9th Annual Y.O.U.th Summit Addresses The Need to Train, Encourage and Celebrate Our Young People

pdxsummit@gmail.com; 503-781-5313

Press Release

Portland, OR: In the months post-Ferguson, young people around the country are galvanizing, protesting and demanding to be listened to. With the theme, “If Not You, Then Who? Be the Change,” the 9th Annual Y.O.U.th Summit provides mentorship, encouragement, and training opportunities for young people and adults of all ethnicities in the Portland area to cultivate their budding leadership and organizing skills. The summit also showcases youth talent with prizes that reward them for having the courage to perform.

“There is no other opportunity like this in the Pacific Northwest,” says Imani Muhammad, award-winning community activist and founder of Youth Organized and United to Help (Y.O.U.th), organizer of the annual Y.O.U.th Summit. “We are focusing our empowering workshops and activities through the lens of Hip Hop, which is a culture and ideology that is woven into almost every aspect of an urban young person’s life.”

WHAT: 9th Annual Portland Y.O.U.th Summit
WHEN: February 6 & 7, 2015
WHERE: Blazers Boys & Girls Club, 5250 NE MLK Jr. Blvd., Portland
TIME: Youth Talent Showcase (Feb. 6) is at 6:30 p.m.; Summit registration (Feb. 7) starts at 11 a.m.; Workshops begin at 12 p.m. 

This year, the Y.O.U.th Summit – in partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of Portland Metropolitan Area – is also providing an occasion for parents to celebrate their black children, whether biological, adopted or foster, as a counter narrative to the reality that black life in Portland and around the country is often devalued. In partnership with the Y.O.U.th Summit, the “My Black Sons & Daughters Are Worthy” project, organized by creative revolutionist S. Renee Mitchell, will offer the community an empowering, community-based art performance using music, movement, song and poetry, written by Portland parents, all intended to express love for their children. The Regional Arts & Culture Council funds this celebratory project.

The summit’s keynote speaker is Salih Muhammad, a 22-year-old graduate of the University of California Berkeley and executive director of the Afrikan Black Coalition, a statewide collective of Black Student Unions that seeks to organize, mobilize, and empower black students, staff, faculty, and alumni. For most of Salih’s life, he has been critically engaged in a number organizations, struggles, and movements that attempt to elevate the condition of humanity and young people across the United States.

Concluding the Y.O.U.th Summit will be a “Be The Change’ concert, featured local talent Mic Crenshaw, Blacque Butterfly, RoseCity Mischief, Talilo, and DJ Grimrock. Key sponsors for the summit include the University of Oregon Journalism and Communications Department, which is committed to more sustainable outreach outside of its downtown Portland campus in order to build capacity for community storytelling. Other sponsors include KBOO Radio and the American Friends of Service Committee.

Muhammad founded the first Y.O.U.th Summit in 2007 in response to the inner Northeast Portland shooting death of 14-year-old DaVonte Lightfoot, a Benson High School student and one of Muhammad’s former students. The summit provides an atmosphere for youth and adults to experience a high level of reasoning and “edutainment” while also exploring the five elements of Hip Hop, such as:

 Graffiti, the writing of language or the scribe that documents the history  Emcee, the oral griot, conveyer of the message

 Djing, the heart beat, the drum of the art or movement; DJ comes from the Djembe drum

 B-Boy/Girl, the exercise and the human expression through dance or body movement to keep the body in proper health.

 Knowledge, the reason why we are who we are and where did our roots comes from, what is the beginning of Man and where are we today.

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Interview with Cedric Muhammad on 'My African Violet': "Too many of us are killing, negating or denying our true selves out of the fear of failure"

(Blogger's Note: Cedric Muhammad is a Former Wu Tang GM Turned Economist- Songwriter. He is a unique political, business and macroeconomist who has influenced the worlds of culture, electoral politics and finance. .

