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Marian Wright Edelman

By Marian Wright Edelman
Special to The Mississippi Link

In a world rife with war, religious, racial, gender, sectarian, and political strife, when so many children lack safety, enough food, shelter, health care, and education and suffer unthinkable losses of parents to disease, violence, and war, I hope this New Year will bring adults closer to our common sense and moral responsibility for children’s well being.

If the child is well, all of us are well. So I offer two prayers for the New Year:

O God of the children of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea,
of Nigeria and Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan,
of Iraq and Iran and Israel,
of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala,
of Darfur, Detroit, and Chicago,
of Ferguson, Cleveland, and New York City, help us to love and respect and protect them all.

O God of Black and Brown and White and Albino children and those all mixed together,
of children who are rich and poor and in between,
of children who speak English and Russian and Hmong and Spanish
and languages our ears cannot discern,
help us to love and respect and protect them all.

O God of the child prodigy and the child prostitute, of the child of rapture and the child of rape,
of runaway or thrown away children who struggle every day without parent or place or friend or future,
help us to love and respect and protect them all.

O God of children who can walk and talk and hear and see
and sing and dance and jump and play and of children who wish they could but can’t,
of children who are loved and unloved, wanted and unwanted,
help us to love and respect and protect them all.

O God of beggar, beaten, abused, neglected, homeless,
and AIDS-, Ebola-, drug-, violence-, and hunger-ravaged children,
of children who are emotionally and physically and mentally fragile,
and of children who rebel and ridicule, torment and taunt,
Help us to love and respect and protect them all.

O God of children of destiny and of despair, of war and of peace,
of disfigured, diseased, and dying children,
of children without hope and of children with hope to spare and to share,
help us to love and respect and act to protect them all.

Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, the great president of Morehouse College, who shaped so many of my generation - including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., said: “I am disturbed. I am uneasy about men because we have no guarantee that when we train a man’s mind, we will train his heart; no guarantee that when we increase a man’s knowledge, we will increase his goodness. There is no necessary correlation between knowledge and goodness.”

So I share this prayer for 21st century children of privilege:

God, help us not to raise a new generation of children
with high intellectual quotients and low caring and compassion quotients
…. With sharp competitive edges but dull cooperative instincts
.…
With highly developed computer skills but poorly developed consciences
…. With a gigantic commitment to the big “I” but little sense of responsibility to the bigger “we”
….
With mounds of disconnected information without a moral context to determine its worth
….
With more and more knowledge and less and less imagination and appreciation for the magic of life that cannot be quantified or computerized
…. And with more and more worldliness and less and less wonder and awe for the sacred and everyday miracles of life.
…. God, help us to raise children who care.

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George Curry

By George E. Curry
NNPA Columnist

Sen. Edward BrookesSandwiched between the deaths of former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo and popular ESPN sportscaster Stuart Scott, the passing of former Massachusetts Senator Edward W. Brooke III at the age of 95 did not get nearly the attention it deserved.    Though two African Americans were elected to the U.S. Senate during the Reconstruction Era by the Mississippi legislature - Hiram R. Revels and Blanche K. Bruce, both Republicans - Brooke was the first black elected to the upper chamber by popular vote, beginning his term in 1967.

What made his election remarkable at the time was that a black Republican Episcopalian could be elected statewide in Massachusetts, a predominantly Democratic and Catholic state with a black population of less than 3 percent.

It would be another 25 years before another African American - Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois - would win a U.S. Senate seat (1992).

Prior to his election to the Senate, Brooke served two terms as attorney general of Massachusetts. When he came to Washington, he declined to join the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).

He told Time magazine: “I do not intend to be a national leader of the Negro people. I intend to do my job as a senator from Massachusetts.”

While doing his job, Brooke showed that - as did several black Republicans who would later follow him in public service, including Assistant Secretary of Labor Arthur Fletcher in the Nixon administration and William T. Coleman Jr., Secretary of Transportation under Gerald Ford - he could be a black Republican without selling out his principles or abandoning the fight for civil rights.

When Barry Goldwater won the party’s 1964 presidential nomination, for example, Brooke, the state attorney general, refused to be photographed with Goldwater or endorse the Arizona ultraconservative.

In the 1966 book titled, The Challenge of Change: Crisis in Our Two-Party System, he asked, rhetorically: “Where are our plans for a New Deal or a Great Society?”

Though fellow Republican Richard Nixon was in the White House, Brooke opposed Nixon’s attempts to abolish the Office of Economic Opportunity and the Job Corps and weaken the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

And when Nixon nominated Clement Haynsworth and Harrold Carswell to the U.S. Supreme Court, Brooke was part of a bipartisan coalition that blocked the appointment of the two nominees who were considered hostile to civil rights.

