See also: Khalid Abdul Muhammad New Black Panther Party
Nation of Islam
Born (with the name Paris Lewis) in Los Angeles in 1967, Malik Zulu Shabazz has been a significant figure in radical Black Muslim politics since the mid-1990s. A practicing attorney and a frequent speaker on college campuses, he holds a bachelor's degree from Howard University and a J.D. from Howard University Law School. During his undergraduate college years, Shabazz was an aggressive campus organizer. In 1988 he founded Unity Nation, a self-described "black revolutionary" student group.
In the 1990s, Shabazz's militant temperament caught the eye of Khalid Abdul Muhammad, protégé of Nation of Islam (NOI) leader Louis Farrakhan. Muhammad, who was the chairman of the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) at that time, called the young Shabazz "one of the greatest student leaders of all time." Before long, Muhammad became Shabazz's revered mentor who, according to Shabazz, "helped to shape my life and was a captain and minister over me."
The other major influence on Shabazz's intellectual development was Louis Farrakhan. "I met Minister Louis Farrakhan on my college campus and it absolutely changed my life," says Shabazz.
After graduating from law school and passing the bar exam, Shabazz worked as a campaign aide and spokesman for Marion Barry, the scandal-plagued, three-term mayor of Washington, DC. During that same period, Shabazz became a member of the rap music group The Defiant Giants; he took the stage name "Zulu King Paris" and helped record the album Rise, Black Man, Rise.
Soon thereafter Shabazz joined the Nation of Islam, whose legendary anti-Semitism dovetailed neatly with Shabazz's own contempt for Jews. "I say to all Jewish people and all white people," he told a Howard University audience in April 1994 "… stop pushing your Holocaust down my throat, when the black holocaust is the worst holocaust humanity has ever seen." Five months later at the same school, Shabazz vowed: "We will never bow down to the white, Jewish, Zionist onslaught."
In 1995 Shabazz helped organize and promote Louis Farrakhan's "Million Man March" in Washington, DC. The day before the March (which was held on October 16), a number of NOI devotees organized, as a preview to the following day's activities, an event billed as the “Black African Holocaust Nationhood Conference” (BAHNC). Serving as master of ceremonies, Shabazz told those in attendance that blacks were little more than outcasts of American society. Whites, he said, "made…colleges and institutions, black and white, not to free us but to make us better servants of white folks. Where's your proof? Look at our condition.... The matter of fact is we [are] still niggers in America." "The Caucasians and the Government are arrogant," Shabazz added, "telling us how to suffer. America should be glad that every black man is not on a killing spree for all the suffering they [white Americans] have done."
The highly anticipated climax of the BAHNC proceedings began when Shabazz introduced the event's final scheduled speaker, Khalid Abdul Muhammad. With the audience standing and cheering, Shabazz said: "We wanna bring on a man who gives the white man nightmares. We wanna bring on a man who makes the Jews pee in they [sic] pants at night. He's like black Raid on white roaches." At that point, Muhammad stepped to the microphone and delivered a blistering attack on white “devil[s]” and “cracker[s].”
In 1996 Shabazz established Black Lawyers for Justice, a legal-advocacy organization promoting the notion that black inmates have been unjustly railroaded into their prison cells.
In 1997 Shabazz joined the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) and quickly became the organization's national attorney and spokesman.
In 1998 Shabazz was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the National Bar Association. That same year, he ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Washington, DC city council, garnering just 8 percent of the vote (15,644 votes).
Also in 1998, Shabazz co-organized (along with Khalid Abdul Muhammad and Al Sharpton) an NBPP-sponsored "Million Youth March" in Harlem, New York, which drew about 6,000 people and ended in clashes between the attendees and city police. Just prior to that event (which was held on September 5), Shabazz had threatened to kill any police officers who might be tempted to "interfere" with the proceedings. Then, in his address to the marchers, Shabazz stated: "The only solution any time there is a funeral in the black community, is a funeral in the police community." "I don't care what the Jews say," he added. "You [blacks] are the only people that have been in bondage for over 400 years. You are the true chosen people of God, and it is not the so-called Jew."
