The Nation of Islam Invites You:

The Ministry of Spiritual Development  
The mission of the N.O.I. as a whole and of each of its parts is the spiritual development of the Lost-Found Nation of Islam in North America and our people throughout the world. The mission of the N.O.I. is the resurrection spiritually of a dead people and the entire focus and meaning of its work is to bring about this resurrection as quickly as possible. This is the purpose that gives meaning to all other activities engaged in and is the criterion by which we expect to be judged by Allah and His Messenger, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. As such, the spiritual dimension must be present in all and excluded from none. (copied from  
For more information, call Student Minister Sultan Muhammad (616) 334-5511.

From The Final Call Newspaper

Ferguson five years later Still painful, still healing, still in the struggle

By Richard B. Muhammad Editor @RMfinalcall

FERGUSON, Mo.—The little town that was the catalyst for a national movement against police brutality and the epicenter of demands for the end to the killings of Blacks by police has seen some change, some progress, some political advances and some stubborn problems.

Michael Brown Sr., with his wife, Cal Brown, addresses media. Photos: Cartan X

Five years ago, the police killing of Michael Brown, Jr., brought thousands of activists, civil rights leaders, protestors and ordinary people to this suburb of St. Louis where an urban uprising erupted, and police officers looked like storm troopers in a foreign combat zone.

The police department was majority White, and Whites controlled political power over the majority Black population in a town of about 22,000 people. Today there is a Black police chief and four of six city council members are Black. The St. Louis county prosecutor, Wesley Bell, is a Black man and former Ferguson city council member.

Media outlets in Ferguson, Mo., five years after the fatal shooting of Mike Brown by White police officer Darren Wilson.

Fran Griffin was a concerned mom and resident who took to the streets after the Brown killing and police response in 2014. She now represents Ferguson’s Third Ward. She has focused on police policies like use of force and the right of officers to search people, changing those policies and increasing police accountability.

She backs reopening of the case of the killing of Mike Brown, which she called a catalyst for change in the city and country. “Not only did they treat Mike Brown, Jr., inhumanely, but they treated a whole community of Black people inhumanely. It’s up to us to stand with the family in support of reopening this case so that they can finally get some justice for their son,” she said.

“The police decided to attack a community of people who were mourning the death of the loss of a child, one of our children. That did something to me,” she continued. Along with the pain, she felt there would be a chance for residents to impact what was happening in Ferguson. She got involved. She looked at police policies and how they gave police the legal right to manhandle residents.

Activists and men of the Nation of Islam, stand in unity with Mike Brown, Sr. Photos: Cartan X

Changes to these policies and greater police accountability is underway, but it’s a constant push, Ms. Griffin said. The police department remains under a federal consent decree that includes a monitors’ team and a federal judge overseeing police department reforms, said Ms. Griffin. “But it’s up to the people in the community to push it as far as we can to make sure our voices are heard,” she added.

Black drivers are still stopped more often than Whites, which was once a major moneymaker for Ferguson through traffic tickets, fines and arrest warrants. State law now limits use of these tools.

“In Ferguson, the disparity in traffic stops of black drivers has increased by five percentage points since 2013, while it has dropped by 11 percentage points for white drivers,” the New York Times noted.

Jason Armstrong became Ferguson’s second Black police chief in July and Black cops have increased from four to 21 officers.

Members of the Ferguson community spoke during a memorial program Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo., the fifth anniversary of Michael Brown’s death. Photo: Cartan X

Mayor James Knowles III is one of the few holdovers from the heated days of nightly demonstrations, stand-offs with police and stifling racial tension. Some racial tension remains.

Not every problem has been solved but some people have put in a lot of hard work over the five years, said Ms. Griffin.

The Third Ward is a predominantly Black community with the lowest income of the city’s wards and the most apartment complexes but there was a longtime plan to move Blacks out of the area for new development, she said. This plan is being revised and now residents, again, must stay involved to press for racial equity that the plan is supposed to include, Ms. Griffin explained. She sits on the city planning commission to make sure she knows, and residents know what is happening.

Residents are still angered by the heavy-handed police response, with attack dogs and military weaponry to initially peaceful protests in Ferguson. Resources for youth, along with a lack of Black civil representation are still problems today, five years after the killing of Michael Brown, activists say. Photo: MGN Online

A planned health center and Boys and Girls Club are welcome, but healing should be holistic, not just a moneymaker for insurance companies and 18- to 24-year-olds must not fall through the gaps, she added. “This development is going to take place and will guide the city of Ferguson for the next 20 years,” Ms. Griffin observed.

“Who would have believed that out of a community like this and out of a tragedy would come a whole movement that sprung out all across this country in terms of not only issues of police accountability, police restructuring; but also in some ways there’s a whole movement around reparatory justice associated with this, too,” commented Dr. Ron Daniels, president of the Institute for the Black World 21st Century.

“I think that we’ve made progress in the sense that there’s been people who’ve been elected to office, people got activated, they elected some prosecutors, you know, and all of that’s good. But at the end of the day, we still have a lot more work to do,” said Dr. Daniels, who is based in New Jersey. He was in Ferguson Aug. 9 for a reparations conference and stopped by for a commemoration of the fifth-year anniversary of the killing of Mike Brown, Jr., in the place where the teenager lost his life.

“All this is sacred ground,” said Dr. Daniels.

The problems of policing and lack of opportunity in Ferguson are linked to longstanding issues of segregation and racism. White flight, lack of jobs and lack of public transportation are linked to Black progress or the lack thereof.

Last summer, “Segregation in St. Louis Dismantling the Divide” laid out how entrenched challenges in Ferguson and elsewhere in the region are tied to specific policies to deny Blacks access to equal housing and services and protect White enclaves.

The tactics ranged from denying Blacks homeownership opportunities and not building affordable housing to destroying or taking over once thriving Black communities or neighborhoods.

“Developers of whites-only subdivisions were vastly favored for construction loans to build single family, large-lot homes,” the report noted in an explanation of historic housing policy.

“After Michael Brown was killed by a police officer in Ferguson in 2014, the relatively recent history of white and middle-class flight in North St. Louis County received national attention. Ferguson’s demographics were reflective of the hypersegregation and disinvestment affecting a large segment of its African American population. Though Ferguson appeared diverse at first glance, in reality the majority of African Americans lived in poor and segregated neighborhoods within Ferguson. Rothstein in ‘The Making of Ferguson’ observed that Ferguson had ‘ghetto conditions we had come to associate with inner cities now duplicated in a formerly white suburban community.’

Earring says, “Hands up don’t shoot”.

“Those conditions included high-poverty segregated neighborhoods, lower performing schools, abandoned homes, and a sense of community powerlessness,” it said.

“North St. Louis County residents often find themselves in isolated neighborhoods with less access to social services and support agencies, poor transportation options, and declining schools and tax bases. Studies indicate that the St. Louis region remains among the 10 most segregated in the country,” the report said.

“With the reaction to the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson followed three years later by the exoneration of a City of St. Louis police officer in the shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith, St. Louis has become a place now roiled by intermittent conflict and protest. Issues of inequity and segregation underlie much of the discontent. Pockets of integrated neighborhoods exist, but systems and policies have not been put into place to preserve their diversity and keep them from transitioning to disinvested, newly segregated communities,” it warned.

Still there is the ongoing battle to bring equity and justice to Ferguson through the work of groups like the Urban League’s Ferguson Empowerment Center, built on the place where a convenience store was burned to the ground in the early aftermath of Mike Brown, Jr.’s death and police teargassing of street protestors.

It offers trainings, job fairs and a special program which aims to help mentor Black males. It also housed an exhibit devoted to Mike Brown, Jr., during the weekend commemoration of his death and a food giveaway. Nearby is an almost ready Boys and Girls Club of Greater St. Louis, priced at about $12.4 million and including 26,000-square-feeet of space for youngsters. Plans also call for a primary care facility and women’s clinic.

Girls perform during remembrance of Michael Brown, Jr.

There are other smaller programs for youth that have sprang up, including the work of a foundation run by Michael Brown, Sr., and programs run Lesley McSpadden in honor of her son.

There are also Black businesses, entrepreneurs and homeowners who also live in Ferguson, so the outlook is not all bleak.

But warns, Ms. Griffin, vigilance is necessary. Prior to her election in April and defeating Mike Brown, Jr.’s mom for the council seat, the city chose Jeffrey Blume as interim city manager. The Justice Dept. named Mr. Blume, who formerly served as Ferguson finance director, as pushing for more traffic fines to bring in more revenue, she said.

Blacks are 67 percent of the city population, yet from 2012-2014, represented 85 percent of vehicle stops, 90 percent of the citations, and 93 percent of the arrests, according to the Justice Dept.