On Nov. 4, 1973, Brooke became the first Republican to call for Richard Nixon’s resignation after the famous “Saturday night massacre” that took place when Nixon ordered the firing of Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, after Cox issued a subpoena for copies of Nixon’s taped conversations recorded in the Oval Office.

Brooke assumed an offensive posture as well, particularly on housing issues. He co-sponsored the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which prohibited discrimination based on race, color, religion or ethnicity.

It was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson a week after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

He continued to work on strengthening the law and in 1969, Congress passed the “Brooke Amendment” limiting public housing tenants’ out-of-pocket rent expenditure to 25 percent of the resident’s income, a percentage that has since increased to 30 percent.

With the Voting Rights Act up for renewal in 1975, Brooke engaged in an “extended debate” with John Stennis (R-Miss.) on the Senate floor that resulted in the landmark measure being extended and expanded.

He was also part of the team of legislators who retained Title IX that guarantees equal education to females and the Equal Credit Act, a measure that gave married women the right to have credit in their own name.

In 1967, Brooke served on the 11-member President’s Commission on Civil Disorders, better known as the Kerner Commission. It was established by President Johnson to investigate the causes of the 1967 race riots and to provide recommendations for the future.

At various points during his career, Brooke was at odds with civil rights leaders and liberals. As attorney general, he opposed the NAACP’s call for a boycott of Boston’s public schools to protest the city’s de facto segregation, saying the law required students to stay in school.

In the Senate, he opposed a program to recruit teachers to work in disadvantaged communities and opposed amending Senate rules to make filibusters against civil rights legislation easier to terminate.

Brooke also faced personal health challenges, including being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002. He underwent a double mastectomy and was declared cancer free. Brooke spoke publicly about the illness, which strikes about 1,500 men each year, a disproportionate number of them black.

In his 2006 autobiography, Bridging The Divide: My Life (Rutgers University Press), Brooke said, “My fervent expectation is that sooner rather than later, the United States Senate will more closely reflect the rich diversity of this great country.”

Throughout his life, Brooke did that exceptionally well.

(George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA.) He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. Also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook)

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Imam Yahya Shabazz-OaklandCA

By Imam Yahya Shabazz

“Have We not expanded for you your breast? And We removed from you your burden,
which weighed down your back? And We exalted for you your reputation? Then, surely with hardship comes ease: Surely, with hardship comes ease. So when you have finished (with your immediate task), still strive hard (then toil), and to your Lord turn (all) your attention.” (Holy Qur’an: 94: 1-8)

An intellectual, by definition, is the man or woman who engages in critical study, thought, and reflection about the reality of society, proposes solutions for the normative problems of society, and by such discourse in the public sphere gains authority from public opinion.

Coming from the world of culture, either as a creator or as a mediator, the intellectual participates in politics, either to defend a concrete proposition or to denounce an injustice, usually by producing or by extending an ideology, and by defending one or another system of values.

In an article by the intellectualist Norm Chomsky, where he comments on a series of articles entitled The Responsibility of Peoples, and Specifically, the Responsibility of Intellectuals. The articles were written by Dwight Macdonald, and published in the Politic.

Macdonald is concerned with the question of war guilt. He asks the question: To what extent were the German or Japanese people responsible for the atrocities committed by their governments?

And, quite properly, he turns the question back to us: To what extent are the British or American people responsible for the vicious terror bombings of civilians, perfected as a technique of warfare by the Western democracies and reaching their culmination in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, surely among the most unspeakable crimes in history.

To an undergraduate in 1945-46 – to anyone whose political and moral consciousness had been formed by the horrors of the 1930s, by the war in Ethiopia, the Russian purge, the “China Incident,” the Spanish Civil War, the Nazi atrocities, the Western reaction to these events and, in part, complicity in them – these questions had particular significance and poignancy.

With respect to the responsibility of intellectuals, there are still other, equally disturbing questions. Intellectuals are in a position to expose the lies of governments, to analyze actions according to their causes and motives and often hidden intentions.

In the Western world, at least, they have the power that comes from political liberty, from access to information and freedom of expression.

For a privileged minority, Western democracy provides the leisure, the facilities, and the training to seek the truth lying hidden behind the veil of distortion and misrepresentation, ideology and class interest, through which the events of current history are presented to us.

The responsibilities of intellectuals, then, are much deeper than what Macdonald calls the “responsibility of people,” given the unique privileges that intellectuals enjoy, according to The Responsibility of Intellectuals by Noam Chomsky, Feb. 23, 1967.

According to Edward Said, the real or “true” intellectual is therefore always an outsider, living in self-imposed exile, and on the margins of society. He or she speaks to, as well as for, a public, necessarily in public, and is properly on the side of the dispossessed, the un-represented and the forgotten.

