(L-R) Brother Mahdi Salaam aka (Ingenious Poet), Brother Malik Aziz (n wheelchair ) and Brother Gregory Muhammad. Photos: Gregory Muhammad

The NOI Prison Reform Ministry is honored to celebrate the life of Brother Malik Aziz, a success story from among the formerly incarcerated in the Philadelphia area. He passed away September 3, 2020, after succumbing to kidney failure. He devoted his post-incarcerated life fighting to stop senseless violence in Philadelphia. This writer first met Brother Malik while incarcerated at SCI-Mahanoy, located in Schuylkill County, Penn.

We shared serious talks on the prison yard, along with Brother Mokus X Braswell, discussing the impact of the 1995 Million Man March on our lives and how we would make future contributions to help reduce violence.

Brother Malik also discussed with this writer and Brother Mokus X the desire to start a prison reform organization upon his release. We let him know that he had our support. This was in early 1996. He was released the same year and managed to win Philadelphia Mayor John Street’s confidence in his “reform” ideas and what he desired to do to give back to his community. As a result of the mayor’s trust in Brother Malik, he was able to start an organization the Ex-Offenders Association. This organization assisted the “formerly incarcerated” with their reentry needs such as job skills training, job searches, getting GEDs and housing.

During an interview I conducted with Brother Malik he shared the following: “While I was in prison, I was writing John Street. He was the city council president. He used to give ideas how to stop the violence, how to work with people coming out of prison and all those kind of things. People need to have jobs; people need to have homes. People coming out of prison, they need to be skilled. They need to have skilled labor, any skill they have they need it to live off of. Mayor Street listened to what I had to say. So, he brought me into the mayoral administration.”

Brother Malik Aziz’s son, Arganee Bahlajh.

The Ex-Offender Association operated out of the Mayor’s Office.

Today, it is known as RISE, the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of Reintegration Services and continues to serve the formerly incarcerated. Brother Malik shared these words in response to his witness and experience with members of the Nation of Islam in prison. He stated, “A lot of brothers like the Nation in prison that I rolled with are strong brothers. If we can get a Reentry Program, in every major city ran by the Nation of Islam, it would be a strong piece. I guarantee you may be one or two, go back to prison out of thousands. That’s Nation building.”

Brother Malik’s son Arganee Bahlajh remembered his father. “My father I believed was a gift, and life lesson for me from Allah (SWT). My Abu (father) was my deen, a road map from an infant, to kid, to young, to adulthood. In my eyes he was in his younger years like father/big brother, and I believe because at that time he did not know his own calling. I watched closely as children do when someone in the household is active the way my abu was. Even then he was a great man, and still had a light that was bright enough for me to see and follow.” Brother Arganee Bahlajh is a fashion designer located in Atlanta.

Mahdi Salaam (aka Ingenious Poet), poet laureate of Atlantic City, N.J., offered these words, “I am honored to have Warrior Malik Aziz in my life pages. He championed the cause of the ‘reformed and redeemed,’ by making ways easier for the return of our incarcerated family. I am honored to walk the streets of Atlantic City and Philadelphia beside this ‘warrior.’ He will forever be celebrated. The ink is lit and the ink is dry, yes the pen is mightier than the sword.”

The NOI Prison Reform Ministry will always remember the work accomplished by our Brother Malik Aziz.

Gregory Muhammad, NOI Student Regional Prison Reform Minister, Delaware Valley Region