Trumped up charges for code enforcement generated fines and fees for Ferguson’s budget that reached $1.38 million of the $11.07 million collected in general funds in 2010, said the Justice Dept. Budget forecasts continued to exceed expectations year after year. In 2012, city officials “predicted” that fines and fees revenue would increase 30 percent to $1.92 million, however Ferguson courts exceeded the “prediction” and collected $2.11 million. Predictions were exceeded again in 2013 by courts, which essentially are under the control of the Ferguson police chief, collecting $2.46 million in fines and fees.

In 2014, the city issued nearly 12,000 tickets, but the citations fell to less than 2,000 and brought in less than $400,000 in 2017.

Tory Russell leads the International Black Freedom Alliance. Five years ago, he was a Ferguson frontline protestor but today he sees the need for a mass grassroots movement.

Young men perform step routine during tribute to Michael Brown, Jr.

Among lessons he has learned is the need for an intergenerational movement with input from elders. We tried to push the elders out and say we got this, but we didn’t have it, said the 35-year-old organizer.

He believes old-fashioned door knocking, street organizing and people to people contact is needed. “We have to have a grassroots agenda brought to you by the people that’s actually in the grassroots. I think social media activism was cool. I think the hashtags look cute, but them hashtags don’t protect bodies and they damn sure don’t build homes and communities,” he added.

There was also not enough protection of protestors who have been killed and a couple have gone to jail, Mr. Russell continued. We need to build a movement where we protect one another, he said.

His group met over the Aug. 9 weekend to plan and discuss community building, reparations, separation, repatriation. “Now it’s time to have some of that building,” the activist said.

Yo Nas Da Lonewolf, who returned for the fifth anniversary commemoration, has been working with the Brown family since 2014. She was also among protestors five years ago. “Still no justice,” she said. “Officer Darren Wilson is still living his life, but not only Officer Darren Wilson, so many police have been murdering activists and putting it under the rug and acting like it’s a suicide. It’s been seven to ten activists who have been murdered,” she said.

Among those who have lost their lives in connection with Ferguson are Edward Crawford, who the world remembers for a powerful image of him wearing an American flag tee shirt, holding a bag of chips in one hand, and throwing a tear gas canister away from women and children as heavily-armed law enforcement officers engaged in a standoff with protestors. Authorities said he shot himself in the head while riding with two other people. Darren Seals, 29, was found with his Jeep Wrangler engulfed in flames in Riverview, Mo., a suburb north of St. Louis. He died from a gunshot wound to his head, according to authorities. MarShawn McCarrel’s death was called a suicide. Deandre Joshua, 20, was found shot in the head and burned inside his car just east of the Canfield Apartments. Some thought he testified before the Brown grand jury, but family members told the media he did not. He was about 75 yards away from where Mike Brown, Jr., was killed.

Danye Dion Jones, 24, was found hung in the backyard of his mother’s home in the north county community of Spanish Lake, Missouri, just five miles away from Ferguson. The St. Louis County Police Department is investigating the death as a suicide, but Melissa McKinnies, Mr. Jones’ mother, and a Ferguson protestor expressed doubt about the so-called suicide. She said her son was lynched. She was also lacked confidence in police handling of the death and subsequent investigation. Known for livestreaming protests, Bassem Masri, 31, was Palestinian American and reportedly died from an overdose of fentanyl. He was found on a bus.

Ms. Lonewolf called Mr. Seals a good friend and “beautiful brother.” “There is still a problem in Ferguson,” said the activist. “We need to act like Jesus and start saying, “Get behind me,’ as we keep moving as we separate because that’s the only way we’re going to be able to stop this epidemic and this massacre of original people all over the world.”

From The Final Call Newspaper

Mass shootings, widespread death, White hatred permeate America

By Rhodesia Muhammad and Bryan 3X Crawford Contributing Writers @TheFinalCall 

“Ya basta!” Estela Reyes-Lopez pleaded, which means “enough” in English.

Mourners gather at a vigil following a nearby mass shooting Aug. 4, in Dayton, Ohio. Multiple people in Ohio have been killed in the second mass shooting in the U.S. in less than 24 hours, and the suspected shooter is also deceased, police said. Photo: AP/Wide World Photos

“Twenty lives were taken from us because of some young man filled with so much hate, so much ignorance, so much hostility toward people he doesn’t even know,” said Ms. Lopez, the media and public information officer for Centro De Salud Familiar La Fe, the center for faith and family health, a non-profit social justice organization based in El Paso.

