The Rockford Study Group Invites You


AUDIO PODCAST:


 

(Audio replay from 11-24-2019): Rockford's Nation of Islam Student Minister, Brother Yahcolyah Muhammad, speaks on the subject: "Resurrection," where he explains how Black Rockford, and to a greater extent, Black America's, present condition is that of mental and spiritual death. Created by centuries of deception leading the descendants of enslaved Africans in America to lean on external solutions instead of internal solutions, Brother Yahcolyah challenges his audience to think beyond the mental and spiritual box in which it currently finds itself and to implement behaviors that will lead to real change in real time.


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STUDY GROUP MEETING TIMES
"Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding." (Proverbs 4:7). 

"He grants wisdom to whom He pleases. And whoever is granted wisdom, he indeed is given a great good. And none mind but men of understanding." 
(Holy Qur'an 2:269).



Sundays: General lecture 10:00AM
Mondays: FOI Class (Brothers only) 7:30 PM
Wednesdays: Evening lecture: 7:30PM 
Saturdays: MGT Class (Sisters only) TBA


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For more information: Call (815) 742-6758

The Rockford Study Group:
1005 S. Court Street, Rockford, IL 61102 

rockfordnoistudygroup@gmail.com 




From The Final Call Newspaper

Hurting, hunting Black Girls and Women: Facing a devastating sex trafficking crisis not limited to vans, strangers and abductions

By Richard B. Muhammad, Bryan 18X Crawford and Brian E. Muhammad The Final Call | @TheFinalCall




Social media warnings of white vans that lock from the outside and follow school buses, arrests in several states, accounts from Black women about kidnap attempts and thousands of missing women and girls have raised fears about increased sex trafficking in the Black community.

The problem, however, is wider than strangers snatching young girls and women, though that happens. It includes a plethora of abuses and failures, said advocates fighting to end the scourge.

The Black and Missing Foundation says Black people, just 13 percent of the American population, are almost 40 percent (232,881) of all missing persons. Black women, just seven percent of America’s population, are 10 percent of all reported missing persons cases, said the foundation. In 2018, roughly 64,000 Black women and girls went missing, it said.

“African American youth are at increased risk for domestic minor sex trafficking, with being female, living in an urban area, and experiencing abuse prior to trafficking all being factors that are associated with risk for sex trafficking. Of the over 300,000 minors in the U.S. who are victims of domestic sex trafficking, it is estimated that 43 percent are African American girls,” according to research by Thema Bryant-Davis, PhD., of Pepperdine University. The U.S. Justice Dept. has reported that of confirmed sex trafficking victims whose race was known, 26 percent were White and 40 percent were Black.

Advocates and survivors believe many missing women and girls are victims of sex trafficking. A 15-year-old Houston girl ended her life in mid-October. The young Latina disappeared at age 13, was drugged and sex trafficked. Her family found her two years later, but she was never the same. Family members were heartbroken when she killed herself.

Who cares about Black girls, women?



“A few years ago, around 80 girls in Washington, D.C., went missing in a month, and it was crazy to me that nobody was talking about this. I started doing research and couldn’t find anything about it,” said Imani Blair, a Virginia-based rap artist. She made a song and a video called “Shoot ‘Em,” about Black women being abducted and taken against their will. “Nobody was talking about it. No news was talking about it; and that made me feel some kind of way. And the more research I’ve done it, the more I’ve learned that this is a really big problem in our community.”

The video for “Shoot ‘Em,” features powerful images. In one scene, Ms. Blair pulls up to a gas station with a group of suspicious men sitting in a nearby car. She doesn’t notice them watching. From the time she pulls into the gas station, walks in and then out again, she’s on her phone; oblivious to her surroundings before she is surrounded and forced into the trunk of a car.

The images are haunting, but at the same time, all too real because this kind of scenario does play out in the Black community and other neighborhoods.

In addition to abductions and kidnappings, young women and girls are often lured into “the life” by promises of love, fame, money or all three. They can also be sold from one trafficker to another. In other cases, young women have gone to parties and found themselves held captive, beaten and forced into sexual slavery.




Chandra Cleveland, based in Columbia, S.C., is an expert who deals with sex trafficking, sextortion, and sexual exploitation. Much of her work focuses on highly vulnerable female runaways.

Among the girls was a common pattern of “friendship” with an older male who influenced them.

“As I kept hearing the stories—after they have been gone for days—it started adding up like this was a plot,” said Ms. Cleveland, who runs a group called It’s On Me 2. “Someone knew what they were doing in order to get these girls.”

Having worked in law enforcement for more than 30 years and through her organization, Ms. Cleveland gained experience working with sexually exploited women and girls.

She believes more awareness is needed through trainings and focusing on sex trafficking, missing females and violence against girls and women. She conducts community trainings as well as sessions at schools, colleges and even corporations.

