The GR Study Group invites you


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National Assistant to the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan
Student Minister Ishmael Muhammad speaks 
Every Sunday  at 10AM (Central time)

>>Click here to watch live and archived broadcasts<<

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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 AtonementCommission.com).  
For more information, call Student Minister Sultan Muhammad (616) 334-5511.
e-mail: SMSultanM1@gmail.com      


STUDY GROUP MEETING TIMES
Because of the COVID19 Pandemic, meetings are currently suspended and will be conducted on-line only.


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From The Final Call Newspaper

HIP HOP KING DMX HIS LIFE, LESSONS AND LOVE

By The Final Call
- April 13, 2021




by Tariqah Shakir-Muhammad, Shawntell Muhammad and Jihad Muhammad

Father. Soon-to-be husband. Hip hop prophet.

These are the names most will remember for hip hop icon DMX. The legendary artist passed away in New York, according to a statement released by the family. He was 50 years old.

“Earl was a warrior who fought till the very end. He loved his family with all of his heart, and we cherish the times we spent with him,” the family said in the April 9 statement. “[He] inspired countless fans across the world, and his iconic legacy will live on forever.”

Fans hold up “DMX” balloons during a prayer vigil outside of White Plains Hospital, Monday, April 5, 2021, in White Plains, N.Y. Supporters and family of the rapper DMX have chanted his name and offered up prayers outside the hospital where he remains on life support. The 50-year-old was admitted to the hospital following a heart attack. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)


Born Earl Simmons, he grew up in Yonkers, N.Y., and began writing music at a young age despite a turbulent childhood and struggles with addiction. His transparency about his struggles and past shared in his music helped inspire millions worldwide.

Hip-Hop legend DMX visited The Salaam restaurant in Chicago n the 1990s and took a picture with some students from Muhammad University of Islam. He was invited by Brother Aziz Muhammad (far right) to the Nation of Islam restaurant.

“DMX didn’t hide behind the pain, he was very transparent with the pain,” said national community organizer, activist and rap artist YoNasDa LoneWolf.

“That’s why everyone is feeling like, ‘man, this was someone that was just so open and vulnerable.’ … So, a prophet died this week, but in the holy scripture we look at them as testimony and carry on.”

The man behind the songs “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” and “Party Up (Up in Here)” used his distinctively gruff voice and thoughtful messages in his rhymes to become one of rap’s biggest stars.

The Grammy-nominated performer died after suffering “catastrophic cardiac arrest,” according to a statement from the hospital in White Plains, New York, where he died. He was rushed there from his home April 2.

His family’s statement said DMX died with relatives by his side after several days on life support.

From left: Brother Gary Muhammad, Final Call General Manager Abdul Rasul Muhammad, DMX and Brother Aziz Muhammad at The Salaam n the 1990s. DMX was a guest of Bro. Aziz. Bro. Abdul Rasul reflected on that day and stated DMX was “so gracious and kind.”

Memorial plans were not yet set at Final Call press time.

He rapped with a trademark raspy delivery that was often paired with growls, barks and “What!” as an ad-lib—built a multiplatinum career in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but he also struggled with drug addiction and legal problems that sometimes put him behind bars.

“His message of triumph over struggle, his search for the light out of darkness, his pursuit of truth and grace brought us closer to our own humanity,” his record label, Def Jam Recordings, said in a statement describing him as “nothing less than a giant.”

Fellow hip hop artists remembered him likewise, with Eve praising him as “one of the most special people I have ever met” and Nas calling him “Gods poet” in an Instagram post.



DMX made a splash in 1998 with his first studio album, “It’s Dark and Hell is Hot,” which debuted No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. The multiplatinum-selling album was anchored by several hits including “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem,” “Get At Me Dog,” “Stop Being Greedy” and “How It’s Goin’ Down.”

DMX followed up with four straight chart-topping albums including “… And Then There Was X,” “Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood,” “The Great Depression” and “Grand Champ.” He released seven albums, earned three Grammy nominations and was named favorite rap/hip hop artist at the 2000 American Music Awards.

DMX arrived on the rap scene around the same time as Jay-Z, Ja Rule and others who dominated the charts and emerged as platinum-selling acts. They were all part of rap crews, too: DMX fronted the Ruff Ryders collective, which helped launch the careers of Grammy winners Eve and Swizz Beatz, and relaunch The Lox, formerly signed to Bad Boy Records. Ruff Ryders had success on the charts and on radio with its “Ryde or Die” compilation albums.



DMX made his way as an actor. He starred in the 1998 film “Belly” and appeared in 2000′s “Romeo Must Die” with Jet Li and Aaliyah. DMX and Aaliyah teamed up for “Come Back in One Piece” on the film’s soundtrack.

The rapper would later open Aaliyah’s tribute music video, “Miss You,” alongside her other friends and collaborators, including Missy Elliott, Lil’ Kim and Queen Latifah, after Aaliyah’s 2001 death in a plane crash at age 22.

The rapper starred in 2001′s “Exit Wounds” with Steven Seagal and 2003′s “Cradle 2 the Grave” with Jet Li.