In as much as these great thinkers of modernity felt the urge, and the necessity to raise their voices on the issues of the day, we have only to look back a little further in our own history to hear the thundering voices of great men and women, such as Booker T. Washington, David Walker, Mary McLeod Bethune, Ida B. Wells, etc., as they saw wrong in the society and lifted their voices to correct it.

It should be noted that these great thinkers spoke for the public and in the public at a time when the laws that governed free speech, assembly, etc., were not intended to protect  African Americans, but these courageous servants of God saw themselves equal to other human beings.

Therefore, they could not be silenced.

As we continue to travel through time, we encounter, the Hon. Elijah Muhammad, El Hajj Malik Shabazz, Shirley Chisholm, Fannie Lou Hamer, Dr. Martin L. King Jr., who all stood on the front lines for freedom, justice, and equality for all humanity.

The evils that these great thinkers fought against were in plain sight and could easily be seen, because it was blatant and physical. Racism, the atrocities of the Jim Crow era, all ran rampant across the nation and could be recognized because of the destruction that was left in its wake.

After the passing of Dr. King and the Hon. Elijah Muhammad, and the granting of voting rights, equal employment opportunities, which were already ours by virtue of our human creation, we thought that we, as a people, had finally made it to Freedom Land.

Now that we could sit next to other races without them running for cover, we now are able to attend the schools of our choice, qualify for top paying jobs, more African American politicians in office than any other time in history, and to top it off, they even gave us an African American president, so now, we felt truly free.

As a people collectively, we never stopped to think that with freedom comes responsibility, vision, insight, wisdom, the necessities that one must have if we are to be truly free.

So with the close of the civil rights movement, and the new found freedoms we thought we had, we witnessed an entire race drop their guard of reasoning and responsibility.

We saw many African Americans reach the position of affluence, and influence, so we sat back to enjoy the rights we had fought and died so hard for. We felt we owed it to ourselves, so we took a rest.

When we see the condition of the African American community in today’s world, one would stand in disbelief that we as a people could be in such a sad state of affairs, in light of the sacrifices that was made on our behalf.

We stand in stark disbelief as we ponder the question, “What happened?” What happened is that we didn’t just take a rest, we literally sat down. We thought to ourselves, “we free now, we don’t need to struggle any more.” It was precisely at this time that Satan began his whispers into our minds, and we as a people went to sleep on all that was decent, upright, intelligent, moral and virtuous.

We began to see entertainers, athletes and show folks as our role models. And as a result, our communities became over ridden with not just crime but unspeakable crime. Shooting and killing babies, incest, total breakdown of the Black family.

Brothers have become so obsessed with sex, that the relationship between the Black man and woman have been scarred to the point that sisters don’t trust or respect brothers anymore.

One hundred percent of the music that’s pumped into the African American community deals with having sex, breaking up, loss of trust, trying to get dollar bills or cheating. The language in the music is so vulgar, that it has literally changed the very nature of our human makeup.

Unlike racism, these are ills that are not so plainly seen; we only see the results of them. The entire society seems to be hooked on sex, and it’s killing us off as a nation of strength and stability. We have become so shallow minded following after trends, fads, celebrity worship, and the like.

The beauty of the instructions of Imam W. Deen Mohammed is that he gave them to us in such a way that we have the wisdom, knowledge, and the vision to track satan and warn the people so that we can rid our communities of these deadly influences.

The Imam taught us to think deep, think with the mind’s eye; don’t just look at a thing, look through and around it. We must become critical thinkers. Allah tells us in the above surah, that we should continue to struggle, even after completing the task at hand. This instruction from God is necessary because satan never quits, so we must always be on guard.

In the above surah, we should understand that its entire platform is based on being “public.” The word for expanded in the surah is “Nasara,” and it means to spread out, to announce publicly, to resurrect. The word for breast is “Sadr.” And while it does mean the breast, it also means to be out front, speak with candor, to be broad minded.

The understanding here is that we as Muslims must began to take a position on the critical issues that are burdening the society. It is time for our voices, the voice of intelligence and reasoning to be heard in the public discourse.

As we look around at the world today, we see the whole world at war, the issue of ISIS, same sex marriage, political corruption, a fallen educational system, the gap between the haves/haves not continues to widen, Palestiniens/Isreali conflict, and much more.

Where is the voice of the Muslim Intellectuals? Those we see from the various think tanks are ill equipped to speak to the issues because they’re politically motivated, as opposed to being morally motivated. Therefore, they become tools of satan, and the ills continue.

The righteous servants of God must see these ills as burdens that gall or bother us to the point that they stay on our minds, and so we must speak to the public offering solutions regarding them.

One would have to be either dead in their humanity or just oblivious to the workings of the society for these issues not to bother them. Again I say, where are the Muslims on the university campuses, in the various masajid around the community, and the common believer who has the insight to offer solutions?