She and other advocates stress females trapped in “the life” are victims—which has spawned a movement to change laws and end the prosecution of these victims, especially children, for prostitution. There are also efforts to strengthen punishment of customers, or “johns,” pimps, who may be male or female, and combat legalization of prostitution.



Female runways are often labeled fast or loose, noted Ms. Cleveland. But, she said, the girls were often seeking some kind of help and devalued by their community.

Such dysfunction left girls vulnerable to someone selling false hope and who ended up exploiting them, she explained.

“I tell parents … regardless of the child that you raised, when they get around a manipulator such as this, they can change your child in three days to something you never met,” warned Ms. Cleveland.

If girls say something strange or suddenly change, parents and loved ones need to act quickly and find out what’s happening, Ms. Cleveland said.

Then there is the ugly online dimension to the problem.

“Social media plays a critical role,” commented Armie Hicks, a filmmaker based in Atlanta who wrote and produced the film “Circuit,” which explores human trafficking. Mr. Hicks was inspired to make his film because of work his sister did helping survivors of human and sex trafficking. He listened to their stories while working on the film.

“Women are increasingly being lured online with false promises of lives of luxury, love and security,” he said. “Predators can easily message and connect with vulnerable young girls on social media and dating apps.”



These same girls, whether going on a date or casting call for a movie, can end up captives and drugged to force their compliance—if seduction doesn’t work.

And, the sellers or abusers of girls and women are often boyfriends and family members, not strangers.

“Our team was granted interviews with various women who had been sold into modern-day slavery as young girls by their own families or by men who they thought loved them and wanted to build a relationship with them,” Mr. Hicks explained. “They shared their heartbreaking stories, providing a glimpse into the very dark and dirty world of human trafficking that we needed in order to know that this was a much-needed film. As a father, son and brother of Black women, this scared the hell out of me.”

Ms. Cleveland said the increase in sex trafficking is also tied to the so-called gang culture with some shifting from illicit drug dealing to prostituting young girls.

“African American men who have been caught with drugs before have found out that it’s easier to get a little girl from school and flip the value on her over and over again,” said Ms. Cleveland. “It’s not like they have to hide a commodity, or they have to go and get it. The human commodity is more accessible, and they make more money.”

Since traffickers are looking for vulnerable victims, they may recruit girls from foster homes or group homes, or target women who are already in jail using online records about sentencing and release dates. They may send money to women who are incarcerated and romance them. Once the women are released, traffickers may offer drugs and a place to stay. In the end, they push the women into sex work to repay their debts, sometimes under threat of violence. They may also literally lock women into rooms or houses.

A billion-dollar industry

Human trafficking, or modern slavery, affects some 40.3 million people worldwide. That means for every 1,000 people, nearly six are victims of human trafficking. Nearly five million people endure “forced sexual exploitation,” and as the International Labor Organizations reports, some $99 billion is made.

While only 19 percent of victims of human trafficking are sexually exploited, the money generated represents 66 percent of the global human trafficking profits. Every woman forced into sex trafficking generates approximately $100,000 annually. Those persons trafficked for non-sexual purposes generate around $22,000 a year.

“Domestic minor sex trafficking is the commercial sexual exploitation of children within U.S. borders. Congress, in the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act, has made sex trafficking of a minor a crime. Federal law makes it a crime when a person ‘recruits, entices, harbors, transports, provides, obtains, advertises, maintains, patronizes, or solicits by any means’ a minor for the purpose of a commercial sex act. When considering the crime of domestic minor sex trafficking, under the TVPA, the victim’s age is the critical issue—there is no requirement to prove that force, fraud, or coercion was used to secure the victim’s actions if the victim is a minor. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 1 in 7 endangered runaways reported to NCMEC in 2018 were likely child sex trafficking victims,” said the Protected Innocence Challenge, which does an annual report on domestic child sex trafficking.

Its 2019 report found positive changes in laws that once punished child victims. The group wants to see continued changes in laws that target customers and pimps, which have seen increased penalties.

A federal judge sentenced rapper Jaimian Simms, a 27-year-old Black man, to life in prison Nov. 22 following his conviction for conspiracy and sex trafficking. U.S. District Judge David Hittner ordered $1,575 in restitution to a 17-year-old victim. At trial, the jury heard that Mr. Simms trafficked adult and minor females. The jury also saw and heard three rap videos featuring Mr. Simms which contained many of the terms used in prostitution. “He references selling ‘White’ women and how successful he is at being a pimp,” said federal prosecutors. “The defense attempted to convince the jury that the women were not victims and engaged in the sex acts willingly nor did he use force, fraud or coercion to make them do so. They were not convinced and found him guilty of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a minor and sex trafficking of a minor.”

Sex trafficking victims are often presented in online ads and sometimes in dating apps. The online website BackPage.com was shut down in 2018 for running ads soliciting sex.

Federal authorities charged a South Florida man, William Foster, with running a sex ring and recruiting girls from foster homes in November. The man had the women, two of whom were brought into the operations as minors, selling sex as far away as Detroit and created a non-profit foster care company, said authorities.