The Hard Knock Life Tour in 1999 featuring Jay-Z, DMX and others, was one of the most successful hip hop tours ever. The tour was secured by members of the Fruit of Islam. Hashim H. Muhammad, a Chicago hip hop artist himself and F.O.I., helped secure DMX throughout the multi-city event. He shared how during a stop in Milwaukee, DMX want to go to the city. Hashim Muhammad accompanied him visiting ’hoods. DMX gave and received love as “an extremely humble, spiritual, and fearless brother,” he said.



On the Atlanta leg of the show series, a video later shown in a movie about the tour captured Hashim Muhammad in an impromptu rap “cypher” with Jay-Z, DMX and others. After the freestyle, which is an iconic hip hop moment, Hashim Muhammad recalled how DMX pulled him close in a show of love and respect. “He wanted to stay grounded, he did not want to get the big head,” said Mr. Muhammad.

The Hard Knock Life Tour also included Redman, Method Man, and special guests Ja Rule, Eve, Beanie Sigel, and Amil. This was a major tour since venues and promoters weren’t booking shows for fear of violence. Abdul Aziz Muhammad was asked to work with security based on his work with R&B singer Monica.

Aziz Muhammad had Hashim Muhammad and Damon Muhammad, also known as “Young Khan The Don,” as part of the security team and a hip hop collective. The Hard Knock Life Tour lasted three months without violence. “It was actually being on this tour that we saw the effect that DMX had on the audience.



He had an attraction power similar to that of Tupac. He was raw, by himself and the people were vibing with him. Swizz Beatz was his DJ at the time,” said Damon Muhammad. He recounted a private conversation where DMX shared his thoughts about mortality.

“One of the main things he wanted to share was that he didn’t believe he would live past 30. He was 28 at the time. I quickly began to dispel that just by sharing with him that we have the ability to strive to live a better quality of life and to transform our life,” said Damon Muhammad. He shared how the life giving teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad changes lives and assured DMX his life could change too.

During a Chicago stop DMX visited The Final Call Building, home to the newspaper and Min. Louis Farrakhan’s video ministry, the Nation’s Salaam restaurant, and Muhammad University of Islam. Abdul Aziz Muhammad said, “We had over three months of communication with him and all of the artists in the Hard Knock Life Tour … We really bonded.”
 
Hip Hop singer DMX whose real name is Earl Simmons speaks to the media regarding his record label change to Sony Music as the founder of Ruff Ryder, Waah Dean, right, looks on, Friday, Jan.13, 2006, in New York. ( AP Photo/ Louis Lanzano)

“All of the artists enjoyed and benefited from the presence of the F.O.I. Many of them began giving the greetings while on tour, and even when things could have gotten out of hand it was out of respect for the Nation and the F.O.I. that it didn’t. We thank Allah for his guidance and in the words of Jay Z, ‘they said this tour couldn’t happen, that it would be violent but we did 54 cities without one act of violence,’ ” he added. It also grossed $18 million.

But while DMX made his mark in music and entertainment, the rapper faced a personal struggle with drugs. His addiction first took hold at age 14 when he smoked a marijuana cigarette laced with cocaine. He said in an interview that he didn’t know the marijuana given to him by an older friend he trusted included crack cocaine.

“Earl Simmons was a wonderful, caring father, and a sensitive, thoughtful man,” said Lyor Cohen, a former executive at Def Jam, in a statement. “Unfortunately, Dark Man X took over and ran amok, tormented and struggling to find the light. … DMX gave me the inspiration to keep going at Def Jam when rap became soft and silly.”

DMX planned a 32-date tour to mark the 20th anniversary of “It’s Dark and Hell is Hot.” But the rapper canceled a series of shows to check himself into a rehab facility in 2019. In an Instagram post, his team said he apologized for the canceled shows and thanked his fans for the continued support.

DMX, center, surrounded by friends and supporters, accepts the R&B Album Artist of the Year during the 1999 Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Dec. 8, 1999. (AP Photo/Laura Rauch)

DMX took the initiative to help the less fortunate. He gave a group of Philadelphia men advice during a surprise appearance at a homeless support group meeting in 2017, and helped a Maine family with its back-to-school purchases a couple years later.

Ms. LoneWolf said she was blessed to be able to work with DMX how he touched others.

“So, many would seek DMX for a prayer because it wasn’t like he rehearsed it, it wasn’t for show. It was because he loved God, he loved Jesus. DMX was the closest thing for a lot of people what a prayer sounded like,” she added.

“The ancestor known to us as ‘Dark Man X’ walked a complicated walk on this earth,” said writer and culture critic Jamilah Lemieux. “His experiences were forever informed by the trauma of his childhood, which can make the spotlight a dangerously complex place to be. Hearts around the world are grieving a man who so beautifully articulated pain that is all too common in so many of our communities.”