As President of CM Cap, he has advised a range of individuals and institutions from first-time entrepreneurs to international governmental bodies. He has been published or appeared in respected financial media such as Forbes, The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg Financial News. 

I recently caught up with him to discuss significance of his newly released song "My African Violet" and more.)

Brother Jesse: Congrats on the release of "My African Violet". I must admit, you caught me off guard because I had no idea you had this type of musical repertoire. Who and what instilled in you a love for music? What is your musical background from your younger years?

Cedric Muhammad:  Thank You so much Brother Jesse, I caught me off guard too (Laughs)!  What I mean is that as I grew in other areas of life, I suppressed that part of my being and personality. To answer your question, much of my musical DNA comes from my Father – a jazz connoisseur from New York City– and my maternal Grandfather a Physician-Musician who began playing the alto saxophone, growing up in the Panama Canal Zone.  Dad would always break down the elements of records he played by artists like Thelonious Monk, Quincy Jones and Jimmy Smith.  And Grandpa put the first instrument in my hand as a young boy.  I recently came across an article written about how he married the practice of medicine and music in his life.  In it he talks about the sax like a scientist.  Both my Dad and Grandfather thought deeply about music in a conceptual and intellectual sense and I think I get that from them.  Our home was always filled with Jazz, Gospel, Soul and African music.  I ushered in Hip-Hop, of course. I have no formal training in music but I have studied the family record collection and liner notes – a university in and of itself.

Brother Jesse: Have you ever personally recorded and released your own song before? Do you have some secret-unreleased-Area 51-type mixtapes stored away in your basement of your musical genius that we should know about?

Cedric Muhammad: I co-executive produced a mixtape in 2004, with Eric Canada, “The Streets are Political” which won Source magazine mixtape of the month (http://www.blackelectorate.com/articles.asp?ID=1187 ) but this is my debut in terms of writing and producing music.  As for ‘Area 51-type projects’ I still have the old mixtapes of DJ Jay-Ski (https://twitter.com/DJJaySki) and myself from high school.  He and I started making beats in 9th grade on a Casio SK-5.  He went on to become one of the most successful on-air DJs in Hip-Hop and it’s hilarious to hear me at age 15 sounding like a young Mr. Magic. I used to send the cassettes to my friends in school on military bases all over the world. I’ll leak those tapes exclusively to you!

Brother Jesse: (Laughs!) You have built a serious reputation as an economic powerhouse on a national and global scale. Is that what caused you to put your music to the side? If so, did it ever bother you that you made that move instead of balancing both?

Cedric Muhammad: On a personal level that is the deepest question I have been asked. The answer is yes and yes but for different reasons. I gravitated to the business side of music as a teenager because I was genuinely more attracted to the deal-making and behind-the scenes elements of art.  I still am.  But at a certain point, after becoming proficient in that, I became dissatisfied.  You are doing so much critical and analytical thinking that you become imbalanced.  Then it gets worse because people tend to want to only deal with you on those terms. They categorize and stereotype you in their own minds – only seeking that part of you. You become incarcerated in what I call identity prison.  That’s why my closest friends are people who respect my accomplishments and work but who don’t equate me with that limited manifestation of who I am. We are more than our work.

I also reached a point of exhaustion with how I thought and what I allowed myself to express and just needed to become creative again, to find balance.  One of the most important persons who helped me through the transition was James Mtume.  What makes him unique is his emphasis that intellect is not separate from art, it is actually the highest form of it.  He told me that what I was doing as an economist was actually artistic expression and so he always related to me as an artist –telling me there was a musician inside of me that I just wasn't feeding.  I was starving the dude.  We talk to this day for hours about music theory; great artists in each generation; the contemporary sound; politics; current events, and it all flows, seamlessly.  He’s friend, mentor and now a godfather to me. 

Brother Jesse: Describe that critical moment when you decided to get back to the music and ultimately release 'My African Violet'. Did you have any apprehensions since the industry has changed in many ways? Or were you confident since you've kept up with the pulse of the industry?