It was a hail of bullets that sent families who were back to school shopping, screaming and running for their lives, when a gunman opened fire at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, around 10 a.m. Aug. 3, killing at least 22 people and wounding more than two dozen.

Dayton, Ohio shooter Connor Betts

“According to authorities, Patrick Crusius, the 21-year-old White male identified as the shooter, drove nearly 10 hours from his hometown of Allen, Texas, about 30 miles north of Dallas, to carry out an act of domestic terrorism and a hate crime against the Hispanic community. Mr. Crusius surrendered to police shortly after his reign of terror, leaving many baffled as to why he didn’t take his own life like many mass shooting suspects.

El Paso, Texas shooter Patrick Crusius

“A manifesto apparently posted on social media by Mr. Crusius outlined his intentions and his racist and anti-immigration views, said authorities. Perhaps he surrendered that he wanted to be heard.

Just 12 hours later, another gunman opened fire in a crowded bar in Dayton, Ohio, early Sunday morning, on Aug. 4. Connor Betts, 24, killed nine people, including his own 22-year-old sister, in less than a minute, authorities reported. Thirty-one other people were reported injured. The suspect was eventually shot and killed by police. Authorities are saying the two shootings are not linked.

During an Aug. 5 press conference, President Trump said the nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and White supremacy. “These sinister ideologies must be defeated,” he added. “Hate has no place in America. Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart and devours the soul.”

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the shootings were clearly, at least in part, a result of Mr. Trump’s divisive, racist rhetoric and condemned the president’s proposed legislative fix for strong background checks for gun users and tougher immigration laws. Many questioned why Mr. Trump connected the two issues, especially since the shooting suspects are U.S. citizens.

Many social media users’ disdain for the U.S. government, including the president for hesitancy and refusal to call these mass shootings what they really are hate crimes and domestic terror.

Dayton mayor Nan Whaley and police Lt. Col. Matt Carper give the latest update on the mass shooting during a news conference at the Dayton Convention Center in Dayton, Ohio, on Aug. 4. Photo: AP/Wide World Photos

Student Minister Abel Muhammad, Latino representative of the Nation of Islam, said, “President Trump’s rhetoric has emboldened and lit fire to many extremist groups. There is a hesitancy and a slowness in labeling this in what seems to be apparent to every one of us. So many of our Black and Brown brothers and sisters are being killed for far less. Yet, somehow these extremists who take the life of our people somehow always makes it safely to be arrested without incidence. But our people unarmed can’t seem to make it out of a traffic stop.”

Satellite map of shooting site in El Paso, Texas

“It’s absolutely a sign of the times as the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan has been warning the American people for years now, that the injustices within the country create an imbalance and if not addressed the results of ignoring and not trying to create a remedy would be acted out in acts of violence. We see that coming into existence more and more as the times are getting darker,” Student Minister Muhammad said.

“After a tragedy like this, there is a time to be sad and there’s a time to mourn. But this situation that we are living right now in our community, this has been building for a long time,” said Ms. Reyes-Lopez, who shops at that same El Paso Walmart with her family. “These clouds have been circling. This thunder has been building and this lightening have struck. And we’re very angry about it. Many of the people I’ve spoken to in the last 24 hours have told me, friends, activists, people that have had their feet on the ground for a long time, said, we are talking about voting, we’re talking about legislation, and gun control.”

Stills from a Walmart surveillance video shows Patrick Crusius entering the building armed with a semi-automatic assault rifle. Photos: MGN Online

These mass shootings are happening more often. On February 14, 2018, 17 people were killed when a gunman opened fire at a high school in Parkland, Florida. On May 18, 2018, 10 people were killed at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas. On November 5, 2017, 25 people were killed at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. On October 1, 2017, 58 people were killed when a mass shooter opened fire from a hotel room at the Harvest Music Festival, at a Las Vegas strip in Nevada. On June 12, 2016, 49 people were killed at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

Stills from a Walmart surveillance video shows Patrick Crusius entering the building armed with a semi-automatic assault rifle. Photos: MGN Online

On June 17, 2015, 9 people were killed at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Dr. Abdul Haleem Muhammad, southwest regional student minister of the Nation of Islam in Houston said, God loved us so much, he set up a military structure and security apparatus for his servants, the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and Minister Farrakhan, and the Nation of Islam in anticipation of the current dark days. “If we love our people as much as Allah (God) loves us, we will be found teaching and training our people to make our neighborhoods and institutions safe places to live, work, play, learn, and pray. Offering thoughts and prayers or finger pointing is not sufficient today,” Dr. Haleem Muhammad stressed. “Love is a verb. We must show and prove the unequaled wisdom Allah has taught us through his Christ and Messiah.”