NEW YORK, NY- SEPTEMBER 23: DMX arrives during the VH1 Hip Hop Honors at BAM on September 23, 2009 in New York City. (Evan Agostini via AP)

“I felt a very special place for him as a man, as a human, a Black man, and what he represents spiritually. As a spiritual being, he super exceeded what the world was thinking of in terms of his music. His purpose here was bigger than music,” commented Lakeisha Gray-Sewell, who runs the Chicago-based Girls Like Me mentoring group.

“That no matter what we deal with, there’s a higher force using us to be instruments to bring us all closer to grace and bringing us close to loving each other for who we are,” she said.

James Amir of Public Enemy and Hip Hop for Justice told The Final Call, “The hip hop world lost a talented, great brother. … I think the music is one of the most important things that he inspired; the way he did the music, his originality, in terms of how he delivered it, I just think he was an excellent performer, and inspiring in being himself.”

He continued to say that as a father and potential husband DMX will be greatly missed.

“The big part of his story for me was when he was introduced to crack at 14. For me, it speaks volumes more to the adults that were around him at that time. Had he not been introduced to crack; he may not have been hospitalized at this point.

A friend makes an X gesture during a prayer vigil outside of White Plains Hospital, Monday, April 5, 2021, in White Plains, N.Y. Supporters and family of the rapper DMX have chanted his name and offered up prayers outside the hospital where he remains on life support. The 50-year-old was admitted to the hospital following a heart attack. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

That’s the unfortunate part about it, somebody put him on that course,” commented For the Culture radio host Faraji Muhammad, who is based in Baltimore. “Here’s a man who showed us what resilience looks like, here’s a man who showed us what perseverance looks like.”

Student Minister Al Shaheed Muhammad of Dallas, Texas, is also a hip hop artist. “From what I saw from DMX, I remember when he first came out. From what he evolved into, he showed the people the purpose of prayer. Most hip hop concerts you go to, most artists don’t pray.”

Min. Muhammad said DMX’s song “Slippin’ ” inspired him at a time in his life when he felt he was struggling and needed to pick back up.

Many took to social media to express their condolences and best wishes to DMX’s family.

“Prayers for DMX and his family,” wrote Missy Elliott on Twitter.



Rapper T.I. wrote, “Shake back Big Bro. We made plans Maaaan We got s— to do!!! We laughed so hard about how far we’ve made it in life this night. I appreciate you so much for pulling up & and checking on a n—-. So now I’m tellin you like you told me … This too shall pass …We need Real 1s like you around!!! #PrayersUpForDMX.”

“It’s so sad to hear about the passing of DMX. He was a true legend to the hip-hop community,” added rapper Chingy in a statement.

“#mydog X I know that you are in the place of peace you deserve. I will be forever grateful to have known you. You were one of the most special people I have ever met. Full of Humour, talent, wisdom honesty and love and most of all loyalty,” rapper Eve said in an Instagram post.

“RIP DMX. I pray for the comfort of your children and loved ones,” actress Viola Davis said on Twitter.

“Rest In Peace DMX, a true legend. It was truly my honor to work and get to know you,” actor Jet Li said on Twitter.

“What they thought was a battle ended up being a family reunion. Of 2 Doggs who loved everything about each other thank. U. X for loving me back. C u when I get there,” rapper Snoop Dogg, who faced off against DMX in a Verzuz battle last year that drew more than 500,000 viewers, said in an Instagram post.



“Rest easy king Hug my Babegirl Aaliyah when you see her !!!!” said producer Timbaland on Twitter.

“Earl you had and still have a heart of gold. You and Baby Girl will meet again with all the beautiful people we have lost. Will never forget your kindness. NEVER! Blessing to your family! Eternally!” said Diane Haughton, the mother of the late singer Aaliyah, said on Instagram.

(Imani Ali and The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

From The Final Call Newspaper

Under the Shadow of Death
By Barrington M. Salmon, Contributing Writer
- April 6, 2021


Cortez Rice left,of Minneapolis sat in the middle of Hennepin Avenue to mourn the death of George Floyd that have died at the hands of police Sunday March 7,2021 In Minneapolis, MN.] Jerry Holt •Jerry.Holt@startribune.com I can't breathe" silent march at government center Sunday March 7, 20111


‘Race still reigns supreme’

The George Floyd murder trial has once again brought national and international attention on a mélange of issues including whether Blacks can ever get justice in America, particularly when a police officer is involved.

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is on trial and charged with second-degree murder, second-degree manslaughter and third-degree murder after kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes while he was handcuffed and lying face down on the ground. The police-involved killing triggered widespread national and global protests and demonstrations demanding an end to state-sanctioned murders, police brutality and racial injustice and ignited a sustained, significant and pervasive social justice movement.

As hundreds of cases of state-sanctioned and extra-judicial killings of primarily unarmed Black women, men and children each year illustrate, past is prologue because cops rarely end up being convicted. According to Phillip M. Stinson, a criminal justice researcher and professor of Criminal Justice at Bowling Green University, a mere five percent–seven officers–have been charged and convicted of murder over the past 20 years.

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This sordid history and track record has convinced Dr. Wilmer Leon, III that despite a public clamor for accountability, there’s little likelihood that justice will be served in this case.

