Tookie Williams and the Gotti Brothers

Tookie Williams Execution

Stanley “Tookie” Williams is the founder of the Crips street gang that along with the LA based Bloods gang have controlled the streets of black Southern California for decades and after 1988, when the movie Colors came out, spread all across the nation and led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people (mostly young black men) in cities such as Houston, New Orleans, St. Louis, Cleveland and Atlanta.

There is no doubt that what Tookie Williams started has been catastrophic to black people and the poor. What started as a local menace became a national menace after Colors; remember crack had just hit the streets a year or two prior and AIDS was spreading and the Bloods and Crips became the Wal-Mart of crack in the American streets (outside of the Northeast). Let us not also forget that Williams was convicted of four murders connected to robberies and we should not forget those victims but there is something bigger to this than Tookie.

In the 1990’s, with journalist Barbara Becnel, Tookie Williams began writing a series of award-winning children’s books and set up an internet-based Street Peace Project and formulated the Tookie Protocol for Peace program that is a framework for gang-treaties and has worked successfully in cities such as Newark, NJ.

In other countries and conflicts it is common for the government to intervene and offer clemency to those involved in conflicts if they agree to cease hostilities and work towards a peaceful solution. In recent years this has been done in Palestine and Ireland. In the US, it seems that the government doest have the vision of the British and Israeli governments and does not see the big picture (or has malice) and instead of bringing an end to street wars would like to see them continue so that another generation can die off and/ or rot behind bars.

In recent days celebrities such as Jamie Foxx, who starred in Redemption a film based on the life of Tookie Williams, and Snoop Dogg have publicly protested against the upcoming December execution of Williams. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has agreed to meet with all interested parties this week in consideration of a clemency.

Read this piece by Phil Gasper for more insight.

The Gotti Brothers

For those of you unfamiliar with the saga of Irv and Chris Gotti and “Supreme” it goes like this; Supreme was a major-player in the dope-game in Queens in the 1980’s and 1990’s. He got locked-up and he was looking for a way to invest his money and two young hip-hop entrepreneurs, the Gotti brothers (no relation to John they are African-American and Filipino), supposedly received money from him to start the Murder, Inc. record label which went on to have major success with artists such as Ja-Rule and Ashanti and was perhaps best known to some for its feud with 50 Cent.

If the allegations brought by the feds are true or not I do not know (and really don’t care to be honest) that the Gotti brothers laundered money for Supreme; what we do know is that there has always been a connection to hip-hop and the streets. Today we see the glorification of bling-bling and all of the trappings of conspicuous consumption by hip-hoppers (that white kids eat up) with no appreciation of the roots of this mentality. Back in the day, in the early days of hip-hop and in more general the streets, you sported a gold chain, new sneakers and fresh clothes and maybe even a nice car as an acknowledgment that you were a hustler. It spoke to the fact that you made something out of nothing and you didn’t need rich parents or a degree to come-up. You could not sport these things if your parents bought them for you, if you acquired them by working a “square job”, etc. That mentality was transferred to hip-hop and now you have people who have never hustled a day in their lives, and don’t have any hustle in them, dressing like they are thugs and hustlers when in reality they are just spoiled kids with no maturity and no class (even Lil Bow Wow can act tough now).

The Gotti brothers were different than the pop-gangstas you see today; these are real cats from Queens who came up the old-fashioned way and they may pay for it with lengthy prison-sentences. If they are guilty, what does it say? All it says to me is that people with no access to banks or corporate America found another way to get paid. It’s that simple.

I met Chris Gotti, who also works in boxing, at several boxing events in New York, and was exited after talking to him about the new and refreshing ideas he was looking to bring to the fight game. Along with Fat Joe, Damon Dash, James Prince and Jay-Z he is a part of a growing number of hip-hoppers who are getting involved in the sport of boxing. The long-term prospects for some of his fighters looks good, but just having his prize prospect Jaidon Codrington knocked out in eighteen seconds on Showtime gave Chris another headache I am sure in addition to the big one he already has from the feds.