“Zahara” is the same word for the “zuhur” prayer, and it means to be or become visible, to show, be distinct, obvious, come to the light make manifest, become public. No longer can we as Muslims afford to not allow our voices to be heard in the public discourse.

What good is it to have degree, and certificates of recognition and the world doesn’t benefit from your insights? Oh ye who believe, let us come together and discuss these important issues and find ways to present them to the media, to the public.

Let us use the wisdom given to us by our Imam and bring the society back from the brink of utter chaos. This is our time, this is our day; we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

“Up you mighty Muslim! You can accomplish what you will.”

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Khalid Lateef

By Khalid S. Lateef

In the documentary, “Sing Your Song – Harry Belafonte,” he called a gathering of the elders to address the current problems of African Americans that seems to be spinning out of control. And at that meeting, Ruby Dee spoke and she said: “Over the years, I’ve come to places like this, so many times! And I leave without an assignment. We need an assignment!”

I attended a program at a church in Florida that has a young and productive minister; they have a senior citizen food program, senior citizen transportation vans and housing development. During his sermon, he addressed the fact that some people are more concerned with “titles” than getting work done. He said, “Don’t ask what your title will be; you should be asking ‘what is my task?’”

One winter morning a couple of years ago, I was called before Fajr prayer, around 4 a.m. It was a brother in our Association whom I had known for 35 years – we were as close as blood brothers. I first met him in FOI class when we were known as the Nation of Islam.
He was a very productive brother; he sold our newspaper, interacted with the African American community and was well liked inside and outside our Association.
When he began to speak, I noticed a very serious tone in his voice. I immediately asked him was he alright? He then told me his son had been attacked and was in a coma and hewas at the hospital. I asked him the name of the hospital and I told him I was on my way….

I arrived at the hospital and stayed with the brother until the morning. His son died from his wounds and we drove to the Masjid to begin making arrangements. As we traveled in the car, we cried together. I remember these words came to my mind from a song: “What’s it all about?”
This brother and I had “soldiered” for years for the promise and goal of having a community that would change things; better homes, better schools, safe and clean neighborhoods, etc. However, what we have obtained is a great deal of individual material success, without the collective community life that our souls longed for and our human dignity demands.
Individual success is not new to African Americans; we’ve had individuals with wealth for many years. The problem is not the lack of individual wealth; the problem is the lack of pooling our collective wealth, knowledge and skills.
We need to re-ignite the spirit for developing African American communities of excellence like Greenwood, Oklahoma (“Black Wall Street”). Black Wall Street had 1 bank, 1 hospital, 2 movie theaters, 6 private airplanes, 21 churches, 30 grocery stores, 600 businesses and its own school system.
There were hundreds of other African American towns that were established immediately after slavery in America. I have been able to find 157 such towns so far in my brief research. So it’s not that African Americans have never established communities or community life before.

Today, what is holding us back from making progress towards establishing African American Muslim communities by members of this Association? I’ll let our leader, Imam W. Deen Mohammed address it:

Imam W. Deen Mohammed, Motivation and Sacrifice 1983
…What made the big trouble for the followers, for the Ummah of Prophet Muhammed, the Ummah of the Muslims? It was this thing that those secret agents through our ignorant people are trying to promote right now! They promoted the division; the division based on loyalty for family and the way of Prophet Muhammad; Right? They promoted that!
“And the result was what? They persecuted the family of the Prophet... This is History... They persecuted the family of the Prophet and in persecuting the family of the Prophet, they drove them away from them and they set up what? Shi’ite and Sunni. Right?!”
That’s not the doing of Prophet MuhammEd, that's the doing of the Enemy. And the Enemy manipulated the believers. Arabic saying: ‘The Muslim (believer), don’t fall into the same trap twice.’ They won’t be successful in doing this to us. No indeed!
We’re not going to let this community split up after my life; split up! One goes towards favoring me as a personality and the other one goes towards fighting the personality; no! That’s the work of The Satan! That's the work of the CIA! That’s the work of the FBI! That’s the work of the bad element in the Government! And we are not going to let it happen!
Those who go to the extreme to say that the Imam is not important, that the leadership is in The WORD, the leadership is in The Qur’an, the leadership is in The Sunnah of the Prophet – the Imam did all he could do and that was to call us back to the right religion; called us back to The Qur’an; those who teach you that are following the plan of The Strategist, who’s The Devil!
And those who go to the other extreme and say the Imam is not ordinary, he’s above the ordinary. None of us can be like the Imam; none of us can do what the Imam does. Allah blessed him with something that none of us have; they make you think I'm Supernatural; They make you think I'm a god or a saint or a being of another type...; they too are working the strategy of The Devil!
But those who take the natural mind, the natural attitude and they say, ‘No, the Imam is important…. The Imam is our leader…. We didn't see no word come among us and do this; it was a man telling us about The Word.’
Say, he is important. Say, but I'm not going to follow you in saying that he’s supernatural; he’s a regular brother. He’s my regular brother; they are the ones who are going to hold this Community together! Praise Be To Allah!”

