For many Atlanta is meant to be the Black Mecca, the coming of new south. Yet, Black people still endure oppressive living conditions even today decades after the Civil rights movement.
Let us take a walk back in history.
In 1886, Henry Grady, of the Atlanta Constitution newspaper, announced the imminent “new south”. Jim Crow laws and the Atlanta Race Riot of 1906; the official residential and de facto business segregation, blockbusting ensured segregation function to inhibit the social mobility of Black people. Politically, the Black community endured years of disenfranchisement In 1946, the King v Chapman court case struck down the all-white Georgia primary elections in theory but poll taxes, literacy tests, and the County Unit System would continue to function as mechanisms to prohibit black people from voting in Georgia.
In the wake of Martin Luther King’s assassination, the divisions became more intense for the Black community. In 1973, Atlanta’s black communities, along with coalition of white progressives, elected Maynard Holbrook Jackson as the city’s first black mayor. But despite few good initiatives mostly things remained the same for the marginalized.
In 1980s Reagan and his Reaganomics destroyed the hopes and will of the black community, especially in education and fair housing. Crack and cocaine endemic unleashed systematized the War on Drugs where Black men continued to endure mass-incarceration. The ever growing prison-industrial complex and the militarization of the police ensured the tainting and painting of the Black community as thugs and criminals. In terms of health issues, Aids was a paralyzing blow, with Atlanta’s black populations suffering some of the highest rates of HIV in the world. In 2015, a study conducted by Nate Silver found that Atlanta was the second most segregated city in the U.S. and the most segregated in the South.
The demise of the industrial age and the rise of the information age left Atlanta’s black working classes and poor mired in unemployment. Atlanta became known as the birth place of “trap rap”, a genre of Hip-Hop that highlights the predominance of the drug economy in desolated and impoverished areas in Atlanta. Rapper, T.I has stated that Black communities are refugees of the war on drugs. T.I states the importing of crack were part of an “operation that was intended to cripple and destroy people of color in the undeserved inner cities areas of area.”
In the face of communities devastated by poverty, the war on drugs, and mass-incarceration, there is monumental force giving hope and guidance to Black people in these oppressed urban areas. Terrell Owens whose rap name is Ralo came to prominence as a rapper for Gucci Mane’s 1017 Records.
Though currently incarcerated on drug trafficking charges, Ralo expressed that ”Before Islam, I didn’t have any type of guidance, I wasn’t striving for nothing, I was just a young street nigga out here doing my thing. And Islam, all it talks about is being humble and a better person.”
Seeking to become a better person, Ralo has “made it rain” on the homeless. This carries the very potent message of Islam as a religion that teaches people to care for others. For Ralo the act was a reflection of his Islamic faith that he found while incarcerated.
He said, “Giving away Zakat is a part of my religion,” Ralo also noted that Zakat is Islam’s third pillar that focuses on charitable giving in service to the Allah (SWT).
Indeed Zakat is the pinnacle of Islamic financial system, ensuring the society distributes its wealth in such a way that the deprived ones get their share.
The ‘Famerican Gangster’ rapper has converted an impressive number of people. “I gave out like 700 or 800 Shahada. I got a whole community behind me. My whole crew is Muslim. I’m real deep into it. I’m as deep as it can get. I converted that many people.”
Black Dawah Network is coming to Atlanta
In a YouTube video titled Ralo describes himself as a “walking commercial of Islam.” In one of his songs titled My Brothers Ralo says: “I never turn my back on my brother and I never will.”
We can never turn our back on our Black brothers in the hood. Deeply rooted institutional racism is inhibiting the social economic mobility of Black men. Surely, Black youth in desolated urban areas need a way out of the hood, out of the projects, out the trapped cycle of mass-incarceration and an early death. As respected Brother Bilal Abdullah in a recent lecture stated: “Change your condition by avoiding the pitfalls of white supremacy in the hood. I encourage you to read the Autobiography of Malcolm X, a brother who like you came from the hood, but he fell into the pitfalls but came out of it a new man.”
Surely in Malcolm X lies redemption for the oppressed black masses of Atlanta. The story of Malcolm X remains the perfect example of change and hope. If a man can rise from oblivion and pitfalls to reckoning so can the black young men and women. For Malcolm X the ray of hope and change came in the shape of Islam. It was nothing but the embrace of Islam that became the turning point of his life. From a pimp he transformed into a scholar. From a jailbird he became the most revered figure in the world of Islam of his era.
The story of Malcolm X is not an exception and certainly not a once in a blue moon kind of thing. Islam exists to proclaim the oneness of God and negate racial segregation, exploitation and believes in combating oppression. Islam has uplifted the tribes of the Arabian Peninsula from moral decadence into a rich civilization, it is Islam that built the intellectually thriving University of Sankore in Timbuktu, produced such men as Sultan Muhammad a West African Islamic scholar who mastered Euclidean geography, and shaped the civilization where the wealthy Mansa Musa spent his wealth to build Mosques and Islamic centers of learning.
The Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) taught that, “Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then let him change it his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith.”
The institutional racism that creates such harsh conditions for Black people is an obvious evil and the Muslims must hate it in our hearts, speak out against it with our tongues, and most importantly we must work to change it through communicating the message of Islam within the oppressed urban ghettos so that they may begin to change themselves from the inside so that Allah (SWT) may change the conditions under which many have been forced to live.
For decades Atlanta was heralded as the Black Mecca but the Black community continues to suffer under oppression. Today Black Atlanta needs to look towards Mecca, the real Mecca that is the Mecca of Islam. We can no longer allow the white power structures to hold our people down. From Feb, 22nd to Feb 23rd, 2020, the Black Dawah Network is launching the Malcolm X Annual Day of Dawah.
The Black Dawah Network will be in Atlanta handing out free copies of the autobiography of Malcolm X, The Holy Qu’ran, and offering them the dawah so that they can be inspired to change the conditions inside of themselves. This is the righteous way and the most sagacious means of ending the oppressive conditions of facing Black community in Atlanta. The cure is here to provide Black youth out of the trap of the horrific miseries they face. The Black Dawah Network extends the hand to the oppressed brothers and sisters of Atlanta through the Malcolm X Annual Day of Dawah. If you are a Mosque in or around Atlanta and would like to participate in the Malcolm X Annual Day of Dawah, fill out the following form: