Monday, September 12, 2016

Thoughts of Leonard Peltier on Eid

By Nadrat Siddique

In addition to being Eid ul-Adha, September 12 is Leonard Peltier’s 72nd birthday. Even though he’s not a Muslim, he made an Abraham-esque sacrifice for the oppressed Lakota (Sioux) people in 1975. His sacrifice stems from his participation in the American Indian Movement (AIM) camp on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

Peltier is Anishinabe (Ojibway), and not of the Lakota tribe or Pine Ridge. Hence his actions could be considered rather self-less and internationalist (or at least intertribal). AIM was an national organization fighting for the rights of indigenous people throughout North America. In this context, it came up against both corporate greed and the corrupt local tribal councils which did the dirty work of the corporations. Like many movements which fight for self-determination, human rights, and against the seizure of their peoples’ resources by U.S. and European multinational corporations, AIM was quickly labeled a “terrorist” organization by the authorities.

The camp on Pine Ridge was established to protect the local population from the reign of terror being enacted on them by the puppet tribal council of Dick Wilson. (Indian reservations typically have neither city council nor mayor; instead tribal chair and tribal council are the nearest equivalent). As a Pakistani, I would compare Dick Wilson’s reign of terror to that conducted by the Pakistan Army in Waziristan. As in Waziristan, many Pine Ridge residents were driven out of the area, while others lived in daily fear of the regime over an extended period of time. Many of Dick Wilson’s opponents wound up dead, and it was believed they were murdered by Wilson’s goon squad. Day-to-day life was totally disrupted in Pine Ridge (as was life in Waziristan by the Pakistan army incursions), hence AIM was called in to protect the local people.

It was only as a result of his presence on Pine Ridge that Peltier could be charged with the murder of two FBI agents--a crime which all the evidence, including undisputable ballistic evidence, shows he did not commit. And so Peltier, nearing 40 years of incarceration, continues to languish in an American prison.

This Eid Day, please pray for Peltier, and for all other victims of the American system of Injustice.

© 2016 By Nadrat Siddique

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Passing of a Community Mother—Muneera Afifa



By Nadrat Siddique



May 20, 2016

Burtonsville, MD



Today I attended the janaza of a very old and dear friend, Muneera Afifa. Idara-e-Jaferia (mosque) very kindly hosted the services. Immediately after juma’ah prayers, the janaza (funeral) prayer was held. The scene at Idara resembled a reunion of Jamaat al-Muslimeen members, former members, and associates. I ran across Sr. Yasmine Abdul-Jalil; Sr. Fatimah Abdullah and Sr. Hamdiyah, both from Philadelphia; Sr. Amatullah; Sr. Safiyyah Abdullah; and Sr. Sumayah Nahidian and her daughter. Then there was Sr. Najah; Sr. Zainab Kareem; and Zainab’s son Natheer Kareem. There were others who looked familiar but whom I could not immediately place. Br. Mauri Saalakhan of the Aafia Foundation had cancelled a speaking engagement in New Jersey to be there. Br. Saifuddin Waliullah of Masjid Al-Islam and Br. Khalid Griggs from North Carolina were there. Jamaat al-Muslimeen Ameer Dr. Kaukab Siddique, a long-time friend of Muneera, was not physically present as he had a juma’ah khutbah to deliver at Masjid Jamaat al-Muslimeen in Baltimore, but had sent condolences with his daughter (this writer).



We met, wept, and commiserated with each other, and then left in a miles long funeral procession for the cemetery. The interment was held at the Maryland National Memorial Park in Laurel, MD, where Idara-e-Jaferia holds a section specifically for Muslim burials.



Muneera was a leading member of the DC chapter of Jamaat al-Muslimeen c.1978 – 1985. I remembered her being at every Jamaat meeting, along with her close friend Yasmine Abdul-Jalil, whom she knew from the Islamic Party. Yasmine—along with her then husband, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil—hosted many of the meetings in their Silver Spring home. She had given Muneera shahada, and the bond between them was tight.



Muneera was lively, outspoken, and down-to-earth, attending Jamaat al-Muslimeen meetings with her three small children, Sulaiman, Nafeesa, and Atiya, whom she did not hesitate to breast-feed during the meetings. The organization’s platform included racial and gender equality; permissibility of women’s leadership over men (contingent on their respective taqwa-levels); anti-imperialism; and internationalism. Muneera encompassed all of these tenets. A Black Washington DC, native, she appeared regularly at Jamaat al-Muslimeen protests at the Egyptian Embassy (against the regime of Hosni Mubarak, known for his torture of political opponents); at marches through poverty-ridden DC projects (carrying the revolutionary message of Islam to local communities); at pickets of the Saudi Embassy (calling for an end to the monarchy there); and at Jamaat al-Muslimeen local and national conferences, which relied heavily on her organizing skills.



“Patience and perseverance,” qualities of a Muslim mentioned throughout the Qur’an, were regularly mentioned at DC Jamaat meetings. And Muneera exemplified these traits, despite going through many trials and tribulations at various points in her life.



To me, she was a tower of strength, unflinching in faith. It was the era before political correctness, and I was then attending Annandale High School, a mostly White school in affluent Fairfax County (just outside Washington, DC). There were no other evidently practicing Muslims at Annandale High at the time, and I met major harassment for my adaption of the hijab. At the time, hijab was not the norm in my family—my mother wore it nominally; my sister, my aunt, and my grandmother wore it not at all—and support for my decision to publicly identify as a Muslim was nowhere to be found. As daily persecution against me at Annandale High, including physical attacks by ignorant, corporate-media informed youth, increased, I looked to Muneera. She gave me unconditional support for the path I had chosen, and an affirmation far beyond that of a mother. Somehow, she found the time and energy to be there for me, even while being the young mother of three small children. And- as I heard repeatedly at the janaza, I was not the only one for whom she did this. As a fellow janaza attendee told me, Muneera was the mother to an entire community.



As I stood in the cemetery thinking of the pivotal role Muneera had played during my teen years, and the selflessness with which she’d given of herself, tears rolled down my cheeks. The Iranian clergyman conducting the graveside ceremony went on at considerable length in Arabic—which most of the attendees clearly could not understand. He offered durood as-salaam to the Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) family, including the twelve imams. Oddly, he could not remember or pronounce the name of Muneera’s father (Glover Collins), in his opening statement.



By this time, Muneera’s daughter Nafeesa and son Sulaiman were completely inside the (open) grave with their mother’s body. They adjusted and re-adjusted their mother’s body, until Muneera lay on her right, with head towards the ka’aba. (In an Islamic burial, the body is buried directly in the ground enshrouded in a white sheet, and no coffin is needed, other than perhaps for transport. Family members are encouraged to perform last rites themselves, rather than relying on an undertaker.)



Upon completing the task, Nafeesa emerged from the grave with shovel in hand, and asked the women to move forward, as they were to approach the grave first, to offer prayers, or to symbolically throw dirt on the body. A pile of dirt had been placed on a nearby cart by cemetery workers. After heaping several shovel-fulls of dirt over her mother’s body, she offered the shovel to the women watching. Several of the women, including the stylishly-dressed Fatimah Abdullah from Philadelphia, were grabbing up handfuls of dirt from the pile, and placing them in the grave. However, none stepped forward immediately to take the shovel from Nafeesa, perhaps because it was rather large and unwieldy. I stepped forward, and took it, placing several shovel-fulls of dirt over my beloved friend’s body, memories of the years in Jamaat al-Muslimeen with Muneera flooding my consciousness. I would have continued in my reverie, but Nafeesa reclaimed the shovel from me, and offered it to the other women, before turning it over to the men. The men then completed the job of covering the body with dirt.



Nafeesa was the heroine of the day. The burial ritual over, she stood before the crowd, speaking with grace, clarity, and without breaking down. She thanked the attendees for the outpouring of love shown her mother, and for their support of her and her family. I remembered Nafeesa as a small child, dressed by her mother in dark-colored hijab similar to the one she wore now. She had flowered into a poised, self-confident, and beautiful young woman. I knew that her mother would be proud of the manner in which she presided over this, most difficult of ceremonies.



Imam Khalid Griggs, of the Community Mosque of Winston-Salem, poignantly detailed his life-long friendship with Muneera. He mentioned how she would energize any Islamic project with which she was involved, and how it was hard for her to refrain from becoming involved any time she heard of positive Islamic work being done.



The last time I saw Muneera was at a gathering for Palestine (Quds Day) in Washington, DC. It was Ramadan and well into the fast, and everyone was feeling its effects. Traversing the crowd to get to me, Muneera greeted me with her characteristic loving embrace. From the time frame described by family members, she may have already seen the onset of the disease which ultimately took her life. But there she was, undaunted, by heat, fatigue, and hunger, a Black woman standing up for Palestine. May Allah forgive her sins and grant her Paradise.