“I don’t know what justice looks like because I haven’t seen it,” he told The Final Call. “It’s kinda like the Dodo bird. I heard they existed once upon a time and went to the zoo to try to find one and they’re extinct. I know what injustice looks like and from that I can extrapolate what justice looks like.

In this image from video, witness Charles McMillian becomes emotional as he answers questions as Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill presides Wednesday, March 31, 2021, in the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. Chauvin is charged in the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd. (Court TV via AP, Pool)

“You always hear after an atrocity like that that this can’t happen again. But we always find ourselves fighting the very same forces we have from the beginning,” he continued. “You can’t ask Rodney King, you can’t ask Oscar Grant, Philando Castile or Breonna Taylor. Yet we have to continue to hope justice happens because that’s one of the things that keeps us sane and hope keeps us from acting just like them.”

Dr. Leon, a political science professor, author and talk show host, said what the public will see play out likely will be a replay of past cases which allows police officers to kill Black people and end up walking without ever being held responsible or accountable.

“Somebody asked me about the outcome of the trial and I think it will be a hung jury,” he said.

“The defense is appealing to one White juror while explaining how hard it is to be a cop, that cops are here to protect you from ‘them’ as well as the way Chauvin was trained. The defense always plays to win but with a nine-minute video with a knee on Floyd’s neck, they can’t argue the facts but they will argue to racism and racist system because that’s what will save them.

“I pray that I’m wrong. I want to be wrong but history tells me that I won’t be. I’ll bet on history until history tells me to do otherwise,” he added.

911 Dispatcher Jena Scurry is questioned by defense attorney Eric Nelson in the trial of Derek Chauvin. Photo: MGN Online

The first five days of the trial were deeply emotional and raw, exposing the collective sorrow of eyewitnesses whose anger, grief and frustration spilled over from having to watch an innocent, unarmed man die for a $20 counterfeit bill. During their testimonies, almost all the eyewitnesses cried bitter tears as they revisited the trauma giving voice to their helplessness, with several publicly lamenting not doing more to intervene or attempt to stop Mr. Floyd’s death.

“When I look at George Floyd, I look at my dad. I look at my brother. I look at my cousins, my uncles, because they are all Black,” said 18-year-old Darnella Frazier, whose video of the murder went global. “I have a Black father. I have a Black brother. I have Black friends. And I look at that and I look at how that could have been one of them.

“It’s been nights I stayed up apologizing and apologized to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life,” an emotional and audibly shaken Ms. Frazier said March 30.

Cori Harvey, a legal consultant and former law professor in Florida, said her demand of the criminal justice system is simple: “I want people who harm us to be punished the same. What Black people want is that if you commit a crime behind Black people, you are tried and go to jail. That’s all we want. We can’t say that about White on Black crime.

“Everybody’s surprised when the White guy goes to jail or we don’t get the same justice,” she said. “We know when Black people commit a crime, they’re going to jail and some girl will be putting money on the (prison) commissary (account).”

Ms. Harvey, who taught Business Law and Law & Economics, argues forcefully that Blacks should not be waiting for laws to change, but should be about the business of becoming so economically powerful that no one would dare oppose or disrespect them.

“I don’t envision any long-term change,” said Ms. Harvey, a graduate of the Rutgers School of Law-Camden and a former public defender in Philadelphia. “Our problem is that Black people need to make money, period. Economic power means money, ownership and control of who’s in office, influencing politicians and determining that they listen and respond to our needs and concerns.

“We don’t need people marching, we need economic power. Money is power. Imagine if we stop buying products for one day? If we hold onto our iPhones for six more months, the economy would feel it. And if we stopped going to Footlocker, didn’t buy anything for a week, stopped going to restaurants, we’d bring the economy to its knees.”

  
Donald Williams, witness at the trial of Derek Chauvin, charged with killing George Floyd. Photo: MGN Online

Judith Browne Dianis said she has the long view when considering this trial and any potential impact.

“I think at the end of the day, justice doesn’t begin or end with this trial,” said Ms. Browne Dianis, executive director of the Advancement Project, attorney and longtime social justice advocate. “We want justice but we have other work to do. Who can Black people call to get safety from the police is the bigger question. Another question is what is the standard duty of other officers to intervene?

“The trial is important because policing is on trial,” she said.

Blacks are confronting a system that is random and arbitrary when it comes to dispensing justice.

“There are prosecutors, police unions, police officers and legislators who protect the system. We have to keep doing the organizational work towards the types of things that help our communities,” said Ms. Browne Dianis. She pointed to the federal Justice in Policing Act which she said “has some things that could make a difference.”

“But it won’t make the community whole. We need funding resources to protect us, mental health support, housing—all the things for which people are criminalized,” said Ms. Browne Dianis, who leads an organization committed to combating structural racism in education, voting, policing, criminal justice and immigration.



She and other racial justice activists, advocates and policymakers have been working on the Breathe Act, which was developed and written by members of the Movement for Black Lives. She said Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Conn.) has introduced the bill in the House of Representatives.