Imam W. Deen Mohammed’s Talim on the dedication of Masjid Saahir, Inglewood, Calif., Sun., Dec. 30, 1984
…The Prophet (pbuh), when he was presented with a person for that person's excellence, in religion, he was told that person kept all the devotions, praise, faith in prayer and fasting, etc. But they didn’t tell the Prophet anything about his productive work, his livelihood – only his spiritual devotion and religious strengths.

The Prophet asked: “Who takes care of him?” They said, “We do, O Messenger of G-d.” And the Prophet said, “You are better than he is.”

So the people who are responsible for life supports – the means of survival, the means of life, food, clothes, shelter, transportation, etc. – those people are more useful to society and are more beautiful in the eyes of G-d than those who just devote themselves to just spiritual discipline.

Be faithful and productive. I really plead to this community, because we are not getting younger, we are getting older. I’m 51-years-old, and I thank Allah that I lived this long, because many people die before 51. I would like to see another 51, but I can’t expect it.

I expect to go like my relatives go – they go at around 70 or so. Some of them lived longer, but if I live longer than that, I’ll still be gone as far as you are concerned. I will be retired unless a miracle does happen in my life that I know nothing about right now.

Our people have to stop this sitting and waiting for something to happen, spookily. Those who have ability, go ahead, move out, do something, show something – join those who have better qualifications. Lend your help to a stronger person and you will share in the blessings.
Have more than just mere faith or spirit – have production, have establishment. That’s what makes a people feel good – when they can look at their establishment. This particular facility here represents an establishment – an establishment of a pretty good size.
If the believers owned this, it would be a source of inspiration, strength and encouragement for those whom we can’t reach with mere Dawah.

Imam W. Deen Mohammed’s Lecture, May 29, 2005
…Jonah had to progress through generations, not one life but through life continuously. And isn’t this how we have progressed in America? Not one generation, but through life reproduction continuously. And we are a long ways advanced from where we started.

But we are not doing as a people what the Nation of Islam founders – I say founders, my father’s teacher and him – what the Nation of Islam founders planned for us. What is that? To not depend on outside communities, not to depend on outside people, but to depend on your own people for your future in this world.
Let the world plan what it wants to plan for whomever they want to plan for. But let us always have a plan of our own for carrying us in this world to where we want to go. Yes.

But through Jonah, God is showing us through this figure called “Jonah” that this is not the work of one generation; this is the work of many generations. But you have to hold to it like we held to our own independence from 1930 to 2005, May 29.
And we’re not going to give it up; we’re going to hold on to it until we deliver ourselves and that community life is safe and secured.
Praise be to Allah. Thank you. That’s all I wanted to say to you. Peace. As-Salaam-Alaikum.

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Acclaimed Director Jesse Vaughan who directed The Last Punch movie attended the premier

By Sabir Kasib Muhammad

ATLANTA, Ga.  – The ritzy confines of the Buckhead Theatre in Atlanta’s upscale Buckhead district played well as host for the premier of The Last Punch, a movie made in tribute to the great Muhammad Ali by one of his greatest fans.
Ali Muhammad is adamant about his love and respect for Muhammad Ali and years ago wrote a book chronicling the events that surrounded his promotion of Ali’s last boxing match, The Rumble in The Bahama against Trevor Berbick.
The multi-ethnic, interreligious sold out audience at the premier included several important figures in Ali’s career, including legendary Nation of Islam Minister Abdul Rahman, who accompanied Ali from the beginning of his association with Nation of Islam.
There was also former Georgia State Senator Leroy Johnson who recounted the maneuvering he had to do to overcome opposition from the Ku Klux Klan and White Citizens Council.
This was to obtain a license for Ali to return to the fight game with a fight stated in Atlanta with Jerry Quarry as his opponent. It  was following his absence from the ring as he fought against attacks for his opposition to entering the armed services.
Those in attendance lauded Ali and Dorothea for their dedication to the project and making the film a reality. Acclaimed Director of the film, Jesse Vaughan, called the project a very important film. He said Ali Muhammad was “the most determined person I have ever met.”
The audience gave a rousing cheer at the completion of the film and a standing ovation to Ali and Dorothea that echoed a unanimous sentiment. That was that this film is a major contribution to not only the history of Muhammad Ali but also a major credit to African American film making history.
The film, which illustrates the power of the human will and its ability to overcome obstacles, is a story of the life of Ali Muhammad as a young man when he was known as James Cornelius.
His indomitable spirit is portrayed brilliantly by lead actor Tony Grant on the screen. And newcomer Karon Joseph turns in an admirable depiction as Muhammad Ali.
Look for the film in theaters nationwide soon. It is definitely a must see!