Padilla Indictment a Complete Joke; Media Duped Again

Padilla Indictment a Complete Joke

It looks as if the federal government has screwed-up again. For three -years we all thought that Jose Padilla was being held as an enemy combatant, with no legal rights as declared by the president, because he had planned to ignite a “dirty bomb” in the streets of an American city and blow-up apartments buildings. The public was led to believe that he was such a serious threat that he could not be trusted in the American criminal justice system. Rather, fearing what would happen in our court system, the Bush Administration fought bitterly through the courts to keep Padilla held as an enemy combatant with no legal rights even though he is an American citizen showing their contempt for the courts in the process.

From the beginning everyone who was watching closely knew this case was about precedent; Bush wanted to show us that he had the right to hold American citizens with no due process if he deemed them to be enemy combatants. No need for all of the formalities and precedent it was time to go back to the days of the Wild West where the sheriff could be the judge, jury and executioner. While critics thought that this action was draconian and un-American, we at least thought that Padilla was being held on strong evidence and the media had all but convicted him of the dirty-bomb plot. Well, it turns out that the Padilla case belongs right along with the WMD case in Iraq and other blunders of this administration.

Having its hand forced by the prospect of an upcoming negative court ruling the federal government finally issued an indictment against Padilla and gave him his day in court. Strangely, this man who was supposedly dining with bin Laden, a full fledged al-Qaeda member, and a dirty bomber was not charged with any of those things.

What was he charged with? Padilla was charged with training in a camp in Afghanistan to go and fight against the brutal Russian invasion of Chechnya; that is hardly terrorism, maybe naive and foolish, but not terrorism. A major difference exists between those who seek to physically defend oppressed Muslims by military means from invading armies and those who seek to bomb and kill innocent civilians.

The government also alleges that Padilla was a part of a cell, and what did this so-called cell supposedly do? They raised money to give to charities helping suffering Muslims in Chechnya, Bosnia, and Kosovo. Since when did donated to those in need become terrorism? Of course the government alleges (more than likely falsely based on the evidence) that some of the charities had connections to terrorism, and some have been shut down; but since when did the onus come on the donator? Donations sent to these charities were given with the intention of helping orphans, widows and the distressed; the Muslims who I know that donated to these charities didn’t even connect their giving to the political situations in these areas or any political groups. Will all of the hundreds of thousands of American-Muslims who donated to these charities be prosecuted?

If this is all the government has then a great injustice has been committed against Padilla, and those around him, and this will only add to the growing amount of injustices that this government has perpetrated against its Muslim citizens. However, living in the climate we are in (where men such as Sheikh Ali al-Timimi are serving life in prison for having a unique opinion) I have no doubt that if Padilla and the rest of the brothers go to trial they will be convicted; that is American justice under the Bush Administration.

Let this also be a lesson to all American-Muslims; beware of the knock at the door in the middle of the night. We are no longer safe and we are no longer free. We are living under siege.

On a final note it is interesting to see why Padilla was charged with this and not John Walker Lindh. Lindh kept his white privilege even as he fought alongside the Taliban (whom I despised). Americans said he was naïve and misguided (hardly the case, but he was no terrorist either) and Padilla is a Puerto Rican ex-gang member that could strike the fear into white Americas hearts and be so easily vilified in the mainstream media and was made into an unsympathetic character. The media looked at Padilla and decided not to give him any benefits of the doubt and the Bush Administration knew that is precisely what would happen. Call Padilla the anti-Chalaby; call the media duped twice.

Thanksgiving: Thanking God or Just Another BS Holiday

What the hell is Thanksgiving anyway? It is supposed to be a holiday that is dedicated to the history of European pilgrims coming to the shores of the New World and surviving the elements and thanking God for it in a communal meal.

Of course we also know the history of these events and that the pilgrims could not have survived without the help of the indigenous peoples and their knowledge of the terrain. So as the pilgrims thanked God for surviving they were ungracious towards their hosts and the history of the American continents bares this out as those pilgrims helped to begin a process that lead to the largest genocide and land theft in the history of humanity.

What does that mean today? Should American families cease to celebrate this holiday and the fact that they are getting a four-day weekend?

Growing up I knew Thanksgiving was about two things; football and gluttony. On Thanksgiving no one had anything to say about thanking God for living another year or for our blessings; rather it was all about stuffing our faces with turkey, mashed potatoes, cheesecakes and apple pie and watching football. In America, where families are often small or spread out across the country, or even if the family lives in the same city often does not get see one another, Thanksgiving is also a chance for families to catch up on all the gossip and see who is getting fat and who is broke.

