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Monday, February 6, 2023

Why Black History Will Always Matter

Black History Month 2022 has gotten off to a very inauspicious start. More than a dozen Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have been the target of bomb threats; the National Football League (NFL)— in spite of more than 70 percent of its players being African-American— seems to have a problem hiring black coaches; and in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Amir Locke, a young African-American man, was shot and killed by the police while they were carrying out a search warrant. Locke was not the suspect.  

It appears that in spite of the “progress” we collectively felt we have made, much more work needs to be done. We have to be aware, that in this current climate in this country, there is a determined element that wishes us no good; and this element is capable of targeting HBCUs; Dylan Roof, the young white man who went into a black church and killed nine African-Americans, is not an anomaly. We have to constantly be aware of the need for security, and to be vigilant when we are in public places.  

With regard to the National Football League and its discriminatory hiring practices when it comes to hiring African-American head coaches, you have three separate Americas— America the Good, America the Beautiful, and America the Ugly. Unfortunately, the Ugly is rearing its head in this case. In America, one thing you are always guaranteed is a shot at becoming a success; however, Brian Flores has been systemically denied his chance. He is right in filing a class-action suit against the NFL, and I sincerely hope others in the NFL will join him. Perhaps, in a form of protest where all African-American players, assistant/position coaches for the teams participating in Super Bowl LVI will sit out the first quarter of the game to bring attention to the matter, and send to resounding message to everyone that we collectively have value, and a voice.

President Biden is preparing to name the next nominee for Supreme Court Justice who will be the first African-American woman to be selected in our nation’s history. I support J. Michelle Childs, a federal trial judge in South Carolina. She is a very fine jurist, whose educational background makes her better able to relate to ordinary people— a trait that might appeal to Biden, who graduated from the University of Delaware before attending law school at Syracuse.  Her legal background differs in some respects from the District of Columbia-centric resumes that have become typical for Supreme Court short-listers in recent decades. She did not clerk on the Supreme Court, serve in the Department of Justice, or spend time at a white-shoe D.C. law firm. Instead, she has spent her career in her home state of South Carolina, where she worked at one of the state’s top law firms and then served in two state government agencies. She has extensive experience as a judge— four years in state court and 12 years on the federal bench.

The shooting death of Amir Locke is a result of the collective residue of tremendous prejudice and stereotyping that African-American men are consistently subjected to, on a daily basis. In addition, if we want to be taken seriously, we must do more to address the killing of black men by other black men that goes on in our community. 

By saying this, I am not condoning the behavior of police officers that abuse their authority and subsequently practice misconduct. I just feel that we as a community can and should do more to value our lives and the lives of those who live in our communities. By no means do I believe this is something that will change overnight or in a matter of months but I do believe together, we can change our mindset about how we view ourselves, and one another. Every single day, we are living Black History. Let’s all do more to establish a legacy filled with love, happiness, personal growth and prosperity.    

Imam Alfred Mohammed is emblematic in the tradition of iconic African-American leaders of faith transcending and drawing from religious belief to champion the greater good. Presently, he is the senior Imam at the Harlem Islamic Cultural 

Center, and a seated Councilman for the City of Linden, New Jersey.

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