© 2016 Nadrat Siddique

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Letter to Dawn (Pakistani Daily Newspaper) on Dr. Aafia Siddiqui


March 26, 2016


The Editor
Dawn
Karachi, Pakistan

Dear Editor,

I am a Pakistani Muslim woman marathoner, living in the Washington, DC area. Since 2009, I have run 26 marathons in ten different states of the U.S. (A marathon, by definition, is 26.2 miles.) In at least five of these 26 competitions, I have qualified for the Boston Marathon. (The Boston marathon is an elite and exclusive race, for which one must first meet the rigorous qualifying standards set by the Boston Athletic Association in another marathon.)

On March 12, I ran the Washington DC Marathon to call attention to the plight of another Pakistani woman: Dr. Aafia Siddiqui.

Dr. Siddiqui holds a bioscience degree from the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a PhD in neuroscience from Brandeis University. Although I have never met her, I can say with some certainty that she is highly intelligent, articulate, deeply Islamic, and cares about Muslim suffering in faraway lands. As such, she is a hero to me, as to many other Pakistani woman (and men).

March 31 will mark 13 years since Aafia was kidnapped from Karachi with evident collusion between the Musharraf regime and U.S. intelligence services operating on Pakistani soil. Her three minor children were captured along with her. Despite clear prohibitions on the imprisonment of children in the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights—to which Pakistan is a signatory—two of Aafia’s children were imprisoned along with her. The third, an infant, appears to have been killed in the course of the rendition.

Running 26.2 miles without stopping is not easy. It can hurt. It can make one feel hopeless, very minute in the overall scheme of things. Many people never complete the race. Exhausted, they commence walking part way through.

There can be other complications like the one I had the night before the marathon. Due to some complication, the custom-made black and white “Free Dr. Aafia Siddiqui” tee shirt I had ordered to wear during the race did not arrive. So I took it upon myself to make one. The excitement of the race and painting the homemade “Free Dr Aafia” shirt kept me up the night before, and I slept only four hours. Around 20,000 people would be running the race, so parking near the starting line was out of the question. I got up before fajr, grabbed my gear, and boarded the Washington DC subway to the race start near the Washington Monument.

The race started at 7:30 AM sharp. As I ran up a steep hill near DC’s famed Dupont Circle, the lack of sleep caught up with me and my muscles ached. I wondered how I would complete the race. For some reason, as I ran along DC’s picturesque Southwest Waterfront, the picture of Aafia’s angelic face in hijab came clearly to my mind. I thought about the horrors she had endured. Aafia, mother of three, who loved children so much that her PhD thesis centered upon them—watching helplessly as her baby Suleman slipped from her arms and fell to the ground, his skull fractured, as Pakistani police roughly arrested the young mother. Innocent, sweet Aafia, with the face of a flower, repeatedly raped and tortured in a remote U.S. military base in Baghram, Afghanistan. What kind of sick bastards could do that to a Muslim woman? My physical pain melted away, to be replaced by psychic pain, and I ran faster, finishing the marathon in 3 hours, 57 minutes.

After five years of being held without charge, and denied even official recognition that she was a prisoner (her name did not appear in any prison, police, or military registry during this time), Aafia was officially handed over to U.S. authorities, and tried in a New York court. The trial was presided over by Judge Richard M. Berman, a Zionist who was clearly biased against Muslims. Not surprisingly, she was convicted and sentenced to 86 years in U.S. prison.

What is surprising—and indeed was the reason I felt compelled to run the Washington DC marathon in Aafia’s name—is that she remains in prison. She is in extremely poor health, has been denied proper medical attention, and can die in U.S. prison—without ever having seen her children and other family members.

The ordinarily vociferous feminist groups, quick to deplore the violations of women’s rights by “those horrible Talibans” have been completely silent on her case. In fact, it is noteworthy that feminists on both sides of the Atlantic, including those who embraced Malalai Yousafzai, have said not a word about Aafia and the very long range torture she endured. Similarly, the liberal U.S. media, such as the Daily Beast, Salon.com, and others, who are ordinarily extremely vigilant about the violations of Pakistani—and in general—Muslim women’s rights because they love us so much [sarcasm intended], have uttered not one word about Aafia.

The Pakistani government has taken no effective steps toward her release. “Israel,” when its citizens are captured, sends commandos to free them. The U.S. government, under President Jimmy Carter, sent a military mission to free American hostages then held by Iran. Other nations have interceded either militarily or diplomatically (eg, via prisoner exchange) when one of its citizens is wrongly held by a foreign government. General Musharraf, under whose reign Aafia was captured, is long gone, and largely discredited at least among some sectors. But- Pakistan, a nation headed by Muslim men—with Qur’an and hadith as their Guiding Light—continue to sit idly by while a Muslim woman is held captive, tortured, and raped for over a decade.

The Pakistani press, too, appear to have written her off.

Aafia is a political prisoner, being held not for any wrong doing, but for the crime of being a Muslim and in the wrong place at the wrong time. What is wrong with us, that we can’t stand up even in this most clear cut case of injustice?

As a Pakistani Muslim woman athlete, I urge the immediate release of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, and a cessation of illegal and unmandated (by the Pakistani populace) U.S. intelligence activities on Pakistani soil which lead to tragedies such Aafia’s.

Sincerely,

Nadrat Siddique
Maryland
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Saturday, December 26, 2015

“The Story of Nuh” Christmas Day Lecture Draws Large Crowd of Spirited Young Muslims, Leaves Many Questions Unanswered

By Nadrat Siddique
 
Fairfax, VA
December 25, 2015
 
To attend a lecture on "The Story of Nuh" seemed to me, the ideal "Christmas" day activity. The event was sponsored by MakeSpace--a group of primarily youth and professionals whose aims include "helping the community develop an American Muslim identity." It was held at the Shirley Gate Mosque in Fairfax, VA, in one of the nation's wealthiest counties.
 
Despite a downpour of rain just prior to the event, the parking lot was completely packed when I arrived a few minutes into the lecture. The lecture hall in the mosque basement, was similarly filled to capacity, with few empty seats, with at least two thirds of the attendees young women in hijab. Alhamdulillah it seemed the spirit of Islam was alive among Northern Virginia Muslims.
 
The youthful lecturer, Adam Jamal, of Pakistani origin, spoke eloquently and was very informative. Perusing Surah Nuh in its entirety, he held the audience's attention for the duration of the 3 hour event.
 
To my uninformed mind, the lecture, which afforded no Q&A period, raised more questions than it answered. For instance, early on in the lecture, Jamal spoke of the delineation of one's people. Very often when you say "your people," you mean those from your country of origin, said Jamal. But in reality, your people are the people around you, he insisted.
 
So, the lecturer was asserting that if one lived in Sodom and Gomorrah, one's people would necessarily be the Sodomites? Or if one lived in a war-mongering society which murdered over a million Muslims without qualm, the war mongerers- and not the Muslims being killed, would be one's people? I was not getting it.
 
Further into the lecture, Jamal described the treatment meted out by a corrupt society to a warner, messenger, or in general to one who tells the truth (and in doing so challenges the prevailing power structure):
 
1) Prevailing powers attempt to coopt the warner; if that does not work,
2) The prevailing powers attempt to discredit the warner, make fun of him, or designate him as crazy; if that does not work,
3) The prevailing powers torture or even kill the warner.
 
Adam Jamal did not offer any examples of who such a warner, gadfly, or maverick might be in our times. Some possible examples which came to mind, and which he might have drawn, were Dr. Omar Abdel Rahman (blind, diabetic hafiz-e-Qur'an and opponent of the Egyptian dictatorship, imprisoned for life in the American Gulag for his staunch opposition to the U.S. backed dictator in country); Osama Bin Ladin (millionaire Saudi who left all worldly belongings to fight first the Soviets and then the American invaders in Afghanistan); and Lal Masjid's Abdul Rashid Ghazi (Pakistani cleric who opposed the aerial destruction of a plethora of mosques across the Pakistani frontier, and who ultimately gave his life when his mosque was besieged by the Pakistan army).
 
Despite the very stark parallels to today's society and Nuh's (AS) time, Jamal failed to draw a single parallel between the two, rendering the lecture entirely theoretical. Oddly, the lecturer also did not mention Nuh's (AS) estrangement from his son, who rejected Islam, the fact that Nuh (AS) left him behind when the flood came, and the symbolic value of such a decision. He did however, repeatedly emphasize the 950 year period during which Nuh (AS) struggled to establish Allah's way, as if it were a literal 950 years (I'm not convinced it was).
 
The event was part of a series put together by the Bayyinah Institute. Bayyinah emphasizes the importance of learning Arabic, and appears allied with Zaytuna College, Qurtaba Institute, and other U.S. government approved Muslim entities which seek to coopt and render politically impotent young Muslims with a passion for Islam. And clearly, the Muslim youth who filled the room to the brim that evening had that passion. In sequestering themselves at a Muslim event on a rainy “Christmas” evening, they were clearly saying “La” to the shirk, materialism, and excesses surrounding them that day. The question remained how a paid Qur’anic Arabic lecturer such as Jamal would direct such positive energies.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Baltimore Marathon Blues

By Nadrat Siddique
 
So, I ran the Baltimore Marathon (26.2 miles) this morning. It was my third time running it. Although I've always considered myself a DC girl, I have grown to love Baltimore, and its people, and was aching to run the race, which I'd been unable to run since 2012. I was quite conflicted about running the race, and did not register until late last night, only a few hours before the event, something unheard off for most amateur athletes engaging in such a major undertaking.
 