Because of the nature of the family gatherings for this holiday it is often the only time when the entire extended family is together and so this holiday is important to a lot of people who want to see those loved ones they don’t often see. It is also a time when you can turn the clock back and all eat at the same table just like you did when you were kids; only this time you are not gong to be forced to eat your vegetables or get a whoopin if you cut up at the table.

As I do not like turkey and think that it tastes dull and bland unless it is smoked, I have usually just eaten some potatoes and the like and then went straight for the desert and I can remember one Thanksgiving as a kid where I ate two whole pies by myself. After stuffing my face I would sit down and watch football and usually fall asleep on the couch around half time and awake periodically in the second half when a big play was being made which raised the noise level in the room.

So again, what does Thanksgiving mean? To you average American it doesn’t mean shit, it has nothing to do with God, and even if you don’t wanna see your family at least you got the day off of work. It is just another bullshit holiday and a time to rest; no one is giving thanks to God to anything outside of maybe a two-minute prayer before a glutinous meal.

Is anyone thinking about the indigenous peoples on this day? Are the crimes of our American ancestors even considered on this day? Or is it just another mindless American holiday?

As Muslims we have the two Eids to celebrate as the Messenger of Allah (s) said in a hadith and those are the only two holidays I observe. I do not celebrate Thanksgiving, every few years I may stop be my grandparent’s house for a short time and eat a little bit just to make them happy, but I do not celebrate this holiday that has nothing to do with God and everything to do with over-consumption.

Richard Cohen at the Washington Post has a different take.

Read this on Indigenous Peoples Day

The Ahmed Abu-Ali I Knew

I first met Ahmed Abu-Ali at the Dar al-Hijrah Masjid when he was a young teenage student at the Islamic Saudi Academy. He was a bright student and went on to become the class valedictorian.

Ahmed would sit at the back of the Dar al Hijrah Masjid in Falls Church, VA and study his school books and then read the Quran and books of tasfeer. He was a shy young man with a baby face and he didn’t like to talk too much. It took me a few times of meeting with him to really get to know him. He was born in America and came from a prominent Palestinian family in the DC area who are very active in the Muslim community.

Over the years I got to know Ahmed much better as we would hang-put on occasion and attend the same classes at various Masjids. One year we also worked together as camp counselors at the Dar al Hijrah Youth Camp in Virginia and we shared our frustration in dealing with unruly and spoiled suburban Muslim kids.

Originally Ahmed had planned to go into medical school and become a doctor; but then he decided that he would devote himself full-time to religious studies and he began attending the Institute for Islamic and Arabic Sciences in America in Fairfax, VA and would later attend the Islamic University of Medina in Saudi Arabia.

I never knew Ahmed to be a violent or extreme person, as a matter of fact he once held me back from attacking a group of Sudanese Dinkas who at punched a Muslim brother in front of the Sudanese embassy, but Ahmed was searching. Like many young serious Muslims who grew-up at Dar al Hijrah or around MAS circles (Muslim American Society) he was frustrated by their lack of adherence to the Sunnah on a number of matters and felt their ideology was overly political. When he began attending classes of Salafi scholars and lectures he appreciated the knowledge of the Sunnah they presented; but didn’t like their almost total ignoring of the political. When Ahmed was accepted to school at Medina he hoped to make the most of his opportunity and gain knowledge that would be beneficial to himself and the Muslim community. I believe, that if he would have completed his studies that Ahmed would have been a major scholar of the deen in years to come.

For those of you unfamiliar with his story he was arrested while taking his final exams in Medina in 2003. He was held in Saudi custody for two-years where he claims he was tortured, and medical professionals have attested to that fact, and eventually sent to the US for prosecution; and this is where things get complicates in my opinion.

There are certain Muslim organizations and leaders who I believe wanted to make the case of Ahmed a cause celeb and wanted to highlight some particular issues on the back of Ahmed. Rather than having his welfare foremost in their minds they had their political agendas in mind.