Cedric Muhammad: A super-producer friend of mine finally convinced me that I was only going to get so far only managing artists.  The language of rhythm, melody, harmony, lyrics, verses, bpms and time signatures is often the only thing they understood.  I had to become what I was trying to influence. I wasn’t intimidated by changes in the industry because I stayed in tune with it through the lens of commerce and because I established the habit of listening to new music released each week, regardless of genre.  I did have some apprehension when it came to technology.  It’s a long way from arranging music on an SK-5 to using a Maschine Studio and Pro Tools.  And of course social media has almost totally changed how people perceive you.

Brother Jesse: You've always been a very spiritual man, even when you're writing Hip-Hop columns. As a young man, did you see the spiritual significance of the african violet when your mother gave it to you? What has studying it taught you about yourself?

Cedric Muhammad: I write from the head and from the heart to the head and to the heart, with layered meaning. I need big concepts that cause me to emote and I want the listener to feel the intensity and the subtlety of what is being expressed. I found all of that in reflecting on the first life I had the responsibility of caring for – given to me by the Woman who Allah (God) used to give me life, my Mother.  There are so many lessons I learned from unsuccessfully caring for this plant – the creative and destructive power of sunlight and water and the dynamics of soil.  At ten years old I was getting a preview of something I would read the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan teach on – the connection between reverence for Women and reverence for the Earth.  As a man I have fallen short of that view.  But even deeper than that – most women don’t make the connection.  That is why I wrote the lyric, “…can’t believe how much you’ve grown.’  I’m trying to convey to women and young girls that no matter what has happened to you; it can be redemptive and is beyond the power of any man to define for you, because most can’t comprehend it.

Brother Jesse: What do you want listeners to gain from playing 'My African Violet' in their headphones? What is the core message resonating through the lyrics and arrangements?

Cedric Muhammad:  In terms of sound, I want them to feel the tension created between the dark minor chords of an acoustic piano and the polyrhythm of African drums and then, how that can be released by the ‘sweetness’ of a kalimba and piano melody brought to crescendo.  There are simple and complex things you can do to bring out emotion through sound frequencies. The first time we raised the piano an octave in the chorus, I got goose bumps and tears formed.  The higher pitch made me feel something, and brought back a flood of memories.  For each person it may be different, in terms of what moves them. The core message of the song is how both nurture and neglect feed the growth of life.  In the East African remix, with Khaligraph (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8WRv95Fw6S8 ) – an incredible lyricist from Kenya, who rhymes in Swahili and English - it is more about celebration and maturity.

Brother Jesse: Do you plan to take 'My African Violet' on the road? Would you ultimately like to perform it in Africa on a stage set surrounded with violets? Well, maybe not exactly like that!

Cedric Muhammad: Absolutely! I want the right band to bring out the electronic, acoustic and African instrumentation.  And you know it Jesse – we have to have a minimum of 50 flowers on stage with perfect lighting.  There are so many shades to that color that can change with the lyrics and sound.  We’re gonna bring you in to consult, and then maybe Kanye.  I’d also like to produce a visual performance in fine art galleries that have captured the beauty of the flower.

Brother Jesse: What is the difference between 'Cedric The Artist'  and 'Cedric The Economist'? Can those two persons co-exist? Do they get along? (Laughs!)

Cedric Muhammad: Put it to you this way, I’d rather have ‘Cedric The Artist’ at my Super Bowl Party.  But I’m finding that the ‘Artist’ is making me an even better ‘Economist.’

Brother Jesse: It's clear from listening to the song and reading your write-up on why you wrote it, you have a deep love and passion for music. What advice would you give to people who may have put a passion to the side and wavering on picking it back up?

Cedric Muhammad: That is so important.  If my doing this encourages one person to return to a first love in artistic expression of any kind, that alone would be worth it.  Too many of us are killing, negating or denying our true selves out of the fear of failure or because we care too much about pleasing others or unsettling an image that has formed about us.  The other thing I would say to those of us with strong ideological or religious beliefs: don’t use knowledge, rituals and rules to shield the essence of who you are.  These are only meant to point you to a greater Unseen reality that lives on the inside of your Soul and that Force which created the Universe, Love. 

