Fitzgerald: Illness quiets Don Muhammad, Boston’s good shepherd
This one’s for you, Brother Don, even if it cannot be received as it would have been in days of yore when we’d often swap early morning calls just to chew over something in the headlines.
A merciless illness has now done what no foe could ever do, which was silence his mighty voice.
Though being local head of the Nation of Islam’s Mosque No. 11 in Grove Hall made him a slow-moving target for hotheaded adversaries who would not be mollified, Minister Don Muhammad is not only liked here; he is greatly respected, too.
As chief aide-de-camp of the volcanic Louis Farrakhan, he was often on the front lines of cultural warfare where, like the proverbial tree planted by the water, he could not be moved.
Perhaps that’s because he made great sense.
When Farrakhan hosted a packed rally for men only at the Strand Theatre in Uphams Corner, many women were furious.
“But there are times men need to get together,” Muhammad explained. “He implored them to be responsible to the children they fathered and to their mothers. He came down hard on the brother who would make a baby, then walk away and not see that child reared into adulthood. In street terms he basically said, ‘If you lay with them, stay with them.’
“If women had been sitting there, too, there would not have been the same level of comfort to speak that way.”
The morning after one election he was on the phone again, taking note of the dismal voter turnout in the minority community.
“That was extremely disappointing,” he said. “Every demographic has its own bread-and-butter issue: schools, development, casinos.
“We need a candidate who really wants to do something about crime. You don’t fight crime by constructing another prison; you fight it by focusing on young people. To me, that’s not political; that’s very personal.”
He has often told kids, “It’s not about black and white; it’s about wrong and right.”
But nothing frustrated him more than what seemed like the glorification of Whitey Bulger back when the latter was leading law enforcement agencies on a 16-year manhunt.
“To some young people,” Minister Don noted, “having a prison record is a badge of honor. I know, most of us can’t relate to that, but you don’t have to be around young people very long to realize how true it is.
“Now we have them looking at this man (Bulger) and all the attention he’s getting and they’re telling themselves, ‘I think I’m as smart as he is and he’s been getting away with this for years; maybe I can do that, too.’
“That’s the danger of elevating a man like this into the type of public figure some might mistakenly admire.”
He is the type of public figure kids could correctly admire.
Blessings on you, Brother. Oh, how you’re missed.