Student Minister Abel Muhammad agreed that this is not the time for finger pointing. “This is what has angered me, the response has been politicized, where Democrats are pointing at Republicans now trying to win the Latino votes by saying, ‘oh look what they’ve done, they’ve allowed this to happen because of their gun laws’ when for eight years the Democrats had charge of the Congress and the presidential office and they were not able to fix anything in terms of immigration or in terms of those things which ill-affect our people.”

An American flag dons a memorial for the shooting victims in El Paso, Texas. Photo: MGN Online

Dee Woo, operations manager of KTEP FM, El Paso, a public radio station, commended the residents of El Paso for being a strong community that bands together in times of need. She believes parents are the root of the hatred that leads to mass shootings. “Parents need to stop teaching racism and hatred at home. And, they need to address it with their children as early as two and three years old, because as we’ve seen, children will play with other children because they want to play with other children and for no other reason but to have fun. And it doesn’t matter who it is or the color of their skin. So, stop teaching the children racism and prejudice and instead start teaching them universal love, which is respect for one another and being able to help one another,” she told The Final Call.

Others say separation is the only solution. That there are already two Americas, one White and one non-White.

Jay Hernandez, a resident of El Paso, noted, “Some in the Latino community in El Paso may have been injured but didn’t seek treatment because of their lack of citizenship and I think that’s hurtful and disgraceful. This is America, yet we don’t have the freedom to shop for school supplies for our children.”

People gather in Juarez, Mexico, Aug. 3, in a vigil for the 3 Mexican nationals who were killed in an El Paso shopping-complex shooting. Twenty people were killed and more than two dozen injured in a shooting Saturday in a busy shopping area in the Texas border town of El Paso, the state’s governor said. Photo: AP/Wide World Photos

“I think it’s a wakeup call,” added Student Minister Abel Muhammad. “I hope ultimately, the only good that can come of this is that perhaps our people will awaken to the fact that these people do not see us as their brothers, they do not see us as their equals. They have no desire for truth, or fairness, or equity or justice with us if they’re not in a position of superiority, not based on truth or goodness, but simply on their Whiteness and we as subordinate and subservient to them. They don’t even want us alive in their presence. Hopefully as harsh as that may be, I think it’s waking up people to understand and to look at what is it that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan are offering, which is the best and only solution, separation from these people.”

There has been an average of one mass shooting every 12 days in 2019, with the total so far being 18.

All told, as many as 102 people have been killed this year in mass shootings, with many of them being committed by White men; all of whom adhere to and embrace the ideology of White nationalism.

Compounding the issue is the reluctance to paint these men as what they are: domestic terrorists.

Mourners gather at the scene of a mass shooting before a vigil, Aug. 4, in Dayton, Ohio. Photo: AP/Wide World Photos

The emergence of Donald Trump on the political scene in America has brought feelings of White pride mixed with concern about Whites acting out in public spaces every day. Videos capture White men and women berating, harassing, insulting and even calling the police on Blacks and other non-White people. Social media is flooded with clips showing the differences in the way law enforcement treats White perpetrators of crime, versus treatment of non-White people who don’t have to be committing a crime to be forcibly attacked—or even killed at the hands of police officers.

All of this could, and should be very easily categorized as acts of terrorism. But in a society where the thought appears to be only Muslims can be terrorists, White domestic terrorism gets softened to “mental illness.”

“No one is safe. And the days of thinking something like this can never happen to me are pretty much over,” political commentator and activist Mark Thompson, told The Final Call. “[White people’s] fear of genetic annihilation, as Dr. Frances Cress Welsing described it, is enabled by Donald Trump. He can dismiss these mass shootings as mental illness. But White supremacy is a mental illness. To believe that you are a superior race that is supposed to be separate and distinct above every other race, is a form of mental illness.”

“In America, the dangerous are seen as endangered,” Ibram X. Kendi, director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University, wrote in an op-ed for The Atlantic. “Leaders treat white-nationalist terror, not as a broad social ill, but as a fringe problem that will become extinct on its own. To portray white terrorism as an outlier is to ignore America’s entire racial history, not to mention its present.”

