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What If God Was One Of Us?

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  • Ishaq
    http://victoria.indymedia.org/news/2004/09/30041.php What If God Was One Of Us? Maybe you think delusions of grandeur prompt members of the Nation of Gods and
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 6, 2004
      http://victoria.indymedia.org/news/2004/09/30041.php

      What If God Was One Of Us?


      Maybe you think delusions of grandeur prompt members of the Nation of
      Gods and Earths to tell you they're God. But many who've worked with the
      group say these Gods must not be crazy. ...Where black people in
      oppressed communities suffer from inferiority complexes and second-,
      sometimes third-class citizenship, NGE -- like the NOI and even The
      Black Panther movement before them -- aims to empower the disenfranchised.

      What If God Was One Of Us?

      Maybe you think delusions of grandeur prompt members of the Nation of
      Gods and Earths to tell you they're God. But many who've worked with the
      group say these Gods must not be crazy.

      writer: Brentin Mock

      The West End home of Zyhier Allah and Queen Shamika Earth is a meeting
      place for the Gods: Twice monthly their home acts as headquarters for a
      baffling following in our midst called the Nation of Gods and Earths.
      They operate under their acceptance that the black man is God -- as in
      the Alpha and Omega, Yahweh, the Holy Creator, Jehovah, and so on. (Yes,
      that God). Black women similarly are believed here to embody the planet
      Earth.

      Though never achieving mainstream or household familiarity, this
      collective stretches back three generations and crosses a span of 10,000
      black men named Allah. In the Nation of Islam, the religion from which
      their culture emerged, members assume “X” as their last name signifying
      an identity unknown since black people arrived here from Africa.
      Similarly, the men of NGE all assume the last name “Allah” to validate
      their identity as God. The women, meanwhile, assume the last name
      “Earth,” though they were originally called “Nurses” in the nation.

      For the most part, NGE are a highly iconoclastic bunch, dismissing
      symbols such as crosses and rosaries as “spooky.” But nothing’s more
      spooky than their mystifying dialogue where terms such as Islam, peace
      and even the simple conjunction but become acronyms for I study, learn
      and master, positive energy activates constant elevation and born
      universal truth. Even more confusing, abstract nouns like knowledge,
      understanding and equality are used instead of numbers – for example, 7
      o’clock is referred to as “god hour” and the current year is expressed
      as “wisdom cipher cipher wisdom,” all in accordance with their
      bewildering Supreme Mathematics number system. In an age when America’s
      been accused of dumbing down communication, NGE actually complicates
      matters, turning ordinary terms into drawn out phrases.

      “Who is God? Original man is God. Well who is original man?” Zyhier asks
      the young men seated in his living room. “The original man is the
      Asiatic black man, the maker, the owner, the cream of the planet Earth,
      the father of all civilization and God of the universe.”

      Cozy thought for these young divinities-in-training. His living room
      would be just as cozy, maybe, if they were watching The Bernie Mac Show,
      but there’s no TV. There’s one black leather sofa, matching loveseat, a
      flight of stairs and a couple sandbox-sized spaces of mercifully
      carpeted floor to serve as the Gods’ thrones.

      Zyhier, a medical records manager at West Penn Hospital, is chieftain to
      this chapter of NGE, a clan that sprawls across the globe. Here, prayer
      is illogical; there’s no function for churches or mosques; no
      supernatural entity lives beyond our human consciousness; there’s no
      heaven in the skies and if there’s a hell, we’re already there.

      All begins and ends in the hands of these self-proclaimed “poor
      righteous teachers.” “There is no mystery God. [Man] has searched for
      that so-called mystery God for trillions of years but was unable to find
      a mystery God,” reads one of the passages of their teachings called The
      120 Degrees. “So we agree that the only God is the sun of man and we
      will waste no time searching for that which does not exist.”

      Whereas commonly the phrase “son of man” refers to Jesus Christ, a
      figure whose following NGE adamantly eschews, in their culture the
      phrase (spelled “sun of man”) refers to the collective black race. The
      “mystery God” is the entity that most Jews, Christians and Muslims
      believe will deliver our posthumous judgment -- an idea that I Majestic
      Allah, one of the more outspoken Gods, says they respectfully disagree with.

      From the African sculptures and shelves of African history to the
      obscure Blue Note jazz recordings playing in the backdrop of thick
      incense smoke, Zyhier’s home almost fits the bill of ancient royal
      palaces in Zaire, though not as snug. In the lower floor entertainment
      room, gargantuan photo collages hang on walls resembling portals to the
      past. The pictures of NGE family gatherings document changes in trends
      and fashions: polyester slacks and Adidas sweatsuits turn into baggy
      denims; Afros turn into dreadlocks; dreadlocks turn into Caesar cuts;
      and frosty militant poses turn into warm hugs from children and
      grandchildren.

      Heavy, yet pleasant, scented oils blend with aromas of brown sugars and
      spices already in the air. Queen Shamika has prepared salads galore:
      salmon pasta, bean, garden and macaroni. She and the other women present
      have also cooked peas and rice, and that sugary smell is the batch of
      apples they’ve stewed. It’s almost a storybook setting but it’s not so
      peachy here that a God’s wrath won’t be felt.

      “I want everyone in here to turn their pagers and cell phones off
      because all y’all shit is wack,” Zyhier commands.

      What can be made from Zyhier’s grizzly nasal vocal tone and the foreign
      cryptogrammic NGE tongue never immediately makes sense. He’s a bit
      disturbed today and tells his company that he needs to “clean house” for
      a moment before getting into the business agenda he’s called the Gods
      together for.

      “We are the sole controllers. If we are the ones who have the power to
      make things happen, then that means it is not coming from an external
      force. If you tell [people] that there is no mystery God and then you
      disappear … then you become a mystery God yourself.”

      His voice steadily rising, Zyhier finally makes plain why he’s so cross
      today. “All of you got cellphones and pagers but not one of you made
      arrangements to pick up Abu,” Zyhier states vehemently. “It’s an
      injustice that the elder of the nation doesn’t have transportation to
      the rally for the culture he helped born.”

      Just behind him nodding approvingly wearing a black leather baseball
      cap, matching black sweatshirt and jeans and a medley of gold chains
      stands Abu Shaheed Allah, who at 70 years old is the aptly titled
      “elder.” Until now he’s been silent, not owing to humility, but more
      bemoaning the way his brethren have treated him this Sunday afternoon.

      It’s not just that the young Gods disrespected an elder – that wouldn’t
      fly anywhere. No, Abu is more than just a grand-pop figure: He’s the man
      recognized as one who helped give birth to their culture in 1969.

      This is why their shit is wack.

      Thousands of years after the beginnings of major religion, gender
      politics still stirs the waters of theological debate. NGE is no
      exception -- even though they profess they technically are no religion.
      Much emphasis is focused upon “the black man” in NGE and interpretations
      easily could surface that the women’s role is in the kitchen making
      salads. It’s a stone that many in the Judeo-Christian world cast at
      Islam, even though some Christian denominations still prohibit women
      from speaking from pulpits.

      According to Queen Shamika, in a nuclear family the man and woman both
      have their roles. She calls the thinking that women should be equal in
      all respects to men a “slave mentality” developed when women had to head
      the household while men were incapacitated by slavemasters.

      “The universe follows a specific order that’s sun, moon and stars,”
      explains Queen Shamika. “With the family it’s the same way -- man,
      woman, then child; this is what causes harmony. Any woman that wants to
      be above a man is a fool. Give me diamonds, I’m a queen and should be
      treated as such.”

      Needless to say, not all black women see it that way. Members of NGE
      will tell you of women who entered, tasted the fruit and then decided it
      wasn’t for them. Men have done the same, but usually the experience is
      different for women.

      “Sometimes it’s overly pushed where the woman is set in a certain
      position and I saw it as a limitation,” says Janetta Lewis, who once
      studied with NGE, “but it’s peace. So many of our people are lost and
      this sets a very peaceful way of life even if you don’t want to be a
      card-carrying member.”

      Lewis still uses her NGE-given name (Queen Truth Sincerity Earth) and
      still lives by the teachings, but certain things, she says, just won’t
      fly. For example, all women in NGE are expected to have three-quarters
      of their bodies clothed at all times in a symbolic reference to the
      planet Earth’s water coverage -- a mandate Sincerity couldn’t get down
      with. Other than that, though, she says joining NGE, for the brief time
      she was with them, was one of the best things that ever happened in her
      life. She says it encouraged her to pursue a vegan lifestyle and
      provided a sound environment for raising her infant son.

      Gender politics are one thing, but racial politics complicate matters
      further. How should the creed “the black man is God” be interpreted by
      someone of European descent?

      NGE actually has white members who don’t acknowledge themselves as “God”
      nor do others acknowledge them as such. They are referred to as
      “civilized and righteous” by the Gods but could never be considered
      “father of all civilization” -- a title reserved for Gods of the nation.

      “Hey, you can believe what you wanna believe -- if you say you’re God, I
      don’t give a damn,” says Brick, owner of the Time Bomb clothing and
      music store in Shadyside, who is white. “If that’s what makes you rise
      up out of the slums and become more of a man, then, hey, there’s nothing
      wrong with it.”

      While there are no local white NGE members, Brick has worked with the
      local NGE here and has brought Wu-Tang Clan to Pittsburgh for concerts
      and parties. As a staple in the local Hip Hop scene, Brick says he
      encounters Gods and Earths frequently and has conversations about their
      philosophies and worldviews.

      “The [NGE] teachings, for a black man, as I see it aren’t negative --
      even with all the evil twists out there,” says Brick.

      The Gods are known mostly by their community work and the Hip Hop shows
      they’ve staged throughout the city. I Majestic and his brethren
      regularly visit Pittsburgh public schools to tutor and mentor. They’ve
      taken youth on field trips to the Million Man March and also to Harlem
      to visit their national headquarters, called “The Mecca School.” They’ve
      organized protests and class walkouts against police brutality and
      occasionally host “community day” block parties. I Asia Earth heads a
      program called the “Fruit of the Gods,” a daycare service for employed
      parents who can’t afford it elsewhere.

      Moonlighting as a rap group called RXC (Reality Unknown Complex), much
      of their visibility came from Theraputix, their Hip Hop bonanzas held at
      the Kingsley Center in East Liberty. These shows served as a springboard
      for the thriving local Hip Hop scene that exists in Pittsburgh today.
      The draw was low admission costs ($3), educational and inspirational
      music and accessibility to black communities.

      Usually Hip Hop shows are thrown in the Strip District -- not exactly a
      melting pot for Pittsburgh’s oil-and-vinegar racial composition -- where
      blacks would have to spend money and travel some ways to come out. Here,
      Theraputix was right in the front yard of those living in the low-income
      sections of East Liberty. Five years ago it was rare a Hip Hop show
      could be staged featuring only local artists and yield any sizeable
      turnout. But the Gods pulled this off with Theraputix.

      “A lot of artists got their start there,” says Moes, head of Influential
      Flavor, a local promotions company. “It was important as a Hip Hop
      gathering and for upcoming emcees -- a good outlet for the performers to
      get comfortable onstage.”

      Abu is somewhere out here by Addison Terrace Recovery Center on Broad
      Street in East Liberty. You don’t know this street. It’s an alley trying
      to pass for a business district. Across from the rehab, curiously, rest
      two drinking bars whose patrons find it more comfortable to enjoy their
      wine and spirits outside -- never mind that there are no patios on Broad
      Street.

      The crowd assembled where Broad Street crosses an actual alley is a
      motley assortment of winos, street pharmacists, fiends and ex-fiends
      trying to get clean. High school-aged girls strut this strip clad in
      jeans so tight it’s possible they could be leg-long tattoos. Guys sit on
      cars with chrome feet while car stereos blast in the background like
      Shaft theme music.

      There’s no neon sign above Abu’s head making him stand out. You only
      know it’s him because everyone young and old is greeting him as if he
      were a legendary figure. His belief that he is not only God, but father
      to many other Gods, doesn’t compel him to distance himself from what
      society deems its more unsavory characters.

      “I’m the daddy of NGE,” says Abu Shaheed as he greets Cynthia Henry,
      program director of the Addison Terrace Learning Center. His cadence is
      more Redd Foxx than Haile Selassie. He’s reminiscent of an era when
      local barbers were the intellectuals of the black community, chiming
      non-sequiters out of the blue like, You gonna wait for someone to give
      you some pie in the sky? We getting down here on the ground -- but you
      got to be around.

      Abu’s story with the Gods begins in the late ’60s. Under the leadership
      of El Hajj Malik Shabazz (known previously as Malcolm X), the Nation of
      Islam grew into a formidable force. NOI’s demands that black people “do
      for self” and defend themselves against injustices by any means
      necessary were considered terrorism then and today would set off all
      kinds of alarms for Tom Ridge and his homeland security.

      So foreboding was NOI’s presence that J. Edgar Hoover sicked a pitbull
      called COINTELPRO (The FBI’s counter-intelligence program) on them and
      any other group that organized black people under the banner of civil
      disobedience. One of COINTELPRO’s strategies placed undercover agents in
      organizations like NOI to plant rumors and propaganda that would
      instigate internecine feuds.

      That infiltration likely led to the assassination of Malcolm X and the
      ensuing split of NOI into two rival factions. And as these two legs were
      tugged apart, wishbone-style, a small fragment fell to the ground in the
      form of a NOI minister named Clarence 13X (Clarence Jowars Smith), the
      man who gave birth to NGE. Abu, who moved to Pittsburgh in 1983 from New
      York City, was by 13X’s side when he first led the NGE, the Gods claim.