In August 2000, Shabazz was a featured speaker at Al Sharpton's "Redeem the Dream" rally at the Lincoln Memorial, where he (Shabazz) delivered his "I Have a Black Dream" speech calling for a race war in America. Shabazz spoke of a “black jury” finding “white America” guilty of “injustice and racism”; he called on black young people, including “gang members,” to unite against the “common enemy”; and he articulated a “black dream that when we see caskets rolling in the black community…that we will see caskets and funerals in the community of our enemy as well.” He also expressed "solidarity with Reverend Sharpton."
In October 2000, Richard J. Rosendall, an openly gay writer and the former president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, DC, sent Shabazz an email needling him about his poor showing as a candidate in the aforementioned 1998 city council election in DC. Shabazz’s response to Rosendall contained the following sentiments, all in capital letters: "LEAVE ME ALONE SICK LITTLE FAGGOT.… YOU WILL GET CRUSHED, LITTLE DEVIL …"
When Khalid Abdul Muhammad died unexpectedly in February 2001, Shabazz was disconsolate. “I was beyond hurt,” said Shabazz. “I was devastated. I was crushed.... He was so strong. He was so beautiful. He was so brilliant." On another occasion, Shabazz said, in tribute to his late mentor: "I could never thank God enough for a bold, bald-headed black man who taught me what I know, and I come in his spirit today in what seems to be walking in his footsteps.... Uncompromising and fearless – the enemy didn't like him. But I love him. The minister and doctor Khalid Abdul Muhammad."
With Muhammad gone, Shabazz took the reins of NBPP and relocated the organization's headquarters from New York to Washington, DC. Soon thereafter he organized a boycott of a local Korean-American-owned store after a dispute between the merchant and a black teenage girl had resulted in a fight that was caught on videotape. Shabazz and NBPP staged a week-long protest on the sidewalk in front of the market, with the demonstrators chanting, "Death to the Bloodsucker." The store was eventually firebombed, though Shabazz and NBPP claimed no connection to that incident.
As the head of NBPP, Shabazz traveled to various cities across the United States—among them Cincinnati (Ohio), Louisville (Kentucky), and Decatur (Alabama)—to recruit new members, stirring their passions by claiming that police brutality against black Americans was reaching epidemic proportions. In large part as a result of Shabazz's efforts, NBPP grew rapidly into an organization with 47 separate chapters.
Depicting America As a Racist Nation:
Shabazz reads American history as a narrative punctuated on every line by white-perpetrated racism and oppression, a reality which he claims the schools are afraid to teach:
"They teach you lies: George Washington was the father of our country. Thomas Jefferson was the father of our country. Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492. Is that what they teach?... Oh, but I know a different Christopher Columbus. I know a different George Washington. I know a different Thomas Jefferson. I know a Christopher Columbus that came to the West Indies or the Caribbean and wiped out the Arouak Indians! I ... know a Christopher Columbus that came and began the holocaust of the Indians they wiped out — I'm talking about white folks. Wiped out 90 percent of the Indians in America, lied to the Indians over and over again, broke treaties, killed and murdered 90 percent of the Indians — straight-up genocide.... George Washington! What about the George Washington that raped black women? What about the George Washington that had as many slaves as are sitting in this room? George Washington was a hypocrite, claiming a country that's free and just for all at the same time tradin' black men and women like a keg of molaskus — a keg of molasses — a chicken or a keg of whisky. Ol' Thomas Jefferson, old wooden-teeth-wearin', wig-wearin' Thomas Jefferson, nothin' but a slave-master, a slave-owner, an Indian-killer. Andrew Jackson! Indian killers, slave traders, slave owners!"
Shabazz has characterized America's Founding Fathers as "snakes" and terrorists. In 2003 he recorded a rap album featuring excerpts of his speeches and titled Amerikkka's Most Hated. The corrupted spelling of "America"—a trope of the Sixties terrorist group Weatherman—signified the nation's allegedly intractable and ubiquitous white racism.