The reason for my hesitation was the corporate sponsorship of the race. Among others, Under Armour had signed on to the event. The corporate giant, which now competes with Nike and has its headquarters in Baltimore, play a key role in the Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC), a conglomerate of corporate interests, which control Baltimore's economics with an iron hand. And- the Greater Baltimore Committee--Zionists who assisted in crushing April's Baltimore Uprising--are heavily complicit in the gentrification of Baltimore's Inner Harbor. They have succeeded in driving Baltimore's native Black population out of the area, grabbing up land, developing it, and selling it at prices completely out of reach for most Baltimore natives. A mere condo on Baltimore's newly gentrified Inner Harbor easily goes for $500,000 - $600,000.
 
I see commonality between the practices of the GBC, and those of the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) in Occupied Palestine. In the Palestinian case, settlements are built by Israeli settlers. These homes are then completely off limits for Palestinian habitation, a situation no less than Apartheid South Africa. And the original Palestinian inhabitants, whose land was seized to facilitate the influx of the Zionist settlers, are forced to relocate to Bantustans where they live under dismal, depraved conditions. As you might imagine, I was very troubled by the fact that my $130 registration fee, although meager in the larger scheme of things, might be seen even symbolically as a support of the White Supremacist design for Baltimore. On top of that, I was getting warning messages from some not-so-friendly quarters not to run the race.
 
I compromised and paid the registration fee, deciding to run to deliver my message "Black Lives Matter," contained on a black tee-shirt I'd acquired, hoping for an opportunity to offer solidarity from my Pakistani people to that important movement at some point.
 
I did not see anyone else at the Baltimore marathon representing the Black Lives Matter movement, either running or spectating. But I received kudos from many spectators, including Whites, who yelled out "Black lives matter," to which I responded, "Stop police brutality!" One Black man yelled out at me, "All lives matter!" I pumped my fist at him: "Black lives matter!" I crossed the finish line in 3 hrs 42 mins, a new record for me (also a Boston Marathon qualifying performance) for that distance. I attribute it to the love I have developed over the last few years for Baltimore, and to the Power of the Almighty.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Juma-tul-Wida at the Islamic Center of Baltimore


By Nadrat Siddique

 

I made the juma'ah prayers at ISB (Islamic Center of Baltimore) today. Recall that this is one of the government's flagship masajid, replete with DHS cameras and whatnot (unfortunately not unusual for many monied mosques today). I hadn't been there in a while.

 

 ISB is not a poor mosque to begin with. It is valued at $813,000. An SDAT real estate search revealed that $675,000 of this is in improvements done by the mosque association after it was purchased. So clearly, some individuals associated with the mosque have money, and lots of it.

 

That made it all the more surprising that the mimbar would be used for well hitting up you and I for a lil cash. Much of the second half of the khutbah was a fundraising pitch for the grandiose mosque. On the prestigious occasion of Juma-tul-Wida, Part 2 of the khutbah had the tone of an auction (or the lead in to one, in any event). The real "auction" was the next day, when ISB would have their annual fundraising dinner, into which, said the imam, they ordinarily invested $30,000 to $40,000 for the dinners served to the guests.

 

The khutbah ended with the imam invoking du'ah for various members of the congregation who were ill. That was understandable, I thought. After all, these brothers and sisters are part of the masjid community (and even if they weren't, they are part of the ummah).

 

But it was the imam's final du'ah that almost made me fall over. He asked the congregants to pray for Governor Larry Hogan. Hogan, he said, was also “sick,” referring to the Maryland Governor’s recent cancer diagnosis. “And Hogan, being the leader of Maryland, is our leader, too,” continued the imam. “May Allah give him health and hikma (wisdom)," said the imam.

 

I was flabbergasted. The imam was praying for a kaffir, out of the pulpit which ideally ought emulate that of the Rasool (SAW). I'm not an Islamic scholar, but I don't believe the Rasool ever made du'ah for kaffirs out of the pulpit. So it was quite out of line, it would seem.

 

On top of it all, imam sahib was praying for a man who had just weeks prior called the National Guard on Black youth in Baltimore, risking a blood bath. He labeled and blackballed them as "thugs," "criminals," and "rioters" because they had the gaul to stand up against police brutality. And about a week after the Baltimore Uprising (termed "Riots" by corporate media and government), he rescinded $11 million dollars in educational funds from those youth (a total of $68 million was rescinded from Maryland schools in toto). So, Hogan is hardly someone who is aligned with the oppressed.

 

And our imam couldn't find anyone else to pray for? This is a sad, sad commentary on us as an Ummah.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Jamaat al-Muslimeen Condemns Charleston, SC Shootings


Press Statement

 

Nadrat Siddique

Jamaat al-Muslimeen National Majlis-e-Shura Member

Washington, DC



June 19, 2015

 

Jamaat al-Muslimeen condemns the massacre of four Black pastors and five other church-goers by a White Supremacist shooter at the Emmanual African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Charleston, SC, yesterday. We offer our deepest condolences to the families of the victims.

 

It is particularly saddening that such an occurrence took place at a church which is nearly 200- years old and considered a historical landmark. As many are aware, the church was founded around 1820, by the great slave rebellion leader Denmark Vesey, who was forcibly brought to Charleston, but later bought his own freedom. He organized a slave rebellion in 1822, which was betrayed by some of the participants. Vesey and 34 others, including his son, were hanged. The church was razed by the authorities.

 

Jamaat al-Muslimeen notes the image of police officer Michael Brelo in Cleveland, standing on the hood of a car and shooting unarmed motorists Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams 15 times through the windshield at point blank range. We note the choking death of the asmatic Eric Garner by a New York police officer.

 

Internationally, we note the 2007 shooting spree by a U.S. Apache helicopter in Baghdad, deliberating targeting and gunning down 12 civilians, and laughing “Ha ha I hit ‘em.” We note the murder of large numbers of civilians by drone strikes—in violation of international law—in places like Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.

 

In these cases and countless others, the perpetrators went unpunished. It is deeply troubling that these acts of terrorism and countless others against people of color by those representing the U.S. government, here and abroad—in violation of the United States Constitution and the U.S. military handbook—send the message to potential White Supremacist terrorists that there is no punishment for taking innocent lives.

 

We note that incidents such as the Charleston massacre indicate the inability of the U.S. government to protect its own citizens, and point to the compelling need for U.S. intelligence services to refocus their efforts. Instead of engaging in entrapment, fraudulent/ preemptive prosecutions, and Thought Crime prosecutions of Muslims and others, we encourage U.S. intelligence services to refocus their efforts on what is clearly a very real threat by White Supremacist extremists—domestic terrorists in the U.S.

 

END

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Conversation with Reverend Annie Chambers (Big Momma's House)

May 1, 2015
 
Describe the area in which you work.
 
I work all over. Baltimore has changed a lot. They have pushed out a lot of poor people. I work with people on Caroline Street. Also the projects I work in are Perkins, Douglas, Gilmor, and others. They’re taking away public housing. Now people have nowhere to live. We fight for basic things like food and shelter. Shelter is getting to be a real challenge.
I work with a mother with three children. The police came to her house and found a tiny amount of marijuana. As a result, she and her three children are homeless. Average rent in Baltimore is $800 or $900 per month, which she cannot afford. She goes from place to place, depending on family members to take her in. The homeless shelters in the city are a joke. Her sixteen-year old can’t stay with her at a shelter because he’s considered an adult male. She wanted to stay with me, when I have is a one bedroom. She says all she needs is a floor to sleep on.
 
Describe the conditions faced by the young people in Baltimore.
 
I deal with children and people on a daily basis who don’t have shoes. They wear fifty cent flip flops all summer long. And it’s not only that they don’t have shoes. You got parents who can’t get a proper shirt or pair of pants.
 
We dressed the children ourselves, because they don’t have clothes.
                                                                                                                
The children come to me are often hungry. A boy told me ten different ways to fix “Oodles of Noodles.” He wanted to know why I didn’t have “Oodles of Noodles.” I hate “Oodles of Noodles.” One day I made spaghetti, and he had some. He said it was some funny tasting “Oodles of Noodles.” I gave him a cupcake instead.
 
Many of the children we deal with are in a shelter at night. They walk the street during the day. We take them on field trips. We educate them in Black history. We teach them art. Every child who went to Big Momma’s house was one or two grades ahead when they went back into the public school system.
 
Do many of these children have parents who are locked up?
 
If you have ten children, maybe half of those will have parents who are locked up.
 
The education system has failed the children.  The system has failed them. We have failed them. The system thinks nothing of putting them in prison. In fact, they think nothing of putting the children in prison with the older people.
 
If you’re a black male walking down the street, you’re a target. I’ve seen police strip the boys down to their underwear. Even make them take their underwear off. Do a body cavity search. They will grope all over the girls’ breasts. And the children haven’t done anything.
A ten-year old told me: The police better not mess with me. I asked him what he would do if they did mess with him. He said: I will kill the police.
 