Jason Roger Pope, 42, from Florence, S.C., withdrew his request for bail in October as he faces sex trafficking and child sex crime charges. Federal authorities say the 42-year-old White male preyed on young females, often boasting of his Black conquests, according to BET.com. He is charged with promoting the prostitution of a minor, kidnapping, three counts of trafficking people, and criminal sexual conduct with a minor in the second degree. Authorities say others may have been victimized and are seeking help from the public.

“Arrest warrants show that between July 2017 and July 2019, Pope allegedly forced four underaged girls to perform sex acts at his home. One of the girls was reportedly as young as 13. Another alleged victim, a 17-year-old girl, told police Pope gave her money, drugs and/or other items in exchange for sex,” BET.com reported. “Between July 1, 2018, and Sept. 1, 2019, Pope sexually assaulted a 16-year-old, identified as A.B., and paid the victim for sex acts, according to arrest warrants,” said BET.com citing TV station WMBF. Authorities also accuse the deejay and party promoter of sexually assaulting a 14 year old, holding another teenager in his home against her will and assaulting her. One victim feared she contracted AIDS from Mr. Pope, whose record of improper conduct with minors goes back to 2011, said BET.com.

“According to a Facebook screenshot, Pope reportedly once bragged that ‘I’m 36 with 693 BODIES (All Black females), WBU?’ Atlanta Black Star reports,” said BET.com.

Some feel more needs to be done on the enforcement side.

“While the demand for African Americans for sexual exploitation is higher than that of other races, the penalties associated with trafficking African Americans are less severe resulting in smaller jail sentences for abductors,” filmmaker Hicks said. “Survivors cannot even receive the small comfort in knowing their abductors and abusers are justly punished for their crimes.”

Sudan Muhammad, who lives in Prince Georges County, Md., is publisher of “Youth Creation Community Outreach” as part of her ministry to expose sex trafficking, help victims and warn the public. She visits areas rife with prostitution and often shares information via social media. She offers food, clothing, a listening ear and help to women trapped in the life.

“I’m a survivor. I was a part of human trafficking back in the 80’s. I know what it’s like,” Ms. Muhammad said. “This is back when young women and girls were sold for crack, being unsuspecting, set-up, and not knowing what was going on.”

Ms. Muhammad said in the DMV area (Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia), human trafficking is all too common. Some put themselves at risk, some put their children at risk out of financial desperation, she explained.

“Prince Georges county is said to be the richest Black county on paper, but you have a lot of people working low end jobs who can’t pay upwards of $1,500 a month for their rent. You wouldn’t believe the number of evictions that happen in Maryland,” said Ms. Muhammad. “So, you have a lot of scouts in our community—procurers, they call them—who tell these young girls if they make a movie, they can make upwards of $2,000 and pay their rent in a couple of minutes. This is why pornography is so normalized in our community because these girls and women think the quickest way to make money is to lay on their backs.”

Mothers and fathers in the Black community are pimping their own children out for money and if they come up missing, they won’t tell the police the real reason their child ran away, she added. It’s not uncommon to walk DMV streets and see advertisements for girls to make pornography, or work in strip clubs, she said.

“Allah had to put me through something so I would have a deep amount of empathy, compassion and understanding. So, I became an advocate for other women … who are suffering and nobody’s hearing them because nobody’s listening,” Ms. Muhammad said.

Judgments passed on women and girls caught in “the life,” and reducing them to nothing more than whores, sluts and thots needs to stop, advocates said. This mindset helps justify exploitation of Black women and girls, they said.

A call for Black men to stand up

“When I’m out and I see a group of Black men, I should feel safe. I should feel like those are my brothers and if something happens, they’re going to help me. Unfortunately, that’s not the case,” Imani Blair said. “I think if Black men showed more love and support for Black women, especially in public spaces, and not in a creepy or sexual way, we’d be good. We just need more love and support; I got you and you got me.”

“Men have to look at ourselves in the mirror and realize the responsibility we have to protect our women,” Mr. Hicks added. “Men have to listen up. If women are complaining about predatory men or habits, we have to listen and take them seriously. Men have to step in and confront predators if we see someone being targeted. Men must also confront and challenge our own misogyny and sexist views of women. By doing this, our frame of thinking begins to change and as a result, other men’s view on misogyny changes as well.”

“Those of us as Black men who are standing around pontificating on this subject matter of sex trafficking, and untold numbers of missing Black women and children, needs to stop pontificating,” Craig Khanwell declared.

Mr. Khanwell, founder of the Columbia, S.C.-based Vision Walkers, said Black men must organize and address the problem. Black men need to patrol the community, making “our women and our children” safe, instead of going to White law enforcement agencies, he said.

“Oft times it’s those same law enforcement agencies and others—even the military—are involved in the sex trafficking of our women,” he said.