(Photos by Nassar Madyun)

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Community News

By Lonnie Abdul Saboor

(Note: Bro. Lonnie Saboor delivered the special address at Muslim Journal’s Annual Business Breakfast, Sun., Dec. 14, 2015, held at Masjid Al-Muminun in Memphis, Tenn. This is part 2 of his address; part 1 published in Muslim Journal issue dated Jan. 9, 2015. Part 1 covered “ The Business Legacy of Muslim Business Development in Atlanta” and “Efforts to unite Muslim Businesses both locally and nationally.” Part 2 covers what he titled “What we can do today to achieve our rightful business Khalifa (custodian/vicegerent) position in The Promised Land [and I don’t mean just 40 acres and a mule].)

What Local Muslim Business Associations Should Do:

If you are a Muslim Business Association or want to start one, you should do the following things:

Add younger business people to your Board (ages 20-40).
Your membership and board should consist of both businessmen and women.
Develop a membership directory
Establish your association website and make it very user friendly.
Promote the experience of your Board on the website.
Add a member’s only portal to your website.
Develop online webinars for members.
Add a Resource Page to your website that will connect your members with local partner organizations that can help your members grow.
In order to truly empower your members you must identify other organizations that have business development as part of their purpose.
Develop an action plan to assist all levels of business membership both internally and externally.
Use social media to communicate with your younger membership base.
Identify business sponsors for your association. Sponsorships will be needed to insure the financial stability of the association and allow the organization to continue serving its membership base.
Make contact with your city, county and state Economic Development and Community Development offices to inform your members about available programs in your area that they can take advantage of.
Some of these programs can be interest free, grants and tax credits. (In Atlanta, I have been able to provide over ½ a billion dollars in public/private sector financing to assist over 600 business projects.)
State and Federal Tax Credits can allow you to get grant funds to finance your apartment and senior citizen housing projects, thus minimizing your equity injection.
Find out if you have areas in your city that are qualified as Tax Allocation Districts or Tax Increment Districts that provide special funds to commercial property owners.
Invite these agencies to speak at your membership events).
We need every association to join the National Muslim Business Council in 2015. There is strength in numbers and active associations can make a difference.  There are many projects and opportunities around the country that we can take advantage of, if we are connected and know each other.

In Atlanta alone, we have the new $1.3 billion dollar Atlanta Falcon Football Stadium going up in 2017.  My office at Invest Atlanta is issuing the $200 million in bond financing required by the city of Atlanta to fund part of the project.

Active associations can allow us to pass on upcoming business opportunities in various cities and states; form potential joint venture partnerships with each other and expand our annual business revenue substantially.

As an active association we should have excess to your membership directory and expect you to know about the credibility of your members.

If I know about a possible $50 million engineering project in Atlanta and one of our members is looking for a joint venture partner, I would expect you to let us know if you have any concerns regarding a member listed in your directory.

This is also an added incentive to have all Muslim businesses in your area join your association.

Working together, we can provide the strength needed to accomplish our goals.  Working together we can overcome all obstacles in our path. It’s our time, 40 years have passed and we are now working with a new generation of believers.

It is time to take our 40-year Legacy deeper into The Promised Land to achieve our awaited destiny.  We have unfinished business to do in this material world for our family, community, country and the world.

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Micheal Balcombe
Michael Balcombe, owner of Precious Wings, releases one of his ring necked doves at Evergreen Cemetery in New Haven, Conn. Behind him are the graves of Sade Auriel Brantley and her sister, Madisyn Aniyah Mitchell, whose family released his doves recently during a memorial service. (Photo by Arnold Gold-New Haven Register)

By D. Shahid Abdul-Karim
@Shahid_Akarim on Twitter

Micheal Balcombe BirdNEW HAVEN, Conn. – Michael Balcombe said when he was in prison, he didn’t want family photos or letters to be sent to him. He wanted information on raising and training doves.

“I had people Google information about birds and mailing it to me,” said Balcombe, 31, founder of Precious Wings of New Haven, a ceremonial white dove release service.

“I wanted information so I could begin reading up on it, because I knew I had to do something with my life once I got out,” he said.

Balcombe recalled that when his grandfather died in 2006, ceremonial birds were released during the burial service.

“It always stuck with me and it was something I liked and it would be different for the city,” said Balcombe, who is originally from Stamford.

“I asked myself, how was I going to come back into society, find a job and make a positive difference in my community,” he said.

“As soon as my cell door closed on me, I started thinking about what I was going to do once I got from behind those bars. I decided to raise birds and that’s exactly what I did.”

Precious Wings of New Haven took flight as a way of helping grieving families cope with the loss of loved ones from tragedy.