      Luqmann Abdul Salaam, a local historian of Islam, maintains that neither
      NGE nor NOI adhere to the principles outlined in the Que’Ran, and Salaam
      especially decries NGE calling themselves Allah. “These movements are an
      attempt to reconnect or plant our seeds in the same dirt we come from,”
      says Salaam. “All of this is an attempt to shoot our consciences
      overseas to Africa but a lot of it misses. While these are courageous
      attempts, [they] fall short and all that needs to be done is the study
      of history for the accurate details.”

      But NGE doesn’t pretend to abide by any Islamic orthodoxy. Abu draws the
      line where Islam encourages its constituents to read and speak Arabic,
      the language in which the Que’Ran is written.

      “The Arabs now are wearing J. C. Penney while we got black Muslims
      running around here wearing sheets,” says Abu. “The image I project
      reflects the life I live and I ain’t wearin’ no sheets. Right now we
      speak English and anyone on the planet in order to have a successful
      social and economic relationship has to learn how to speak English. I
      ain’t gotta learn no one’s language, they gotta learn mine.”

      Abu’s characteristic bold barks are heard regularly on his Pittsburgh
      Community Television program, Sun of Man, where he lectures
      vociferously, maintaining a serious face while his 4-year-old, Princess
      Jhonaziya Earth, runs around the set. Even if you don’t care for his
      white “serpent” spiels, it’s worth it to see him interrupt his
      explanation of the mad scientist Yacub (who they believe created white
      people during a 600-year experiment) to yell, “Jhonaziya, I said to sit
      down!”

      Callers to his show usually fall into three categories: those familiar
      with him from the community offering support, clergy and scholars
      wishing to debate, and prank callers who call in to tease -- and
      sometimes threaten -- Abu for his views. What seems the most contentious
      is the notion of white people as “devils” that slips into his speech
      occasionally. It’s not a view shared by the younger constituents of NGE,
      but when Abu uses it it’s usually in reference to the colorless callers
      phoning in verbal assaults. In one episode, a caller asked Abu when he
      was going to come to Munhall to fight him, to which he responded,
      “[B]eing a gentleman of advanced age, I’m not going anywhere to fight
      anybody, but if you bring it I’ll send you home with gang. something you
      can show your mama, punk. Next caller.”

      The man who “walked with Allah,” as the Gods say, was for many years
      addicted to the enslaving demon, heroin. Learning this conjures up
      images of Huey P. Newton or Gil Scott Heron, dynamic father figures to
      the revolutionary “black power” movements of the late ’60s and early
      ’70s whose later years were plagued by drug addiction.

      Clean for the past 12 years, Abu is forthright about his drug wrestling
      but says it doesn’t eclipse his designation as God. In fact, he credits
      NGE with helping him win his battles over addiction.

      “I thought I could do wrong the right way,” he says recalling how many
      times he’s been jailed, “but my criminal history shows and proves
      otherwise. We live in an addictive society and products of the
      environment develop addictive personalities. The addictive personality
      thinks that negativity is positive.”

      Abu’s addictions might have cost more than just personal grief, though.
      In 1969, when Clarence 13X was mysteriously murdered, Abu claims says he
      was asked who would now lead NGE. “Strung out like a research monkey,”
      as he tells it, the best response Abu says he could come up with was,
      “not me.”

      Since then NGE has had no central leadership. The rationale among them
      is that with no leader, no one would have a target to assassinate. But
      the result today shows fragmentation and a nation so spread out that
      it’s difficult to maintain communication between Gods and Earths from
      other states and countries -- even as they believe their numbers
      continue to grow.

      “With more quantity you get less quality,” says Abu. “Newer elements pop
      up watering down the solution saying foolish things like [NGE teachings]
      aren’t needed.” Given how many movements wane from their founding
      fathers’ intentions as they grow older, Abu hopes that this doesn’t
      happen to NGE and the principles he helped foster.

      In front of the Addison Terrace Recovery Center, amid the various
      characters scattering the streets like shards of glass, Abu doesn’t have
      to worry about any devils coming from Munhall to “bring it.”

      “Hey, we in a devil-led society. So when you stand up amidst that and
      announce that you are God …” He stops. Only cool laughter follows that
      sounds like he’s coughing to a beat. A toothless man steps forward to
      hug him and all is understood.

      Younger Gods like I Majestic Allah, Knowledge Build Allah, Born Shamir
      Allah and I Asia Earth, each 20 to 40 years the junior of Abu and
      Zyhier, have over the past five years been contributing to the
      solidification of the movement both in Pittsburgh and abroad. They are
      who Abu calls the “elite cadre” of NGE who are not guilty of watering
      down the culture -- and their shit ain’t wack.

      They executed an idea previously only talked about outside of Harlem
      (which they call “Mecca”): holding regional and national conferences.
      For the past two years Pittsburgh NGE has hosted regional conferences at
      the University of Pittsburgh drawing Gods and Earths from all over
      Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and Canada. This weekend, they will be
      hosting a national NGE conference at Pitt.

      The Gods work mainly in East Liberty, Garfield, Homewood and
      Pittsburgh’s poorer communities, but some of their freshest recruits
      were drafted from college. I Majestic, who came to Pitt in 1994 from
      Philadelphia, brought the philosophies he gained as a member of NGE
      since 1991. His parents, Larry Lane and Demress Aliyy -- both still in
      Philly -- raised him in community activism, Sunni (traditional) Islam
      and the canons of Afrocentric worldview – all of these elements serving
      as a foundation for what I Majestic uses the NGE for in communities.

      You won’t find I Majestic, Abu, Zyhier or any other God cloaked in
      extravagant garb. Their look is unapologetically “hood” -- baggy jeans,
      ball caps, Timberland hiking boots -- even the elders. I Majestic
      represents the most modern version of the ever-evolving NGE, and he’s
      responsible for bringing in the local chapter’s newest soldiers, most of
      whom he netted from Pitt. Rarely will you catch him without his God
      squad and the place you can most often catch them is in the Hillman
      Library studying.

      As they pass through the campus, which is hosting a diversity conference
      today, they appear suspicious of the cheery rainbow-coalesced students
      gathered for multicultural workshopping and back-patting.

      “The impetus to even have a diversity conference shows how much money
      these students must have,” says I Majestic. “Poor people don’t care
      about no diversity, they trying to eat.”

      Meanwhile, some of these students, witnesses to Sept. 11 and the
      Islamophobia that followed, may share the same suspicions about the Gods
      in their presence.

      “That bin Laden beard shit is ugly,” murmurs a student, referring to the
      triangular beard protruding from the Gods’ chins. No one seems to hear
      the insult. I Majestic’s mind is somewhere else, perhaps on his classes
      or fund-raising ventures such as selling incense and oils to help pay
      for their upcoming conference.

      Eyeing a flier announcing that Hip Hop culture historian and rap artist
      KRS-ONE will be at Pitt for a teach-in, I Majestic and his crew makes it
      clear that they don’t care to attend.