“If we have to make examples of people then that’s what has to be done,” Mr. Khanwell continued. “We’ve been talking to damn much and doing too little.”

Blacks are “sitting back watching while the sellout negroes—because there are a lot of Black men in this—are selling our women and children across the country and the world,” Mr. Khanwell said.

The devaluing of the female is a universal problem beyond color and nationality, however because of the history and sordid legacy of racism and slavery, Black women in America are disproportionately exploited.

The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam, who has a track record of advocating for the uplift and advancement of women, has warned about the devastating impact of abusing females.

“We must respect and honor women if the nation is ever to be great,” Minister Farrakhan wrote, in his book, “A Torchlight for America.”

“When we do not have a proper appreciation for women, this is reflected in society. Women should be active in every field of endeavor except those that degrade them,” the Minister advised. “The maintenance of women as sex objects is destroying society,” he warned.

Sex trafficking is “commodification and consumption of bodies,” and victims can be adults or children, male and female. Law enforcement says the illicit trade involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to compel another person to perform sex to financially profit third parties. Sex trafficking is human trafficking specifically for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Sexual slavery is when a victim is forced, in a variety of ways, into dependency on their traffickers and pushed into sex work.

There is no “type” of female in sex trafficking, said activists and advocates. They come from various social and economic backgrounds. College girls are being targeted, said Ms. Cleveland.

Those who buy sex services include pastors, police officers, attorneys—almost anyone.

Black organizations and faith groups, like mosques and churches, need to get involved combating the crisis that is disproportionally affecting Blacks, said advocates.

“If we wait on someone else to save us, the numbers will continue to grow,” warned Ms. Cleveland. “Our community needs to step forth, get educated and change the way that they think about our Black women and girls.”

“Until we learn to love and protect our woman, we will never be a fit and recognized people on the earth. The White people here among you will never recognize you until you protect your woman,” warned the Hon. Elijah Muhammad, patriarch of the Nation of Islam, in his writings.

“My beloved brothers in America, you have lost the respect for your woman and, therefore, you have lost the respect for yourself. You won’t protect her; therefore, you can’t protect yourself,” he wrote.


From The Final Call Newspaper

Boycotts, ‘buycotts,’ & Black dollar power

By Charlene Muhammad National Correspondent @sischarlene


Annual Black spending strategies designed to support demands for racial justice and end police violence are kicking in as 2019 ends and reports of major store closures emerge.

Retailers with high hopes for Black Friday spending have offered deals earlier this year to help spike holiday sales. But activists have kicked in with Black Friday boycotts and “buycotts” just as early this year.

In the run-up to the 20th Anniversary of the Million Man March, Justice Or Else! in Washington, D.C., Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan called for Blacks to pull their money from the U.S. economy by not spending money during the holiday shopping season.

Minister Farrakhan quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., often in the run-up to the 2015 gathering in the nation’s capital saying, “We have to find a way to redistribute the pain.”


A protester holds a sign in Chicago, Nov. 24, 2017, during a demonstration billed as a “march for justice” on Black Friday. Photo: AP Nam Y. Huh


“We have to now withdraw our economic support, so that those who give us pain can receive some pain in return,” Minister Farrakhan added.

He was inspired by Dr. King, Jr.’s desire for a 1963 Christmas boycott after the White supremacist bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., that killed four little Black girls.

And, in his final speech in Memphis on April 3, 1968, Dr. King talked about using Black economics in the fight for justice. He was assassinated the next day.

“We don’t have to argue with anybody. We don’t have to curse and go around acting bad with our words. We don’t need any bricks and bottles,” said Dr. King in some of his last words. “We don’t need any Molotov cocktails. We just need to go around to these stores, and to these massive industries in our country, and say, ‘God sent us by here, to say to you that you’re not treating his children right. And we’ve come by here to ask you to make the first item on your agenda fair treatment, where God’s children are concerned. Now, if you are not prepared to do that, we do have an agenda that we must follow. And our agenda calls for withdrawing economic support from you.’

“And so, as a result of this, we are asking you tonight, to go out and tell your neighbors not to buy Coca-Cola in Memphis. Go by and tell them not to buy Sealtest milk. Tell them not to buy—what is the other bread? Wonder Bread. And what is the other bread company, Jesse? Tell them not to buy Hart’s bread. As Jesse Jackson has said, up to now, only the garbage men have been feeling pain; now we must kind of redistribute the pain. …

“But not only that, we’ve got to strengthen Black institutions. I call upon you to take your money out of the banks downtown and deposit your money in Tri-State Bank. We want a ‘bank-in’ movement in Memphis. Go by the savings and loan association. … Put your money there. You have six or seven Black insurance companies here in the city of Memphis. Take out your insurance there. We want to have an ‘insurance-in.’ Now these are some practical things that we can do. We begin the process of building a greater economic base. And at the same time, we are putting pressure where it really hurts.”