“I’ve never seen so many homicides take place in this city, so I wanted to come up with another way to help families ease their suffering and pain,” said Balcombe, who also works at a local funeral home.

“It’s something about the birds that release some sort of feeling that families may be holding inside; it’s a relief for most of them,” he said.

Balcombe was released from prison into a halfway house in New Haven in Febuary 2013 and decided to remain in the city after serving his time. He started the business in May 2014.

Balcombe was convicted for the sale of a controlled substance and criminal mischief.

“People laughed at the idea of ceremonial doves and that has been my problem; I’ve always worried about what everyone else thought,” he said. “Now, I’m doing what I think and what I feel as one of the best ways for me to give back to my community.”

According to Balcombe, the birds symbolize more than just death and tragedy.

“The wings symbolize freedom and when you have the opportunity of freedom, you have to treat it so precious,” Balcombe said.

“You can’t be rough with such a precious gift,” he said.

The business has done more than 20 ceremonies since its inception in May, including weddings, birthdays, commencements, anniversaries and other special occasions.

Joanna Mitchell, who lost her daughters, Sade Auriel Brantley and Madisyn Aniyah Mitchell, in last year’s plane crash in East Haven, said she used Precious Wings for her daughters’ anniversary.

“I met Michael through Bereavement Care Network and I was looking to release doves for my daughters’ one-year anniversary. I was having a hard time finding someone reasonable,” said Mitchell, who’s daughters’ one-year anniversary was Aug. 9.

“Releasing of the doves represents angels for me and my family,” she said.

Mitchell said she chose to release five doves because it represented grace.

“It’s by God’s grace that I’m still here and it’s God’s grace that I get through every day and find peace,” she said.

“I would recommend Precious Wings to anyone.”

Nakia Dawson, founder of Bereavement Care Network said she uses Precious Wings for some her events and programs in the community.

“They were raised and trained in the community. The white doves symbolizes peace; we want peace over our community,” said Dawson.

“I believe the white doves are soft and calming, which allows the families to feel at peace after the doves are released into the sky,” she said.

Balcombe said it took five months of intense training of the birds.

“I left them locked up for two months. Its the only place they know and where it’s clean and where they can eat; I have a special call for them when it’s feeding time.” said Balcombe.

“In the summer, it’s air conditioned and in the winter, there is heat; it worked for me,” he said.

In addition to running Precious Wings of New Haven, Balcombe has been accepted to the American Academy McAllister Institute of Funeral Home Services.

The funeral service business has been a life dream for Balcombe. He started the funeral academy Jan. 5.

“Mike has always wanted to be in the funeral service business, but he thought of something else that would impact the families to make their experience even more special,” said McClam Funeral Home Director Darrell McClam, 42, who has known Balcombe for years.

“He makes the service economical for people and he has ties to this community,” he said.

“People don’t have to go to New York, they have this service right here in New Haven.”

Darnell McClam, also the co-owner of McClam Funeral Home, said the birds add to the tapestry of the city.

“He was dedicated and never gave up on what he wanted to do; it took a lot of time for him to train the birds,” said McClam, who uses Precious Wings for some of their funeral services.

“It’s a whole experience with the birds, kids love it too,” he said. “Its just another piece of how New Haven is growing.”

Balcombe said networking is an important factor for other young men who may have a felony conviction.

“My advice would be, to be respectful, move on your ideas and don’t let others discourage you,” he said.

“If others don’t want to give you a job, you create one for yourself; my life is a testament of that.”

(For more information about Precious Wings of New Haven, contact 203-980-9219 or email to preciouswingsofnewhaven@gmail.com)

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Masjid Muhammad - The Nation's Mosque

(Imam Talib Shareef, leader of The Nation’s Mosque, Masjid Muhammad, in Washington, D.C., the oldest Muslim community located in the Capital of the United States of America dating back to the mid 1930s, released the following statement in response to the Wed., Jan. 8, 2015 attacks on the newspaper “Charlie Hebdo,” in Paris, France.)

