Reverend Jasper Williams, pastor of the 10,000-plus congregation at Salem Bible Church, recently joined with Nation of Islam Southern Regional Minister Abdul Sharrieff Muhammad Muhammad in Atlanta, to Stop the Killing in the Black community. Final Call Staff Writer Nisa Islam Muhammad went one-on-one with them to understand their relationship and their plans.
Final Call (FC): Please describe your relationship with each other.
Reverend Jasper Williams (JW): This has been a wonderful experience. I have a feeling of friendship with him. He has a great heart. The way he reached out to me to join forces to do something about the violence, killing and crime in our community, all of this started with that first interaction.
Minister Sharrieff Muhammad (SM): One of his parishioners repeatedly said to me that I needed to meet his pastor. We came to the church to fellowship. When he spoke, there was connection.
FC: How did the community receive you when you were there?
JW: The people were overwhelmingly in support. That’s the way it will be all over the country. The people are ready; it’s the system that’s not. Those who may be hesitant may see another lie or disappointment coming.
SM: We know how our people are. They want to see us keep our word. We have adopted a housing project to show them we mean business.
JW: We want to show them that you can get your house, block and street safe.
FC: Rev. Williams, you mentioned at the Jubilee service at Muhammad’s Mosque No. 15 on July 30 that there were those who were supposed to be with you but didn’t show up. Can you speak to why they may not have shown up?
JW: People I was looking for weren’t there. I was apprehensive, too. I just trusted his [Min. Sharrieff’s] judgment. I learned so much from this experience. This is a marriage of two faiths.
SM: Some people didn’t come because they were afraid. We understand that and want to help.
JW: We have to get the word out about what we’re doing. We have different strengths and weaknesses. If we are open-minded, so many of our weaknesses disappear for the better of the people.
FC: Describe any backlash or taint that you may have received from your association.
JW: I have received all kinds of backlash. “Are you turning into a Muslim?” “How can you preach 50 years and turn your back on that?” I’m my own man. My church understands what I’m doing and they support me. All of my members feel this is a noble cause. My response to my critics is, “Go to heaven.” I have no concerns about being tainted.
SM: I have received nothing but praise from around the country.
FC: What is key to sustaining this work and relationship?
JW: We want people to elevate their minds. The key to this is us maintaining the staunchness of who we are. Our separateness and our ability to consecrate and concentrate are key. The power of this, the strength of this, is our ability to maintain our identity. We are extending our hand to other faiths. We want to be more ecumenical with Buddhists, Catholics and Jews.
SM: Our mind is focused on making this happen. This is for the salvation of our people. Our labels don’t matter; the people matter.
FC: Rev. Williams, have you ever met Minister Farrakhan?
JW: The first time I met him was during the Reverend Jesse Jackson presidential campaign in 1984. The second time was when Mike Tyson and Don King were on a Turkey tour (1986). Chicago was one of the stops on the tour. We got a call at 4 o’clock in the morning that Minster Farrakhan wanted to meet with us. At 5:15 a.m., we were there. The awesomeness of the place was flabbergasting. I had never seen such a powerful figure so humble.
FC: What are your plans to help other cities around the country duplicate your work?
SM: We are collecting video footage of everything we have done together to show others that they can do this work, too. We want to develop a how-to manual.
JW: An important part of the success of our ‘how-to’ is for us to maintain our forces. This will help determine our success. For us to merge and me become a Muslim or him to become a Christian will frighten people away. Sustaining who we are is key to our success.
SM: We love and respect each other. We presented Rev. Williams with our Christian Legend Award. Part of the award read, “The Bible asks the question, ‘Who will go for them?’ A little over 40 years ago, Brother Jasper Williams told the Lord, ‘Here I am, send me… ”
Rev. Williams also recently received the highest award from the city of Atlanta and Mayor Shirley Franklin, the Phoenix Award. It is given for outstanding contributions to the City and citizens of Atlanta. According to Rev. William’s publicist William McCray, Rev. Williams declined the award saying, “Until you give one to Min. Sharrieff, you can take this back.”