Through all of this, in a way I never expected I am understanding something Minister Farrakhan expressed on Twitter, recorded in the book you were blessed to compile, The Teachings 2.0 (http://store.finalcall.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=BK-TEACHINGINS ) “….music is a companion of Islam.  Both represent a universal language.  His words dovetail with what my Grandfather once said, “Learning music was part of my self-improvement.”

Brother Jesse: Thank you my brother!

(To purchase a copy of My African Violet, go to I-Tunes. To learn more about Cedric Muhammad, follow him @CedricMuhammad and visit his website cedricmuhammad.com)

SELMA and the real Dr. King: What Hollywood got right and wrong

WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) - The movie Selma is, and will likely remain, one of the most talked about films of 2015.

It earned four Golden Globe nominations, for: Best Picture; Best Actor, David Oyelowo as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; Best Director, Ava DuVernay; and won Best Original Song, “Glory” by John Legend and Common. And it is certain to be a contender for multiple Academy Awards as well.

Selma is an exceptionally well crafted depiction of the last successful campaign in the career of the most charismatic and possibly most misunderstood leader of the 20th Century Civil Rights Movement. It takes its greatness from portraying the tension caused by blood in the streets of Alabama in the mid-1960s brought on by violent, White-racist, legal and extra-legal resistance to the legitimate demands for the right to vote by Blacks in the South, and from the political push and pull generated from the teeming grassroots represented by Dr. King, all the way to the desk of President Lyndon B. Johnson.

The movie tells the story of three months in Selma, Ala., in early 1965 when Dr. King was mobilizing for the fight for voting rights. The bloody, one-sided “beat-downs” of peaceful, unarmed, non-violent protestors by vicious police, some on horseback, some with dogs, with tear gas, with billy clubs and other weapons, provokes a painful reaction to the scenes of the injustice and reminds moviegoers of the public moral outrage in 1965 which became massive public support for the passage of the Voting Rights Act by Congress later that year.

And while a great deal of “artistic license” is taken with the presentation of, or the exclusion of important Black figures in the voting rights struggle—Fannie Lou Hamer, Stokely Carmichael, Ella Baker, Floyd McKissick, among others—it is President Johnson’s screen role in the infamous Selma marches which has garnered the loudest rebuke.

Historians and former Johnson administration officials have insisted that the film is flat-out wrong in the way Mr. Johnson is shown, as an opponent of the Selma voting rights marches, when in fact the march was his idea, his former aides insist.

In the film, one dramatic climax occurs when Dr. King scolds the reluctant and tough-talking president, about the immediate need for federal voting rights legislation, all the while with a portrait of George Washington looking on in the background. [Read more]


A Time of Reflection: 2015 New Year's guidance from the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan

The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan posted the following words on his Instagram page on December 31, 2014. This definitely sets the tone for the new year.

"The expression “Happy New Year” is a tradition of this world, and the tradition of this world is to raise as much hell as you can as an old year goes out, make resolutions that you don’t intend to fulfill or you won’t fulfill, and engage in raucous behavior. We, as Muslims, should not participate in such.

The new year may be happy, but it may not be happy; so we should wish for everyone God’s Peace in the new year. Whether there are misfortunes that we might face, which won’t make it happy, but if God’s Peace is with us, then no matter what trial or circumstance comes up in the new year, that resolve with God will help us to get through.

The Bible teaches that the old world goes out with “a great noise.” And to symbolize how the old world is going to go out is the way this world lets the old year go out, with lots of noise and frivolity and foolishness and decadence. And as we have been blessed by God to come through an old year, there are so many people who started last year, friends, family, and persons that influenced our lives, who said “Happy New Year” not knowing that it would be their last year on this Earth. So for me: It has always been a Time of Reflection, reflection on those who started the year but were not blessed to finish it; reflection on what we did or did not do, that we pray God will bless to do better."