Technology and media are part of the phenomenon with White terrorists able to amplify their views through mainstream and social media. And on these platforms, the idea that only Black and Brown people are dangerous can spread like wildfire.

An FBI bulletin disseminated through the agency’s office in Phoenix, Arizona, found conspiracy theories, like people from South America are invading the United States, can contribute to domestic terrorist threats.

“The FBI assesses these conspiracy theories very likely will emerge, spread, and evolve in the modern information marketplace, occasionally driving both groups and individual extremists to carry out criminal or violent acts,” the memo read in part.

“White folks are upholding a slavery amendment—the 2nd Amendment—that was meant to use violence to keep Black and Brown folks in check. But the 2nd Amendment is now being used in the killing of White folks themselves,” Mr. Thompson explained, adding, “Firearms are an instrument of White supremacy and the enforcement of racist oppression.”

In May, testifying before the House Homeland Security Committee, officials from the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department, that there are more than 850 open cases of domestic terrorism in the United States; 40 percent of them have involved racially motivated violence. However, there is no law on the books in America against domestic terrorism. Perpetrators of these crimes, who are labeled as homegrown terrorists, are often prosecuted using other statutes. This makes it extremely difficult to even prosecute someone as a domestic terrorist in this country.

Thus charges can be left to the whims of prosecutors dealing with those who commit acts of extreme violence.

After the most recent tragedies, the possibility of making mass shootings, which authorities describe as shootings with four or more victims, capital crimes was raised.

From The Final Call Newspaper

Black voters, Black issues and the 2020 election

By Starla MuhammadManaging Editor @simplystarla23

DETROIT—It happens every presidential election cycle like clockwork. Political candidates vying for the highest office in the land begin scrambling for the attention of one of the most significant constituencies in U.S. politics—Black voters. Black people, particularly Black women are unabashedly viewed by political analysts and observers as the backbone of the Democratic Party. They’ve proven it time and time again.

As the 2020 election looms and Democratic Party candidates jockey for position to become the nominee in the frantic bid to unseat President Donald Trump, the scramble is underway.

Several of the 20-plus candidates have descended on national Black conventions and conferences, rolled out Black agendas and plans, appeared on the popular hip-hop radio show The Breakfast Club and have even forcefully broached topics of White supremacy and systematic racism as they increase efforts to “secure the Black vote.”

In the last presidential election of 2016 Blacks voted overwhelmingly (90 percent) for the Democratic candidate, including comparable shares of Black men (88 percent) and Black women (92 percent), reported the Pew Research Center. The country’s first Black president, Barack Obama served two terms largely due to Black voter support and turnout. While former Vice-President Joe Biden still enjoys a healthy lead among older Black voters, that lead is being challenged, though remotely, by Senator Kamala Harris. Younger Black voters are not sold on Mr. Biden. Others are also trying to gain ground with Black voters.

Just ahead of the second scheduled Democratic debates held July 30 and 31, candidates made rounds at major Black gatherings for the National Urban League, Rainbow Push, National Action Network, NAACP and the South Carolina Democratic Party Convention. In the upcoming months, photo ops at soul food establishments, stumping with members of the Congressional Black Caucus and speeches from pulpits at Black churches will most certainly be on the schedule of several presidential hopefuls.

However, just as in years past, questions on what Black folks can and will get in return for their loyalty remains to be seen.

What should Black voters demand and what are the key issues they are analyzing?

It is clear Black Americans are not a monolith when it comes to what issues they value most. Answers vary, depending on geographic location, age, socio-economic background and other variables. Criminal justice reform, student loan debt, wage and income equity, foreign policy, education, reparations and environmental justice are just a handful of the issues Black voters are concerned with. And, for some, having a president other than the current occupant of the White House is all they want. A June survey commissioned by the Black Economic Alliance gave a glimpse into what some Black voters felt was important when it comes to advancing economic opportunities for them and their families. The survey found a three-way split on the top issues on the minds of Black American voters, with 77 percent of respondents saying affordable health care, college affordability and creating more jobs with benefits were “extremely important issues,” reported Politico.

The Final Call interviewed Black voters, activists and analysts at the 110th NAACP National Convention held July 20-24 in Detroit about critical issues and the outlook for 2020.

“It don’t take no Ph.D. to figure this out,” Dr. Wendell Anthony told a crowd prior to the Presidential Candidates Forum at the convention. He was recounting what he told a reporter that asked him what Black people wanted. “We want healthcare just like everybody else, we want good jobs like everybody else, we want income equality like everybody else. What the hell do you think we want? We want a life, like everybody else!”