The government of Saudi Arabia stated that they held Ahmed for two-years at the request of the US and were ready to release him at any time. Representatives of Ahmed in the US demanded that he be released or charged. The government, who until then were content to have him in a Saudi jail, had no plans to charge him, but when their bluff was called they came up with a terrorism indictment that alleged while in Saudi Arabia Ahmed became involved with al-Qadea members who discussed terrorist attacks in the US with him including a plan to kill the President of the United States..

In their rush to get Ahmed out of Saudi Arabia, where they believed he was being tortured and where they believed his rights as an American citizen were being denied, the supporters of Ahmed forgot that if he came to the US it was almost a guarantee that he would spend the rest of his life in an American jail. In Saudi Arabia Ahmed would have eventually been released and been able to go to Jordan. That is the culture of the region; few spend life in prison for anything and many are relesed when the rulers change. These brothers showed a faith in the US criminal justice system based on fantasy; any Muslim going before an American jury, for anything, in these days is in big trouble. When you are going before a jury on terrorism charges in the backyard of the capitol then you are almost guaranteed to be convicted and we have seen that time and time again over the last three years.

Those around Ahmed failed him in this regard. However his family only had the best intentions in their hearts and were just given bad advice by those around them. I am afraid that when his mother walked into an American courtroom wearing a full-veil and his father with a full beard and their son named Ahmed sat on trial it was all over before it started.

This is a tragedy, and I am not talking about in the sense of innocence or guilt, I am talking about the tragedy of a brilliant young man who will in all likelihood be spending the rest of his life in an American prison who at most mouthed off a little bit, but never hurt anyone.

Death of American-Muslim Pioneer Amir Ali

For those of you who did not have the privilege of knowing Amir Ali, may Allah have mercy on his soul, he was a pioneer in Islamic education and Dawah and was based in Chicago. For years he operated the Islamic Reading Room (a Muslim library) next to the Muslim Community Center Masjid on the North Side of Chicago on the corners of Elston and Pulaski.

Br. Ali was also the founder of the Institute of Islamic Information and Education (an organization whose pamphlets on Islam can be found at Masjids all over the world) and the American Islamic College (a Muslim institution of higher learning in Chicago founded along with his wife Miriam Ali). He was also heavily involved in the Radio Islam project and was a frequent lecturer to Muslim and non-Muslim audiences. Br. Ali focused on Islamic education and counseling to Muslims and Dawah to non-Muslims. In his work; Br. Amir Ali always held firm to the Quran and Sunnah and sought to purify his soul through adherence to the Sunnah and that is the methodology he taught.

A native of Pakistan, Amir Al was always fully committed to the cause of Islam in America and had a particular love for the American-Muslim. I can still remember the day when two young adventurous American-Muslims, Ismail Royer and I, traveled to Chicago flat-broke just to explore the Muslim community. We would have been in bad shape if we had not been taken in by Amir Ali and Juan Lopez (another dear Muslim brother). He sat us down firmly and gave us everything from advice on school to advice in choosing a suitable mate and sent us away with gas money alhamdudilah.

The American-Muslim community will miss Amir Ali. Insh’Allah his work will inspire others to embark on a similar mission.

Confronting the Minutemen and Other Anti-Immigrant Groups

Omar Rosario, a good friend of mine in Northern Virginia by way of the Boogie Down Bronx , recently had a verbal confrontation with a group of Minutemen members outside of a local 7-11.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Northern VA , the Latino immigrant community and how 7-11 plays a role in it all this is how it is; since there are no bodegas or neighborhood stores (or real neighborhoods for that matter) and the lack of a real white working-class in Northern Virginia, day-laborers ( who are 99% Latino in that area) get up early in the morning and stand in front of 7-11’s for mostly white men in pickup trucks and vans to pick them up for construction, plumbing, landscaping, carpentry, roofing, moving and any other kind of work you can think of. It is the common belief that these men work for pennies and that is really not the case; some do get ripped off by greedy exploiters but because there are so many jobs in that area even these day-laborers can afford to be choosy and negotiate payment.

If you haven’t spent time in Northern VA it is almost impossible to describe how heavily saturated this are is with immigrants. There is a huge Latino population made up primarily of Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Bolivians and Peruvians. Along with that there is a large East African, Arab, Afghan, Asian, South Asian and West African population. You can go to the supermarket and it is like Brooklyn or Queens in that you may walk up and down the aisles and not find any native-born Americas.

