When Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston was attacked, I found myself driving there in a car with a multi-racial squad of female pastors and thousands of prayers from people all over the country for Mother Emmanuel. Our #propheticgrief became a digital place for people to share their grief, their prayers and their prophetic frustrations. When we got to the church, we began to pray together and the people who gathered there joined in the prayers. This is how we met Muhiyidin Moye. Suddenly he was there, a beautiful, tall, black brother in a Black Lives Matter t-shirt. He had us chanting and doing the peoples mic (call and response). The cameras and the people pushed in. He was a force and people joined in with his voice. Waves of grief and anger rippled through the crowd and came out in song. Jordan Davis’s mom showed up. “Amazing Grace” literally brought us to our knees.
When the prayers and the protests finally came to a rest, Muhiyidin invited us to come to a teach-in called Liberation School. We followed him to a community center and spent the next couple of hours being taught movement building history and analysis for black lives and liberation of all.
That night I hung out with Muhiyidin at the Calhoun statue and confederate monument in central Charleston. We talked about how Charleston capitalized on confederate culture tourism and still upholds that racist culture as valid. He asked me to tell everyone to boycott Charleston, that city government and stakeholders will only change is they are starved for tourist dollars. He told me about what it was like to organize as a black man in Charleston, how hard it was, how he had been threatened countless times. He showed me how Charleston is a kind of Mecca for cultural confederacy and how embedded overt interpersonal bias and structural racism still is in the city.
We stayed in touch and his crew came up to support the organizing in Asheville when Jerry LeJai Williams was killed by police in Asheville. Muhiyidin was such a powerful force for justice. I have lived long enough to see effective activists targeted and even killed. If you didn’t know this happens in social justice movement, “COINTELPRO,” the FBI’s counter intelligence program, is well documented. You can read all about how this program places agents in undercover positions in movements. These “provateurs” observe and report and then eventually work to fan the flames of existing tensions in movements, to encourage movements to blow up in conflict internally and to undermine their effectiveness.
I think Muhiyidin was killed for being an activist. He was shot in the leg while riding his bicycle in New Orleans in a neighborhood near the Quarter. They followed the trail of blood from where he collapsed to a few blocks away where they found a partial shell casing. No one has been charged for the murder. No leads have been reported. Muhiyidin bled to death on the street because he dared to speak truth to power.
I can’t help but think about MLK’s sacrifice and assassination that happened 50 years ago the week. As I write we are in route with our boys to Memphis for #MLK50. I can’t help but reflect on how black men are still dying for having dignity, for advocating for their own humanity and the liberation of their communities. When will it stop? When will the killing of black men stop?
“Until the killing of black men, black mothers’ sons, is as important as the killing of white men, white mothers’ sons. . .We who believe in freedom will not rest.” -Ella Baker