“This is a big and lofty bill and a marker of where we have to move forward,” she said. “I do think we’re making progress with defunding campaigns and rebuilding the police.”

Ms. Browne Dianis said representatives of racial justice and civil rights organizations, their allies and policymakers have been meeting, looking at issues, and trying to figure out what topics they want to put on the proverbial table as priorities.

“It will be on movement people at the table pushing things that are important to push our community not to survive but to thrive,” she said.

Dr. Ramel Kweku Akyirefi Smith likened the relationship between Blacks and the United States to a domestic violence situation.
Demonstrators gather outside the Hennepin County Government Center, Monday, March 8, 2021, in Minneapolis where the trial for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin began with jury selection. Chauvin is charged with murder in the death of George Floyd during an arrest last May in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

“It’s all a charade and evidence that we’ll never get justice even with eyewitnesses,” said Dr. Smith, a Milwaukee-based clinical and sports psychologist. “It goes back to 1991 when Rodney King was struck 66 times. This was more egregious. George Floyd was not resisting and was probably experiencing high substance abuse psychosis. America has not changed. That man didn’t deserve to die like that.

“Race still reigns supreme,” he said.

“Since George Floyd, how many Black people have been killed and beaten?” he asked. “Twenty-seven million dollars is beautiful but until the way Black people are treated is consistent, it’s just a show. There’s nothing set up in this country for anything to be different.”

The city of Minneapolis announced a $27 million settlement with the family of George Floyd before the trial started.

If America is serious about ending police violence, brutality and murder, Dr. Smith said, the settlement money should come from police union funds, officers’ retirement and other sources directly tied to police officers and law enforcement and not from taxpayers.

There are different laws for Black people, poor Whites, White-collar criminals and a chosen few who don’t care about and live without rules, he argued.

Social justice activists, those in civil rights circles and others view the Chauvin trial as another significant moment and an inflection point in this country’s checkered and sordid judicial history.

The Minneapolis Police Department has a fractured history with the city’s Black residents. Mr. Chauvin had 19 complaints against him but continued unimpeded in his job, and even with a videotape of the Floyd death Black people aren’t sure he’ll be convicted.

When asked if she thought Minneapolis will burn if Mr. Chauvin walks, Ms. Harvey said she’s praying not.

“I’ve been watching the trial. If he gets off, doesn’t get the maximum sentence, people will be pissed,” she said. “I think it will be a problem, a whole situation.

“I foresee marches and protests, no violence. Right now, the Capitol riots are the apex. It is my hope and prayer that BLM protestors don’t top what happened on Jan. 6.”

White America will never accept or respect Black Americans as things currently exist, which necessitates a separation and reparations for slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, White terror and systemic and structural racism which forever leaves Blacks in subordinate positions, argued Dr. Smith, the psychologist.

“Give us land. Give us for every year they oppressed us,” said Dr. Smith. “Subsidize us with money for 246 years of oppression, free education, healthcare, land, something to sustain us. We need to be able to make our own weapons, enter into the G-7. We need power like that enjoyed by China, Russia and Iran. This is our bottom line.

“I’m more convinced than ever that this is the course we need to take. White people still think they are superior and have a sense of entitlement, think ‘I’m better than you.’ No people who have ever been colonized has ever had true equality,” he added. “We’ve been colonized and have never had true equality. We’re still disabled and disadvantaged by being colonized.”

Dr. Smith said he expects that “they will get him on something,” he said referring to Mr. Chauvin, “because they have to give meat to the crowd.”

From The Final Call Newspaper

FOOD SHORTAGES, COVID-19 AND FEARS OF A MAJOR CRISIS

By Nisa Islam Muhammad, Staff Writer
- March 30, 2021


Surrounded by a few volunteers, a man carries food donations from St. Stephen Outreach in the Brooklyn borough of New York, on Friday, March 20, 2020. For decades, American nonprofits have relied on a cadre of volunteers who quite suddenly aren't able to show up. With millions staying home during the pandemic, charities that help the country's neediest are facing even greater need. Many Americans have now been ordered to shelter in place, but there is an exception for people providing essential services, and that includes food bank volunteering. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)


Around the country Covid-19 has impacted the food-supply chain causing disruptions in deliveries, shortages in products and sent millions of people to long lines at food banks. One year into the pandemic, food insecurity continues to grow with people who never thought they would visit a food bank becoming regular visitors—and almost every major food producer still trying to figure out what comes next and how to survive.

Access to food is an increasing concern, Feeding America reported in a March brief, “The Impact of the Coronavirus on Food Insecurity in 2020 & 2021.”

“The pandemic is not yet over, and the future remains tenuous (very weak) for people who have experienced uncertain access to enough food for their families. It is likely that it will take time for food insecurity levels to recover,” the report said.

Boxes of food are distributed by the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, at a drive thru distribution near PPG Arena in downtown Pittsburgh, Friday, April 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

America had a food insecurity problem before Covid-19. That means many people did not have the ability to get enough food, places to get food or the money to meet basic needs, like paying for food. “Though food insecurity is closely related to poverty, not all people living below the poverty line experience food insecurity and people living above the poverty line can experience food insecurity,” observed Feeding America, a group that promotes access to food and ending hunger in the United States.