According to Shabazz, white racism remains as harmful today as it was during the era of slavery:
"This is not just slavery.... [T]his is up until the 1940s, 1950s, a favorite habit of theirs [whites] is to take a black man and ... take a rope and wrap it around his neck and hang him from a tree. Our holocaust did not last six years, our holocaust did not last 12 years, you talkin' about a 400-year holocaust! ... We are the only ones who have been in a land that is not our own for 400 years, stripped of our name, our language, our religion, our culture, and our god. Huh? Castrate the black man! Take the black man, cut his genitals off! Take the genitals, ram it in his mouth and light the black man on fire! And they sit around eating popcorn and laugh about it! Huh? Havin' picnic, which really comes from the origin 'pick-a-nigger.' Picnic comes from the origin pick a 'nigger'! 'Pick a nigger' to lynch and go an' get some food and popcorn and laugh about it! No genuine human being could lynch another human being without just cause and sit around and laugh and smile and eat popcorn about it.... The black man to them has always been a threat, and they get joy out of hanging the black man. They get joy out of either physically hanging you, or they get joy out of mentally and politically hanging you."
From the outset of his career as a public figure, Shabazz has regularly trumpeted his outrage over the alleged epidemic of white-on-black violence in the United States. "[T]he number one opponent in Black history has been white racism and white attacks on Black people," he states. "If any racist, straw-chewin', tobacco-chewin' racist redneck lays their hand on any black man or woman in this county," Shabazz said at an April 2001 news conference in Bowie, Maryland, "crush that devil that is trying to do you harm and to do you evil in the name of God and in accordance with your legal rights."
Shabazz believes that all black prisoners in the United States should be set free, on grounds that they could not possibly have been tried fairly by the racist criminal-justice system of a racist nation. In 2002 he expressed his solidarity with then-murder suspect Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, who was ultimately convicted of killing a black sheriff's deputy in Georgia. Shabazz is also a devoted supporter of convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu Jamal.
Shabazz's call for the release of black inmates is consistent with the ideals of the original Black Panther Party that was established in 1966 by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. While NBPP has an identity separate from that of the former organization—and has been attacked by the old Panther guard for "stealing" the name—Shabazz is adamant about keeping the faith. "We love Brother Huey Newton," says Shabazz. "We love the Panthers of the 1960s but the New Black Panther Party, by and large, reads and studies the Teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and we respect the leadership of Minister Louis Farrakhan."
Shabazz's speeches are commonly laced with variations of the statement, "All praise is due to Allah. Black power! Black power! Black power! Black power!" He refers to blacks as "God's chosen people," and has borrowed his mentor Khalid Abdul Muhammad's signature phrase: "I didn't come to pin the tail on the donkey, I came to pin the tail on the racist honky!"
During a March 23, 2011 radio interview, Shabazz unambiguously articulated his vision of what group posed the greatest danger to black people:
“We have a common enemy: the white man. And the white man’s system, his way of doing things, his way of operating. That’s what we mean by ‘the white man.’ His military, his planes, his aircraft carriers, his bombs, his missiles, his imperialism, his colonialism, his Zionism. That’s the real enemy, what we call the white man.”
Even as he denounces what he depicts as the scourge of white supremacy, Shabazz embraces his own philosophy of racial superiority—merely the mirror image of the worldview he ascribes to the legions of racist whites purportedly peppering the American landscape:
"We [blacks] are the original people on the planet. We are responsible for the existence of the white race!... You are the mothers and the fathers of the brown man. The yellow man. And the white man and the white woman. And no matter how you look at these people you call niggers, no matter how you look down on black people, remember you're lookin' at your mother and lookin' at your your father. Huh? They should bow down when they see you in the hallways — bow down and kiss the feet of the black woman. And say if it were not for you, black woman, I wouldn't have even a biological chemical existence. Huh? Black Power! Black Power!... you are the original people but they don't want you to know it; according to them you're nothing but a nigger! Black Power! Black Power!... Our genes are dominant, white genes are recessive. A black man and a black woman can produce brown. You can produce red, queen! You can produce yellow! You can produce white and something that's whiter than white, 180 degrees opposite in either direction! But if Bob and Jill — if Bob and Jill get together, they can do it all day, all night — they can produce nothing but a little white baby. It's because Mendel, the German scientist — I'm talkin' facts here now — Mendel the German scientist teaches us that dark genes are dominant and light genes are recessive. Black Power!"
