By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
For a moment in 1995, Minister Farrakhan and I shared common glorious ground. At the start of the Million Man March, he said, "Many people do not want me to speak today. But I will speak because of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States."
On August 27 of this year, Khallid Muhammad--who was banished from the Nation of Islam because he is an even more zealous bigot than Farrakhan--won a crucial First Amendment victory in New York's Federal District Court. The judge was Lewis Kaplan.
He won because of the work of, among others, Norman Siegel, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. Our imperious mayor had decreed that Muhammad could not hold his Million Youth March in Harlem on September 5, and he refused to issue a license for the march unless it took place in a far less populated site.
Norman Siegel called Federal District Judge Kaplan's August 27 decision "a smashing victory" for the First Amendment. The march can be held, as Muhammad had insisted, in Harlem. Indeed, Judge Kaplan said, "it is imperative that this takes place in Harlem, which is centrally located and is the national-international mecca for people of African descent."
As for Giuliani's rules that would have forbidden the march in Harlem, the judge said they are "breathtaking in their lack of standard and provided a virtual prescription for unconstitutional decision making."
Other court decisions expressing similar sentiments have helped make Giuliani notorious for his attempts to repeal the Bill of Rights, and not only the First Amendment.
So how did the maximum leader of the Million Youth March--Khallid Muhammad--react to this unequivocal affirmation of free speech, which emphasized that the First Amendment protects the most repellent bigots as well as everyone else?
According to Abby Goodnough of The New York Times, Muhammad said of the victory that he did not believe in the United States Constitution, and "it is not worth the paper it was printed on."
After all, the judge who affirmed Muhammad's constitutional right of free speech is Jewish. He is, therefore, the devil.
The extensive coverage of the controversy over the march mentioned Khallid Muhammad's rampant bigotry, but Malik Zulu Shabazz, a lawyer for the march as well as its national organizer, largely got a free pass for his own poisonous hatreds.
Like Khallid Abdul Muhammad, Shabazz is of course protected by the First Amendment. But considering all the attention paid to the march by this city's press, I would have expected more than passing attention to Shabazz's history because we will be hearing more of him. He is now running, by the way, for the City Council of the District of Columbia.
As Justice Louis Brandeis used to say, "Sunlight is the best disinfectant."
Shabazz first emerged in the Washington, D.C., press when he gave a warm-up speech for Khallid Abdul Muhammad, in February 1994, at Howard University.
In a series of Goebbels-like shouts aimed at evoking the correct responses from the crowd, Shabazz asked, among other things:
"Who is it that caught and killed Nat Turner?"
Audience: "The Jews!"
"Who is it that controls the Federal Reserve?"
"Who is it that has our entertainers . . . and our athletes in a vise grip?"
Then, with Khallid Abdul Muhammad in the wings, Shabazz said: "We want to bring on a man who makes the Jews pee in their pants at night . . . my big brother, Dr. Khallid Muhammad!"
In October 1997, Shabazz was speaking at a rally in Austin, Texas. There was one white reporter in the audience. Shabazz, the future national organizer for the Million Youth March, said to his audience:
"He is a scribe, a Jewish writer. The number one enemies of Christ were scribes. If they were responsible for killing Christ, what chance does little ol' me have?"
I wasn't there, but Mr. Shabazz has nothing to fear from this Jewish scribe--except accuracy. In New York recently, he reaffirmed his own abiding faith in his world-class anti-Semitic leader: "We love our convener and our big brother, Minister Khallid Abdul Muhammad."
During the arguments about the Million Youth March coming here, I called WNYC's On the Line talk show to ask what specific ideas the organizers of the march were going to present to the youth there. What plans for specific political, economic, and educational challenges? What specific plans for building an actual national organization for nonrhetorical change among young blacks around the country?
All I had read and heard, I said, was about demands for the march to be held in Harlem and about the need for unity among young blacks. Unity to do what?
No one on the program had an answer. A few minutes later, an angry black high school teacher in Brooklyn called On the Line. He was focusing on the attacks that had been directed against Khallid Abdul Muhammad as the leader of the march. He did not share Muhammad's views, the teacher said, but blacks have the right to choose their own leaders.
After the radio show was over, the high school teacher and I talked on the phone. "Black youngsters," he said, "need leaders. I think Khallid Abdul Muhammad carries too much baggage to lead this march. But the march itself is a good idea--provided it does come up with programs that can work and ways to make them work."