(Blogger's Note: Student Minister Willie Muhammad is the New Orleans Representative of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam at Muhammad Mosque No. 46. I recently went one-on-one with him on various topics.)
Brother Jesse: How has the New Orleans mosque progressed and what will be the focus in 2013 in terms of further serving the community?
Willie Muhammad: A vision that I continuously have in my mind is to one day be able to look at a chart and be able to read a task description next to each believers name that they have accepted responsibility to spearhead and oversee. This year we have had several believers who are working in this manner. In 2013 we want to continue to work to make the mosque an exciting place for those who believe and really want to embark on a serious economic endeavor. In this upcoming year I also want to expose the believers here to the numerous great teachers we have in our Region and throughout our Nation. So part of last year, I and other willing Student Ministers visited each other’s cities. We were blessed to hear from Brother Robert Muhammad from Austin, Texas, and Brother Tremon Muhammad from Birmingham, Alabama. I have spoken to some others about the possibility of speaking next year as well. We also intend, God Willing, to produce a documentary chronicling the history of the NOI here in the city of New Orleans.
Brother Jesse: Starting back in July, The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan has been personally leading the Nation of Islam men into the streets every week. How have the people responded to you all in the city?
Willie Muhammad: We are a small mosque, so we don’t have a large number of FOI. However, when 18-20 well dressed men show up in a neighborhood, it always gets the attention of everyone. The responses have always been good. We are always well received. People have come out to take pictures; they showered us with praises of God. Right before the walks were changed to Saturday, the last few took place after the Daylight Savings change and as a result, there were times we were in the projects when it was dark. People marveled about our courage, because we were walking in an environment during a time when they themselves would not walk through the area, despite the fact they lived there.
Brother Jesse: What is the state of the city of New Orleans from your perspective? Has the present city administration taken the city forward or backwards in terms of addressing critical issues?
Willie Muhammad: It is still a city of haves and have nots. It is still divided racially despite Blacks and Whites here trying to pretend we live in a post-racial society. The issue of race always arises around the time of local elections and when issues of equity and fairness are brought to the public’s attention. Honestly, I really don’t give a lot of energy to observing the political climate here in great detail. I do commend the current administration for at least making the issue of Black male violence one of the main focuses of its administration. I think they can do a better job at reaching out to those who are in the trenches and get ideas from those who have been working at addressing violence for years. Regarding taking it forward or backwards, in some areas we can point to forward progress and in some areas we could say the city is regressing.
Brother Jesse: What has the New Orleans PeaceKeepers accomplished within the last year?
Willie Muhammad: What stands out to me the most about the New Orleans PeaceKeepers this year is the success God has blessed us to have in mediating beefs. In the city there are numerous panel discussions, conferences, press conferences, new law enforcement and city initiatives to address the kinds of issues we deal with in the mediations. I always think about the verse in the Holy Quran that says how saving the life of one is like saving all of humanity. By God’s Grace we have saved more than one and could do more if we had a fraction of the money that is being spent on initiatives here in the city. The last mediation was a very interesting one. We were not able to get them to the table but we got word from each party involved that they had no desire to escalate the issue. What was interesting about this mediation was that it did not involve “street cats”, but this one involved professional people. One was a lawyer and the other a business owner. They had a light physical altercation that led to the business owner leaving the scene only to return back with his handgun looking for the lawyer. We were called and were able to reach out to people who knew each party and informed them that each of them desired to let the issue die. This mediation showed me that the desire to resolve disagreements with violence is not solely the behavior of those in the streets.
Brother Jesse: Although many cry that we should "stop violence", why do you think it is difficult to get political and sports figures to financially back effective programs such as The PeaceKeepers?
Willie Muhammad: For many political figures it’s fear and not being properly motivated. Many political figures will not work with groups who are not among those who have been stamped with the seal of approval by society or city administrations. They are afraid of the pressure they may receive from working with groups that are not “acceptable” to their backers. As it relates to motivation, I get the feeling from some politicians that they want to be able to say that their own political platform, which they ran on, helped to effectively address violence. So to work with others who are doing it will take away from their next political campaign strategy, because they want to be able to say, “I did it.” There have been some former New Orleans politicians who personally supported our efforts – former mayor Ray Nagin and former City Councilman and Crime Commissioner James Carter.
As it relates to sports figures, many of these guys are not natives of the city. They really don’t have a real pulse or understanding of the city outside of what they read or see in the news and experience while partying. Their handlers connect them with the groups that give them good photo ops. I have tweeted and emailed several players here in the city about our work and asked them if it was possible for them to use their popularity to help get the word out about what we are doing. I just asked them to retweet it or post it on their Facebook. Never heard any responses back, yet they talk about how tragic the murders are in the city. Nonetheless, we keep working.
Brother Jesse: As a student minister under the leadership of Minister Farrakhan the last 10 years, what has been some of your great challenges? Successes?
Willie Muhammad: One of the accomplishments I count as a success has been our ability to have a mosque where the believers know that the laborers care about them and have no desire to hinder whatever they want to do in the way of the Mission we have been given, as long as it is in accord with what we have been taught and instructions from our National/Regional Headquarters. Our mosque really has a family like atmosphere, where you hear us referring to one another as brother or sister more than by a title. I also appreciate our ability to have a Mosque relatively free of drama and petty bickering. Of course every once in a while we have a law violation that arises, but outside of that we don’t have a Hatsfield vs McCoys type of environment.
When it comes to challenges, my greatest is serving as a Student Minister while also working a full time job and managing a family. By God’s Grace I have been coping, but the more I serve in this capacity, the more I realize that to be truly successful serving as a Student Minister, it must be my main profession. It’s a constant struggle for balance between mosque life, family life and what I do for employment. I continue to work and serve in this capacity because I refuse to be a burden on our small mosque. In the meantime, I will continue to work to grow our mosque until we are able to reach the level where all student laborers can work for their Nation and provide for their family. That’s whether I am in this capacity or not.
Brother Jesse: Thank you sir!
(Follow Student Minister Willie Muhammad on Twitter @BroWM46. Visit the official New Orleans mosque website @ noineworleans.org)