Police stomp a man like Tyrone West in the chest. They know what they are doing. Then they say it was okay, the man is dead. But that man was a father, an uncle, a brother.
 
People think children don’t see all these things. They keep telling the children to be peaceful.
 
The children were tired. They were caged. How do you expect them to feel when they keep seeing the police kill us. The officials always come up with some explanation for why they killed us.
 
How do you think Tyrone’s children are going to feel when they see that the police beat their father or uncle to death? So the anger is already there in the children. The powder keg was already there. The children throwing rocks in Baltimore were not thugs, thieves, or soldiers. They did what they had to, and now  the whole world is noticing. I am proud of them.
 
Minister Malcolm told us, never start a fight. But if they bring it to you, make sure you finish the fight.
 
This government goes over the world talking about human rights. We [Black people in Baltimore] ask: Am I not a human?  Just because my skin is brown, or black or red, am I not a human? We have not gotten any human rights yet. We have to pray, get up, and start battling. I’ll be 75-years old in August, and I’ve been praying to see this day.
 
I’m tired of the preachers, faith-based leaders. They keep talking about peace.  We haven’t had any peace since we’ve been here.
 
Those children were doing what we should have done. If you want respect from those devils, you must command it. I understand from people who were in the first march, people were spitting on them. My grandson and other young people told me they were spit on. They were called niggers. The white people who were with them were called nigger lovers. They had beer thrown on them. And they decided they were not going to take it anymore.
 
All the public radio and television personalities were talking bad about the children. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and all the other self-proclaimed advocates came into town, and thumbed their nose at the people. They didn’t march with the people. They met with the mayor.
 
I didn’t see any of these men come out in defense of the children, except [Pastor] Jamal Bryant. And he stayed only five minutes. I prayed that the Lord would smite them. They are part of the problem. Then for [Baltimore Mayor] Stephanie Rawlings Blake to call our children thugs. The next election, everybody who has breath in their body should work to get her out of office.
 
[Police Commissioner] Batts came into  office with the agenda to eliminate our people. His plan was to push Black people out of the city. They got rid of all the Section 8 [subsidized] housing, making it very difficult for poor people on very low incomes to survive in Baltimore.
 
Another problem that arises: If you don’t have water, the government can take your children from you.
 
Why would you not have water?
 
Because you couldn’t pay your water bill.
 
And why would that be? Wouldn’t a water bill be at most $30, 50, or 100? That doesn’t seem like a big deal, considering how high rent and utilities are in Baltimore.
 
The water bill may be $300, $400, or $500.
 
So the pretext of unpaid water bills is one way the System separates Black children from their parents. In what other ways do they attempt to destroy the Black family?
 
The media aired that clip of the woman who grabbed her son out of the protest. She slapped him in the head. They aired that many times. They were gloating over it.
 
But think about it: In the times we live in, if a Black parent beats their child, they’re going to jail.  Parents can’t even holler at their children, because the police will come and take the child away from the parent.
A woman across the street whipped her child for stealing out the Dollar Store. The cops came and locked the mother up.  Next time they try to do that, I’m going to remind them about that woman they put on TV. It was okay for her to hit her son upside the head, because he was part of the Uprising (which they call a “riot”). These people [in government] are liars and connivers.
 
Talk about the terminologies used by the government and corporate media to describe the young people who participated in Monday’s actions.
 
The word “thug” came out of our mayor’s mouth. It got picked up by the media who kept it going. “Hoodlums” came out of the mouth of Dante Hickman who calls himself a minister.
 
Dante Hickman, of the Southern Baptist Convention?
 
Yes. And President Obama called them thieves. The media picked that up and ran with it. These are labels put on the children. If I’m hungry and can’t get food, and I take some, I’m a thief. If I’m oppressed and I strike back, I’m a hoodlum. We didn’t have a riot. I know what a riot is. I’ve seen plenty of them. We had an uprising.
 
The thug is the police department. The hoodlums are those down in City Hall who are doing the master’s will. The thieves are the carpetbaggers in the churches and corporations. Put the labels where they belong.
 
The children struck a match. They lit the fire. Let’s hope the adults have the sense to put some wood onto the fire. Continue to fight.
 
I’m glad the children did what they did because they stood up and said, “I’m human and I want to be treated like I’m human. I’m an instrument and a soldier in the Army of the Lord.” They’re not thugs and thieves. They’re truly soldiers in the Army of the Lord.




Reverend Mother Annie Chambers is a Black Panther, a mother, a grandmother, and a great grandmother. She’s a fighter for her people, which she considers to be all humanity.

Baltimore: The New Gaza

What Role for Muslims (and Other People of Conscience)?
By Nadrat Siddique
 
On Saturday, April 25, a large protest against the police murder of Black Baltimore native Freddie Gray was called by the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly and the Baltimore Bloc. By evening, the legal permitted protest dissolved into large scale street blockages, including, to the chagrin of the authorities, in the vicinity of the stadium where the baseball game was underway. Traffic came to a standstill, and a very large number of police descended on the area and surrounded the protestors. Corporate media immediately characterized the spontaneous actions following the permitted protest, as riots—and the participants as thugs, hoodlums, rioters, and other pejoratives. The media accorded similar treatment to the student action near Baltimore’s Mondawmin Mall two days later.
 
Given all that Baltimore youth have endured for decades, and given the dehumanization, degradation, marginalization, and indeed genocide, which much of Black Baltimore has experienced in a largely Black city, under an administration which can only be characterized as Jim Crow in Black face, the Baltimore Uprising was inevitable. The only thing surprising about it was that it took so many years to reach this point. This report examines the events of Saturday, April 25 and Monday, April 27, and the underlying political climate which led to them. It starts with an overview of conditions in Baltimore, including the city’s vast prison industry and the daily police terror faced by Baltimore natives, then focuses on the specific conditions under which Baltimore’s Black and Brown youth live. Finally, it attempts to illustrate the inevitability of the Baltimore Uprising. An interview with grassroots activist, Reverend Annie Chambers, whose Big Momma’s House for years offered support to indigent Baltimore children and youth, follows the report.
 
BACKGROUND
 
Although statistics don’t tell the whole story, they are a good starting point. According to U.S. Census Bureau figures for Baltimore, the unemployment rate for young black men between the ages of 20 to 24, was an astounding 37% in 2013. For white men of the same age, the unemployment rate was 10%.[1] Grassroots organizations, which work directly with local populations in Baltimore, report even more dismal statistics. The Baltimore Black Think Tank (BBTT), an advocacy group for Black and poor people in the city, says nearly 60 percent of Black males in Baltimore are unemployed.
According to government sources, nearly 24% of Baltimore's population is living below the poverty line ($20,090 per year for a family of three).[2] But, according to the BBTT, “Economic Conditions for 67% of the total Black population in Baltimore City have been determined to be critical.”[3]
In Baltimore, as elsewhere, economics clearly correlates with how long and how well one will live. A juxtaposition of the Black neighborhoods of Upton and Druid Heights, with the primarily White, Jewish neighborhood of Roland Park is telling: The life expectancy in Upton and Druid Heights is 63-years old. In Roland Park, it is 83-years old. In the SandtownWinchester/ Harlem Park community where Freddie Gray lived, seven percent of the children have elevated lead levels in their blood, with severe implications for their development and well-being. In Roland Park, no children have elevated lead levels in their blood.[4] Freddie Gray and his two sisters had blood lead levels “above the threshold for the kind of poisoning which causes permanent brain damage,” according to tests ordered by the family, which successfully sued their then-landlord, but the damage was already done. Freddie was in special education classes for the duration of his academic career, and ultimately dropped out of high school.[5]
 
The income gap between Upton/Druid Heights and Roland Park is no less stark than that in life expectancy. In Upton/Druid Heights, the median income is $13,388 a year. In Roland Park, it is $90,492. These neighborhoods are less than five miles away from each other. But this disparity is not limited to Upton/Druid Heights, and Roland Park. Citywide, average White income is almost twice as much as that of Blacks.[6]
 
Prison Industry
 
As in other big cities, poverty, unemployment, disenfranchisement, and gentrification—
in short, the disinheriting of the poor—is invariably addressed by the System through imprisonment of the target population. To that end, there are nine prisons in Baltimore.[7] A tenth prison—for Baltimore youth—was just approved by the Maryland State Board of Public Works. All of the existing prisons were built by the Democrats. So, while many, including Blacks, view the Democratic Party as the friend of Black people, it is more accurate to say the party is deeply enmeshed in the prison industry in Baltimore, and as such, is the instrument of the White Supremacy.
 
If one is arrested in Baltimore, one is first taken to Baltimore Central Booking. It is among the 20 largest jails in the U.S. More than 73,000 people go through Baltimore Central Booking every year.[8] In comparison with the other 19 largest jails in the country, Baltimore has the dubious distinction of holding the highest percentage of its population in jail. As a result of years of gentrification, only 63.7% of Baltimore’s population is Black (29.6% are White).[9] Over 35,000 people are committed to the Baltimore City Detention Center each year. The majority of these are Black.[10] This is yet one more indicator that this population has been targeted for marginalization, demoralization, and ultimately genocide.
 