Given his hatred for white people, it is not at all surprising that Shabazz is a racial separatist:
"The perfect world for us [blacks] would be ... a nation of our own. We want our own land, factories and farms. We are tired of demonstrating against police brutality year after year, month after month, [saying] 'Please treat us right. Stop discriminating against us.' It seems almost impossible to achieve real justice within the confines of White racist America. So, the perfect world, of course, is a Black nation. The perfect world for us would be the Honorable Louis Farrakhan as our president and a Congress with our best politicians, scholars, researchers, thinkers and activists working under a divine chain of command."
Shabazz on 9/11, the Jews, and Israel:
In the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Shabazz defended Osama bin Laden and blamed President George W. Bush for the horrors of that day. During an October 31, 2001 news conference at the National Press Club, Shabazz called America and Israel the “number one and two terrorists right now on the planet,” and he blamed Zionism for the 9/11 attacks:
“Zionism is racism, Zionism is terrorism, Zionism is colonialism, Zionism is Imperialism, and support for Zionism is the root of why so many were killed on September 11.... Zionists control America, lock, stock and barrel. The European Jews have America under control, lock, stock, and barrel, the media, foreign policy."
During an NBPP meeting on March 22, 2002—six months after 9/11—Shabazz held up picture of Osama bin Laden and praised him as a Muslim "brother" and "a bold man" who was "not bowing down" to the West, but rather was "standing up" for his beliefs and "bringing reform to this world." Shabazz reasoned that because bin Laden had caused both President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to be "shaking and quaking," the al Qaeda leader "got to be some kind of friend of yours and mine." Urging his listeners to "give [bin Laden] his respect," Shabazz said: "Let's give him a hand, man." His listeners responded with enthusiastic applause.
At a pro-reparations rally in 2002, Shabazz blustered, "The President wants to talk about a terrorist named bin Laden. I don't want to talk about bin Laden. I want to talk about a terrorist called Christopher Columbus. I want to talk about a terrorist called George Washington. I want to talk about a terrorist called [New York City Mayor] Rudy Giuliani. The real terrorists have always been the United Snakes of America."
On numerous occasions, Shabazz has intimated that Jewish conspirators possessed exclusive foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks and thus were able to save their own lives that day by not going to their respective workplaces in the World Trade Center, the main target of the suicide hijackers. For instance, at a July 3, 2003 news conference in Morristown, New Jersey, Shabazz said:
“If 3,000 people perished in the World Trade Center attacks and the Jewish population is 10 percent, you show me records of 300 Jewish people dying in the World Trade Center. We're daring anyone to dispute its truth. They got their people out." (Note: As of 2001, there were 5.2 million Jews in the United States, 1.9 percent of the American population.)
In a January 2002 interview, Shabazz spoke out against U.S. aid to Israel: "There is no moral reason why America should support the colonial and imperial state of Israel. They have stolen land from the Palestinians, killing and murdering the Palestinians on that land…. In truth, the land belongs to the African, who was pushed out of Palestine, Egypt and Northern Africa."
At an April 2002 protest outside B'nai B'rith headquarters in Washington, DC, Shabazz said: "Kill every goddamn Zionist in Israel! Goddamn little babies, goddamn old ladies! Blow up Zionist supermarkets!"
At a July 7, 2004 interfaith vigil protesting the mass killing of blacks in Sudan, Shabazz said: “The Zionist has no right to open his mouth anywhere on the planet.” He explained further that the Jews were “Zionist liars” who were “robbing the gold mines in Africa,” and who had “the blood of Palestinians on [their] hands.”
Promoting the false notion that Jews played a major role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, Shabazz states that Jews "are absolutely in fear today, of a message that will come to the student that will expose their involvement in their crimes, historically and presently against Black people."