The lack of opportunity, injustice, race-related and police killings of Blacks has continued.

Black people were 25 percent of those killed despite being only 13 percent of the population, according to MappingPoliceViolence.com. Blacks were three times more likely to be killed by police than White people and 21 percent of Black victims were unarmed compared to 14 percent of White victims, according to Mapping Police Violence.

Beyond dangers faced by Blacks, holiday stress is affecting people across America. According to a November Bankrate.com survey, “More than 6 out of 10 people told Bankrate they feel pressure to overspend on either presents, travel, social outings or charitable donations during the holiday season.”

“About half (51 percent) of survey respondents told Bankrate they feel pressure to spend more than they are comfortable with on gifts during the holidays. The percentage was significantly higher than those worried about breaking their budget for charity (30 percent), social gatherings (28 percent) or holiday travel (24 percent),” Bankrate.com reported.



Nathaniel Dyer carries a sign during a Black Lives Matter protest near Lenox Square Mall in Atlanta, Sept. 24, 2016, in response to the police shooting deaths of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Okla. and Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, N.C. Photo: Branden Camp


“Consumers are expected to spend almost $1,048 on average during the 2019 holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation, a rise of 4 percent from last year. The national trade organization forecasts holiday retail sales during November and December reaching a total of $727.9 billion to $730.7 billion,” said Bankrate.com.

Sixteen percent of those surveyed by Bankrate.com said they were considering “skipping or boycotting gifts altogether.”

Most people (31 percent) told Bankrate they start worrying about holiday costs in November as the holiday displays start to go up and Black Friday appeals bombard everyone. Twenty-three percent of respondents worry about how much the holidays will cost in October, while 20 percent of people don’t start stressing until December.

“The end of the year can be a tricky financial time for families even before considering holiday costs. Colder temps often mean higher heating or energy bills or expenses to winterize cars and homes. Charities and other programs help some families struggling to juggle end-of-year expenses,” Bankrate.com observed.

WalletHub, a personal finance website, reported that despite near-record credit card debt levels, some 35 million Americans still have credit card debt from last holiday season, and nearly one-third of consumers will spend less on holiday this year than last year.

“That indicates people are just treading water financially and have been unable to use the past 12 months to prepare for the next recession, the arrival of which is just a matter of time,” warned WalletHub CEO Odysseas Papadimitriou.

“The fact that nearly one-third of consumers plan on spending less this holiday season than they did last year could be either good or bad news. It depends on whether people are recognizing the need to cut back and save before it’s too late or simply beginning to falter financially.”


Up with Jesus, down with Santa

“You’re either going to treat us right, or we’re going to withdraw from you our economic support,” said Min. Farrakhan. “We intend to boycott Christmas but not Jesus. We choose not to spend dollars on Black Friday, Black Saturday, Black Sunday, Black Monday. We are not going to spend our money for the rest of that year with those companies that we have traditionally spent our money on,” the Minister added.

“If you love Christ, then to hell with Santa! Up with Jesus! Down with Santa!” Minister Farrakhan reiterated during Part 2 of his Justice Or Else! address delivered on Oct. 11, 2015 at the Washington, D.C. Marriott Marquis.

Last year, Minister Farrakhan called on Blacks to be kind and loving to each other; to be the gift, instead of spending money on children and giving the credit to a mythical Caucasian. “Let love break out in the ghetto,” said Minister Farrakhan, as he offered an alternative Holiday approach that reflected the Holy Quran’s 107th Chapter, “Acts of Kindness.”

“I thought it was prophetic, providential … As we know, God always calls his prophets to a place of warning the people before devastation comes,” said Pastor Dinah Tatman of St. John African Episcopal Church in Kennett, Mo., and CEO-founder of Greater New Visions Ministries, Inc. of Minister Farrakhan’s call.

It came in a timely manner, said Rev. Tatman, also co-convener of “No Justice, No Profit” boycott.

She started the campaign with other leaders in St. Louis to not only boycott businesses, including Target, US Bank, Burger King, Shell, Schnucks grocery chain, Gap, Inc., Goldman Sachs, and the St. Louis Galleria Mall, but to encourage Blacks to spend with one another. “I recognized that if Black people withheld our money, we could get anything we want,” said Pastor Tatman.

Among things they wanted at the time No Justice, No Profit launched on November 2, 2017 was justice in then-officer Jason Stockley’s fatal 2011 killing of Anthony Lamar Smith. The cop’s acquittal set off a new wave of outrage and protests.

The community and the country were already in turmoil over the killing of Michael Brown, Jr., by White male officer Darren Wilson in 2014 and the failure of state and federal authorities to charge the cop in the 18-year-old’s death.

“If we can recognize the power that we have, and use it, and stop begging, kings and queens don’t beg. Yet we beg the masters to take care of us when we take care of everybody else, except for us. When we recognize us, things will change. So, I love Brother Minister Farrakhan, because he’s not afraid to stand on the greatness, and the justice, and the righteousness of God and speak what God has told him to speak unabashedly, and not be afraid,” stated Pastor Tatman.

