell a mother and her little child not to sit on the curb, as opposed to when the Nation comes in, we’re greeted respectfully,” said Dr. Abdullah.

“We’re engaged. There’s some conversation. We know them. They’re part of our community, and there’s a different kind of level of respect and engagement,” she said adding that Min. Muhammad has been at the forefront of leading that effort.

Beyond the protocol of how the Nation of Islam works for the community and has personally helped her family with safety and security, Min. Muhammad has a level of care, despite the fact that they don’t agree on every single thing, she continued.

“Minister Tony is very important to Los Angeles and Black Los Angeles reveres him. When I was on trial, Minister Tony showed up. No fanfare but came just to support me. And that’s what I mean about love and care— beyond what your role is,” said Dr. Abdullah.

“Everything, all the work that we do for our people has to be grounded in love, and I think, I feel that not just as a member of the movement, but as an individual, and so I really, really appreciate him.”

So do many others, including fellow Muslims at Muhammad Mosque No. 27 and across Southern California and the world. They cheered loudly when Min. Farrakhan announced during an April 12 Nation of Islam Believers meeting in LA that he had given to Min. Muhammad the holy name Abdul Malik (meaning not just a king, but also a judge who settles the differences of others) Sayyid (one highly respected; master; lord), and to his wife, the name Malika.

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U.S. Business Leaders Step Up to Fight Inequities in the South

Even as the pandemic has laid bare societal inequities that have long eroded the foundation of our democracy, political leaders in Washington and in state capitols are mired in a level of rancor and partisanship not seen since the ideological struggles over the Vietnam War. 



Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr./ NNPA Newswire

Even as the pandemic has laid bare societal inequities that have long eroded the foundation of our democracy, political leaders in Washington and in state capitols are mired in a level of rancor and partisanship not seen since the ideological struggles over the Vietnam War. 

This toxic atmosphere has left them incapable of addressing pressing, yet ingrained issues like the racial wealth gap, the digital divide, and vast inequalities in everything from health care to home ownership.

With COVID-19 still an omnipresent concern and the country’s recovery still very much in jeopardy, individuals, families, and communities – particularly communities of color throughout the South – are struggling to deal with issues that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic.

From impediments to wealth creation opportunities and a dearth of education and workforce development to a lack of access to reliable broadband, substandard housing, and inadequate political representation, communities of color have suffered an outsized toll during the ongoing public health crisis.

Yet political leaders can’t even agree on basic facts that would allow the nation to implement a coherent national strategy for combatting a pandemic that appears to be entering a new wave amid the rise of the highly contagious Delta variant that is currently ravaging parts of the South.

Against that disillusioning backdrop, there is at least some reason for hope. Moving to fill the vacuum created by the inaction of our political class, a group of business leaders in the technology and investment sectors have embarked on a far-reaching – and perhaps unprecedented – campaign to address the social inequities and systemic racism that has historically plagued our country’s southern communities.

Known as the Southern Communities Initiative (SCI), the campaign was founded by financial technology company PayPal, the investment firm Vista Equity Partners (Vista), and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

SCI was formed to work with local elected officials and advocacy groups to tackle the ubiquitous problems of structural racism and inequalities facing communities of color in six communities throughout the South. SCI notes that these areas – Atlanta, Ga., Birmingham, Ala., Charlotte, N.C., Houston, Texas, Memphis, Tenn., and New Orleans, La., – were chosen in part because they are home to around 50% of the country’s Black population and are where some of the greatest disparities exist.

SCI is aiming to drive long-term change, as outlined by PayPal CEO Dan Schulman, Vista CEO Robert F. Smith and BCG CEO Rich Lesser. 

In Atlanta, for example, SCI is working to bridge the wealth gap that exists among the region’s African-American residents. While there is a strong Black business community in the city, and high levels of Black educational achievement thanks to the regional presence of several Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and the voice of the Black press, there is still an extremely low level of Black entrepreneurship and business ownership with only 6% of employer firms being Black-owned.

To remedy this disparity, SCI is working with the Southern Economic Advancement Project to create entrepreneurship hubs and accelerator programs to increase the number of minority-owned businesses. The corporations behind SCI are also using their networks to help other companies work with minority-owned supply companies.

