(originally published Aug. 2006)
This is a follow up to The Black House News (BHN) feature, “The True History of Malcolm X and the NOI,” an account relayed by Abdul Wazir Muhammad (AWM), Emeritus Minister for the NOI who has long resided in the Los Angeles, California area. Formerly the Western Regional Minister for the NOI, he remains active today traveling and assisting the younger ministers now serving in the NOI’s vast Western region. In this BHN interview, he shares more of his recollections of Malcolm X and others including Brothers Jabril, Lucius Bey, Abdul Allah and Khalid Abdul Muhammad.
(BHN) – You were previously talking about Malcolm X bringing Bro. Jabril and four others from New York to Los Angeles in the 1950s.
(AWM) – Bro. Jabril was brought to L.A. We didn’t have a [temple] number then but it was the fastest growing [temple] in the nation at that time. It is now Mosque #27, [headquarters for the Nation of Islam's Western region.] What had happened, there was a brother named Thomas J. who went to San Diego and asked Min. Majied, the Minister of [Temple] #8 which was the first [temple] on the west coast, to come down. [Bro. Thomas] was having meetings in his home and [things] spread fast enough to the point where we had secured – not we, because I wasn’t a Muslim then, matter of fact, I was in jail as usual – but they were having meetings in the house and it was very successful. They started meeting first over on Washington in the theater, after that, they had the Masonic Hall which was on Normandy and Jefferson.
There was a group of brothers on the street that heard Islam from a brother that had come from New York. I think [he was] originally a 5 percenter but at that time the difference wasn’t all that pertinent because there was no established Islam period. When we got that hall, Bro. Malcolm started coming and all those brothers came together and formed the foundation of the temple]. It was growing so fast that Malcolm brought five brothers from New York to help us get organized and get the temple established. Out of those five, Bro. Jabril – who at that time was Bernard E. X, slave name Moore – he was brought to become the secretary. There was a brother named Henry who was out of [Temple] #7 and he was the minister; a brother named Larry was [the] captain, and two other brothers: Adam D., who was a teacher and I can’t remember the other brother’s name.
At the time they came, the minister in San Diego, was in an industrial accident. He was buried under tons of dirt [with] a Caucasian – one of his fellow workers who [died] – but Allah blessed him, got air to him and he was hospitalized and then convalescent for awhile. Two of the brothers went down [to San Diego] and manned that temple and Brothers Jabril, Larry and Henry stayed with us to show us how an Islamic program went.
(BHN) – Was it Malcolm’s decision to bring the five from N.Y. or did he have to clear that through Elijah Muhammad?
(AWM) - I’m certain he cleared it because Malcolm’s dedication and obedience to Elijah Muhammad is not the kind of thing that is portrayed by the media. [He] was a very devoted and very obedient person in the work that he did. He got the wisdom to do it from Elijah Muhammad; the way to do, what to do and all of that. He was just an executor of the kinds of things that Allah sent him to do. He more or less went around the country working, setting up and organizing [temples] – this is the kind of work he was doing. Everything he did, he did it in the name of Elijah Muhammad.
However there were things, because he was the man in front of our face, there were certain things that we thought were Elijah Muhammad, [but they weren't]. (Not talking about the doctrine). Like, we all used to wear white socks and we thought Elijah Muhammad always wore white socks and [when] we saw him, he had on colored socks. It was Malcolm who wore white socks because he had trouble with his feet and the dye in the socks would cause trouble. We [were] all doing something we thought The Lamb was doing but Malcolm was doing it. That, [however], didn’t make a big difference.
Bro. Jabril’s impact in the West
Although Bro. Jabril was not brought to be the minister, he had a greater knowledge of Islam, he knew the program. He knew The Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s word and that it was in fact the source of what we were about so he studied it very well. We didn’t have books but he had gotten Elijah Muhammad’s articles out of the Pittsburgh Courier Newspaper. He showed us how to study and get Elijah Muhammad’s word so that when we started reading Quran and Bible we would really understand what it was because the understanding was in understanding the word of Elijah Muhammad.
Because of the knowledge that [Bro. Jabril] had, the people who emerged as the laborers, who consequently are responsible for the Islam that was established out on the West Coast, all of them gravitated to him. Bro. Henry was a wonderful brother and a good speaker but he did not have the knowledge of Islam as Bro. Jabril did. Prophet Muhammad said one learned man is more destructive to the devil than 1000 pious worshipers, so as a result of Bro. Jabril being so studied, men began to grow in Islam. That’s the basis of how things started on the West coast and we grew so fast that we outgrew the brother that was the minister.