VA may be cosmopolitan in these areas; but it is still America and it still has that strong southern influence. Because of this there has been a major anti-immigrant sentiment building in Northern VA. The Republican candidate for governor recently tired to exploit these concerns to no avail in the gubernatorial election, but those sentiments are still present. Out of this feeling a local chapter of the anti-immigrant militia the Minutemen has been founded (along with an anti-Muslim website called NorthernVirginiastan). This group has been hanging out in front of 7-11’s and taking photos of the day-laborers and of the license plates numbers of those picking the workers up and generally harassing people.

For those of you unfamiliar with their arguments the anti-immigration movement argues that an over saturation of immigrants drive wages down for American workers, pollutes the culture because these immigrants refuse to fully adapt to white American cultural norms and creates an overcrowded environment. Pro-immigrant groups argue for looser borders where there can be a free flow of people back and forth betwen borders and where immigrant workers can fill the void in the job market. They also argue that America is a nation of immigrants and it is hypocritical for any American other than a Native American to be anti-immigration and I fall into this camp. Furthermore I will say that as much of the anti-immigrant is also anti-labor; I will say that the immigration issue is really not about immigration at all but is about race and about the fear of the browning of America.

When Omar saw these Minuteman taking photos of the day-laborers he decided that he would take photos of them. He then had them get in his truck and ride around the block with him and had the Latino day-laborers take photos of the Minutemen.

Omar yelled to the minutemen that he had just arrived to VA himself and the Minutemen snarled at him and asked where he came from. “The Bronx muthafucka” was his response.

It reminded me of my experience in St. Louis in front of the International Institute building when I arrived to protest against an anti-immigration rally. This rally was co-sponsored by the Council of Conservative Citizens and the National Alliance. As this is St. Louis they where mostly protesting against Bosnians and other Muslim immigrants and I felt the need to show up. When I walked up to the crowd one of the neo-Nazis approached me and said “hello, brother” and I said “Man, I aint your brother, I’m here to protest.” The thing about it was I was the only counter-protester there and the National alliance members were taking my photo and trying to intimidate me but I had my own chants like “More immigrants and less rednecks” and “GED convention on South Grand”. But, I was able to recruit several pedestrians to join my counter-protest which I considered a success.


Some Lehigh Valley, PA Voters Offended By Voting at a Mosque

Causes for Poverty and Some Cab Stories

A have had a lot of interaction with some readers about issues of poverty. Some believe that it is the responsibility of the government to provide a comprehensive plan to combat poverty and all of its ill-effects and I do agree with them. The government has a responsibility to care for the weakest in society and to provide a social safety net and any modern society should provide universal health-cared and education to its citizens.

However, people are fooling themselves, when they think that the government can erase poverty. Poverty is not just about the lack of money and access to capital; it can also be about behavior, culture, education, addictions and family history. If someone is in poverty due to addictions they will remain in poverty until the addiction is cured and if the government can provide the individual with rehab that is only a partial solution since rehab only works in a minority of the instances it is used. An individual who has dropped out of school at an early age, comes from a dysfunctional family where the basic essentials of life were not learned or taught, and/ or has severe behavior problems will not be able to overcome poverty unless those issues are addressed.

Several years ago Minister Louis Farrakhan was asked what he thought would happen if African-Americans received reparations for the 400 years of oppression they have endured at the hands of white America and Minister Farrakhan responded that “Cadillac would become the richest car maker in the world.” He was joking, but there was honesty behind his joke; if you have bad spending habits with a little money they aint gonna get no better when you got a lot of money.I have worked in a couple of bodegas and am a cabbie now and on what is referred to by some as “Mothers Day” (the first of the month when mothers get their welfare checks) there is a spending frenzy. I have witnessed mothers come in and spend half of the food stamps they get on chips, candy and soda and today I have mothers I pick up from the projects to gamble the money away on the casino. Would their poverty be decreased by multiplying the amount of money they get? No, poverty is decreased when the society meets the individual half way; the society makes a commitment to helping the poor and the individual makes a commitment to helping themselves.

When the welfare-reform debate was raging in the mid-nineties I was working for ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) a grassroots organization dedicated to fighting for the working-poor ( although not always effectively). One day I was petitioning the neighborhood in the fight for a living-wage (which I still support) when I came across Sheikh Abdul-Rahman and I told him what I was doing. The sheikh responded that “the people cannot solve the problem because as they are now they are the problem.”