The Death of Antonio Martin: Another shooting, another clash, another police cam fails near Ferguson, Mo.

(Source: FinalCall.com) BERKELEY, Mo. - This small town just two miles west of Ferguson, Mo., has become another flashpoint for anger and protests over police shootings of young Black males. Despite its Black mayor’s insistence that the police shooting death of 18-year-old Antonio Martin was justified skepticism abounds. Protests have mounted and clashes between police officers and demonstrators have occurred.

 “My anger is coming from the fact that how he was treated afterwards, he was left on the ground for over a half an hour and could have been saved. There’s a hospital less than a half a mile down the road. I feel they were making a point like sending a point across, like don’t mess with the police,” said Sylvester Dixon, 24, who described himself as a good friend of the shooting victim.

Police officials say the young man and another person were approached by a police officer about a theft but Mr. Martin pulled a gun and pointed it at the officer. The officer fired his weapon in response and videotape shows the encounter, officials said. Yet a body camera issued to the officer involved was not on, nor was a dash cam. Critics also contend a third video clearly showing what happened has been withheld by police. Two grainy videos are proof the Black teen was armed and dangerous, and a weapon was found at the scene, officials said. Doubts remain and the victim’s family insists he was not armed.

“The way they left him and picked him up and put him in a van and drove off with him I think that’s totally disrespectful. If you shot him that’s one thing, okay the situation was under control,” said Mr. Dixon, who stood near a makeshift memorial to his friend.

“He just sat there and bled out, he moaned and he grunted, and moved around and we sitting here looking at him. It just hurt. They put him in a minivan and drove off with him. I believe he would still be alive if they would have rushed him to the emergency room that’s less than a mile down the road. I kind of understand where the officer is coming from. It wasn’t my little brother’s fault. He’s a Black male, him being a young Black man it just makes him a little more dangerous and made the police more cautious but it’s not his fault the color of his skin. The officer may have just seen him and got scared with all this stuff going on with the cops being killed and it could have been handled better. [Read More]

Rewatch The Time and What Must Be Done Series


'I've tried to not limit myself to any boundaries': Cedric Muhammad interviews with Shot97 Media about song African Violet

Cedric Muhammad Is The Former GM Of Wu Tang Clan Turned Economist. His Songwriting and Production Blends Soul & Hip-Hop With East African Melody and West African Rhythms. Click below and check out his recent interview with Star of Shot97Media.

Plus be sure to read: Beauty, pain, growth and struggle: Why I Wrote ‘African Violet’

Beauty, pain, growth and struggle: Why I Wrote ‘African Violet’

by Cedric Muhammad
(Source: AfricanHipHop.com) The song is a celebratory apology – an anthem for the beauty and growth in struggle that we often miss, due to life’s painful experiences and our own selfishness. It’s about the nurture and neglect in all relationships – romantic, platonic, parental, spiritual. We look up and before we know it, someone has grown up in spite of and often because of our lack of attention. Isolated and left alone, they have somehow found strength in themselves, their surroundings, the universe and their Creator.
On one level I’m writing about the rise of the entire continent of Africa – which I’ve witnessed up close since 2009 when the African Union named me to the First Congress of African Economists. On another, I’m describing how I felt when in Nairobi, Kenya, meeting the beautiful people of that country. The song also has layers of meaning to it on a personal level. It’s very introspective too.
The African Violet is the first form of life I had the responsibility of nurturing. It’s one of the most sensitive and delicate plants on Earth. You have to water it in a particular way and raise it with careful attention to light. What gives it life can also kill it if you aren’t mindful of it. My Mother gave me my first one when I was 10 years old, living in West Germany. When you realize that the plant is native to both Tanzania and Kenya, so close to where civilization arose, the symbolism and substance of the African Violet is endless. It is a metaphor for how survival, competition and love can create and destroy.