The Baltimore jail system is one of the oldest and largest pretrial facilities in the country. The Baltimore City Detention Center consists of five buildings and can hold around 4,000 people. Significantly—and very differently from other jails—the Baltimore Jail system is paid for by the State of Maryland, not by Baltimore. This means there is no incentive for Baltimore authorities to limit the number of people they arrest and incarcerate. So, not surprisingly, nearly 4,000 people are locked up in the Baltimore Jail system on any given day.[11]
 
Roughly nine out of 10 of those held in the Baltimore Jail system have not yet gone to trial, and hence are still legally innocent. The majority of those being held are Black men, mostly under the age of 35.[12]
Of the approximately 4,000 people detained at Central Booking on any given day, about 33% are accused of violent offenses. Twenty-eight percent (28%) are incarcerated for drug offenses. Another 19% are held on other nonviolent offenses (other than drugs). Twelve percent are locked up for a violation of probation. The jail itself classifies 27% of detainees as low security.[13] So, even at this pre-trial level, it is safe to say that a very large percentage of detainees are held for non-violent offenses, by a White Supremacist power structure which has a vested interest in their labeling, marginalization, and ultimately their elimination.
 
After one is convicted in Baltimore, one is usually removed to state prison. Statistics for who is in state prison, revealed in a February 2015 report by the Justice Police Institute (JPI) in collaboration with the Prison Policy Initiative, are eye-opening. One out of three Maryland residents in state prison is from Baltimore.[14] This is despite the fact that Maryland is a relatively populous state, and only one in ten Maryland residents is from Baltimore.
 
The JPI report examined 55 communities in Baltimore. Off the 55 communities, five contributed the largest number of people to state prison. The community sending the largest number of people to prison was—not surprisingly—that of Freddie Gray: SandtownWinchester/Harlem Park. There, 3% of the total population is in prison. So, 458 people from Freddie Gray’s community are locked up in Maryland state prison. And the state spends $17 million on keeping them there.[15]
 
Freddie Gray’s community is 96.6 % Black. There, unemployment for people between the ages of 16 - 64 is 52%. Thirtyfour percent (34%) of the inhabitants do not have a high school diploma or GED. One out of three houses in the community was vacant or abandoned in 2012.[16]
 
Just below Freddy’s community in terms of highest incarceration were the communities of Southwest Baltimore, Greater Rosemont, CliftonBerea, and Southern Park Heights. A combined total of 1,416 people from these communities are held in Maryland state prison. So, one in four people who are in prison from Baltimore City come from these four communities, plus Freddy’s community of SandtownWinchester/ Harlem Park. Most of these communities are Black. And Maryland taxpayers dole out $10 million per year to each of these communities to lock up their citizens.[17]
 
The community with the smallest number of people locked up was Greater Roland Park/Poplar Hill. Not surprisingly, the population of Roland Park is 77.5% White, with Asians forming 9.8% of the population, and Blacks 7.9%.[18]
 
The report enlarged its scope to name the 25 Baltimore communities with the highest incarceration rates. These were: Pimlico/Arlington/Hilltop; Southern Park Heights; Dorchester/Ashburton; Forest Park/Walbrook; Greater Mondawmin; Penn North/Reservoir Hill; Greater Charles Village/Barclay; Edmondson Village; Greater Rosemont; SandtownWinchester/Harlem Park; Upton/Druid Heights; Allendale/Irvington/South Hilton; Southwest Baltimore; Greater Govans; Northwood; Midway/Coldstream; Belair/Edison; Cedonia/Frankford; Greenmount East; CliftonBerea; Oldtown/Middle East; Madison/East End; Patterson Park (North and East); Cherry Hill; and Brooklyn/Curtis Bay/Hawkins Point.[19]
 
Most of these 25 communities are majority Black. A few of the communities had working class/poor White populations. At least $5 million per year is spent by Maryland taxpayers to incarcerate people from each of these twenty-five communities. Seven out of 10 Baltimore residents in a state prison in 2010 were from one of these 25 communities. In total, Maryland taxpayers spend $288 million each year to lock up mostly Black and poor people from Baltimore City.[20]
 
Police Murders
 
After the establishment of Baltimore’s Central Booking, it became the job of the police to deliver people there. (Previously police had taken suspects to the respective precincts where they were arrested.) However, many people never make it to Central Booking because they are brutalized—sometimes to death—by police prior to being booked, charged, tried, or convicted. Police brutality is epidemic. Before Freddie Gray, there was 46-year old Anthony Anderson, slammed to the ground so hard by police that his spleen ruptured. There was Maurice Donald Johnson, shot multiple times by police in his mother’s living room. There was 22-year old Sean Gamble, retreating to his car parked outside a nightclub, shot multiple times by police. Twenty-nine year old Dale Graham, shot by police after a family disagreement. Fourteen-year old Kevin Cooper shot inside his mother’s home by police. Thirteen-year old Monae Turnage shot dead on her way home from watching a movie with school friends, with a rifle later found in a plainclothes police officer’s car. Forty-four year old Tyrone West, pulled by his dreadlocks from his sister’s Lexus which he was driving, to be beaten and stomped to death by 12 police officers. Twenty-nine-year old George Booker Wells, shot and killed by police, after they chased him two blocks from his girlfriend’s house. Twenty-five year old Donte Bennett, shot with his hands up after he’d been running from police. William Torbitt, a Black police officer, shot to death by other police officers near a nightclub. Nineteen-year old George King, tasered to death by police as he lay recuperating in a hospital bed. And heart wrenchingly, the list continues to grow.
 
The States Attorney, a Zionist Jew named Gregg Bernstein, was in office when most of these cases came to light. Tasked with indicting in cases where a crime had occurred, he refused to prosecute the officers in nearly every case, saying the officers had not used excessive force, and had followed police procedures. To him, it seemed of no consequence that in some of the cases which came before him, such as that of Anthony Anderson, the State’s own medical examiner had ruled the death a homicide. Similarly video footage and eyewitness testimony of police beatings and use of excessive force seemed of no matter to him. Bernstein himself lived comfortably in Roland Park, a neighborhood of zero percent incarceration.
 
Non-Fatal (but Serious) Incidents of Police Brutality
 
In addition to the people killed outright by the Baltimore Police Department, a very large number of Baltimore Blacks are profiled, harassed, or brutalized by police. By 2014, the situation had gotten so far out of hand that even the pro-establishment Baltimore Sun released a major report revealing that large numbers of Baltimore natives had been brutalized and battered so badly that they successfully sued the city to the tune of $5.7 million. This included 102 separate court cases since 2011. (Since then, an additional $587,250 has been awarded in settlements to subsequent victims.) According to the Sun report, the cases show that “officers have battered dozens of residents who suffered broken bones — jaws, noses, arms, legs, ankles — head trauma, organ failure, and even death, coming during questionable arrests. Some residents were beaten while handcuffed; others were thrown to the pavement.”[21]
 
An eighty-seven-year-old grandmother, named Venus Green, was pushed, shoved, and brutalized by police to the extent that she suffered a broken shoulder. She was then hogtied and placed face down on her couch. A 26-year old pregnant woman, named Starr Brown, was slammed to the ground by police, despite her pleas that she was pregnant. Then there was Dondi Johnson Sr. who was left paralyzed in 2005 after being recklessly driven around by police.[22]
 
Baltimore has a very large and visible Black Muslim population. If one is evidently Muslim, one is greeted with “As-salaam alaikom” at every turn. In that sense, Baltimore is a very Muslim friendly city. But—Black Muslims are the targets of police, along with everyone else. A 36-year old Muslim named Abdul Salaam, was pulled from his car in his driveway after police followed him home for an alleged seat belt violation, slammed to the ground, then hogtied and beaten so badly in front of his young son, that it was a miracle he survived.[23] Another Muslim, Salahudeen Abdul-Aziz, whose beating by police resulted in a broken nose, facial fracture and other injuries, was not taken to a hospital for many hours.[24]
 
These cases are known primarily because the victims filed civil suits against the police, but for every case in which charges are filed, there are a multitude of others which never come to light because the victim fears police retribution; is unaware of his or her rights; or lacks the means, communication skills, or determination to bring charges.
 
Perversely, the injuries, beatings, and trauma are administered by police, who, in the United States, take an oath to “protect and serve” their constituents. Even more Orwellian, those who receive compensation for grievous injuries, including some which could have resulted in death, are not permitted to speak of their experience afterwards. If they talk, their award can be rescinded in whole or in part.
 
No Signs of Improvement
 
But even broad scale and successful litigation doesn’t appear to have made the police more responsive or conscientious in their dealings with those whom they are paid to serve. In May 2015, the Baltimore Sun published another report on the condition of detainees brought to Central Booking. They found that in the period from June 2012 through April 2015, a whopping 2,600 people were brought by police to Central Booking with injuries so severe the jail would not accept them (they had to be taken to the hospital instead). “Intake officers in Central Booking noted a wide variety of injuries, including fractured bones, facial trauma and hypertension. Of the detainees denied entry, 123 had visible head injuries, the third most common medical problem” the report said.[25] So while “rioting” youth were framed by the corporate media and government as the problem in Baltimore, many Baltimore residents pinpoint the police as the problem, indeed as the source of the terror under which they live.
 