      “It’s like, [KRS-ONE] is always giving these lectures on Hip Hop culture
      and his ‘Temple of Hip Hop,’” says Born Shamir, sounding a bit annoyed.
      “Kids are out here dying of hunger and can’t read and he’s still trying
      to promote this Hip Hop theory shit.”

      Hip Hop, though, is one tool I Majestic employed to draw people to the
      nation. In fact, Hip Hop culture is the means through which many young
      black men and women were first introduced to NGE. Popular rap artists
      such as Brand Nubian, Rakim, King Sun and Wu-Tang Clan infuse NGE
      teachings into their lyrics, while black and white audiences soak it up.

      Born Shamir and Knowledge Build say Hip Hop is what sparked their
      interest to pursue “knowledge of self” -- a term the nation uses to
      refer to the time when they realized they were God.

      “I would get lightbulbs in my head from hearing Rakim’s lyrics and it
      gave me a reference point for asking questions,” explains Born Shamir.
      “Meeting Majestic, I started to encounter folks who had answers even
      before I asked the questions.”

      Lyrics like, “I’ma let my knowledge be born to a perfection/All praise
      is due to Allah and that’s a blessing,” from Rakim’s song “Move the
      Crowd,” display the quirky phrasings and Islamic references endemic to
      NGE philosophy. That song was recorded in 1986 and to this day Rakim is
      still referred to as “God” in Hip Hop culture.

      Artists including Erykah Badu, Nas, and Common often cite how they’ve
      been tremendously influenced by NGE doctrine. In August of 1997, Badu
      told VIBE magazine, “I’m not part of the [NGE] because I don’t think one
      organization can define your relationship with the Creator, but I
      memorized and understood all the information, and I use it every day.”

      Knowledge Build remembers when he was younger memorizing all the words
      to a song called “Sunshine” by Brand Nubian that espoused NGE teachings,
      but choosing not to fully immerse himself due to his own lack of
      understanding. But after a conversation with I Majestic, though, about
      the song -- and after facing a pork sandwich he was about to rip into
      (much like NOI, NGE believe that pork is an abomination to the body) --
      he began to embrace what the words and the culture stood for.

      Judging from their tone today, though, Hip Hop now is beside the point:
      They decided in February to no longer do Theraputix. Since it began,
      many coalitions have come together to field Hip Hop shows all over the
      city and with a respectable measure of success. But maybe that’s not
      enough, though.

      As Born Shamir says, “Are you doing shows just for the sake of saying
      you did a show, or is it of any benefit to the community?”

      Where black people in oppressed communities suffer from inferiority
      complexes and second-, sometimes third-class citizenship, NGE -- like
      the NOI and even The Black Panther movement before them -- aims to
      empower the disenfranchised. They champion the notion that society’s
      untouchables can be doctors, rappers, collegians, even -- dare we say --
      Gods. So this is why blacks have been able to withstand the debilitating
      effects of slavery, Jim Crow, institutional discrimination, Jheri curls
      and so on; after all, as NGE believe, they’re God.

      Throughout the media, whether it be MTV or The Source magazine, NGE are
      referred to as “Five Percenters,” due in part to their belief that they
      are, as they say, the 5 percent who know the true nature of God while 85
      percent of the population are “dumb, deaf and blind,” and 10 percent of
      the population are brainwashed by preachers, priests, politicians, and
      anyone who they deem false prophets. In Hip Hop culture’s literary
      authority, Hip Hop America, author Nelson George states, “the Five
      Percenter finds power and truth in himself, a philosophy that lends
      itself easily to egotism and spirituality.”

      In many respects, NGE is the new Negro religion. It speaks to the new
      black generation’s challenge, vocalized by spokespeople such as black
      poet Saul Williams, who often wonder how their parents and grandparents
      can continue to practice religions like Christianity and Islam that
      supported slavery. Further, it satisfies the skepticism of the reality
      of a supernatural being governing our lives. NGE believe their teachings
      are supported by science and mathematics, and deny anything that has no
      empirical or historical validation.

      “I don’t like the fact that they don’t believe in God,” says Patricia
      Hudson, whose son, Knowledge Build, lives the life. “But that doesn’t
      mean I don’t like the fact he is a part of this religion. They have a
      warm family atmosphere and I believe it serves as a protection for youth
      from gang-banging and getting into trouble.”

      This type of view is shared by many who can’t digest NGE’s central tenet
      -- the black man is God -- but have no beef because, really, NGE has
      proved no more threatening than a club of Giant Eagle Advantage Card
      holders.

      “I’m tickled black and so proud of him for his service mission of going
      into the community to make a difference in people’s lives,” says Demress
      Aliyy about her son I Majestic. “I’m not concerned with what it’s
      wrapped in because he’s about the business of being about the business
      of black people.”

      “They have a positive agenda of being able to network between community
      organizations to help improve communities,” says Rashaad Byrdsong of the
      Community Empowerment Association, an East End community center. “They
      have been able to organize themselves into a vehicle for social change
      and the young people see the seeds in them for becoming an instrumental
      force.”

      Dessie Bey, a student advisor at Pitt, was a follower of a group called
      the Moorish Science Temple, a group from the ’60s with the same Islamic
      trappings and black empowerment message as the NGE today. Now as a
      member of Mt. Ararat Baptist Church in East Liberty she works with
      grassroots organizations and performs poetry in her spare time. From her
      experience with the MST Bey says she understands why NGE adherents call
      themselves God and predicts that NGE may become an acceptable
      alternative to Christianity.

      “God gave us dominion over all of this Earth, however, [that god] is not
      to be confused with the Supreme God, the creator of the universe,” says
      Bey. “Their philosophy may be controversial, but the bottom line is if
      this way of life can save a soul from destruction then it should be
      embraced as a serious alternative for young people who are
      self-destructing.”

      Back on his PCTV show, Abu takes a break from settling his daughter down
      and fending off the umpteen callers calling him wacko and challenging
      him to brawls for a moment of clarity. Perhaps he realizes the
      volatility of the “white man devil” equation coupled with the “black man
      God” equation and how it can provoke vile reactions in a society where
      we’re supposed to be more guarded with such thoughts. The sentiment is a
      sign of his times when NOI made such public declarations regularly, but
      that was some 40 years ago. Recognizing that riling up his listeners is
      probably counterproductive to getting across his message, Abu offers
      this defense of why NGE exists and is relevant today:

      “I will be neither discouraged [n]or disheartened by the ignorance being
      perpetrated … If God is my father and I’m the son of God then it
      behooves me to be as God-like in my applications on life’s terms as I
      possibly can. And since I’m a righteous man who’s raising my child in
      righteousness and presenting an opportunity by presenting a forum or
      platform for the community to dialogue on some problems, all I’m getting
      is these knuckleheads who ain’t got nothin’ better to do than call up in
      here and talk stupid.”

