Ava Muhammad

Ava Muhammad, attorney for the Nation of Islam, speaks at a news conference in Chicago, Ill., Friday, Jan. 13, 1995. Muhammad addressed the arrest of Qubilah Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X, for attempting to hire a hit man to kill Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. (AP Photo/John Zich)

For a little more than a year, Ava Muhammad has visited cities across the United States conducting town halls in churches and mosques and posing the question of whether or not African Americans should separate from the United States.

And on Friday night, in front of an overflow audience inside a room seating more than 300, Muhammad, the national spokeswoman for Rev. Louis Farrakhan, brought that message to Philadelphia, the 15th city to hold such a town hall.

“We want our own land. We want freedom, justice and equality, and we can’t get it without some measure of sovereignty and self control,” Muhammad said. “That’s where that comes from. Our Black leaders, going far back in history — from Marcus Garvey to W.E.B. Du Bois to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad were proponents of separation.

“The circumstances that exist now have deteriorated,” Muhammad continued. “Our last hope was when we put a Black man in the oval office that gave us a great deal of hope and inspiration but his hands were tied,” she said of Barack Obama. “But there was more pressure on him from the Jewish community, the white community, from every community that had economic leverage and that’s what he had to respond to. And that’s why we need our own.”

The subject of whether or not the descendants of enslaved Africans in America should receive reparations has been a hot-button issue in the news. Last week, Congress held hearings in Washington on House Resolution 40, a measure that would create a national commission to study the legacy of slavery and make proposals on reparations to African Americans.

However, the Nation of Islam has long spoken of separation.

“With all that has gone on — from the slavery, to Reconstruction, to Jim Crow, the redlining of Black people, the dismantling of education where ever we are in this country — and they are just at the point where they are considering to study whether or not we should receive reparations should tell you all you need to know about whether white America wants to allow real assimilation,” Muhammad said. “The answer is very clear to any rational person that the answer is no.”

Muhammad pointed out that the wealth gap — white American families on average are worth approximately $171,000 compared to $17,000 for Black families — is a result of slavery and “America’s dehumanizing of Black people for more than 400 years." She said the NOI believes that entitles Blacks to territory in the United States to separate.

The process includes passing out petitions at the end of each town hall — she did not say when the tally would be finished — and then deciding what the next steps should be.

“We are going to make that decision,” she said. “But first and foremost is that we make our communities a safe and decent place to live. That is phase one. In our communities where we are preying on each other we are giving law enforcement a door to be a presence in our community.”

The town hall was packed with well-dressed men in bowties and women in the traditional garb of the the Nation of Islam. People came from work. They were young and old, and there were plenty of people in attendance of various religions.

“Make no mistake about it — this is not a religious movement,” Muhammad said. “We are bound by our blackness. Where ever we have gone, Black people are facing the same challenges and those challenges are not a byproduct of our religion but they are a byproduct of being Black in America.”

Minister Rodney Muhammad, the leader of the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP and the minister at Mosque No. 12, coordinated Friday’s meeting. He helped facilitate a panel and question-and-answer session that featured Aaron Smith of WURD and Temple University; Keith Muhammad, of the Nation of Islam in Chester; attorney and Tribune columnist Michael Coard; and Anthony Monteiro, a former professor of African-American studies at Temple.

(5) comments

gregabdul

[sad] So then, the KKK is fine and any day now you will feature them in your website and newspaper asking if whites should separate from blacks? Its Negro Hypocrisy and it has to quit. ALL black people say the KKK is wrong, but you sit there pretending like the Negro KKK are cool? Make up your mind and quit lying. Either racism is cool and you have no problem with white racism and white persecution of black people, because we are wrong for living with them and MLK was a fool or you act like decent people who are not less than the whites who say racism is wrong. This Negro Hypocrisy is sickening.

joseph.hull62@yahoo.com

If and when separation occurs, the resulting government must be determined by the people, not by the Nation of Islam for the reason that a great many of us are not in agreement with its tenets and attitudes. Just something to consider.

voyagernx1

Separate and go where? It's a grand idea in theory but separate to where?

gregabdul

Props to the Phily Tribune. Many people try to silence me on this, but Malcolm died freely expressing the plight of black people and the NOI today imitates his killers. It's not PC to say these things to a black audience. At least i know you guys are real. Thanks!

shelle55

start by helping Philadelphia become a state and separate from Pennsylvania....

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.