It got to the point where young people, who were developing from the ranks, were merging in on the leadership and really were being taught, by Bro. Jabril, the Islam that was necessary to take root. They were getting fed more [from Bro. Jabril] than they were getting fed by [Bro. Henry] and in a sense of speaking, they outgrew [Bro. Henry.] He was transferred later down to Miami.
The believers [in L.A.] were a combination of those who came as a result of Min. Malcolm coming; [along with] Min. Majied, (Henry X at that time), coming to the house and teaching, and this contingent that I now identify as 5 percenters. We all became one group and Allah allowed us to be able to establish Islam then. We were under Muhammad’s [Temple] of Islam.
Root firmly planted in the Inland/Empire area
[At one point,] I went with [Bro. Jabril] the first lecture he delivered in
Riverside and the title was “The Coming of the Son of Man” and he took about four hours. To this day I’ve never witnessed such a well organized – he tried to be so much in depth and when [the people] left there, everybody was crazy because Elijah Muhammad had written a series, “The Coming of the Son of Man,” in the Pittsburgh Courier. [Bro. Jabril] studied those articles and had the thing organized. We’re talking so far back [but] that’s something I’ll never forget.
(BHN) – How did the people respond?
(AWM) - Riverside, San Bernadino and Empire had been problematic since the beginning. As a tactic of Elijah Muhammad, the way he spread Islam from coast to coast and border to border, he put 52 articles in the Amsterdam News [in N.Y.] and that covered the East coast. He put 52 [of the] same articles in the Herald Dispatch Newspaper [in L.A.] and that covered the West coast. He filled America with sunshine and Jabril planted Islam in the manner he saw his leader do it.
Right now, if you go out into Inland and Empire, that area, I see some of the older brothers that are laborers. Bro. Karriem, [the minister in Rialto], he’s got a group of [them] that really, we were younger brothers together then and we soldiered bringing Islam out to San Bernardino and Riverside. That’s the Inland Empire area where Bro. Karriem is now. Those [older] brothers all are his staunchest supporters [and] seem to be better than the young ones. They’re the back row of elders, the “Over the Hill Gang” I call them. They back the young minister up so very well because the root was planted through Bro. Jabril.
Early days with Abdul Allah and Abdul Wazir
Malcolm brought the [five] people that I told you, Bro. Jabril was one of them and he automatically sought out the people who were most promising to be of help and Abdul Allah was one of them.
My two mentors were Bro. Jabril and Abdul Allah Muhammad, who was John Shabazz [slave name Morrison] at that time. [Bro. John and I] worked at the post office together and we were attracted to each other because of our dissatisfactions. I had gotten to the point where I was not satisfied with anything that was going on. They were always partying at his house so after everything was over with, on Friday nights I would always go to his house and there was always a lot of people there. They would be partying but when I would go there the partying would stop for the two of us and while everybody was doing what they were doing, we were drinking and smoking weed but we were dealing with how dissatisfied we were. We were dealing with ideas, not just making merry.
One time he ran into a Muslim [and] when I came over, he was talking
something different and after awhile it wasn’t dissatisfaction so much as it was that which dissatisfaction brings about and it was a change. I was seeing something. Bro. John was very wise about the way he did it. He started giving me the teachings of Islam but he wouldn’t put a label on it because he knew how I felt about religion. That was the early part of 1957. I was headed for jail – had to do a year and that’s when I decided to become a Muslim. When I got out at the end of 1957, I went straight to the temple.
(BHN) – When did you become a minister?
(AWM) - Officially in 1961. The first lecture I heard – whatever was taught, I would go to the projects and there would be a lot of people waiting for me because I got this new word and it was very attractive because it was unknown but it was a solution people were in love with. I would teach what the minister taught then I would bring the people, who listened and were interested, with me the next Sunday.
I would go back again and the people who were there would bring more people and I ‘d have a new lecture. Then Bro. Min. John was given the authorization to teach in a little small temple that was opened up on the East side and he selected me to go with him as a helper. It was right by Fremont High School which was largely Black populated at that time, so that was good fishing ground. We would teach on Wednesday night and would get all those students over there and then we’d take them to the main temple on Sunday. I started opening up for [Min. John] and that was my beginning. In 1961 I was sent to Long Beach.
Abdul Allah, he later became the West Coast Representative and he was named John Shabazz by Elijah Muhammad. (After Min. Farrakhan stood up to rebuild the work, John came back to help and Min. Farrakhan renamed him Abdul Allah.)