I walked around with this concept for years but never did anything with it because I did not see myself as an artist. Although I started producing music at 15, I fell in love with the business side so young that I put aside the creative element by age 17. It wasn’t until recently that a friend of mine, Cam – an accomplished music producer – convinced me that I should return to the artistic side. That influence along with the love, wisdom and encouragement of James Mtume, reminded me that I had neglected that side of my being and it was time to gain a fuller knowledge and expression of myself. In that sense the song was therapeutic for me.
When my Father died in 2012 it took me almost two years to enjoy listening to music again – it was such a strong bond and reminder of our relationship. But by listening to his vast record collection, the ear that he gave me became sensitive again and I had so many references for the colors that I wanted to combine in a sound that might not only bring Africa and the Diaspora closer together but people from all over the world.
“My African Violet (Nakupenda)” is proof of that. The song is a collaboration of artists from Ghana, Kenya, Sweden, Seattle, D.C. and New Jersey – a marriage between West-African percussion, East African melody, Classical, Go-Go, Gospel, Hip-Hop, Soul and Urban Pop. The first harmony I sought was within my creative inner circle, and then, in the music. [Read More] 

Watch The Making Of The "African Violet" Remix In #Nairobi, #Kenya


How To Create Your Own Vision Board For 2015 and Start Winning!

by Brother Jesse Muhammad

This past year, one of the main topics I spoke about inside various schools was regarding the importance of creating a personal vision board. It is a board that depicts your goals for the week, month or year.

Are you looking to create a vision board for 2015? Follow these easy steps:

 1) Pull out old or new magazines you don't mind destroying. Search and cut out pictures or words that represent what you would like to attain. There are no limits except the ones you accept.

2) Get a poster board. Start gluing or taping those images all over your board however you like. Remember this is not for anyone else, this is for YOU.

3) Hang the vision board in a place where it is most visible and where you know you will see it EVERYDAY. I don't know about you, but it is very easy to forget about things when you don't have a visual blueprint. Look at it daily.

4) Take action! Don't do this just to look good to others who may stop by your home, but do it for the sake of achieving your goals. At the end of every day ask yourself "What did I do today to get me one inch closer to achieving one of my goals?"

It's your time. 2015 here we come.

(Follow Brother Jesse on Twitter @BrotherJesse and visit his new online real estate www.BrotherJesse.com)


The Lost Principles of Kwanzaa: Why are we still stuck on rituals?