What did the sheikh mean? The sheikh, a man who grew-up in the Marcy Projects in Brooklyn (that Jay-Z would later make famous), an African-American, product of a single-parent household, ex-pimp, ex drug-dealer, ex-con and a Black Panther leader had seen it all in his day and he believed that unless the individual reforms himself and then his family that there can be no government solutions. What the government would give would be received in a “getting-over spirit” and the individual would merely pursue the self-destructive lifestyle with state subsidies.

The sheikh told the story about being in Oakland in the 1960’s with the Black Panther leadership and of how they had a genuine grassroots movement dedicated to black self-determination. He told of how all these beautiful visionaries around him had brilliant minds and hearts of gold; but were self-destructing with drug usage, womanizing, and out of control lifestyles. The sheikh realized then that any political movement that at its core didn’t address the spiritual needs of the individual and instill moral discipline into the adherent was doomed to failure. That is why many from that movement along with Sheikh Abdul-Rahman (who was already a Muslim), including Abdul-Alim Musa, Jamil al-Amin and others, would go on to embrace Islam and become Muslim leaders.

I have noticed these same things in my lifetime from different angles. I have witnessed the political activists and anti-war protesters who have been very lousy and inconsiderate in their personal lives; they want the state to be generous but personally they will kick the homeless people out of the way to get to the next protest rally. They will be unjust to those around them and then want the state to be just. This filters down to the poor. In high school I can remember standing at the bus stop (which I rarely caught but did that day and it wasn’t even from my home) and hearing a group of girls talk about what they wanted to do when they grew-up and the one girl said; “I cant wait to get my check and get my own apartment” and the others chimed in and agreed with her. For those of you who don’t know she was referring to a welfare check and a Section 8 apartment. That was her ambitions and that was her dream, to be on welfare and get an apartment. Could you blame her? She lived in a complex where there were maybe 200 women, 20 men, and maybe 200 to 300 children with a lot of baby-daddies floating in and out. One day I sat and tried to think of who I knew in that complex who had a job and I could only think of eight or nine people. The rest got welfare or SSI checks or hustled; selling ass, boosting, selling dope or letting people sell dope out of their apartments. What kind of dreams does a kid who grows up in this environment have?That is why I believe, that even though Welfare Reform isn’t perfect (especially when it comes to health care and day care) it is worth something just to see a parent get out of the door and go to work everyday even if it is a sub-standard job; let the child see someone get-up and go to work everyday.

Cab Stories

On a daily basis I get my fair share of everything society has to offer. Tonight was no different as I took a group of doctors to a strip-club, picked-up a straight –couple at a gay bar, talked about the riots in France with a French physician, picked sore losers off the gambling boats, a Crackhead from a crackhouse, a few businessmen going to the nicer sections of town, a couple of college students going to an “earthy” party, a Canadian oil executive , a group of college students from Spain, and a ghetto ass white chick with her friend going to K-Mart with rollers in her head. Driving a cab is like being in prison; you can’t make moral judgments about those around you and what they are doing. Most of my passengers know that I am a Muslim; I have a beard, I have verses of the Quran decorating my dashboard, and sometimes I will have Islamic books out in the open. Occasionally my passengers want to discuss Islam with me and for the most part they are tolerant. Because I believe political correctness is bullshit I will tell you that I have never had an African-American in my cab say anything bad about Islam or make remarks, and this goes for the other Muslim drivers here too, but many of the drivers get anti-Muslim remarks made to them, but not me, constantly by white passengers ( particularly white men). Are we just supposed to be PC and ignore this and say no there is not a problem in white America of racism and hatred of Muslims? Should we follow the advice of Muslim Wake-Up and FMAT and others and believe if we ape these people enough they will love us? Or should we recognize there is a problem, get in where we fit in and then deal with it?

One more note on the Cabbie tip. I didn’t get this girl tonight but I thought about her. She is a waitress at a fairly nice restaurant and every night she brings home her tips to her husband and if she doesn’t’t bring enough he beats her and makes her sleep on the back porch. People have tried to get involved and help but she refuses the offers. Does that make you realize what kind of lousy people there are out there or what?