We extend our heartfelt prayers and condolences to the people of France and the families of those murdered, and we stand with the world in strongly condemning the criminal, barbaric, cowardly terrorists attack.
This attack which left 12 people dead and several wounded, to include two policemen and eight journalists, is an attack on all of humanity and freedom of speech globally.
We certainly thank our Secretary of State John Kerry for immediately quoting an Imam in France who without hesitation condemned the attacks and honored the victims.  It doesn’t matter who the attackers are or what they claim, their actions are criminal, inhumane, and not condoned by Islam, Christianity, Judaism or any of the other beautiful faith communities.
Any person, no matter how desperate their situation, no matter how much their hearts are paining because of wrong that has been done to them, whether real or perceived, there is no justification for them to murder and make helpless, vulnerable or innocent humans the target of their terror, the target of their hate or their violence.
We must understand that everybody who picks up a gun and says “I’m going to defend my religious cause” is not necessarily an authority in the religion he or she claims.
While the facts reveal that the magazine company had been threatened and attacked in the past because of its derogatory references to Islam and its inaccurate depictions of Prophet Muhammed (SAW), the actions of those identifying themselves as Muslims gravely misrepresent the beautiful religion of Islam and its prophet.
When Prophet Muhammed was attacked personally with physical harshness, he didn’t respond in any way close to how the attackers responded. Rather he resisted and responded with prayers, kindness, mercy and forgiveness.
We urge radicals to stop inciting and carrying out hate and violence and instead work for peace, the betterment of humanity and a better world.  The enormous value and sacredness that God puts on human life should be caution enough to prevent these senseless acts of violence and killings.
It’s encouraging to see that the majority of Muslims all throughout this world are now standing up on the principle of Islam, the principle of peace, mercy, intelligent behavior, the conduct established for Muslims in the Qur'an and the life example of the Prophet and are letting the world hear us condemning those who are guilty.
We have a responsibility to exhibit the best of our human and religious identity, by following the examples of Prophets Muhammed, Abraham, Moses and Jesus Christ, at. el., peace be upon all of them.
As Salaam Alaikum, Imam Talib Shareef
For more information, contact Fitrah Muhammad, Executive Assistant, 202-425-5815 or email fitrah@msn.com or info@thenationsmosque.org; visit www.thenationsmosque.org

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Bill of Rights

First Amendment of the United States Constitution

Bill of Rights – Amendment I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech,
or of the press,
or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

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EarthTalk Climate Change Nutrition

By E - The Environmental Magazine
Dear EarthTalk: Is it true that global warming is causing our crops to be less nutritious? – William Persson, Glendale, Ohio
It is difficult to say whether or not the climate change we are now experiencing is negatively impacting the nutritional quality of our food, researchers warn that it may be only a matter of time.
“Humanity is conducting a global experiment by rapidly altering the environmental conditions on the only habitable planet we know,” reports Samuel Myers, a research scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Earlier this year, Myers and his colleagues released the results of a six year study examining the nutritional content of crops exposed to levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) that are expected to exist by mid-century. The conclusions were indeed troubling.
They found that in wheat grains, zinc concentrations were down some 9.3 percent and iron concentrations were down by 5.1 percent across the seven different crop sites (in Australia, Japan and the U.S.) used in the study.
The researchers also noted reduced protein levels in wheat and rice grains growing in the CO2-rich test environment.
According to Myers, the findings – published in June 2014 in the peer-reviewed journal Nature – are particularly troubling when one considers that some of the two to three billion people around the world who depend on wheat and rice for most of their iron and zinc already might not be getting enough of these essential nutrients.
Zinc deficiency, which can exacerbate pneumonia, malaria and other health problems, is already linked to some 800,000 deaths each year among children under five. Meanwhile, iron deficiency is the primary cause of anemia, a condition that contributes to one in five maternal deaths worldwide.
Myers and company aren’t the only ones worried about global warming and nutrient losses. Another recent study by mathematical biologist Irakli Loladze analyzed data from thousands of “free-air CO2 enrichment experiments” on 130 different species of food plants and found that increased CO2 reduced overall mineral (nutrient) content across the board.
“People don't need large quantities of the manganese or potassium they get from plants, but they do need some,” comments David Berreby on BigThink.com in response to Loladze’s findings. “And for billions of people, plants are their only source.”
Berreby is also bothered by another of Loladze’s conclusions, that higher levels of CO2 also spur increases in starches and sugars in the same plants that lose mineral content. “In other words, with increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide, the valuable nutrients in these food crops are scarcer, and carbohydrates are more abundant – in effect, the nutrients are ‘diluted’,” he explains.
This syncs with research out of the University of California at Davis, which estimates that the overall amount of protein we get from our food plants will drop some three percent in the coming decades given global warming’s expected arc.
While dramatically reducing our CO2 emissions would be the best way to stave off nutrient losses in our crops, we do have some other options just in case we don’t get our act together regarding fossil fuel consumption.
Myers suggests that breeders and genetic engineers could develop new strains of crops designed to be less sensitive to atmospheric CO2 levels and/or higher in mineral content to begin with.
Regardless, upping the amount of fruits and vegetables in our diets – perhaps more easily said than done – may be more important than ever in our carbon-intensive world.
Contacts: Harvard School of Public Health, www.hsph.harvard.edu; BigThink, www.bigthink.com.
EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E - The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com).
Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com.

Politics

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By Nusayba Hammad, Communications Director, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (nusayba@uscpr.org) WASHINGTON, D.C. – In an act unprecedented in recent history, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand...
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