Dr. Anthony, pastor at Friendship Chapel in Detroit, serves on the NAACP National Board of Directors and is president of the Detroit Branch NAACP, the largest branch in the country.

“This ain’t difficult, there is not no magic to this. We want what everybody else have. We want to be able to have a good house, a good community, good schools, good education, live safely and when we get stopped by the police we don’t want to have to go home in a box! We want the same damn thing everybody else wants!” he said.

Ten presidential candidates spoke at the July 24 forum in Detroit: Mr. Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Cory Booker, former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Republican Governor Bill Weld. Moderated by journalist April Ryan, each candidate answered questions on a variety of issues.

Sen. Harris, Sen. Warren and Mayor Buttigieg have introduced some semblance of Black-targeted plans and policies they vow to implement if elected president. Sen. Harris recently touted her plan which calls for a $60 billion investment in Historically Black Colleges and Universities. She is an alumnus of Howard University, an HBCU. The California senator proposed a plan to spend $12 billion on entrepreneurship programs aimed at the Black community. Mr. Buttigieg introduced his Douglass Plan, named for abolitionist Frederick Douglass as “A Comprehensive Investment in the Empowerment of Black America.” It encompasses a variety of areas including economic investment, healthcare, education and criminal justice reform. Sen. Warren proposed her plan to address the economic hardships of “women of color,” Blacks, Latinas, Native Americans and Asians.

Media personality, political commentator and entrepreneur Roland Martin explained that key voting issues vary and ultimately it is a personal decision.

“If you’re an African American that lives in a rural part of the country, if you live in a city, if you’re a homeowner versus a renter; you’re a student versus somebody who’s never gone to college, so it varies. So, what I would suggest is for the individual to sit down and say, ‘what are the three most important things to me?’ ” he told The Final Call.

“Look at whether it impacts your family, whether it affects your community, your city, your state, and then go from there. They may be local issues. Then the question is how that person does who is in office, how will they impact that particular issue because a lot of people don’t know how to connect the dots. So, we’re not a monolith and so we have different interests and concerns.”

For 18-year-old college sophomore Darion Dawson, he has one concern: student loan debt. Any candidate proposing free college or drastically reducing college debt has his attention. “I’ve been struggling with going to college. It’s very expensive but it’s just crazy that you have to be incarcerated in order to get free education. Why can’t you get free education while being out of jail, which is good,” said the mechanical engineering major. He is from San Francisco but is attending Xavier University in Louisiana.

Mr. Dawson wants the next president to not be as divisive as Mr. Trump. “I look for a candidate more worried about getting the people together and making the country a better place for all people, especially us Black people,” he added.

Michael Childress agrees. He is president of the DuPage County NAACP just outside Chicago. “I think the number one issue that affects Black people and we don’t seem to realize it, but it’s really presidential oversight because this guy has pretty much said he can do whatever he wants. If a person gets to the point where he can do whatever he wants, that means he has no boundaries. And usually when you run across people with no boundaries when they turn their wrath on someone, it’s usually us as Black people, people of color, the powerless, those are the people that they’re really going to take advantage of and the tool that they’re using is racism,” said Mr. Childress.

“It goes, to me, deeper than the health care, which is a problem, kids in the border, that’s a problem. But when you have a guy that thinks he’s pretty much God, I don’t see much difference between him and Hitler. I mean what’s to stop him in a second term from building the ovens, the concentration camps? He’s already started them now. Who’s going to stop him if we don’t get him out of there in this next term? He’s already defied every subpoena, every rule of law. Again, there’s no boundaries to what he feels he can get away with.”

Environmental activist Mustapha Ali said as he travels the country problems of racial disparities in the environment are still prevalent.

“We have 200,000 people dying prematurely from air pollution. We have water quality issues and infrastructure issues inside of our communities that are poisoning us and putting our lives in danger and putting our children’s lives in danger. We should also be, when they’re having these conversations about jobs, we should be very clear that when people talk about a new clean, green economy, that we want to make sure that we have ownership in that space. That less than two percent of the businesses that have been created, you know, and wind and solar and all these other things that are important that people talk about, are owned by people of color,” said Mr. Ali.

“When we get to African Americans, that number shrinks even more. So, we’ve got to be focused on making sure that there will be accountability if we are not given the opportunity to create our own businesses in this space,” he added.