In Alabama, SCI is seeking to bridge the massive digital divide in an urban area where 450,000 households are without connection to the internet. In order to tackle the crisis, SCI is leveraging relationships with local schools and libraries to distribute laptops and service vouchers. Another tact SCI is taking is to partner with the owners of multi-unit buildings in low-income neighborhoods to install free public Wi-Fi for residents.

The lack of access to capital is another reason Black communities throughout the South have been traditionally underbanked. In Memphis, where 47% of Black households are underbanked, SCI is partnering with Grameen America to cover the $2 million per year per branch start-up cost to build brick-and-mortar banks in minority communities.

This alone will provide 20,000 women access to more than $250 million per year in financing.

Beyond these initiatives, SCI is partnering with groups like the Greater Houston Partnership and the Urban League of Louisiana to provide in-kind support to improve job outcomes for minority college students, expand access to home financing through partnerships with community development financial institutions, and harness the power of technology to expand health care access in underserved urban and rural neighborhoods.

The issues facing these communities throughout the South are not new nor will they be fixed overnight.

Fortunately, SCI is taking a long-term approach that is focused on getting to the root of structural racism in the United States and creating a more just and equitable country for every American.

A once-in-a-century pandemic and a social justice movement not seen since the 1960s were not enough to break the malaise and rancorous partisanship in Washington. Fortunately, corporate leaders are stepping up and partnering with local advocates and non-profit groups to fix the problem of systemic injustice in the U.S.

We, therefore, salute and welcome the transformative commitments of the Southern Communities Initiative (SCI). There is no time to delay, because as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so accurately said, “The time is always right to do what is right.”

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Black Woman to Lead United States Park Police

 Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.



Pamela A. Smith

Pamela A. Smith, a 23-year veteran of the United States Park Police, will lead the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency.

Smith, who became the first African American woman to lead the 230-year-old agency, immediately remarked that she would establish a body-worn camera program for USPP within 90 days.

The program will initially begin in San Francisco and be implemented across the country by the end of the year, Smith said.

“Body-worn cameras are good for the public and good for our officers, which is why I am prioritizing implementing a body-worn camera program within my first 90 days,” Smith offered in a statement.

 “This is one of the many steps we must take to continue to build trust and credibility with the public we have been entrusted to serve.”

Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and graduated from the FBI National Academy. She is a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

During her law enforcement career, the proud Zeta Phi Beta Sorority sister has served as a patrol officer, field training officer, canine handler, and academy instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

 According to a news release, Smith also served as executive lieutenant to the chief of police, assistant commander of the San Francisco Field Office, commander of the New York Field Office, acting deputy chief of the Homeland Security Division, and deputy chief for the Field Operations Division.

Smith was the first woman to lead the New York Field Office as its Major.

At the USPP, she will lead a 560-member workforce that protects the public, parks, and the nation’s most iconic landmarks in Wash., D.C., New York City, and San Francisco metropolitan areas.

“Chief Smith’s commitment to policing as public service and her willingness to listen and collaborate make her the right person to lead the U.S. Park Police at this pivotal moment in our country,” Shawn Benge, deputy director exercising the delegated authority of the NPS director, noted in a statement.

 “Over the coming months, the leadership of the National Park Service will explore opportunities with Chief Smith designed to strengthen our organization’s commitment to transparency. Her personal and professional experience make her acutely aware of and ready to meet the challenges and responsibilities that face U.S. Park Police and law enforcement agencies across the nation.”

 Jennifer Flynn, the associate director for Visitor Resource Protection at the National Park Service added that she’s looking forward to Smith’s leadership.

“Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

 “As federal law enforcement officers, the U.S. Park Police officers have a new opportunity each day to give their best to the American people. Chief Smith exemplifies that approach as a colleague and mentor, and she will be instrumental in refining and shaping the future of the organization,” Flynn said.

Smith declared that she would lead by example and expects all officers to display integrity.

 “I have dedicated my career to the professionalism of law enforcement, and it is my highest honor and privilege to serve as chief of police,” Chief Smith declared. “Today’s officers face many challenges, and I firmly believe challenges present opportunities. I look forward to leading this exemplary team as we carry out our mission with honesty and integrity.”  

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