In this Tuesday, May 12, 2020, photo, Linda Shine secures the second bag of food to her wheelchair after visiting a food giveaway sponsored by the Greater Chicago Food Depository in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood of Chicago. Across the country, food insecurity is adding to the anxiety of millions of people, according to a new survey that finds 37 percent of unemployed Americans ran out of food in the past month, while 46 percent worried that they would. The nationwide unemployment rate on Friday was 14.7 percent, the highest since the Great Depression.(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Food insecurity revealed significant racial disparities before Covid-19 struck. The pandemic only made things worse. Feeding America projects 42 million people, 1 in 8 Americans, including 13 million children, or 1 in 6, may experience food insecurity in 2021 due to Covid-19. Twenty-one percent of Blacks, 1 in 5, may experience food insecurity in 2021, compared to 11 percent of Whites, 1 in 9.

In Baltimore, We Are Us, a community-based organization, responded to the growing need for food at the onset of the pandemic. The group took food to the neediest people in several parts of the city, hitting the East, West and South sides.

“At the close of 2020 we’d given out 1.5 million pounds of food with two to three food deliveries every week, from March last year right into the end of the year. We’re all over the city,” Pastor Derek Hall, the group’s director of outreach, told The Final Call.

“We are serving Black, Brown and White people in need. Whoever comes up to our truck in need, that’s who we serve in East, West and South Baltimore. We schedule a time, let the community know we will be there and bring the delivery truck. The people come and we give out food until it’s all gone. We recognized early this need for food. The pandemic shaped where we go.”

The group gets food from multiple sources including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Baltimore City, Amazon and J.C. Faulk, founder of Circle of Voices and food distributor Blessings of Hope.

“We are looking for additional distributors to meet the growing need. We have continued this year with increasing numbers of families getting in line. You may think it’s just poor people who are getting food from our food bank but that’s not true. We see people leaving their jobs at Johns Hopkins University (a premier university that maintains daily U.S. Covid-19 numbers), getting in their fine cars and driving up to pick up our food boxes. The demand is not slowing down. The demand is growing.”

Lines of cars have been seen in media nationwide as people and families who have lost jobs due to the pandemic, loved ones too sick to work, loved ones who have died due to the virus and any number of other crises that brings them to need help with food.

In Chicago at Mosque Maryam, the National Center for the Nation of Islam, there is a monthly free community food bank. “We call the people we serve our guests or customers. We’ve seen them grow and we’ve seen a diversification as far as the ethnicity of our customers and clients are concerned. We did this for years before Covid-19,” Eugene Khaan, food bank manager, told The Final Call.
 
Sheila Williams, left, who manages the soup kitchen and food pantry at St. Stephen Outreach, tells people waiting in line for their food donations to keep bigger distances between one another, in the Brooklyn borough of New York, on Friday, March 20, 2020. Williams usually has 25 volunteers to feed about 100 people a day at St. Stephen Outreach in Brooklyn. Now she’s down to just 10 volunteers and says that there are more people waiting in line for food. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

“We offer fresh produce from grapes, tomatoes, vegetables, fruits, pastries, and bakery products to our customers. This year brought on a new partner, the Chicago Furniture Bank. I’m proud to say that we have provided furniture for housing apartments for three families this year at no cost to the families.”

The food bank, located on the South Side of Chicago, has also grown to meet increasing demand.The food bank, located on the South Side of Chicago, has also grown to meet increasing demand.

Manufacturers, producers and supply chains suffer

At the beginning of the pandemic many people experienced food insecurity for the first time in their lives. There were supply chain disruptions all over the country. Trucks sometimes didn’t roll and sometimes store shelves were sparse or some shelves were empty. Problems didn’t end with questions about food deliveries, fears grew as Americans wondered if they could get Covid-19 from factories where there were outbreaks among workers or where food was produced.

This fear was caused by Covid-19 outbreaks among slaughterhouse and chicken processing workers around the country that temporarily closed plants. Last May, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union reported more than 10,000 workers had been infected or exposed. In Virginia, at Final Call presstime, a total of 17 Covid-19 outbreaks were identified in meat and poultry processing facilities with 1,306 Covid-19 cases, 53 hospitalizations and nine deaths.

Last August the U.S. Centers for Disease and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the World Health Organization announced that there was no evidence to support transmission of Covid-19 associated with food and there were no reports at that time of any human illnesses that suggested the virus could be transmitted by food or food packaging.

But almost overnight 46 percent of the food service industry disappeared. With lockdowns across the country, restaurants closed. Schools closed. Food that normally went to those sources was now stuck on farms.

FOI unload food for giveaway Feb. 27 in parking lot of Mosque Maryam in Chicago. Photos: Abdul Karriem Muhammad

Some food service programs at Title 1 schools continued during the shutdowns so children would still have access to meals. Title 1, a $15.9 billion expenditure, is the largest federal program that provides assistance to schools where at least 40 percent of the students are low income. Assistance is based on student enrollment, the free and reduced lunch percentage for each school, and other data.