When asked what Black voters must do to hold those they support and elect accountable for the promises they make, Mr. Ali said it must be a collective effort. “Beyond a conversation, I think that we should be actually pulling together all of our various organizations that we have trust in. And we need to be putting together the plan of the individuals that we want hired in the next administration. Who are the African Americans that should be running the Environmental Protection Agency, should be running HUD, should be running the Department of Labor, that should be running CDC?” he continued.

“We should be also be looking at the White House and the positions that exist inside of there. What we should also be focused on for these campaigns and other types of positions that sometimes are forgotten we need to make sure that our folks are the ambassadors, as well, especially to our own countries and others. So, there are a number of different positions that we should be putting forward a list of names and then holding people accountable if a significant number of those individuals are not being hired,” said Mr. Ali.

In Philadelphia, Black voters are concerned about rebuilding distressed communities said Rodney Muhammad, president of the Philadelphia NAACP. “We’re witnessing urban decay. The biggest cry in the city right now is gentrification. Too often by the time we cite gentrification, the arrow has already left the bow and many deals have already been made and it’s going to be a real uphill climb for us,” he said. There is also the concern of growing gun violence and a growing distrust Blacks have toward government and elected officials, he explained. Mr. Muhammad is also the student minister of the Nation of Islam’s Muhammad Mosque No. 12 in Philadelphia.

Terrance Williams of Gary, Indiana, works in security. His main concern where he lives is affordable housing. “In Gary, we’re hurting,” he said. There are so many abandoned houses as the result of the once vibrant steel industry in the city collapsing, so it has been tough, he said. He has not decided on any particular candidate to throw his support behind yet.

“They (candidates) speak to the separation of the children from their parents (at the border) here in the United States as though it is something new to this country and it’s not,” said Yolette Green, a union activist from New York. “Our people have been separated from their land and from their families and we were brought here against our will and it is as though that is not prevalent today as though it has been forgotten. Other people’s plights have been presented as more important than ours when in this country we are still enslaved, mentally and physically,” she said. Reparations for Black people is an important issue for her and free education for Blacks would be a start, she said.

Janis Dunn is from the Dallas-Fort Worth area and is president of Tri-Cities NAACP, which covers Cedar Hill, Desoto and Duncanville, Texas. Criminal justice reform and reparations are key areas for people in her area. She said for candidates that talk about criminal justice reform, “we want to make sure it comes to fruition.”

Blacks must continue to mobilize even after elections to pressure candidates to keep their word, she explained. “We register a lot of people to vote but what we don’t do is get them back to the polls. We can register thousands and thousands but if we don’t get them back and excited about it then we’ll never change anything. It’s about mobilization.”

Tammy Greer Brown lives blocks from where Eric Garner was choked to death by a New York cop. The Justice Department recently announced it would not charge the officer in his death.

She serves as advisor for the NAACP Youth Council for Staten Island New York. She is also on the steering committee for Moms of Black Boys United, a group that fights against police brutality and misconduct and fights for law enforcement policy changes on local, state and national levels. Criminal justice reform and education are the issues most critical to her.

“I have a Black son who has been arrested, who has been targeted,” she said. “My concern more than anything is that Black men and my son have been targeted. I’m tired of seeing our Black men die. I’m tired of seeing our Black males die; not just Black men but our Black boys die and I’m tired of seeing my daughter, who’s afraid of the police, come after school and be targeted to identify suspects.”

Ben Chavis, president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, said Black organizations must work more in unity in their work for the whole. “The solutions to our problems are in our own hands. They’re not in the hands of the White House. They’re not in the hands of corporate America; they’re in our own hands,” said Dr. Chavis, whose group is composed of Black newspaper owners across the country.

“Our greatest challenge is to turn to one another, not against each other. The absence of unity is going to affect voter turnout for 2020, it’s going to affect public policy. We now have more brothers and sisters in the Congress in the United States than ever before. But the inaction of legislation like the Reparations bill (HR 40) is coming to support the study. We already know the answer is that we should have massive reparations to repair the damage that has been done. While the larger society needs to study the problem, we already know the problem because we’ve lived it,” added Dr. Chavis, who previously served as executive director of the NAACP.

“I like the theme of this convention, ‘When We Fight, We Win.’ But we have to be clear on what we’re fighting for, not just what we’re fighting against. Everybody’s against Trump but what are we for? It has to be freedom, justice and equality, economic empowerment, economic development and overall unity not only in America for Black people but throughout the African Diaspora. Unity for African people all over the world ought to be our top priority.”