      Another caller praises Abu’s work and offers to go find the jerks who
      keep heckling him. But Abu says it’s not necessary. The scars on his
      face and neck tell all about the scuffles and wars he’s lived through.
      He’s an old man -- legally blind -- and has no time to play with any
      other kids but the young Princess Jhonaziya now sitting preciously on
      his lap.

      “I really appreciate the support from the community for my endeavors.
      It’s one of the reasons that I’ve been on the air for the past 10 to 12
      years. The community support has encouraged, motivated and inspired me
      to continue on. Can I have the next caller please?”

      http://www.pittsburghcitypaper.ws/prev/archives/covarch/cov02/cv101602.html


      http://victoria.indymedia.org/news/2004/09/30041.php

      What If God Was One Of Us?


      Maybe you think delusions of grandeur prompt members of the Nation of Gods and Earths to tell you they're God. But many who've worked with the group say these Gods must not be crazy. ...Where black people in oppressed communities suffer from inferiority complexes and second-, sometimes third-class citizenship, NGE -- like the NOI and even The Black Panther movement before them -- aims to empower the disenfranchised.

      What If God Was One Of Us?

      Maybe you think delusions of grandeur prompt members of the Nation of Gods and Earths to tell you they're God. But many who've worked with the group say these Gods must not be crazy.

      writer: Brentin Mock

      The West End home of Zyhier Allah and Queen Shamika Earth is a meeting place for the Gods: Twice monthly their home acts as headquarters for a baffling following in our midst called the Nation of Gods and Earths. They operate under their acceptance that the black man is God -- as in the Alpha and Omega, Yahweh, the Holy Creator, Jehovah, and so on. (Yes, that God). Black women similarly are believed here to embody the planet Earth.

      Though never achieving mainstream or household familiarity, this collective stretches back three generations and crosses a span of 10,000 black men named Allah. In the Nation of Islam, the religion from which their culture emerged, members assume “X” as their last name signifying an identity unknown since black people arrived here from Africa. Similarly, the men of NGE all assume the last name “Allah” to validate their identity as God. The women, meanwhile, assume the last name “Earth,” though they were originally called “Nurses” in the nation.

      For the most part, NGE are a highly iconoclastic bunch, dismissing symbols such as crosses and rosaries as “spooky.” But nothing’s more spooky than their mystifying dialogue where terms such as Islam, peace and even the simple conjunction but become acronyms for I study, learn and master, positive energy activates constant elevation and born universal truth. Even more confusing, abstract nouns like knowledge, understanding and equality are used instead of numbers – for example, 7 o’clock is referred to as “god hour” and the current year is expressed as “wisdom cipher cipher wisdom,” all in accordance with their bewildering Supreme Mathematics number system. In an age when America’s been accused of dumbing down communication, NGE actually complicates matters, turning ordinary terms into drawn out phrases.

      “Who is God? Original man is God. Well who is original man?” Zyhier asks the young men seated in his living room. “The original man is the Asiatic black man, the maker, the owner, the cream of the planet Earth, the father of all civilization and God of the universe.”

      Cozy thought for these young divinities-in-training. His living room would be just as cozy, maybe, if they were watching The Bernie Mac Show, but there’s no TV. There’s one black leather sofa, matching loveseat, a flight of stairs and a couple sandbox-sized spaces of mercifully carpeted floor to serve as the Gods’ thrones.

      Zyhier, a medical records manager at West Penn Hospital, is chieftain to this chapter of NGE, a clan that sprawls across the globe. Here, prayer is illogical; there’s no function for churches or mosques; no supernatural entity lives beyond our human consciousness; there’s no heaven in the skies and if there’s a hell, we’re already there.

      All begins and ends in the hands of these self-proclaimed “poor righteous teachers.” “There is no mystery God. [Man] has searched for that so-called mystery God for trillions of years but was unable to find a mystery God,” reads one of the passages of their teachings called The 120 Degrees. “So we agree that the only God is the sun of man and we will waste no time searching for that which does not exist.”

      Whereas commonly the phrase “son of man” refers to Jesus Christ, a figure whose following NGE adamantly eschews, in their culture the phrase (spelled “sun of man”) refers to the collective black race. The “mystery God” is the entity that most Jews, Christians and Muslims believe will deliver our posthumous judgment -- an idea that I Majestic Allah, one of the more outspoken Gods, says they respectfully disagree with.

      From the African sculptures and shelves of African history to the obscure Blue Note jazz recordings playing in the backdrop of thick incense smoke, Zyhier’s home almost fits the bill of ancient royal palaces in Zaire, though not as snug. In the lower floor entertainment room, gargantuan photo collages hang on walls resembling portals to the past. The pictures of NGE family gatherings document changes in trends and fashions: polyester slacks and Adidas sweatsuits turn into baggy denims; Afros turn into dreadlocks; dreadlocks turn into Caesar cuts; and frosty militant poses turn into warm hugs from children and grandchildren.

      Heavy, yet pleasant, scented oils blend with aromas of brown sugars and spices already in the air. Queen Shamika has prepared salads galore: salmon pasta, bean, garden and macaroni. She and the other women present have also cooked peas and rice, and that sugary smell is the batch of apples they’ve stewed. It’s almost a storybook setting but it’s not so peachy here that a God’s wrath won’t be felt.

      “I want everyone in here to turn their pagers and cell phones off because all y’all shit is wack,” Zyhier commands.

      What can be made from Zyhier’s grizzly nasal vocal tone and the foreign cryptogrammic NGE tongue never immediately makes sense. He’s a bit disturbed today and tells his company that he needs to “clean house” for a moment before getting into the business agenda he’s called the Gods together for.

      “We are the sole controllers. If we are the ones who have the power to make things happen, then that means it is not coming from an external force. If you tell [people] that there is no mystery God and then you disappear … then you become a mystery God yourself.”

      His voice steadily rising, Zyhier finally makes plain why he’s so cross today. “All of you got cellphones and pagers but not one of you made arrangements to pick up Abu,” Zyhier states vehemently. “It’s an injustice that the elder of the nation doesn’t have transportation to the rally for the culture he helped born.”

      Just behind him nodding approvingly wearing a black leather baseball cap, matching black sweatshirt and jeans and a medley of gold chains stands Abu Shaheed Allah, who at 70 years old is the aptly titled “elder.” Until now he’s been silent, not owing to humility, but more bemoaning the way his brethren have treated him this Sunday afternoon.

      It’s not just that the young Gods disrespected an elder – that wouldn’t fly anywhere. No, Abu is more than just a grand-pop figure: He’s the man recognized as one who helped give birth to their culture in 1969.

      This is why their shit is wack.

      Thousands of years after the beginnings of major religion, gender politics still stirs the waters of theological debate. NGE is no exception -- even though they profess they technically are no religion. Much emphasis is focused upon “the black man” in NGE and interpretations easily could surface that the women’s role is in the kitchen making salads. It’s a stone that many in the Judeo-Christian world cast at Islam, even though some Christian denominations still prohibit women from speaking from pulpits.