On other occasions, Shabazz has said the following about Jews and the state of Israel:
More of Shabazz's Words and Actions:
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina's devastation of New Orleans in September 2005, Shabazz visited that city and reported: "Wholesale police brutality is being waged against the [mostly black] victims of this natural disaster." He charged that police sniper units were trying to provoke black residents into disorderly behaviors that could justify "opening fire on groups of black males randomly and indiscriminately." Shabazz further claimed that when the storm hit New Orleans, the American government treated black people as hostages and slaves, refusing to let them flee for safety. "[T]his is more of a racist occupation of subjugation rather than a relief effort," said Shabazz.
In October 2005, Shabazz was appointed by Louis Farrakhan to be a Co-Convener of the "Millions More Movement" marking the tenth anniversary of the Million Man March.
Shortly after Election Day 2008, Shabazz became the subject of controversy when it was revealed that he had dispatched two members of his NBPP to stand outside an open polling station in Philadelphia and intimidate white voters with racial slurs and threats of violence. Shabazz instructed the men (one of whom was armed with a nightstick) to "use all means at your dispoal" to "stop angry whites" from voting against Barack Obama. On January 7, 2009, the Justice Department under President Bush filed criminal charges against Shabazz and the two men for violating the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The failure of all three Panthers to appear in court led to an order by U.S. District Judge Stewart Dalzell to seek judgments or sanctions against them. In May 2009, however, the Justice Department—now under President Obama—dismissed the case.
Shabazz claims that on September 27, 2010 in New York City, he attended a secret meeting with Louis Farrakhan, fifty Imams, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (the latter was in town for a UN visit). When asked by an interviewer about this meeting, Shabazz did not reveal explicitly what was discussed, but implied that the participants had talked “about perhaps bringing natural gas and oil and other reparations [in compensation for past Arab slaving activities] into the black nation,” along with “other things—unmentionable.” “Anything I do is for revolution for black people, no matter what it is,” Shabazz added. Indicating that the tenor of the New York meeting was positive, he then said: “You know, there is no greater enemy than the white man. You know, uh, again we have to learn because it’s just as many Arabs who hate this white man as we do. So, am I not to ally myself, alliance myself with this Arab in fighting this white man?”
In March 2012, Shabazz and NBPP weighed in on the explosive case of Trayvon Martin, a black teenager who had recently been shot and killed under disputed circumstances by a "white Hispanic" named George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida. Declaring that “White America” had “failed black people” for “400 years” and would no longer be permitted to “kill black children and get away with it,” the Panthers initially offered a $10,000 bounty for the “capture” of Zimmerman—"dead or alive." Soon thereafter, the Panthers upped the ante to $1 million, a sum which they expected to collect in donations “from the black community [including] athletes and entertainers.”
In April 2015, the city of Baltimore was ravaged by anti-police protests and race riots in response to the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African American with a lengthy criminal history, who had died on April 12 while in the custody of city police. The New York Times, the Associated Press, the New York Daily News, CBS local news, and other news media outlets all identified Shabazz as a leader of the contingent that engaged in violent rioting.
At a June 2015 rally in Charleston, South Carolina, Shabazz called for the completion of the mission of Denmark Vesey, a 19th-century slave who conceived of a plan to kill white slave masters in that state. “Vesey had a plan to kill all the slave masters in the state,” Shabazz said at the rally. “All of their [expletive deleted] families. We need some Denmark Veseys today. We got to complete what Denmark didn’t finish.” Shabazz also led the crowd in chants of “Black Power,” “By Any Means,” and “What Do We Want? Justice! When Do We Want It? Now!” “We came to change the order here,” Shabazz added. “We don’t forgive nobody.”
Leaving NBPP in Order to Lead Black Lawyers for Justice
In October 2013, Shabazz announced that he was stepping down from his position as NBPP's national chairman in order to focus on his career as an attorney with Black Lawyers for Justice, though he pledged to continue serving NBPP as a “spiritual guide.” His replacement as NBPP's national chairman was Hashim Nzinga, who had previously served as the organization's chief of staff and had been involved with the group since 1994, when he was Khalid Abdul Muhammad's personal assistant.