Conditions for Baltimore Youth
 
After the street blockages on Saturday, April 25, and the youth uprising on Monday, April 27, the authorities, fearing an escalation and its implications for corporate interests, instated a city wide curfew from 10:00 PM to 5:00 AM.
 
What people outside Baltimore forgot is that youth in Baltimore were already under a curfew, enacted in June 2014, prior to any putative riots. That curfew required youth under 14 to be off the streets by 9:00 PM, and those age d14-16 had to be off the streets by 10:00 PM on school nights and 11:00 PM on weekends and over the summer. If they ventured out, they could be nabbed off the street by police. According to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, police would “bring youths found in violation of the new time limits to a year-round youth connection center.” In the process, a youth could be handed over to Child Protective Services. Even if a youth was not removed from his parent and placed with that agency, parents faced a fine of up to $500.[26]
 
The previous youth curfew, like the current city-wide one, was selectively enforced. The June 2014 curfew was almost never enforced in affluent, predominantly White areas. So White youth could consort, congregate to smoke weed, and engage in social interactions without interference—actions which would quickly land Black youth in the hands of the police.
 
Over and above police encounters arising from the curfew, Black children and youth undergo experiences with police early on which inculcate a well-founded distrust, animosity, and fear in them. Black children—who watch their parents, siblings, relatives, neighbors, or teachers being degraded, abused, beaten, or even murdered by the police—experience the trauma as if it is happening to them. Given Baltimore’s skyrocketing rates of police brutality, many Black inner city children are traumatized by seeing—whether on television, social media, or on the street—people who look like them being frisked; pulled from their cars and made to sit on the pavement; stomped, beaten, or slammed to the ground; or being shot multiple times by the police. Imagine a Black child listening to news of little Monae Turnage murdered, her body covered with trash, the rifle casings traced to a weapon in a police car. Or hearing of young George King, tasered to death by police while he lay helpless in a hospital bed. Many children fear similar treatment will be dealt to them or someone close to them.
 
According to Reverend Annie Chambers, a former Black Panther, whose organization, Big Momma’s house, offered support services to indigent children in Baltimore for years, the children, including teenagers who are already shy and/or sensitive about their bodies, are stopped and physically harassed on a whim by police. They are often forced to strip to their underwear in public by police. Sometimes the police go so far as to demand a body cavity search, clearly meant to humiliate the child or youth. Groping of girls’ breasts by police during such a stop is common, adds Reverend Chambers.
 
Actual detention of children is not unheard of either. The city detention center has up to twenty minors in its custody on any given day. The child prisoners are sometimes kept in solitary confinement for a month or longer.[27] In March 2015, the U.S. Justice Department's Division of Civil Rights found that "Teenagers awaiting trial on adult charges in Baltimore are being kept in solitary confinement far too long — up to 143 days in one case.”[28]
 
Indeed the State seems determined to imprison—rather than to educate, nurture, or uplift—Baltimore’s Black youth. Up until 2013, the State’s efforts were geared at building a $70 million youth jail. After concerted lobbying and citywide protests by the Baltimore Algebra Project and other opponents, the plans were finally dropped. Then, on May 13, 2015—just two weeks after the Baltimore Youth Uprising, the Board of Public Works of the State of Maryland approved plans to build a $30 million youth jail. This time it was passed with little to no debate.[29]
 
To add insult to injury, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan reallocated $68 million—which legislators had set aside for schools—to the pension system. Of the $68 million, Baltimore schools were to have gotten $11.6 million. [30]
 
But then writing off Black youth is nothing new to the State of Maryland. Around 1996, the situation was so dire that parents of Baltimore City students sued the Maryland State Department of Education for underfunding Baltimore City Schools. One Judge Kaplin ruled that the Department of Education was underfunding the Baltimore City Public School System, in comparison to other districts in the state of Maryland, and ordered the State to pay Baltimore City schools their due. The state blatantly ignored his orders. As a result, students lead strikes, hosted rallies, and attempted to perform a citizen arrest of the Maryland State Department of Education Superintendent Nancy Grasmick.[31] In subsequent years, similar lawsuits were filed against the Maryland State Department of Education, but conditions did not improve significantly.
 
In 2007, the Baltimore Black Think Tank reported that Baltimore City Schools contained lead in the drinking fountain water. In 2009, student leaders from the Baltimore Algebra Project described the city's school buildings as crumbling, the school bathrooms devoid of soap and paper towels, the school lunches as inedible, and textbooks as being in short supply.[32]
 
By 2010, conditions in Baltimore City Public Schools had deteriorated so significantly that students from the Baltimore Algebra Project and other groups petitioned the Board of Education to enact the “National Student Bill of Rights.” Included in the draft were demands such as: the right to study curriculum which addressed the real, material, and cultural needs of the communities from which the students came; the right to safe housing; the right to safe public schools; the right to high quality food; the right to freedom from unwarranted search, seizure or arrest by police; the right to establish systems of restorative justice in schools and communities, and cessation of exclusion from educational opportunities except by a jury of peers; and the right not be charged for crimes as adults until the age of 18.”[33]
 
The National Student Bill of Rights was swept under rug by the Board of Education.
 
In 2013, in a continuing trend, the city closed 20 recreation centers which could have benefitted Black and Brown youth. Not surprisingly, among these was the Lillian Jones center at Gilmor Elementary, in Freddie Gray’s neighborhood. Four more recreation centers in the poor and working class West Baltimore communities of Crispus Attucks, Central Rosemont, Hilton and Harlem Park were closed permanently.
 
While recreation centers were being closed left and right, police department budgets seemed immune to cuts: “In 1991, the city spent roughly $8.7 million to operate 76 recreation centers. The budget for police that year was $182 million. This year, the city will spend $10.6 million on its recreation centers and $324.9 million on comparable law enforcement programs,” reported the Baltimore Sun.[34]
 
One in three Baltimore City children live below the poverty line.[35]  As Reverend Annie Chambers told this writer, many of the children who came to Big Momma’s House did not have underwear or socks to wear to school. Once in school, they didn’t have pencils or paper to complete their assignments.
 
Clearly Black youth in Baltimore face multiple challenges: They are targeted by the police, the education system, the prison system, the media, even by the local Arab or Indo-Pak corner store owner who imagines them all to be criminals and speaks to them only through a bullet proof glass partition. Some such youth live in households lacking basic necessities, such as food, clothing, shoes, and electricity. Some have parents who are on drugs, “running the streets,” or in the prison system.
 
Leading up to the Baltimore Uprising, government and corporate interests had clearly determined that Baltimore’s youth were expendable. As an expendable segment of the population, they were to be eliminated. To accomplish that goal, Baltimore was turned into an open air prison, holding little promise for its imprisoned population. That population is offered only curfew, prisons, barbed wire, and police beatings. Baltimore has, without exaggeration, become the new Gaza.
 
April 25
After Saturday’s [April 25] legal permitted march ended, the protestors took it upon themselves to engage in disciplined street blockages. They did not, at first, damage any property. Then, near McKeldin Square (Baltimore Inner Harbor) and Camden Yards (Baltimore Orioles baseball stadium), the protestors moved into the middle of the street like a wave, and linked arms. They refused to move despite police orders to do so, but remained largely peaceful. The baseball game ended, and affluent White Baltimore Orioles fans came pouring out of the stadium, but could not leave due to the street blockages. Angered at being inconvenienced by Black Baltimore, they hurled epithets of “n-gger” and other obscenities at the protestors. Many protestors were already enraged by the murder of yet another young black man, Freddie Gray, and the expectation that the police would once again be immune to prosecution. It was perhaps these factors, coupled with the extremely heavy police cordons, even during the peaceful protest, and the racial attacks by the White Orioles fans, which caused some to snap. They took to smashing police cars, knocking over barricades and trashcans, and breaking windows. Their energies were focused to a large extent on the Galleria (upscale shopping mall at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor),  and nearby restaurants and bars, built by the Zionists heading the Greater Baltimore Committee, and viewed widely as part of the gentrification which forced Black people out of the area over the past decade. As a result of this action, the Baltimore light rail, which stops near the stadium, and is usually littered with drunk White Oriole fans after a game, suspended its operations. The protestors did not disperse until after 11:00 PM.
 
 
April 27
 
Freddie Gray’s funeral was held on the morning of April 27. Many well-known politicians and religious figures attended and spoke passionately about the injustice dealt to Freddie. Shortly afterwards, some of them, notably Reverend Jesse Jackson and Reverend Al Sharpton, met with the mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who oversaw the killing of Gray and countless other Black men, not uttering a word against the police.
 
Later that afternoon, when schools let out, the dynamics of the situation took a 180 degree turn, as the youth took charge. Near Mondawmin Mall, where many students catch buses to return home after school, the buses were grounded by the authorities. Left with no mode of transportation to their homes, the students, with some teacher support, seized the occasion, taking to the streets and facing off with police. The standoff continued for hours, with students throwing rocks, bricks, and urine at the heavily armed phalanx of police. Hundreds of police cars, bearcats, armored personnel carriers, and helicopters were called into the area.
 