      According to Queen Shamika, in a nuclear family the man and woman both have their roles. She calls the thinking that women should be equal in all respects to men a “slave mentality” developed when women had to head the household while men were incapacitated by slavemasters.

      “The universe follows a specific order that’s sun, moon and stars,” explains Queen Shamika. “With the family it’s the same way -- man, woman, then child; this is what causes harmony. Any woman that wants to be above a man is a fool. Give me diamonds, I’m a queen and should be treated as such.”

      Needless to say, not all black women see it that way. Members of NGE will tell you of women who entered, tasted the fruit and then decided it wasn’t for them. Men have done the same, but usually the experience is different for women.

      “Sometimes it’s overly pushed where the woman is set in a certain position and I saw it as a limitation,” says Janetta Lewis, who once studied with NGE, “but it’s peace. So many of our people are lost and this sets a very peaceful way of life even if you don’t want to be a card-carrying member.”

      Lewis still uses her NGE-given name (Queen Truth Sincerity Earth) and still lives by the teachings, but certain things, she says, just won’t fly. For example, all women in NGE are expected to have three-quarters of their bodies clothed at all times in a symbolic reference to the planet Earth’s water coverage -- a mandate Sincerity couldn’t get down with. Other than that, though, she says joining NGE, for the brief time she was with them, was one of the best things that ever happened in her life. She says it encouraged her to pursue a vegan lifestyle and provided a sound environment for raising her infant son.

      Gender politics are one thing, but racial politics complicate matters further. How should the creed “the black man is God” be interpreted by someone of European descent?

      NGE actually has white members who don’t acknowledge themselves as “God” nor do others acknowledge them as such. They are referred to as “civilized and righteous” by the Gods but could never be considered “father of all civilization” -- a title reserved for Gods of the nation.

      “Hey, you can believe what you wanna believe -- if you say you’re God, I don’t give a damn,” says Brick, owner of the Time Bomb clothing and music store in Shadyside, who is white. “If that’s what makes you rise up out of the slums and become more of a man, then, hey, there’s nothing wrong with it.”

      While there are no local white NGE members, Brick has worked with the local NGE here and has brought Wu-Tang Clan to Pittsburgh for concerts and parties. As a staple in the local Hip Hop scene, Brick says he encounters Gods and Earths frequently and has conversations about their philosophies and worldviews.

      “The [NGE] teachings, for a black man, as I see it aren’t negative -- even with all the evil twists out there,” says Brick.

      The Gods are known mostly by their community work and the Hip Hop shows they’ve staged throughout the city. I Majestic and his brethren regularly visit Pittsburgh public schools to tutor and mentor. They’ve taken youth on field trips to the Million Man March and also to Harlem to visit their national headquarters, called “The Mecca School.” They’ve organized protests and class walkouts against police brutality and occasionally host “community day” block parties. I Asia Earth heads a program called the “Fruit of the Gods,” a daycare service for employed parents who can’t afford it elsewhere.

      Moonlighting as a rap group called RXC (Reality Unknown Complex), much of their visibility came from Theraputix, their Hip Hop bonanzas held at the Kingsley Center in East Liberty. These shows served as a springboard for the thriving local Hip Hop scene that exists in Pittsburgh today. The draw was low admission costs ($3), educational and inspirational music and accessibility to black communities.

      Usually Hip Hop shows are thrown in the Strip District -- not exactly a melting pot for Pittsburgh’s oil-and-vinegar racial composition -- where blacks would have to spend money and travel some ways to come out. Here, Theraputix was right in the front yard of those living in the low-income sections of East Liberty. Five years ago it was rare a Hip Hop show could be staged featuring only local artists and yield any sizeable turnout. But the Gods pulled this off with Theraputix.

      “A lot of artists got their start there,” says Moes, head of Influential Flavor, a local promotions company. “It was important as a Hip Hop gathering and for upcoming emcees -- a good outlet for the performers to get comfortable onstage.”

      Abu is somewhere out here by Addison Terrace Recovery Center on Broad Street in East Liberty. You don’t know this street. It’s an alley trying to pass for a business district. Across from the rehab, curiously, rest two drinking bars whose patrons find it more comfortable to enjoy their wine and spirits outside -- never mind that there are no patios on Broad Street.

      The crowd assembled where Broad Street crosses an actual alley is a motley assortment of winos, street pharmacists, fiends and ex-fiends trying to get clean. High school-aged girls strut this strip clad in jeans so tight it’s possible they could be leg-long tattoos. Guys sit on cars with chrome feet while car stereos blast in the background like Shaft theme music.

      There’s no neon sign above Abu’s head making him stand out. You only know it’s him because everyone young and old is greeting him as if he were a legendary figure. His belief that he is not only God, but father to many other Gods, doesn’t compel him to distance himself from what society deems its more unsavory characters.

      “I’m the daddy of NGE,” says Abu Shaheed as he greets Cynthia Henry, program director of the Addison Terrace Learning Center. His cadence is more Redd Foxx than Haile Selassie. He’s reminiscent of an era when local barbers were the intellectuals of the black community, chiming non-sequiters out of the blue like, You gonna wait for someone to give you some pie in the sky? We getting down here on the ground -- but you got to be around.

      Abu’s story with the Gods begins in the late ’60s. Under the leadership of El Hajj Malik Shabazz (known previously as Malcolm X), the Nation of Islam grew into a formidable force. NOI’s demands that black people “do for self” and defend themselves against injustices by any means necessary were considered terrorism then and today would set off all kinds of alarms for Tom Ridge and his homeland security.

      So foreboding was NOI’s presence that J. Edgar Hoover sicked a pitbull called COINTELPRO (The FBI’s counter-intelligence program) on them and any other group that organized black people under the banner of civil disobedience. One of COINTELPRO’s strategies placed undercover agents in organizations like NOI to plant rumors and propaganda that would instigate internecine feuds.

      That infiltration likely led to the assassination of Malcolm X and the ensuing split of NOI into two rival factions. And as these two legs were tugged apart, wishbone-style, a small fragment fell to the ground in the form of a NOI minister named Clarence 13X (Clarence Jowars Smith), the man who gave birth to NGE. Abu, who moved to Pittsburgh in 1983 from New York City, was by 13X’s side when he first led the NGE, the Gods claim.

      Luqmann Abdul Salaam, a local historian of Islam, maintains that neither NGE nor NOI adhere to the principles outlined in the Que’Ran, and Salaam especially decries NGE calling themselves Allah. “These movements are an attempt to reconnect or plant our seeds in the same dirt we come from,” says Salaam. “All of this is an attempt to shoot our consciences overseas to Africa but a lot of it misses. While these are courageous attempts, [they] fall short and all that needs to be done is the study of history for the accurate details.”