In addition to No Justice, No Profit, groups like the Chicago-based Black Mall and Houston-based Shrine of the Black Madonna, have consistently worked on two fronts. Their efforts began locally but have grown to inspire support nationally.

Nailah Nelson, executive director of the Shrine of the Black Madonna’s Shrine Cultural and Event Center, observed that five years after Justice Or Else! Blacks are still experiencing injustice, police brutality, and injustice. People cannot let up, she said.

“We started this movement as a response to the brutality with Michael Brown, following the Justice Or Else! movement with the Honorable Minister Farrakhan. We did it in an effort to raise consciousness and to recirculate the dollars into the Black community,” Ms. Nelson said.

“It is a boycott movement empowering our people, and the only way that we could effectively do this is to join together and boycott the stores, put our dollars back into the Black community, because Black businesses are the largest employers of Black people. So, this is for our own economic development that we seek to push our movement,” Ms. Nelson told The Final Call.

The Shrine’s Buy Black Market started on the first Saturday of every month but has grown to include the third Saturday of the month as well. What began with approximately 30 vendors has grown to a list of over 620 across the country, according to Ms. Nelson. She is hoping the group will launch an online component to its economic movement in mid-December.

“We joined with the Justice Or Else! under Minister Farrakhan and we’ve been doing it effectively since then, giving small Black businesses an opportunity to grow their business,” Ms. Nelson said.


‘Retail apocalypse’ hits U.S. stores


“More than 9,100 stores are closing in 2019 as the retail apocalypse drags on,” reported Business Insider in November. The story looked at statistics for record-breaking store closures.

Charlotte Russe, Family Dollar, and Chico’s announced more than 1,100 store closures in a span of 24 hours at one point. Payless ShoeSource, which filed for bankruptcy in February, is closing 2,500 stores, amounting to the largest retail liquidation in history. The Gap is closing 230 stores over the next two years. Walgreens plans to close 200 stores, and GameStop is closing 180 to 200 stores.

Sears, Kmart, Party City, Walgreens, and Barneys are among the retailers that recently announced store closings. Forever 21 expects to close 350 stores globally, including 178 in the U.S. after filing for bankruptcy. Sears planned to close 175 stores, and Walmart is closing at least 17 stores across the U.S. and Canada.

“Anybody who would just do their research since 2015 and go back and look at Minister Farrakhan’s Saviours’ Day address in 2016, he laid out the stats during his message, and it has only increased since them,” said Jesse Muhammad, social media director for Minister Farrakhan. “That’s one thing that can’t be overlooked … and it has not stopped.”

Big box stores including Sam’s Club and Walmart reported closures, as well as everything from vitamin and health stores, to cookware stores, children’s clothing and toy stores, and electronics stores.

Some mainstream analysts blame tax reforms, lingering effects of the U.S. government shutdown—Dec. 22, 2018 to Jan. 25, 2019—and severe, unmerciful weather for the decline of brick-and-mortar stores. But Black activists and some Black leaders say the tsunami store closings are also tied to strategic withdrawal of Black dollars as a weapon against injustice.

“Right now what’s really awesome is that our efforts were not in vain,” said Casseopia Uhuru, co-founder of The Black Mall, based in Chicago. “There are more people buying Black than ever! So, actually, this particular year, we’re not having our usual, annual Buy Black holiday event, because there are so many people now heading up their own small business markets and fairs that are featuring Black-owned businesses all over. We don’t want to create any type of competition,” said Ms. Uhuru.

She is so excited about Black business engagement and commerce with The Black Mall online (https://theblackmall.com), and a South Side storefront, using it’s platforms to highlight many businesses. The Black Mall plans to release a Holiday Gift Guide, and daily info about great Black-owned businesses for an economic “buycott,” Ms. Uhuru told The Final Call.

The call for justice has raised awareness and interest, so Blacks are looking at ways to strengthen their own communities, she said.


No easy victories

There have been some small victories in getting police brutality indictments, but they’re not sufficient, added Ms. Uhuru, who cited the second-degree murder conviction last year of former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke for shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald to death.

He was found also guilty on all 16 counts of aggravated battery—one for each shot he fired into the teenager in October 2014. Activists say he received a “slap on the wrist” sentence, which was a slap in the face. Mr. Van Dyke could have faced a maximum sentence of 96 years, but prosecutors sought 18 to 20 years.

Judge Vincent Gaughan sentenced the killer cop to 81 months, less than seven years, in state prison, on the second-degree murder conviction only. The ex-cop could serve a little more than three years in prison with time served and enjoy the possibility of parole in two years.

“Now we know if this happens again, we need a stronger prosecution, and longer terms and being more knowledgeable of the actual judicial system itself and how if you don’t actually convict on the correct charge, then literally, somebody could get away with murder!” said Ms. Uhuru.