Nationwide, some 50,000 public schools (14.9 million or 64 percent of students) from preschool to high school receive Title 1 funds. Fifty eight percent of all public schools in the U.S. receive Title 1 funding. According to data analysis from the National Equity Atlas, in about half of the largest 100 cities, most Black and Latino students attend schools where at least 75 percent of all students qualify as poor or low-income under federal guidelines.

“Food service orders went to nearly zero,” said Phil Plourd, president of the Services Division of Dairy.com at a Mississippi State University virtual program and discussion of “Food Supply Chain Disruptions During the Covid-19 Pandemic: Lessons Learned and Future Implications.”

“Three hundred fifty million pounds of milk were dumped in April. There is a clock on milk. It spoils. Schools have an issue; eight percent of dairy sales go to schools. With schools closed this has been a problem. Twenty one percent of schools are still in virtual mode but lunch has still not recovered.”

This sudden and immediate supply chain disruption at schools, universities, restaurants, workplace cafeterias, airports, the travel industry and other places forced some producers into the heart-wrenching position of having to euthanize their animals as a last resort. With no place to sell chickens or cattle, growers were looking at going out of business by having raised animals they could no longer sell.
 
Free food and information is given away by Fruit of Islam in Chicago during Saviours’ Day 2021 celebration weekend.

In May 2020, ten million hens were estimated to have been “depopulated” despite six mile long lines at some area food banks. Closed plants meant the animals could not be killed for food.

By June 2020, some 580 farmers had file for bankruptcy, unable to sustain the major losses due to Covid-19. Farmers had to plow under thousands of acres of vegetables, and corn. Prices tanked as Americans stopped driving, cutting the price for ethanol, a corn-based biofuel blended with gasoline. The price for cattle dropped as meatpacking plants became virus hot spots that slowed or stopped production.

The cattle industry is slowly coming back as restaurants start to reopen with in-room dining. The industry was decimated at the beginning of the pandemic. By April, its losses were an estimated $13.6 billion and the numbers continued to climb.

Closed meat processing factories forced owners to look to upgrade and improve conditions for worker safety to prevent additional outbreaks as well as look for new ways to get their products to consumers.

The pandemic changed everything. Small farmers who were used to taking their livestock to commercial processors were suddenly inundated with requests from family and friends for direct sales.

“We’re working overtime to try and keep up with the demand that exists from people buying direct, buying in bulk, just wanting to know where their food comes from,” Tyrone Gustafson told Civil Eats. He owns a small Iowa slaughterhouse and butchering facility, Story City Locker.

In this Tuesday, May 12, 2020, photo, Manson Gibson sits with his box and bag of food as he waits for a ride home at a giveaway sponsored by the Greater Chicago Food Depository in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood of Chicago. Across the country, food insecurity is adding to the anxiety of millions of people, according to a new survey that finds 37 percent of unemployed Americans ran out of food in the past month, while 46 percent worried that they would. The nationwide unemployment rate on Friday was 14.7 percent, the highest since the Great Depression.(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture opened new sales channels for Iowa farmers who use slaughterhouses. The Cooperative Interstate Shipment program promotes the expansion of business opportunities for state-inspected meat and poultry establishments. Under CIS, state-inspected plants can operate as federally-inspected facilities, under specific conditions, and ship their products in interstate commerce and internationally.

The CIS program is limited to plants located in the 27 states that have established a Meat and Poultry Inspection Program and maintain standards “at least equal to” federal regulatory standards.

This program allows small butchers to work together and service their communities.
 
Nation of Islam Waxahachi, Tx., study group gives away free food March 22. Photo: Ben X Facebook

The pandemic shined a light on meatpacking industry inequities. Four firms, Tyson Foods Inc., Cargill Inc., the JBS USA unit of Brazil’s JBS SA and National Beef Packing Co., control more than 80 percent of the beef processing market. Further, federal laws that require large animals to be processed at a slaughterhouse under the supervision of a USDA inspector left many small meat producers nearly out of business.

The Biden administration announced March 24 the allocation of $12 billion for Pandemic Assistance for Producers, which will help farmers and ranchers who previously did not qualify for Covid-19 aid and expand assistance to farmers who have already received help.

Pandemic Assistance for Producers will establish new programs and efforts to bring financial assistance to a broad set of farmers, ranchers, and producers who felt the impact of Covid-19 market disruptions.

More than 110,000 eating and drinking establishments closed for business temporarily or permanently last year with nearly 2.5 million jobs lost from pre-pandemic levels, according to the National Restaurant Association. Restaurant and foodservice industry sales fell by $240 billion in 2020 from an expected level of $899 billion.

Many cities are reopening the restaurant industry slowly and increasing numbers for legal in-person dining. But alongside food delivery services, increasing numbers of people are interested in drive up and curb side services for meals and groceries to continue social distancing. Other services will shop and deliver groceries but that service comes with added fees and costs.