      But NGE doesn’t pretend to abide by any Islamic orthodoxy. Abu draws the line where Islam encourages its constituents to read and speak Arabic, the language in which the Que’Ran is written.

      “The Arabs now are wearing J. C. Penney while we got black Muslims running around here wearing sheets,” says Abu. “The image I project reflects the life I live and I ain’t wearin’ no sheets. Right now we speak English and anyone on the planet in order to have a successful social and economic relationship has to learn how to speak English. I ain’t gotta learn no one’s language, they gotta learn mine.”

      Abu’s characteristic bold barks are heard regularly on his Pittsburgh Community Television program, Sun of Man, where he lectures vociferously, maintaining a serious face while his 4-year-old, Princess Jhonaziya Earth, runs around the set. Even if you don’t care for his white “serpent” spiels, it’s worth it to see him interrupt his explanation of the mad scientist Yacub (who they believe created white people during a 600-year experiment) to yell, “Jhonaziya, I said to sit down!”

      Callers to his show usually fall into three categories: those familiar with him from the community offering support, clergy and scholars wishing to debate, and prank callers who call in to tease -- and sometimes threaten -- Abu for his views. What seems the most contentious is the notion of white people as “devils” that slips into his speech occasionally. It’s not a view shared by the younger constituents of NGE, but when Abu uses it it’s usually in reference to the colorless callers phoning in verbal assaults. In one episode, a caller asked Abu when he was going to come to Munhall to fight him, to which he responded, “[B]eing a gentleman of advanced age, I’m not going anywhere to fight anybody, but if you bring it I’ll send you home with gang. something you can show your mama, punk. Next caller.”

      The man who “walked with Allah,” as the Gods say, was for many years addicted to the enslaving demon, heroin. Learning this conjures up images of Huey P. Newton or Gil Scott Heron, dynamic father figures to the revolutionary “black power” movements of the late ’60s and early ’70s whose later years were plagued by drug addiction.

      Clean for the past 12 years, Abu is forthright about his drug wrestling but says it doesn’t eclipse his designation as God. In fact, he credits NGE with helping him win his battles over addiction.

      “I thought I could do wrong the right way,” he says recalling how many times he’s been jailed, “but my criminal history shows and proves otherwise. We live in an addictive society and products of the environment develop addictive personalities. The addictive personality thinks that negativity is positive.”

      Abu’s addictions might have cost more than just personal grief, though. In 1969, when Clarence 13X was mysteriously murdered, Abu claims says he was asked who would now lead NGE. “Strung out like a research monkey,” as he tells it, the best response Abu says he could come up with was, “not me.”

      Since then NGE has had no central leadership. The rationale among them is that with no leader, no one would have a target to assassinate. But the result today shows fragmentation and a nation so spread out that it’s difficult to maintain communication between Gods and Earths from other states and countries -- even as they believe their numbers continue to grow.

      “With more quantity you get less quality,” says Abu. “Newer elements pop up watering down the solution saying foolish things like [NGE teachings] aren’t needed.” Given how many movements wane from their founding fathers’ intentions as they grow older, Abu hopes that this doesn’t happen to NGE and the principles he helped foster.

      In front of the Addison Terrace Recovery Center, amid the various characters scattering the streets like shards of glass, Abu doesn’t have to worry about any devils coming from Munhall to “bring it.”

      “Hey, we in a devil-led society. So when you stand up amidst that and announce that you are God …” He stops. Only cool laughter follows that sounds like he’s coughing to a beat. A toothless man steps forward to hug him and all is understood.

      Younger Gods like I Majestic Allah, Knowledge Build Allah, Born Shamir Allah and I Asia Earth, each 20 to 40 years the junior of Abu and Zyhier, have over the past five years been contributing to the solidification of the movement both in Pittsburgh and abroad. They are who Abu calls the “elite cadre” of NGE who are not guilty of watering down the culture -- and their shit ain’t wack.

      They executed an idea previously only talked about outside of Harlem (which they call “Mecca”): holding regional and national conferences. For the past two years Pittsburgh NGE has hosted regional conferences at the University of Pittsburgh drawing Gods and Earths from all over Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and Canada. This weekend, they will be hosting a national NGE conference at Pitt.

      The Gods work mainly in East Liberty, Garfield, Homewood and Pittsburgh’s poorer communities, but some of their freshest recruits were drafted from college. I Majestic, who came to Pitt in 1994 from Philadelphia, brought the philosophies he gained as a member of NGE since 1991. His parents, Larry Lane and Demress Aliyy -- both still in Philly -- raised him in community activism, Sunni (traditional) Islam and the canons of Afrocentric worldview – all of these elements serving as a foundation for what I Majestic uses the NGE for in communities.

      You won’t find I Majestic, Abu, Zyhier or any other God cloaked in extravagant garb. Their look is unapologetically “hood” -- baggy jeans, ball caps, Timberland hiking boots -- even the elders. I Majestic represents the most modern version of the ever-evolving NGE, and he’s responsible for bringing in the local chapter’s newest soldiers, most of whom he netted from Pitt. Rarely will you catch him without his God squad and the place you can most often catch them is in the Hillman Library studying.

      As they pass through the campus, which is hosting a diversity conference today, they appear suspicious of the cheery rainbow-coalesced students gathered for multicultural workshopping and back-patting.

      “The impetus to even have a diversity conference shows how much money these students must have,” says I Majestic. “Poor people don’t care about no diversity, they trying to eat.”

      Meanwhile, some of these students, witnesses to Sept. 11 and the Islamophobia that followed, may share the same suspicions about the Gods in their presence.

      “That bin Laden beard shit is ugly,” murmurs a student, referring to the triangular beard protruding from the Gods’ chins. No one seems to hear the insult. I Majestic’s mind is somewhere else, perhaps on his classes or fund-raising ventures such as selling incense and oils to help pay for their upcoming conference.

      Eyeing a flier announcing that Hip Hop culture historian and rap artist KRS-ONE will be at Pitt for a teach-in, I Majestic and his crew makes it clear that they don’t care to attend.

      “It’s like, [KRS-ONE] is always giving these lectures on Hip Hop culture and his ‘Temple of Hip Hop,’” says Born Shamir, sounding a bit annoyed. “Kids are out here dying of hunger and can’t read and he’s still trying to promote this Hip Hop theory shit.”

      Hip Hop, though, is one tool I Majestic employed to draw people to the nation. In fact, Hip Hop culture is the means through which many young black men and women were first introduced to NGE. Popular rap artists such as Brand Nubian, Rakim, King Sun and Wu-Tang Clan infuse NGE teachings into their lyrics, while black and white audiences soak it up.

      Born Shamir and Knowledge Build say Hip Hop is what sparked their interest to pursue “knowledge of self” -- a term the nation uses to refer to the time when they realized they were God.

      “I would get lightbulbs in my head from hearing Rakim’s lyrics and it gave me a reference point for asking questions,” explains Born Shamir. “Meeting Majestic, I started to encounter folks who had answers even before I asked the questions.”