More memories of Malcolm
Bro. Jabril when he was , he was the captain in Lansing, Michigan under Min. Philbert who was Malcolm’s brother and who had actually started [Malcolm] on the road to be what he really was by giving him the teachings before he ever got out of jail.
[Malcolm] came out and just like that he rose to minister. He was a minister in Detroit and then [Elijah Muhammad] took him right to the top. The biggest, most important [temple] was Number #7 in New York and that’s where he ended up being the head and being chief lieutenant.
He ended up being the best help Elijah Muhammad had and one of the good things about him, Min. Farrakhan said this in regard to Khalid [Abdul Muhammad]. He said, “I’m gonna do the same thing with Khalid that Elijah Muhammad did with Malcolm because, with Malcolm, he raised the Nation to a higher level.” Not just Malcolm, but with the kind of mindset and attracting power he had, he brought so many young ministers following his example and they brought to the teaching – the truth was the same but they put it in a language that was more acceptable to the population. It sounded like college, like a real knowledge of what’s going on in the street as opposed to the older ministers. Like Min. Isaiah, the minister in Baltimore, used to say that when he came to Elijah Muhammad he was like a plow boy. He couldn’t read his name if you put it in boxcar letters, but he studied after hearing the teachings, overcame and was a very, very good minister but it was not that [same] level.
When [Malcolm] came in, it was Min. Lemuel Hassan [in Detroit,] and [Min. Isaiah], he was one of the best ministers Elijah Muhammad had and that whole battery of ministers was wonderful for that time. Min. Luicius [Bey] was a preacher but his appearance and delivery was such that it was very attractive to elder statesmen or people who were Masons, i.e., who were sort of leaders in the business world among Black people. He was a master at what he did, was very intelligent and his appearance was something. He and Malcolm used to run together … the two of them would come to different cities to bring Islam and they attracted just about everybody. Things just went to a higher level and Malcolm was in ascendancy over everybody else – he was the national representative.
After his [separation] and death, which is something the White man has used to divide Black people against the Muslims because [the people] didn’t know Malcolm, they made him a hero and in doing this, they accused the NOI as killing him so now [the people] are mad at the Nation, Elijah Muhammad and Min. Farrakhan. We’re not going to utilize the fact that [Malcolm] made a mistake and if he had of had time to think and somebody to speak to him in the right way, he probably would have been able to make it back.
I’m trying to give you the level of the [men] that were on the forefront when Malcolm came. He started bringing young ministers that were off of campuses, that were more learned and read and they began to appeal to the college educated and to a broader spectrum of our people. So, with those who came with him, Islam moved to a certain level and Khalid, The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, intended to use him to raise [the Nation] to a certain level.
Dr. Khalid Abdul Muhammad’s early days in the NOI
When Khalid came from Dillard University, he had already met Min. Farrakhan and he’d been converted. When he came, he was not wet behind the ears, [he was a] raw, but very talented, Black man. It’s second nature to me to try to develop young people in the mosque that have a desire to be in the ministry. That’s something that Allah blessed me with: a desire to do something to help develop an aspiring minister and never do anything to block a person from being able to work out his own salvation in the way of his choosing. When I met Bro. Khalid, he came to me and I recognized a talent and saw him as being the most talented young brother that [came] into the Nation in the Los Angeles area.
He had a spirit of God in him that made him stand out. I saw this so I took a special interest in him. During that time we were going very good and I was the minister in Long Beach and [also] Santa Ana, San Pedro, Wilmington and Harbor City. These were the [temples] under my control or this was the area to which I was assigned.
When Khalid came and I saw this great talent, I gave him his lessons – everything that Bro. Jabril and Abdul Allah had taught me I tried to teach it to him. We were having money pretty good then. I gave him clothes and then I gave him the city of Santa Ana to work out in. Here’s the kind of talent this man had. I sent him to Santa Ana, one of the smaller cities in my jurisdiction. The home [temple] was Long Beach, but inside of two months time, this brother had Santa Ana bigger than the home [temple]. It was like he was a pied piper and would go stand on a corner and they would flock to him. From that point on I tried to do whatever I could to help him and to promote him. He was like a son to myself.
Khalid always used to leave the mosque and go down to all these different groups and he studied how they thought and what they did. He was part of their movement and he read their books so, as this young group of revolutionary minded people were coming up, Khalid really had their number. He knew how to translate Islam into their way of thinking and with Khalid, his mindset and the ministers that would come in as a result of his persona and influence, [Min. Farrakhan] was intending to raise [the Nation] another notch.
