The Meeting before the Meeting
As Br Ayub and I drove north on 95, my good friend from the International Action Center in New York, Sara Flounders, put me in touch with some committed activists on the ground in the city of Boston. We ended up being invited to a meeting before our scheduled meeting; and what a blessed meeting it was.
The office of Worker’s World (a socialist organization) is located in a building complex known as The Brewery. As soon as you walk into the office you know immediately, by the pictures on the walls and by the spirit that fills the room, that you have entered a lair of activism. Last evening a sizeable and diverse group of activists gathered to remember an icon of history, to celebrate an important victory, and to discuss the business at hand.
The well attended meeting began with a video on one of the most significant and socially committed artists ever born in America, the honorable Paul Robeson. Let me say a few words about who this man is – because most of you reading this will probably not even be familiar the name, and that is truly a shame (especially if you’re African American or you consider yourself to be a serious political activist).
Paul Robeson (April 9, 1898 – January 23, 1976) was a true renaissance man – i.e. cultured, educated, and proficient in a wide range of fields. He won an academic scholarship to Rutgers, where he became a football “All American.” He later received his LL.B. from Columbia Law School while playing in the NFL. Robeson would go on to become an international star of stage and screen, known worldwide for his powerful, deep, melodious voice.
Robeson became known for something else that would elevate him in the hearts and minds of the working poor around the world – for being a black man, who became a star, who refused to allow fame and material gain to segregate his conscience. He became an outspoken foe of race and class related oppression, and he ended up paying a heavy price for that outspoken witness. He became one of the prime targets of McCarthyism, and had his passport revoked so he couldn’t travel abroad. From that day to the present (in my humble opinion) there has been an ongoing campaign to try to obliterate Paul Robeson, and his enormous cultural and political achievements, from America’s historical memory.
The sister who presided over yesterday’s meeting (as moderator) referenced an oft-repeated quote of Robeson: “The artist must elect to fight for Freedom or for Slavery. I have made my choice. I had no alternative.” How different the world would be, for the better, if artists of today operated from like-minded convictions. (I’ve included more of Robeson’s memorable quotes at the end of this release.)
Yesterday’s gathering also heard from union activists fresh off a hard fought victory that took two years to achieve. The opening paragraphs of a front page article in the latest edition of “Workers World” summed it up well.
“For 26 months beginning October 2013, when they were falsely accused of staging an illegal walkout, four fired leaders of the Boston School Bus Drivers Union waged an uphill battle against the notorious Veolia/Transdev Corp. to get their jobs back. It took the full mobilization of the militant rank and file, combined with a rock-solid support coalition that united longtime labor leaders with veteran African-American community activists Chuck Turner and Mel King, to win their reinstatement on Dec. 23.
“United Steelworkers Local 8751 members were beyond jubilant when President Andre François, Vice President Steve Kirschbaum, Financial Secretary Steve Gillis and Grievance Chair Garry Murchison returned to the bus yards Jan. 5 after the winter holiday break.”
The gathering also heard from an activist by the name of Tahia Bell-Sykes, from a “Black Lives Matters” affiliated group, “Mass Action Against Police Brutality.” Among the issues she raised were the irregularities surrounding the “police murder” of a young Muslim in Boston by the name of Usaama Rahim, and the struggle still underway for accountability.
I was also graciously given time to brief attendees on the case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, and to speak about the upcoming mobilization being planned for March 8 (“International Women’s Day”) in that city. The roughly 12 to 15 minute presentation received a warm response, with commitments of support made on the spot! Over all, this writer had a well spent 90 minutes at the Workers World community meeting.
From there we traveled to the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (ISBCC)for our 6PM meeting. That meeting was smaller, but no less spirited. We had four men to attend the meeting (three of whom were Muslim), and six women (five of whom were Muslim). Regrettably, no one was present from ISBCC management. We held another briefing and answered questions…but it didn’t end there. Before the night was over the suggestion was made for us to attend a wonderful brunch that took place earlier today.
