Ebony S. Muhammad (EM): Let’s begin your journey through activism, specifically your fight for justice, by revisiting the very first moment you were introduced to injustice.
DM: I was about 11 years old. We were living in the projects off of Mesa Road. They called those projects “The Hole”, because there was one way in and one way out. I remember being outside playing with some friends, and I saw one man being chased by some other men. They got into a tussle, and two of the men ran off leaving the other man lying on the ground. I saw that he was bleeding, and I immediately recognized the man as one of my mother’s friends. He was in our home a couple of days earlier fellowshipping with my mother; they had been drinking that day. I went to tell my mom, “That man who was in our house the other day is outside lying on the ground bleeding. I think he got stabbed”. By the time I got back, a huge crowd had gathered around him. Some of the people were his family members, some were his neighbors and some were just concerned people from the community.
People were doing what they knew how to do to revive him, however, it was to no avail. I just remember everybody became distraught. People started crying, grieving and weeping. I remember hearing people say, “He’s dying, he’s dying!” It was probably a good 20-25 minutes before the ambulance arrived. I remember when the ambulance got there the entire community was upset, because the paramedics came so late. Everybody truly believed had they come earlier this man probably could have survived his knife wound. I remember that very, very vividly.
I remember saying to myself how unjust it was that they took as long as they took and that man died. That was the first time that I ever saw somebody die in my entire life. I felt that it was senseless. Later on we found out he was stabbed over some small amount of money; something very, very minute and of course nothing to take a life over. I believe that his life could have been saved had that ambulance come sooner, and it infuriated me as an 11-year-old. To this day how I felt as an 11-year-old having seen that kind of injustice, is the same way I see it today.
EM: Let’s talk about the day-to-day work that’s involved with what you do; the phone calls you receive, the jail visits, the funerals, the rallies and protests, the prayer vigils, being on CNN and so forth. How does that part of your life affect your personal relationships?
DM: When I began to see that this was going to become a part of my life and that part of my life was going to be public, I did my best to try to build a fence between my public life and my private life. I’m a very, very private person. I’m very protective of my family. I’m very protective of my children, because you have a healthy fear that something you say may offend some lunatic out there will come back on someone that you love; that somebody will attempt to do your loved ones harm. That’s how people are. If they can’t get to you they get to someone that you love.
My mother has admitted to me that sometimes when we stand strong it makes her afraid, because she knows historically what they’ve done to people who have stood strong against the powers that be. Yet, what do you do? Do you allow those fears to muffle you, to shut you up, to shut you down that you might not do what you were born to do? Of course not! That is where faith in God comes in. I thank God for giving me a purpose in life, and I thank God for protecting me and my family while I’m doing this work.
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