The pandemic produced a new normal where widespread use of takeout and delivery services have become a part of people’s routines. In the National Restaurant Association’s 2021 State of the Restaurant Industry Report, 68 percent of consumers were more likely to purchase takeout from a restaurant than before the pandemic and 53 percent of consumers said takeout and delivery was essential to the way they live. Other key takeaways from the report:

64 percent of delivery customers prefer to order directly from the restaurant and 18 percent prefer to order through a third-party service.

72 percent of adults say it’s important their delivery orders come from a location that they can visit in person—as opposed to a virtual kitchen space.

The report revealed the restaurant and foodservice industry were projected to provide 15.6 million jobs in 2020 representing 10 percent of all payroll jobs. The pandemic caused staffing levels to fall across all restaurant and foodservice areas with restaurant employment below pre-pandemic levels in 47 states and D.C. Key figures on the restaurant workforce include:

62 percent of fine dining operators and 54 percent of both family dining and casual dining operators say staffing levels are more than 20 percent below normal.

There are nearly two million fewer 16-to-34-year-olds in the labor force, the most prominent age cohort in the restaurant industry workforce.

Restaurants were hit harder than any other industry during the pandemic, and still have the longest climb back to pre-coronavirus employment levels.

All this means job losses, especially for adolescents and young adults, higher prices for people like seniors to get the food they need with delivery services sometimes as high as $10 and more and continuing long lines at food banks.

As the food industry recovers, families will also find higher food prices for eggs, fish, poultry, and meat (4.4 percent), as well as milk and other dairy products (3.8 percent) due to higher gas prices, said industry projections.

Do for Self

From backyard gardening to raising chickens to baking bread, the pandemic has encouraged Americans to do something for themselves. Empty grocery shelves due to food supply disruptions, stay at home orders and teleworking has added to the desire to do something with spare time families found themselves with.

Brecks Flower Bulbs analyzed retails sales in 2020 and found which retail sectors had the largest spikes and drops due to the quarantine. Their study found the “gardening industry saw an incredibly healthy spike in revenue, despite Covid-19, sales revenue for the building material and garden retail sector actually increased by 8.6 percent between Spring 2019 and Spring 2020.”

Jennifer Davis was sent home from her job as a consultant with the federal government in March 2020. She began teleworking in Northern Virginia and had more time than she was used to. “I started growing tomatoes and broccoli in my backyard. It was my first garden and I was loving every minute of it,” she told The Final Call. “There were shortages at the grocery store and I had the space in my backyard. That was last year. This year I’m expanding and growing even more things.”

“My neighbor is helping me and we are planning a community garden since I have all of this space. We don’t know when something like this will happen again but we will be ready with food we grow ourselves. We are even canning. My grandmother taught me how to do that.”

About 50 miles outside of D.C. in Damascus, Md., Rhonda Perry has a chicken coop with three chickens.

“I really got them for the eggs. I went to the store and I could only get one carton of eggs. I was stunned. What was going on? I immediately searched for chickens. I have the backyard space and now my friends want fresh eggs too. I want to be able to have eggs when I want them and not have to worry about the next time when things get scarce because I know the next time is coming. I want to be ready.”

Covid-19 brought Americans back to the kitchen. Social media was awash with cooking pictures and classes. Viewers could choose and find a class, how to or someone with guidance to get cooking done. Food shortages also forced families to learn how to make meals with what was in their pantry.

For others, like members of the Nation of Islam, it meant storing and canning food for tough times prophesized to strike America.

Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan, speaking July 4, 2020, and delivering a special message, “The Criterion,” warned the deadly coronavirus is a God-sent pestilence and neither America, China nor others will escape its grip. “You don’t know this virus, it mutates and goes into different directions with a different strain of itself,” he said. The Minister also warned famine was coming to America in association with the coronavirus. He has continued that warning in other messages since last summer.

You have planned death for others and now God is unleashing death on you, Min. Farrakhan said last summer. “We need to call a meeting of Black epidemiologists, virologists, students of biology and chemistry to look at what they give us and we need to give ourselves something better,” he added.

Dr. Ridgely Muhammad runs the 1,556 acres at Muhammad Farms in Georgia owned by the Nation of Islam. The farm grows vegetables like broccoli, eggplant and green beans as well as fruit like watermelons and cantaloupe. Covid-19 brought an increase in customers who wanted to know exactly where their food was coming from and know that it was pure.

He told The Final Call, “We make whole wheat flour, whole wheat pastry flour, cream of whole wheat muffin mix, cream of whole wheat buttermilk muffin mix and more. It’s been challenging to get people back into cooking and baking until people went to the grocery stores and there were no dry beans or flour.

“Covid-19 scared people to death but actually brought them back to life. Now they’re trying to cook. They’re trying to think. We’ve had four times the orders for flour and our other staple goods like navy beans, lentils, raw sugar, soap, salt and coffee. It almost literally broke our backs to try to get all the orders out, but we did it.”

(Final Call staff contributed to this report.)