“I think what’s happening is that one aspect of awareness is helping us to be more knowledgeable in the other areas that we need to be more knowledgeable in, like the judicial system, like the political system, and how we are living in a capitalistic country and politics is directly connected to corporations and how they work,” said Ms. Uhuru.


Just a beginning of the fight


While there have been victories with the Justice Or Else! economic boycotts, activists are under no illusion that justice has won the day.

Former Fort Worth Officer Aaron Dean, who was supposed to be responding to a neighbor’s well care call, shot 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson in her own home, in front of her 8-year-old nephew on Oct. 12.

Convicted White female former officer Amber Guyger is serving 10 years in prison for fatally shooting 26-year-old Saint Lucian native Botham Jean inside his Dallas home on Sept. 6, 2018. She claimed she mistook his apartment for hers, felt threatened and fired her weapon.

In Arizona, Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier placed Deputy Manuel Van Santen on administrative leave following violent arrests of a 15-year-old quadruple amputee, with no arms or legs, and a teenager who recorded the Sept. 26 incident at a Tucson group home.

The 15 year old was upset and knocked over a trash can, prompting the call for police, according to media reports. Disorderly conduct charges against him were dropped after an explosive video of the incident surfaced in November. The other teenager, a 16 year old, was still facing charges at Final Call press time, media reports indicated.

“What it’s really doing is it’s waking us up in a really grand way, understanding how nations work. Period. We’ve just been bystanders. We’ve just kind of let it gloss over us and done lots of unfortunate, just complaining, but not really understanding how we can get to the root of these issues so we can fight back in the most effective way,” Ms. Uhuru said.

(Final Call staff contributed to this report.)

From The Final Call Newspaper

Riveting testimonies, partisan bickering mark impeachment hearings

By Askia Muhammad -Senior Editor


WASHINGTON—Donald J. Trump, the 45th President of the United States, is now only the fourth president in U.S. history to face public impeachment hearings. As the hearings continue, the contentiousness and bitter partisan politics have been on full display before the country and the world.




For hours and hours, three witnesses testified before the House Intelligence Committee Nov. 13 and Nov. 15: George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state; William Taylor, a former ambassador and the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine; and Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine. More witnesses are scheduled as the proceedings unfold.

Mr. Kent and Mr. Taylor both said President Trump withheld aid to Ukraine in an attempt to pressure the country to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company. Ms. Yovanovitch revealed a shocking account of her ouster and condemned foreign policy in the Trump era, while Mr. Trump attempted to intimidate her and other potential witnesses, condemning her on Twitter, even as she sat testifying in the relative security of the U.S. Capitol.

The first testimony “corroborated evidence of bribery” by President Trump in his dealings with Ukraine, according to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Her use of the term “bribery”—one of the crimes the Constitution cites as an impeachable offense—suggests that Democrats have in mind a specific set of charges that could be codified in articles of impeachment.

After countless scandals from the day Mr. Trump was elected—including the convictions and resignations of more than a dozen top White House officials—what’s at issue now is whether or not Mr. Trump withheld hundreds of millions of dollars of Congressionally authorized military aid to Ukraine in order to force that country’s newly elected President Volodymyr Zelensky to publicly announce a corruption investigation into the business dealings in Ukraine of former Vice President Biden’s son Hunter.

That conduct came to light after a CIA whistleblower complained of improper attempted coercion of Mr. Zelensky by Mr. Trump in a July 25 telephone call.

“If we find that the president of the United States abused his power and invited foreign interference in our elections,” House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calfi.) told reporters, “must we simply get over it? Is this what Americans should now expect from their president? If this is not impeachable conduct, what is?”

Mr. Schiff began the hearing itself with a somber note in his opening statement. “The president has instructed the State Department and other agencies to ignore congressional subpoenas for documents. He has instructed witnesses to defy subpoenas and refuse to appear. And he has suggested that those who do expose wrongdoing should be treated like traitors and spies.

“These actions will force Congress to consider, as it did with President Nixon, whether Trump’s obstruction of the constitutional duties of Congress constitute additional grounds for impeachment. If the president can simply refuse all oversight, particularly in the context of an impeachment proceeding, the balance of power between our two branches of government will be irrevocably altered.”

The top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), dismissed the entire impeachment process. In his opening statement he was blunt. “We should not hold any hearings at all until we get answers to three crucial questions the Democrats are determined to avoid asking. First, what is the full extent of the Democrats’ prior coordination with the whistleblower, and who else did the whistleblower coordinate this effort with?

“Second, what is the full extent of Ukraine’s election meddling against the Trump campaign? And third, why did Burisma hire Hunter Biden, and what did he do for them, and did his position affect any U.S. government actions under the Obama administration? These questions will remain outstanding, because Republicans were denied the right to call witnesses that know these answers. What we will witness today is a televised theatrical performance staged by the Democrats,” said Mr. Nunes.