Repost by Brother Jesse Muhammad
All rituals have a principle that is to be extracted and applied, but sometimes the principles get lost, overlooked or outright ignored in the midst of us celebrating our respective “holidays” in the various religious sects. Being overly ritualistic does not make us more enlightened nor will it improve our depleted morality.
Plainly: If we’re not practicing what we’re preaching or living in accords with the essence of the rituals, then it’s all in vain; merely a feel good moment resulting in a hollow existence.
Kwanzaa is no different.
According to its founder, Dr. Maulana Karenga, Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday which celebrates family, community and culture. Started in the midst of the Black Liberation Movement in the 1960s, Kwanzaa has since been celebrated every year from December 26 – January 1.
Some people call it a “fake holiday” started by a so-called “fraud” and “criminal” individual. Yes, I’ve heard and read the criticisms for years. I’m not writing this to argue, however, I think Dr. Karenga has done and continues to do a lot of good for Black people. It’s funny how everytime someone Black attempts to do anything to promote unity among Blacks, they are labeled “racist”, “separatist”, and “divisive.”
Heck, I’ve been called this by readers since I started blogging and writing for The Final Call newspaper. (smile)
The founder notes in one of his past writings that, “Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday, not a religious one, thus available to and practiced by Africans of all religious faiths who come together based on the rich, ancient and varied common ground of their Africanness. Kwanzaa was not created to give people an alternative to their own religion or religious holiday.”
The name Kwanzaa is said to be derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili. Dating back to the times of Ancient Egypt, we’re told that our ancestors held many first harvest celebrations.
Dr. Karenga had three desires when starting Kwanzaa: To reaffirm and restore our rootedness in African culture; to serve as a regular communal celebration to reaffirm and reinforce the bonds between us as a people; and to introduce and reinforce the Nguzo Saba, which means “The Seven Principles or Values” in Swahili. What’s wrong with encouraging that?
The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa are:
Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.
Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and solve our problems together.
Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
Kuumba (Creativity): To always do as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
Imani (Faith): To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
During the week-long celebration, each day is highlighted by one of the principles. If you attend a celebration in the community, you may see decorations such as a candle holder with seven candles, corn, African baskets, beautiful cloth patterns, communal cups to pour libations, and the red, black and green flag. When giving gifts during Kwanzaa, it's encouraged that it includes a book. Yes, a book. Not Air Jordans or iPads.
You will be greeted by someone saying “Habari Gani?” which is Swahili for “What’s The News?” The response would be whatever the principle of that day is.
When I first started attending Kwanzaa events back in high school, someone always expressed the importance of us practicing the Seven Principles the other 51 weeks of the year. They also stressed the importance of us not allowing the spirit and sense of family, community and culture die on the morning of January 2.
I believe these are principles we all strive for in some way no matter if we’re Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Atheists, Buddhists, or Non-Denominational.
Lastly, when you’re headed down the highway to a destination you come across many signs telling you that your exit is a certain amount of miles or exits away. Do you stop at the sign? No, you keep going until you get to where the sign is pointing you ultimately to, right?
Why are we still stuck on rituals?
(You’re welcome to follow Brother Jesse Muhammad on Twitter, “LIKE” his Facebook page, or visit his award-winning site Brother Jesse Blog)

Photography: One man’s approach to changing the world’s perception of Black Communities

(All exhibit photos by Patrick Melon)

By: Rhodesia Muhammad

New Orleans, La. - Propaganda is one of the most powerful tools used to influence the attitudes, beliefs, or opinions of a target audience. The media uses images to paint pictures of one’s own point of view. Unfortunately, in the Black community positive images have been replaced with negative images. As a result, Patrick Melon, an LSU student, decided to create an art exhibit entitled, Mosque No. 46, for his senior thesis. Brother Melon’s major is in Studio Art with a concentration in photography and a minor in African American studies. He chose to study the Nation of Islam after meeting Brother Willie Muhammad, student minister of Muhammad Mosque No. 46 of the Nation of Islam at a peace rally.

“We don’t see images of Black unity anymore,” Brother Melon stated, “We used to see images of little Black boys raising their fists. What happened to the images of Black Leaders advocating for our people? Like Huey Newton and his work with the school lunch program. The images we see today are Black people getting killed and Black women fighting each other on Housewives shows.”

According to Brother Melon, he wanted to shine the light on the Nation of Islam to dispel false imagery and to illustrate what has been lacking in the Black community and that’s images of organized groups of Black people promoting love for self and each other. “The Honorable Elijah Muhammad changed the way I looked at life through his words in the book, Message to the Blackman. I had never known any other leaders to go into the most dangerous hoods in America to resurrect our people as the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. Whenever I see pictures of the Nation of Islam, I see unity. Gordon Parks exhibit of the NOI was inspiring, however either positive images of African Americans don’t exist or they’re not being displayed, which is why I wanted to create my own narrative through imagery.”

Brother Melon’s goal was to capture life in and out of the mosque. He shot over 3,000 images of Muslim men and women engaging in their communities. He selected 15 images for his final show that represented the work that the NOI is still doing to unite Black people. “People emulate what they see, whether it’s positive or negative, which became a catalyst for me to put more positive images out there.” Brother Melon went on to quote the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, “Don't condemn if you see a person has a dirty glass of water, just show them the clean glass of water that you have. When they inspect it, you won't have to say that yours is better.”

