Malik Zulu Shabazz’s long record of bigotry can be traced back to his years as a student at Howard University School of Law, where he founded Unity Nation, a student group of Nation of Islam (NOI) supporters.
In 1994, Shabazz, then a second-year law student, invited anti-Semite Khallid Abdul Muhammad to speak at a Unity Nation gathering. During his introduction of Muhammad, who was stripped of his title as NOI National Spokesperson by Louis Farrakhan three months prior for a particularly vitriolic speech he gave at Kean College, Shabazz said, “We want to show love for a man who has been vilified and attacked by the media, Jewish community, Congress and the Congressional Black Caucus.”
Shabazz also led the audience in an anti-Semitic call-and-response. He asked, “Who is it that caught and killed Nat Turner?” The audience responded, “Jews!” He then asked, “Who is that controls the Federal Reserve?” The audience responded, “Jews!” When Shabazz asked: “Who is it that controls the media and Hollywood?” the audience responded, “Jews! Jews!”
That same year, Shabazz worked on Marion Barry’s mayoral election campaign in Washington, DC. Shabazz stood alongside Barry on a podium during a celebration of his primary win. By the fall of 1994, however, Barry had disassociated himself from Shabazz, issuing an official statement citing Shabazz’s positions “regarding other people’s cultural history, religion and race that do not reflect the spirit of my campaign, my personal views or my spirituality.”
Shabazz and Muhammad joined together again in October 1995 for Unity Nation’s “African Black Holocaust and Nationhood Conference.” The event, a prelude to NOI’s Million Man March the next day, was geared toward a young audience and held at two Washington, DC, high schools. Once again, Shabazz introduced Muhammad by highlighting his bigotry. “We want to bring on a man who gives the white man nightmares. We want to bring on a man who makes the Jews pee in their pants at night…My big brother, Dr. Khallid Muhammad!”
Although Million Man March co-organizer Benjamin Chavis disavowed any connection between the march and the Black Holocaust Conference, Shabazz insisted that his gathering was “right in line and in tune with the Million Man March leadership.” Still, the bigotry of the conference contrasted sharply with the broad-based Million Man March, which was intended to expand Farrakhan’s influence beyond his traditional constituency.
Shabazz became Muhammad’s closest advisor over the next few years and in September 1998 he helped Muhammad organize the first New Black Panther Party (NBPP) Million Youth March (MYM) in New York City. Shabazz, then legal counsel for the NBPP and National Youth Director of the MYM, appeared on New York One, a news station in New York on September 2, 1998, to discuss the event. When asked what he had against Jews, Shabazz answered, “What we have against Jews and others is [sic] simple facts of history: that the Jews have been involved in the African holocaust and that the Zionists are causing problems, you know, for people of color around the world.”
During the interview Shabazz championed the discredited notion that Jews were “significantly and substantially involved” in the African slave trade, claiming that Jews owned ships, financed “slave endeavors,” and held plantations in South America. Shabazz also called the Talmud racist, citing alleged passages demeaning to Blacks, and saying, “your own holy book is a racist book.”
The march, which Shabazz emceed, ended with a melee between New York City police officers and demonstrators when police attempted to shut down the rally at the 4 pm deadline. Police Commissioner Howard Safir blamed Muhammad for inciting the confrontation by exhorting the crowd to beat the police with rails and to shoot them with their own guns in “self-defense.” Twenty-eight people suffered minor injuries, including 16 police officers, who were struck by chairs and bottles.
In 1998, Shabazz also ran unsuccessfully for city council in Washington, DC, placing fifth in the election. During the campaign, Shabazz’s campaign materials touted him as an “Organizer, Activist and Fighter for our People” and noted his Christian upbringing, compassion, and work with Marion Barry among his strengths. Shabazz pledged to make “progress with the Young Black Males, ‘the so-called criminal.’”
Under Muhammad, Shabazz has held various roles with the NBPP, including legal counsel, National Minister of Justice and National Spokesman. In 2000, Shabazz opened a chapter in Washington, DC, that would later become the group’s headquarters. He introduced his chapter to the DC community by organizing a boycott and a week of protests outside of a local Korean-American owned store after a dispute between the store owner and a black teenage girl led to a fight. Protestors, borrowing the language of anti-Semitic slander, chanted “death to the Bloodsucker.” Shabazz denied allegations that his group was involved in an incident that occurred at the store a week later, in which a pipe bomb caused severe damage and painted across the outside wall were racial epithets and the words, “Burn them down, Shut them down, Black Power.”
Shabazz took over as leader of the NBPP in February 2001, when Muhammad died suddenly in Atlanta from the effects of a brain aneurysm. Shabazz, who could not match his mentor’s oratorical intensity, compensated by quickly organizing protests across the country. Like Muhammad before him, he focused on black communities dealing with high-profile racial issues.
In April 2001, after days of rioting in Cincinnati in response to the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by police, NBPP members traveled to the city to eulogize him. Shabazz, flanked by several associates, urged the crowd to “continue to resist by any divine means necessary.” Later in the month, Shabazz led a NBPP rally outside of former President Bill Clinton’s Harlem office. “We will not allow some cracker named Bill Clinton to set the stage and the pace to drive black people out of Harlem,” shouted Shabazz. “We are here to deal with a serious problem called gentrification. Gentrification to us means genocide.”
Many demonstrations organized by Shabazz lacked a practical agenda altogether. In September 2001, for instance, approximately twenty members of the NBPP demonstrated in front of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum entrance and handed out leaflets stating, “There will be no peace at the Jewish Holocaust Museum and the Department of the Treasury until blacks in America receive full and complete reparations!”
Likewise, Shabazz and about seven other Panthers attempted to disrupt a July 7, 2004, interfaith vigil organized by the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington, local religious leaders and elected officials in Washington, DC. Shabazz shouted at demonstrators, who had gathered to protest ethnic cleansing in Sudan, “God condemns you...Nobody on the face of the earth wants to agree with you or unite with you...The Zionist has no right to open his mouth anywhere on the planet.” Shabazz also referred to organizers as “Zionist liars” who are “robbing the gold mines in Africa” and have “the blood of Palestinians on your hands.”
Inflammatory rhetoric has also tainted his efforts to reach younger audiences. During Shabazz’s first Million Youth March without Khallid Muhammad, which was held in Brooklyn in September 2003, he referred to Israelis as “Zionist devils.” A few months later, in another ostensible effort to attract a younger audience, Shabazz released the CD, “The Big Controversy.” Like his speeches, Shabazz’s rap lyrics reflected his bigotry and his hostility towards law enforcement. Lyrics included: “[Expletive] the cops! [Expletive] the law!” and, “Now we kill each other, and killing brothers like we should be killing others, and killing niggers like we should be killing crackers, attack our sisters like we should be slapping white bitches.”
In addition to reaching out to youth, Shabazz sought to strengthen the NBPP’s international presence by visiting the group’s UK chapter, led by Hughie Rose, in November 2004. During the trip, Shabazz spoke to groups in London, Nottingham and Birmingham, telling a crowd in London, “I have come to help build the New Black Panther Party in England.”
The following September, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Shabazz issued a statement accusing New Orleans’ law enforcement of provoking Katrina’s Black victims to “substantiate their reasons of opening fire on groups of black males randomly and indiscriminately.” Shabazz charged that “wholesale police brutality is being waged against the victims of this natural disaster.” Shabazz also called for a federal investigation into the claim that levees in New Orleans were intentionally breached to flood Black neighborhoods (this conspiracy theory was promoted by Farrakhan as well).