It is instructive to examine the targets of the students during Monday’s events. The students targeted police vans, like the one in which Freddie Gray was murdered. They targeted police cars and police officers (98 police were injured), instruments of the black community’s repression.
 
They hit a fire truck, which was observed with cracked windshield. They cut the hose on another fire truck, which was in the process of extinguishing a fire at a CVS store, also targeted in the action. Observers familiar with historical role of fire trucks note that non-violent civil rights activists, challenging White Supremacy during the 1960s and 1970s, were periodically doused with fire hoses, whose concentrated stream of water could cause serious harm, and even death to a protestor. In the eyes of many, fire trucks were no more neutral than police cars.
 
The youth also targeted the Save-A-Lot (discount food chain) and a CVS (drug) store. Community elders and others confirmed to this writer that many youth felt they had a rare opportunity to get “real food,” and they took it. They also expropriated toilet paper, medicine, and other essentials, often in short supply in neighborhoods targeted for financial ruin.
 
The “Sports Mart,” an athletic shoe store owned by one Harry Levy, in Mondawmin Mall was targeted. Interestingly, television cameras revealed that the shoes taken were, in many cases, singles (one shoe, as opposed to a pair).[36] So the shop owner was left with many single shoes, but few pairs. The Jewish shoe store owner lamented on corporate media that he had been in business for a good length of time, and would be unable to reopen for business.
 
An incipient senior center was targeted. Southern Baptist Church claimed to be behind the construction, but community leaders confirm that the center was, in actuality, a pet project of Johns Hopkins University, associated with experimentation on Black people and organ harvesting of Black corpses (without the consent of the dead). It is widely viewed as a racist institution by Blacks.
 
A liquor store was hit by the youth. The Korean owners were renowned for profiting from the sale of the toxin to Black folk, whom they treated with such disdain as to use gloves in case of accidental contact with the customers, whom they viewed as a lower life form.
 
Corporate media was targeted: a WNEW reporter was assaulted (other protestors stopped his assault). Corporate media were clearly not popular amongst the youth, and with good reason: these media insisted on using pejorative terminologies, usually originating with government officials, for the youth who were responding to savage police attacks. Yet Fox, WNEW, and others never used such language for the police perpetrators, and in a display of clearly slanted journalism, failed to give any meaningful coverage to the youth participating in the Uprising. They did not ask the youth what were their goals or motivations, or what inspired or angered them.
 
Instead, these media collaborated in insidious ways with the establishment: As Baltimore Black Think Tank President David Wiggins pointed out, WNEW, one of the main corporate media organs issuing on-the-ground reports during the uprising, promised to turn in its video to authorities. The authorities, in turn, would use it to aid in prosecuting and persecuting the youth. Many in the Baltimore Black community, youth and adults alike, were quickly realizing that the coverage given to the Uprising by corporate media would be on par with that accorded to Katrina survivors—one sided and exhibiting clear racial and class bias.
 
A few days after the Monday youth uprising, a Baltimore Orioles game was cancelled, with massive revenue losses to the corporate interests in the area. Those losses continued when the Orioles were forced to hold a subsequent game before an empty stadium. The Baltimore youth were doing exactly what global resistance movements against occupation and tyranny have done throughout time—hitting tourism, financial targets, and symbols of the occupation.
 
Has Peaceful Protesting Worked in Baltimore?
 
Baltimore has a long history of civic organizations, from the NAACP, SCLC, NAN, Baltimore Algebra Project, APC, and others protesting for Black causes. One family affected by police brutality, the West family, have protested nearly every Wednesday since the death of their loved one, Tyrone West, nearly two years ago. Despite the presence of numerous eye-witnesses to West’s beating death by 10 -15 police, and despite the family’s weekly protests, not one officer was fired from the police force, let alone indicted, convicted, or jailed in the case.
 
In the Anthony Anderson case, although the State’s own medical examiner ruled the death of that innocent Black man a homicide—the States’ Attorney refused to indict.
 
Similarly, after every beating, shooting, or death in police custody of a Black man or woman in Baltimore, people gather to protest, chant, and march. They hold town halls, appeal to City Hall, and lobby the legislature. And no indictments of police are handed down. The police remain on paid leave pending investigation. When the investigation is completed, it is found they were acting within the limits of their assigned duty.
 
One day, the youth decided that enough was enough.
 
Statements of Elected Officials and Others on the Uprising
 
While the youth, like the youth of Gaza, Palestine, put their lives and liberty on the line, paid politicians and “leaders” were in damage control mode. They were largely united in their pro-business stance:
 
President Obama said the “looters” should be treated as “criminals” and “thugs.” “There is no excuse for the kind of violence we saw yesterday,” he continued. “They're not protesting. They're not making a statement. They're stealing. When they burn down a building they're committing arson.”[37]
 
Governor Larry Hogan opined, "These acts of violence and destruction of property cannot and will not be tolerated. I strongly condemn the actions of those who engaged in direct attacks against innocent civilians, businesses, and law enforcement officers."[38]
 
Attorney General Loretta Lynch said, “I condemn the senseless acts of violence by some individuals in Baltimore that have resulted in harm to law enforcement officers, destruction of property and a shattering of the peace in the city of Baltimore.  Those who commit violent actions, ostensibly in protest of the death of Freddie Gray, do a disservice to his family, to his loved ones, and to legitimate peaceful protestors..”[39]
 
Stephanie Rawlings-Blake chimed in, “The rioting, looting, and violence will not be tolerated.. Too many people have spent generations building up this city for it to be destroyed by thugs, who in a very senseless way, are trying to tear down what so many have fought for, tearing down businesses, tearing down and destroying property..”[40] 
 
Baltimore City Council member Brandon Scott said, the rioters were “cowards.” Congressman Elijah Cummings condemned the rioters for attempting to take advantage of a chaotic situation and for “distracting from finding solutions to the problem.”[41]
 
Pastor Jamal Bryant, the pastor of a megachurch in Baltimore said, “Rioting and looting will not get us justice; nor will it turn the tide.” And Reverend Al Sharpton of the National Action Network said, “We should be fighting the violence and not adding to it.”
 
The common thread among the politicians rushing to condemn the youth was that none of them had previously taken a firm stance or effective actions against police brutality or police murders of Black people in Baltimore or elsewhere. Nor had they instructed their constituents in effective means of stopping police brutality and murder.
 
 
Statements from the Baltimore grassroots
 
In stark contrast to these statements was the stance of prominent Baltimore grassroots leaders. Many of these had a track record of opposing police brutality in Baltimore.
 
Naim Ajamu, a well-known community leader on Baltimore’s West Side said, “Why are we called thugs? Are those on Wall Street called thugs? Are the Koch Brothers called thugs? Are the criminals in politics called thugs!? We have been marginalized over and over again! Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is a thug! Hogan is a thug! Batts is a thug![42]
 
Reverend Annie Chambers of Big Momma’s House said, The children struck a match, lit the fire. Let’s hope the adults have the sense to put some wood onto the fire, continue to fight. I’m glad the children did what they did, because they stood up and said I’m human and I want to be treated like I’m human. I’m an instrument and a soldier in the Army of the Lord. They’re not thugs and thieves. They’re truly soldiers in the Army of the Lord.”
 
Steven Ceci, of the All Peoples Congress said, “I stand firmly with the youth of Baltimore that have every right to rebel.. The fact of the matter is that what is occurring in the streets of Baltimore is a rebellion, and yes, it is a rebellion, not a riot. When people rise up because of a political or social issue such as police terror and state repression, then it is a rebellion. When white college students flip cars over and burn them over a sporting event which has no political meaning that is a riot. There are various ways to protest, one of which is battling the police and destroying private property.”[43]
 
David L. Johnson, Sr. of the News Networks and Analysis Project/ Baltimore Black Think Tank, said, “Young people showed them that this new world order ain't gonna be easy to implement on their generation. Only the Uncle Toms seem happy to comply with it.. A mayor and police commissioner recklessly determined to protect business interest and property above black lives is just not right. The saddest point of the day is the fact that these negroes simply cannot do any better. Young people showed them a thing or two. White police with guns and ammo...Black people see that every day. Black babies angry as hell--white folk ain't never seen anything like it.”[44]
 
Darren Muhammad, “State of the City” talk show host and grassroots activist said, “The biggest looter in recent American history calling our young people looters.. If they looted, they learned from the best, you Obama. You robbed and looted Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Egypt, and other countries..”
 
David Wiggins, Baltimore Black Think Tank President, said:  “Baltimore families and children deserve to be protected from deprivations of civil rights under color of law and murder by police under color of law. We will resist murder under color of law with equal or greater force than you attempt to use to force us into submission. We are not intimidated, and we are cognizant of our natural right to resist law enforcement under color of law used to force us to submit to murder under color of law. Self-defense from murder under color of law is not violence. The youth of Baltimore are defending themselves from murder under color of law, because you [Governor Larry Hogan] have failed to protect them.[45]
 
Conclusion
 
In Ferguson, when an NAACP representative was speaking at a rally against police brutality shortly after the police murder of Michael Brown, the youth turned their backs to him. The established clergy and politicians have failed the youth, and the youth know these have no backbone. As in Ferguson, the youth in Baltimore are the real leaders. They have an innate sense of justice. Time and time again, even folk strongly opposed to the “riots” have told this writer that it was the actions of the youth, at least in part, which lead to the six police involved in Gray’s murder being indicted. Inshallah, history will judge the Baltimore Uprising to have been inevitable, righteous, and effective.
 