In the first paragraph of the aforementioned “Workers World” report on the Local 8751 Boston School Bus Drivers victory, a man by the name of Mel King is mentioned. Mel Hugs King is described by some as the “unofficial mayor” of Boston; an 80 something African American elder of significant influence. For the past 35 years, I was told, he has held a Sunday brunch at his home attended by a broad array of visitors.
At today’s roundtable, over a succulent meal, and against a backdrop of soft rhythmic sounds (courtesy of Nat King Cole, Ray Charles, and the like) conversation on a variety of subjects took place. At the table of discussion were whites, blacks, a Native American, males and females at different stages of life. Once again, I was invited to share my reason for being in Boston; and once again I received a warm and supportive response.
I will resist the temptation to go into any further detail on our Boston visit, and simply state for the record that we will be departing Boston tomorrow morning feeling very optimistic about March 8, 2016 – when the first support rally for Dr. Aafia Siddiqui will be held at the institution that she graduated with honors from, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
In the struggle for peace thru justice,
El-Hajj Mauri’ Saalakhan
THE AAFIA FOUNDATION, INC.
11006 Veirs Mill Rd, STE L-15, PMB 298
Silver Spring, MD. 20902
29 MUHARRAM 1437 A.H. – (November 11, 2015)
The Targeted Killing of a 9 year old…The Challenges confronting us all!
The tragic murder of a young African American male (just 9 years old) in Chicago – just ONE of the tragedies to grab the attention of America over the past few days – forced me once again to reflect upon the challenges confronting Muslim youth
(and families) in America. None of us are immune to this madness…some of our young (and old) are being caught up in this never-ending destructive pathology (on both ends of the line).
MUHARAM 1436 A.H. (October 15, 2015)
A Message From the UK
Assalaamu Alaikum (Greetings of Peace):
Special note: I initially wrote what follows about 30,000 feet up in the air – with the intent of releasing it before my journey ended. That didn’t happen. I arrived in the UK at about 11:45 this morning, we had a full day of activity with an afternoon interview at the Islam Channel in London and an evening presentation in one of the meeting rooms at the British Parliament (House of Commons), before dinner and a several hour drive to the Bradford area of the UK. I have now checked into my hotel and performed the early morning salat (Fajr). After sending this out I intend to sleep until 11 AM – and then off to the human rights races again!
It gives me great pleasure to write this first release in the name of a newly established U.S. based human rights organization, The Aafia Foundation. I am writing this from a cruising altitude of about 30,000 feet, having just departed Iceland for my final flight to the UK. I just want to take a few moments to compose a little catch-up note to our friends and supporters around the world.
On this trip to the UK, thanks to some truly committed and exceptional people on the ground (who I feel honored to be associated with) there are a number of very important engagements lined up in London and Bradford over the next few days – all geared toward expanding awareness of, and support for, an oppressed Muslim woman by the name of Aafia Siddiqui. This trip will not be just about Aafia, however.
Insha’Allah, whenever and wherever possible, we are going to expand awareness of some of the other victims of the US-led “war on terrorism,” and on the dangers that this militaristic misadventure poses to the principle of constitutional democracy…in other words, to the health and welfare of a nation theoretically predicated on “liberty and justice for all.”
If this message reaches you in the UK, please note the information below on two of the major initiatives connected to this visit. If you know people who reside in the UK (or neighboring countries of the EU) please bring this important information to their attention. Insha’Allah, I look forward to filing a full report on this blessed journey to the UK, and to Norway after I depart the UK, after the journey has been completed.
May ALLAH bless this humble initiative dedicated to peace thru justice,
El-Hajj Mauri’ Saalakhan
“Civilization is based on justice, and the consequences of oppression are devastating; therefore, it is said ALLAH aids the just state, even if it is non-Muslim; and withholds His help from the oppressive state, even if it is Muslim.” – Sheikh ibn Taymeeyah