Brother Melon also shared that he had reservations about presenting his art exhibit because not only was he at a predominantly White university, but he was the only Black male in his class with a Caucasian professor. He was unsure how his project would be received and questioned the ability of his peers to be objective. “I decided to move forward with my thesis because I wanted the opportunity to show them and others that the NOI is not a hate group and that they are the epitome of Black people coming together in this day and time. Photography deals with correct exposure, composition and narrative (the way an image tells a story) and that’s what I wanted my thesis to be based upon. I wanted people to look at my work of art and know that there are people still working consistently and effectively to uplift our community.”

Brother Melon received good reviews from his college classmates and his professor who came out to see the exhibit. Brother Melon’s professor said his exhibit, “…was really powerful work.” “It was important that I captured an image of the back of the Final Call Newspaper that informs its reader of the NOI’s program of what Muslims want and believe and their aim and purpose for themselves and Black people.”

Brother Melon’s exhibit will be displayed at Muhammad Mosque #46 at 4201 Downman Rd., New Orleans, La. 70126 on Sunday, December 28, 2014. He can be followed on Instagram @melontao.


Deric Muhammad successfully hosts 5th Annual Black Male Summit: "We must teach our boys how to outsmart thugs with badges."

(During the Dec. 6th Black Male Summit in Houston, Deric Muhammad is seen role playing an encounter with a crooked cop. He said 'We must teach our boys how to outsmart "thugs with badges." All Photos courtesy of Shareef Shabazz and Linton Muhammad)
By Brother Jesse Muhammad

According to a press release sent out by Activist Deric Muhammad, the most relevant question in Black America is "What do we tell our sons?" He notes that Black males trail the pack in education and employment yet lead statistically in incarceration, recidivism, etc. 

On December 6, Mr. Muhammad and a host of capable advocates hosted the 5th Annual "Smart'n Up" Black Male Summit; a forum that addresses the "unique needs" of young Black men and boys while connecting them with resources designed to help them survive and succeed. The organizers say they fully support the every last protest related to the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, however, there must be a "plan beyond the protests." 

"There is a frustration in America, particularly among Black males who feel socially, economically, politically and personally suffocated in today's climate. Young people in this country were already on the edge. The death of Mike Brown just pushed them over," said Muhammad.

Smart'n Up" organizers have been effectively organizing around these issue for years. This was the 5th in partnership with Lone Star College North Harris, not including a special summit held earlier this year on the campus of Rice University. Past attendees, mostly urban youth like Mike Brown, have been inspired to return to college and complete degrees. Others have landed solid employment by networking at the summit. "Smart'n Up" is a motivational saying designed to encourage young Black males to make better decisions. According to Muhammad, the psychology behind the slogan suggests that "no one wants to be perceived as dumb." However, the human being must be given tools to make better choices. 

The 4-hour event included three rotating workshops on Education, Survival & Success led by a plethora of effective speakers. Presenters included A. J. Mcqueen (St. Louis/Ferguson Area Youth Activist/Poet), Pastor E.A. Deckard (Greenhouse Int'l Church in Houston), Jeffrey Boney (Founder of "The Black Dollar Project", Host of "Real Talk" Radio on KCOH, Managing Editor of the Historic Forward Times Newspaper),  Student Minister Robert Muhammad (Nation of Islam), Texas State Rep. Ron Reynolds, Reginald Gordon - (Operation Outreach OG1), Atty. Sadiyah Evangelista, State Rep. Sylvester Turner and more!

It was culminated in a special community town hall meeting entitled "The Ferguson Factor. The open forum included a candid discussion about police/community relations. Muhammad said the objective was for attendees to leave the meeting knowing how to protect themselves during encounters with law enforcement; hopefully preventing the next American tragedy the likes of Mike Brown's death.

Congrats and thank you to all who helped to make this year's summit a huge success. This is something every city in America could use. If you're interested in bringing the "Smart'n Up" Black Male Summit to your city contact @DericMuhammad and visit dericmuhammad.com.