Republicans want the whistleblower whose complaint prompted the impeachment inquiry to testify and be publicly identified, claiming that he was compromised because of his contact with the staff of Rep. Schiff, and because he did not hear the July 25 call between Mr. Trump and Ukraine’s president firsthand. Mr. Trump’s allies have said the president should be able to face his “accuser,” despite the whistle-blower’s entitlement to anonymity.



Rather than defend the president’s innocence of the charges, the Republican strategy is to discredit the impeachment process itself. They “are going after the whistle blower,” one New York City news analyst named Ms. Taylor said in an interview with WPFW-FM in Washington during a hearing break. “They are defining this process and calling it a coup and treating it as such and avoiding compliance with it in every way they can.

“And then when they are participating, it’s this: de-legitimize it. So, number one, I think that there is no reason to believe and expect that they will play by the rules, and it is an extraordinary and unlikely situation where (Mr. Trump would be) voted to be found guilty in the Senate.

“Number two, it is unlikely. I think that the Senate, the Republicans are not going to vote to convict absent something that’s been missing up until now, which is a third force, the masses of people in the streets in a different way,” Ms. Taylor continued.

Absent a “third force” protesting against Mr. Trump’s government in the streets she said, the mounting evidence presented in these hearings appears to many observers to be extremely unflattering, but not necessarily destructive of the Trump presidency.

“What the Democrats have done that’s really smart through all the smoke and bluster is that they made it very simple that the president of the United States tried to get a foreign power to intervene in the 2020 elections on his behalf. And that is a very, fundamental takeaway I think that they want to present,” Dr. Clarence Lusane, professor of international relations and former chair of the political science department at Howard University told WPFW.

“Well, what I think it will do, and I think one of the objectives of the Democrats broadly, is just to get it on the record and help hold this president accountable because he’s basically existed his entire life and certainly for his tenure as president in a way (where he’s) not been held accountable because he’s been protected by Republicans in Congress and by a Justice Department that refuses to acknowledge what he’s done. So, this is really the only opportunity to really hold him accountable.

“I think it lays the groundwork then for what they would do in the Senate as they bring (an impeachment) trial into reality. And Trump cannot escape that. I doubt that there are 20 Republicans who are willing to cross the line and vote against the president. I just don’t see it,” Dr. Lusane continued.

“And I think this, to go back to your original question about the interest of the people and how many different kinds of crimes against the people, against the environment, against immigrants, against women and LGBTQ; the White supremacy that’s been whipped up, all of this that goes along with the Trump/Pence regime that has not found a home in these impeachment hearing,” said Ms. Taylor.

“All of that gets expressed only if the people act independent of the impeachment hearings. The opening for (the removal of the President from office) to go forward, what could change the hand of those Republicans in the Senate? What could tip the balance of them and others, is whether people themselves act.

“So, with the impeachment, it’s high stakes. It’s very damning,” she continued. “There’s every ground in what we’ve heard so far for the man to be removed from office. But whether that goes forward or not, it does depend on whether people get rendered as spectators to this (as) cheerleaders; to this feeling that the job is being done, or whether people see this as an opening to act and to take history into our own hands and seize on this fight at the top to move in a way that the interests of the people do get asserted.

“So, I feel it’s unwritten, and the main factor that could swing the hand is still too much sitting on the sidelines,” she said.

Mr. Trump’s election and controversial presidency and subsequent impeachment has continued to divide a country already split among party and racial lines. The president still enjoys overwhelming support among Republicans and bitter opposition among Democrats.

Seventy percent of Americans think President Trump’s request to a foreign leader to investigate his political rival, was wrong, a new ABC News/Ipsos poll finds. “A slim majority of Americans, 51%, believe Trump’s actions were both wrong and he should be impeached and removed from office. But only 21% of Americans say they are following the hearings very closely,” the poll notes.

“In addition to the 51%, another 19% think that Trump’s actions were wrong, but that he should either be impeached by the House but not removed from office, or be neither impeached by the House nor convicted by the Senate. The survey also finds that 1 in 4 Americans, 25%, think that Trump did nothing wrong,” continued the poll which surveyed 506 adults Nov. 16-17.

“The unfolding political drama between congressional Democrats and the White House reveals a polarized populace, with Democrats more united in their belief that Trump should be impeached and convicted than Republicans are in their belief that the president has committed no wrongdoing: 85% and 65%, respectively,” ABC News/Ipsos concluded.

As the hearings moved into the second week of public testimony—heading perhaps for a full House vote on an impeachment resolution possible by Dec. 15, another new witness emerged—a State Department official in Kiev named Suriya Jayanti—who will be able to describe the overheard phone call that Mr. Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, testified about.

On that call, the President and Gordon Sondland, the Oregon hotel magnate and mega-donor whom the President made the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, discussed the political investigations Mr. Trump sought from Ukraine. Mr. Sondland is also set to testify publicly. (Final Call staff contributed to this report.)