What should Muslims (and Other People of Conscience) do now?
 
The Qur’an says: “Free the captives.” It also says, “Incline not to those who do wrong, or the Fire will seize you.” Further, the Sublime Book says, “And why should ye not fight in the cause of Allah and of those who, being weak, are ill-treated (and oppressed)? Men, women, and children, whose cry is: "Our Lord! Rescue us from this town, whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from thee one who will protect; and raise for us from thee one who will help!"
 
What do these verses translate to in modern times? The police force evolved from the slave patrols. The job of the slave patrols was to capture runaway slaves and return them to sordid situations of oppression. Today’s slaves are the innocents—the children of Baltimore and other cities in urban America--upon whose necks the System has its boot. We must free them from the prison in which America holds them. Not all prisons have four walls. As we know from Gaza , Palestine, a prison can be open air. Baltimore is a less well known open air prison. Muslims should be a major force at protests against police brutality. Masajid ought to invite people who have been victims of police brutality to speak. Muslims should take civil disobedience training. General strikes, street blockages, economic boycotts, and disruptions of the councils of the oppressor are very effective non-violent tools. Muslims should be prepared to use them when the time comes (following the leadership of the native people of the area, off course).
 
Muslims should also study the power dynamics of the cities they inhabit. Usually the ruling elite, who oppress Black, Brown, Red, and the poor people domestically, operate similarly on the international front, whether actively, or through alliances with international oppressors. In Baltimore, the Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC), an alliance of corporate interests, promulgates the White Supremacist agenda, and spearheads gentrification and disenfranchisement of the native Black population. At the same time, many in the GBC appear to be Zionist (White Supremacist) Jews, who contribute to the oppression of Palestinians in Occupied Palestine. Every city has its equivalent of the Greater Baltimore Committee. Muslims should investigate the personalities in such business entities, as well as in their local chamber of commerce, and organize boycotts of businesses implicated in gentrification and disenfranchisement.
 
What Muslims Should Not Do
 
Keeping in mind the hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him): “Do not help the oppressor, even by handing him a pen,” Muslims should not engage in dialogue with police or government officials who are responsible for, or oversee police brutality. We should also be aware of which opposition groups are meeting, either privately or publicly, with representatives of the oppressive power structure. Finally, be aware of front groups, coalitions, and others which purport to be working to eliminate police brutality and other social ills, but accept money from the power structure (including 501(c) 3’s). Obviously, one’s independence and integrity is impugned by accepting money from an oppressor. Avoid working closely with these groups, as they nearly always engage in feel good activities which lead to a great deal of venting, but little real change. Instead, either formulate new organizations, or work with small, independent grassroots organizations, which rely on funding from their members.

 
© 2015 by Nadrat Siddique
 
Parts of this paper were first presented by the author before the National Majlis-e-Shura of Jamaat al-Muslimeen in Greensboro, NC, USA, on May 16, 2015.
 


Endnotes
 
[1] U.S. Census Bureau figures, quoted in “Baltimore’s Economy in Black and White,”CNN Money, April 29, 2015
 
[2] U.S. Census Bureau figures, quoted in “Baltimore’s Economy in Black and White,” CNN Money, April 29, 2015
 
[3] Website for Baltimore Black Think Tank President, http://davidanthonywiggins.com/
 
[4] “The Right Investment: Corrections Spending in Baltimore City,” copyright 2015 by the Justice Policy Institute, and the Prison Policy Initiative
http:// justicepolicy.org/TheRightInvestment.
 
[5] Southern Movement Assembly webpage:
http://www.southtosouth.org/#!Timeline-Baltimore-Black-communities-Police/cd0a/556322610cf2adc1ad583977
 
[6] “Baltimore’s Economy in Black and White,” CNN Money, April 29, 2015
 
[7] Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services web page: http://www.dpscs.state.md.us/locations/prisons.shtml
 
[8] “Baltimore Behind Bars,” by the Justice Police Institute http://www.justicepolicy.org/images/upload/10-06_rep_baltbehindbars_md-ps-ac-rd.pdf
 
[9] U.S. Census Bureau, 2010
 
[10] “Baltimore Behind Bars,” by the Justice Police Institute http://www.justicepolicy.org/images/upload/10-06_rep_baltbehindbars_md-ps-ac-rd.pdf
 
[11] “Baltimore Behind Bars,” by the Justice Police Institute
 http://www.justicepolicy.org/images/upload/10-06_rep_baltbehindbars_md-ps-ac-rd.pdf
 
[12] “Baltimore Behind Bars,” by the Justice Police Institute
 http://www.justicepolicy.org/images/upload/10-06_rep_baltbehindbars_md-ps-ac-rd.pdf
 
[13] “Baltimore Behind Bars,” by the Justice Police Institute
 http://www.justicepolicy.org/images/upload/10-06_rep_baltbehindbars_md-ps-ac-rd.pdf
 
[14] “The Right Investment: Corrections Spending in Baltimore City,” copyright 2015 by the Justice Policy Institute, and the Prison Policy Initiative
http://justicepolicy.org/TheRightInvestment.
 
[15] “The Right Investment: Corrections Spending in Baltimore City,” copyright 2015 by the Justice Policy Institute, and the Prison Policy Initiative
http://justicepolicy.org/TheRightInvestment.
 
[16] “The Right Investment: Corrections Spending in Baltimore City,” copyright 2015 by the Justice Policy Institute, and the Prison Policy Initiative
http://justicepolicy.org/TheRightInvestment.
 
[17] “The Right Investment: Corrections Spending in Baltimore City,” copyright 2015 by the Justice Policy Institute, and the Prison Policy Initiative
http://justicepolicy.org/TheRightInvestment.
 
[18] “The Right Investment: Corrections Spending in Baltimore City,” copyright 2015 by the Justice Policy Institute, and the Prison Policy Initiative
http://justicepolicy.org/TheRightInvestment.
 
[19] “The Right Investment: Corrections Spending in Baltimore City,” copyright 2015 by the Justice Policy Institute, and the Prison Policy Initiative
http://justicepolicy.org/TheRightInvestment.
 
[20] “The Right Investment: Corrections Spending in Baltimore City,” copyright 2015 by the Justice Policy Institute, and the Prison Policy Initiative
http:// justicepolicy.org/TheRightInvestment
 
[21] “Undue Force,” Baltimore Sun, September 28, 2014
 
[22] “Undue Force,” Baltimore Sun, September 28, 2014
 
[23]  “Family of man who died in Baltimore police custody files lawsuit,” Baltimore Sun, June 23, 2014
 
[24] “Freddie Gray among many suspects who do not get medical care from Baltimore police,” Baltimore Sun, May 9, 2015
 
[25] “Freddie Gray among many suspects who do not get medical care from Baltimore police,” Baltimore Sun, May 9, 2015
 
[26] Baltimore Sun, June 4, 2014
[27] Baltimore Sun, May 13, 2015
 
[28] Baltimore Sun, March 27, 2015
 
[29] “State approves $30 million youth jail,” The Baltimore Sun, May 13, 2015
 
[30] “Hogan funds pensions, but nothing more for schools,”  The Baltimore Sun, May 15, 2015
 
[31] "The Case for the National Student Bill of Rights," by Bryant Muldrew
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/democracy_and_education/2012/04/the_case_for_the_national_student_bill_of_rights.html
 
[32] “Algebra Project students demand a better education,” Baltimore Sun, September 24, 2009
 
[33] National Student Bill of Rights
http://nationalstudentbillofrights.org/the-rights-we-should-have/
 
[34] “City closes about 20 rec centers; private groups fill gap,” Baltimore Sun, July 2, 2013
 
[35] CNN Money, April 29, 2015.
 
[36] “Surveillance Video Shows Looting Inside Mondawmin Mall” CBS Baltimore, April 28, 2015
 
[37] “Obama shames Baltimore looters and condemns 'riots in the streets”
http://dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3059336/Obama-shames-Baltimore-looters-condemns-riots-streets.html
 
[38] “Statement From Governor Larry Hogan On Violence In Baltimore City,” April 27, 2015
http://governor.maryland.gov/2015/04/27/statement-from-governor-larry-hogan-on-violence-in-baltimore-city/
 
[39] Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs, Press Release, April 27, 2015
 
[40] Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, April 27, 2015
 
[41] CNN, April 27, 2015
 
[42] Naim Ajamu Facebook page, April 29, 2015
 
[43] Steve Ceci Facebook page, April 28, 2015
 
[44] David L. Johnson, Sr. Facebook page, April 27 - 28, 2015.
 
[45] David Wiggins Facebook page, April 28