By Final Call Editor-In-Chief
Richard B. Muhammad
Anniversaries mean something and can denote purpose, staying power, commitment, relevance or unrelenting determination to stay alive. This year will mark the 35th anniversary of the founding of The Final Call newspaper and our mission to resurrect the Black man and woman of America and the world. We have survived the first three decades and our mission is perhaps even more relevant than when we started.
When the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan published the first edition in May 1979 from the basement of his home the message and predicament of Black people was clear: “The Ultimate Challenge: The Survival of the Black Nation.” That same headline could be used today given decades of a War on Drugs that has decimated Black neighborhoods and led to mass incarceration, family breakdowns, and cycles of wasted lives as our men and boys are trapped by a system in which they are raw materials for the profits of others.
Then there is the fratricidal violence that we suffer from as Black males have the highest rates of gun deaths in this country. While we dodge bullets from one another, shots kill little girls and maim old women. Then there are our deaths at the hands of law enforcement, security guards, vigilantes and any White person who feels threatened.
About a week before Saviours’ Day 2014, we watched the heartbroken mother and father of Jordan Davis, 17, who was shot to death by Michael Dunn after a dispute about loud music in Jacksonville, Fla. The unarmed teen was shot to death sitting in his vehicle but the jury could not reach a verdict on whether or not he was murdered. Mr. Dunn, an unrepentant White male, was convicted of attempted murder for firing shots at three other Black young men in the vehicle, which fled the scene. The Davis family didn’t receive justice. It was February 26, 2012 when Trayvon Martin, another unarmed Black teen in Florida, had an encounter with George Zimmerman. A 911 operator told Mr. Zimmerman not to follow the youth, the 9mm carrying neighborhood watch volunteer ignored that direction and ended up shooting the youngster to death. Mr. Zimmerman went to trial and was acquitted of murder charges.
Besides violence we suffer disproportionately from AIDS, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, suicide and obesity–finding ourselves dying earlier than others.
We are more likely to be poor and less likely to graduate from high school or college. Last December, the Black unemployment rate–nearly always double that of Whites–fell because we simply stopped looking for work.
Our middle class children are at greater risk of falling out of the middle class during their lifetimes and it’s easier to find a blunt and pistol than a fresh tomato in too many of our neighborhoods.
The media, which has always been biased against us, has undergone a revolution between technology, a heavy focus on fluff and celebrity, reality TV, gossip web sites and social media. So while more information may actually be available we seem to be less likely to find our way to it.
More and more major media outlets are held in fewer hands making the idea of a free press an allusion. When MBAs rule the newsroom a bias and drive for profits usurps public interest which should be a newspaper’s purpose as an institution devoted to uncovering and presenting the truth.
“The more independent outlets a community has, the more different viewpoints will be presented on the air. But what happens when there’s no one left to compete? When one company owns everything in your town, it can cut staff and not worry about getting scooped by a competitor. The fewer reporters there are on the streets, the less journalism there is on the news. The fewer DJs there are at your local radio station, the more automated computers and pre-programmed playlists take over,” observed the advocacy group FreePress.net.
We don’t own Black Entertainment Television or Essence magazine anymore. We don’t own Black Voices on Huffington Post, nor grio.com. We don’t own a single traditional TV station and consistently find national radio shows with a political edge or social impact and hosts with a conscience end up out of business. Black talk radio, once a mainstay for dialogue and discussions, is dwindled and is almost dead.
As our problems mount and our crisis grows, our voices are diminished. As others organize and push their agendas, we are losing the communications tools that are so much a part of any campaign. As we need to unite, serious voices that challenge White Supremacy and Black failures to act for self survival have no place on the media landscape.
All of these factors make the need for The Final Call real and pressing. It makes our work and the work of the mighty Fruit of Islam, who take the newspaper to our people, critical.
I am grateful to Almighty God Allah, His Christ and Min. Farrakhan for giving us the opportunity to serve in this great cause. I thank the staff, supporters and all the editors who served before me–Askia Muhammad, Abdul Allah Muhammad, the late and great Abdul Wali Muhammad, James G. Muhammad, Dora Muhammad, and Abdul Arif Muhammad–for their mighty efforts in building this institution that is treasured and vital for our people. I thank the F.O.I. for the strength to take the truth to our people.
As we mark our first 35 years, we understand a great need exists and in many ways we have just begun–and we refuse to quit.