      Lyrics like, “I’ma let my knowledge be born to a perfection/All praise is due to Allah and that’s a blessing,” from Rakim’s song “Move the Crowd,” display the quirky phrasings and Islamic references endemic to NGE philosophy. That song was recorded in 1986 and to this day Rakim is still referred to as “God” in Hip Hop culture.

      Artists including Erykah Badu, Nas, and Common often cite how they’ve been tremendously influenced by NGE doctrine. In August of 1997, Badu told VIBE magazine, “I’m not part of the [NGE] because I don’t think one organization can define your relationship with the Creator, but I memorized and understood all the information, and I use it every day.”

      Knowledge Build remembers when he was younger memorizing all the words to a song called “Sunshine” by Brand Nubian that espoused NGE teachings, but choosing not to fully immerse himself due to his own lack of understanding. But after a conversation with I Majestic, though, about the song -- and after facing a pork sandwich he was about to rip into (much like NOI, NGE believe that pork is an abomination to the body) -- he began to embrace what the words and the culture stood for.

      Judging from their tone today, though, Hip Hop now is beside the point: They decided in February to no longer do Theraputix. Since it began, many coalitions have come together to field Hip Hop shows all over the city and with a respectable measure of success. But maybe that’s not enough, though.

      As Born Shamir says, “Are you doing shows just for the sake of saying you did a show, or is it of any benefit to the community?”

      Where black people in oppressed communities suffer from inferiority complexes and second-, sometimes third-class citizenship, NGE -- like the NOI and even The Black Panther movement before them -- aims to empower the disenfranchised. They champion the notion that society’s untouchables can be doctors, rappers, collegians, even -- dare we say -- Gods. So this is why blacks have been able to withstand the debilitating effects of slavery, Jim Crow, institutional discrimination, Jheri curls and so on; after all, as NGE believe, they’re God.

      Throughout the media, whether it be MTV or The Source magazine, NGE are referred to as “Five Percenters,” due in part to their belief that they are, as they say, the 5 percent who know the true nature of God while 85 percent of the population are “dumb, deaf and blind,” and 10 percent of the population are brainwashed by preachers, priests, politicians, and anyone who they deem false prophets. In Hip Hop culture’s literary authority, Hip Hop America, author Nelson George states, “the Five Percenter finds power and truth in himself, a philosophy that lends itself easily to egotism and spirituality.”

      In many respects, NGE is the new Negro religion. It speaks to the new black generation’s challenge, vocalized by spokespeople such as black poet Saul Williams, who often wonder how their parents and grandparents can continue to practice religions like Christianity and Islam that supported slavery. Further, it satisfies the skepticism of the reality of a supernatural being governing our lives. NGE believe their teachings are supported by science and mathematics, and deny anything that has no empirical or historical validation.

      “I don’t like the fact that they don’t believe in God,” says Patricia Hudson, whose son, Knowledge Build, lives the life. “But that doesn’t mean I don’t like the fact he is a part of this religion. They have a warm family atmosphere and I believe it serves as a protection for youth from gang-banging and getting into trouble.”

      This type of view is shared by many who can’t digest NGE’s central tenet -- the black man is God -- but have no beef because, really, NGE has proved no more threatening than a club of Giant Eagle Advantage Card holders.

      “I’m tickled black and so proud of him for his service mission of going into the community to make a difference in people’s lives,” says Demress Aliyy about her son I Majestic. “I’m not concerned with what it’s wrapped in because he’s about the business of being about the business of black people.”

      “They have a positive agenda of being able to network between community organizations to help improve communities,” says Rashaad Byrdsong of the Community Empowerment Association, an East End community center. “They have been able to organize themselves into a vehicle for social change and the young people see the seeds in them for becoming an instrumental force.”

      Dessie Bey, a student advisor at Pitt, was a follower of a group called the Moorish Science Temple, a group from the ’60s with the same Islamic trappings and black empowerment message as the NGE today. Now as a member of Mt. Ararat Baptist Church in East Liberty she works with grassroots organizations and performs poetry in her spare time. From her experience with the MST Bey says she understands why NGE adherents call themselves God and predicts that NGE may become an acceptable alternative to Christianity.

      “God gave us dominion over all of this Earth, however, [that god] is not to be confused with the Supreme God, the creator of the universe,” says Bey. “Their philosophy may be controversial, but the bottom line is if this way of life can save a soul from destruction then it should be embraced as a serious alternative for young people who are self-destructing.”

      Back on his PCTV show, Abu takes a break from settling his daughter down and fending off the umpteen callers calling him wacko and challenging him to brawls for a moment of clarity. Perhaps he realizes the volatility of the “white man devil” equation coupled with the “black man God” equation and how it can provoke vile reactions in a society where we’re supposed to be more guarded with such thoughts. The sentiment is a sign of his times when NOI made such public declarations regularly, but that was some 40 years ago. Recognizing that riling up his listeners is probably counterproductive to getting across his message, Abu offers this defense of why NGE exists and is relevant today:

      “I will be neither discouraged [n]or disheartened by the ignorance being perpetrated … If God is my father and I’m the son of God then it behooves me to be as God-like in my applications on life’s terms as I possibly can. And since I’m a righteous man who’s raising my child in righteousness and presenting an opportunity by presenting a forum or platform for the community to dialogue on some problems, all I’m getting is these knuckleheads who ain’t got nothin’ better to do than call up in here and talk stupid.”

      Another caller praises Abu’s work and offers to go find the jerks who keep heckling him. But Abu says it’s not necessary. The scars on his face and neck tell all about the scuffles and wars he’s lived through. He’s an old man -- legally blind -- and has no time to play with any other kids but the young Princess Jhonaziya now sitting preciously on his lap.

      “I really appreciate the support from the community for my endeavors. It’s one of the reasons that I’ve been on the air for the past 10 to 12 years. The community support has encouraged, motivated and inspired me to continue on. Can I have the next caller please?”

      http://www.pittsburghcitypaper.ws/prev/archives/covarch/cov02/cv101602.html




      ___\
      Stay Strong\
      \
      "Be a friend to the oppressed and an enemy to the oppressor" \
      --Imam Ali Ibn Abu Talib (as)\
      \
      "This mathematical rhythmatical mechanism enhances my wisdom\
      of Islam, keeps me calm from doing you harm, when I attack, it's Vietnam"\
      --HellRazah\
      \
      "It's not too good to stay in a white man's country too long"\
      --Mutabartuka\
      \
      "Everyday is Ashura and every land is Kerbala"\
      -Imam Ja'far Sadiq\
      \
      http://resist.ca/story/2004/7/27/202911/746\
      \
      http://www.sleepybrain.net/vanilla.html\
      \
      http://ilovepoetry.com/search.asp?keywords=braithwaite&orderBy=date\
      \
      http://www.lowliferecords.co.uk/\
      \
      }
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