That was being done but Khalid had one of the greatest problems you can have and the Bible warns against it. It sounds very simple but it’s very profound and it says, “It’s not good that a man think more of himself than he ought to.” If you think you’re all that, there’s something wrong with you. Allah is the controller of all things and everything that you got, you got it from Him. Everything that you utilize, it’s Him allowing you to utilize it. This whole plan/program, everything that is bringing about the exalting and freeing of the Black man in America, that’s coming from Allah and it’s directed by Him and if He blesses you to play some part, that’s not you – that’s Him.
If ever you get to the point that, after Allah has made a choice, and you say you believe in Allah [yet] you begin to think that you ought to be the choice of God, that the man you’re saying is God’s choice, now you second guess everything he says, that means you think you’re thinking better than he [is].
Similarities between Malcolm X and Khalid
This is what ended up with Malcolm. [He] wanted to be top man and the great help that he was and the submission he showed in his activities, that [germ] developed in itself and probably was there in an undeveloped stage, it just had to be brought out. You can guarantee that the slave master, if he sees that germ in you, he’s gonna keep working it until he enlarges that thing and it grows bigger than yourself and you’re on your way to a fall.
Khalid thought he was not going to make that mistake because he saw the example that Malcolm had already presented before him and he said he would not make the mistake that Malcolm had made. Then he began to study Malcolm to the point where he really wanted to become Malcolm so he didn’t do what a wise study would do and take to himself the good that he saw, he took the good and the bad. The results were the same.
Khalid had the advantage of [counsel], if he would listen to me – and he would up to a point – then he got to a point where he wouldn’t listen to me or Bro. Majied down in Mississippi. We were like father figures to him and if he would listen to what it is we advised him, he would come to a better proposition than what he ended up doing, but by him getting away, that thing took over.
(BHN) – Do you remember what year it was when Bro. Khalid came?
(AWM) - No I don’t. If you want to know years and times, all I know is Bro. Jabril remembers dates, the time, what was said, who said it, who was there, the year. In the Quran, I may remember what is in [it] and can utilize what I’ve learned from it almost at anytime [but] Bro. Jabril knows where it is, what verse it is, who said it, when he said it. That’s the kind of mind that he has. I can see how Elijah Muhammad recognized that mind and trained that mind and got it ready for him to do exactly what he’s doing today. You’d have to have that kind of mind for him even to begin to shape it for this to come out as the result. You talk about a mind like a steel trap – [Bro. Jabril doesn't] forget dates. Even now when he writes, you’ll see him refer back to page 54 of “This is the One” that book he wrote back in the ’60s.
(BHN) – Khalid came in the mosque right after -
(AWM) - Right after he graduated from Dillard. I had gotten into some trouble and the supreme captain, Raymond Sharrief at that time, gave the instruction that if I had to go to jail, which was likely, for me to put my assistant on the rostrum and then go down and soldier my way back up.
I went to finishing school [prison] and was gone a couple of years. I got out in ‘85 so that was the early ’80s and Khalid was my assistant minister before I went in. I went down in L.A. and came back up in Phoenix eventually. That’s where Bro. Jabril was [at that time.] Prior to that, before I went to jail and when I was the minister of Long Beach [Temple] #42, [Jabril] made it so that I could have dinner with Elijah Muhammad [in the 1960s].
I [became a minister] in ‘61 and the temple was attacked in ‘62 and I was sent to jail for defending the [temple] in ‘65. After I came out of jail in ‘66, I had a chance to be with Elijah Muhammad. It was Bro. Jabril, he was the minister in Phoenix and when [Elijah Muhammad] wanted to get out of Chicago or Cleveland, that’s where he would come. It was like Western headquarters. The captain was John Shabazz.
We thought we were being slick and Bro. Jabril said, “Look brother, The Honorable Elijah Muhammad will be here Sunday and we’re going to invite you over to teach. We’re going to tell him that you’re in town and he’ll probably invite you to the table.” I went and taught and Elijah Muhammad invited me, however, we weren’t fooling him. When I got to dinner he was prepared. His secretary had my file and the negatives and the positives were right there for him to deal with. He did some straightening out of my city and myself and put me on course. So there are some mistakes I don’t make today because I made them then.
(BHN) – What city were you in as minister?
(AWM) - Long Beach, [Temple] #42, which it didn’t have a number when we started – we were just a study group. Allah blessed us to get a number and then I became one of the ministers of a numbered [temple] and that’s a distinction, a step up from just being a field minister, which is what I started out doing.
(BHN) – Thank you for sharing.
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