LOS ANGELES—A barrage of racist and incendiary words—not votes—has removed the head of the Los Angeles City Council from office. But Nury Martinez will not be the last to go, vowed an outraged cross-section of the community.
Ms. Martinez resigned as the council president on October 11 and gave up her seat on October 12. Her political fall came after Knock LA, an independent journalism project and the Los Angeles Times reported on the secretly taped audio of a conversation which included Councilmembers Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León, and former County Federation President Ron Herrera, who also stepped down as president on October 11.
Ms. Martinez described fellow Councilmember Mike Bonin’s Black child as a “monkey,” stated her desire to physically abuse him, and among other things, cursed District Attorney Gascón for being “with the Blacks.”
Councilmember de León compared Black Angelenos to the “Wizard of Oz effect.” Councilmember Cedillo said there are only 25 Black people shouting behind a curtain, in reference to Black organizing and political power.
On October 11, many flooded council chambers to protest the vile remarks by the three Democratic politicians.
“Here’s a great opportunity to start real dialogue with players that the community wants to see at the table. This is what’s missing in Los Angeles because some of us think that we are the leaders of the people, and we haven’t even asked the people who do you consider your leaders?” stated Abdul Malik Sayyid Muhammad, Western Region Representative for the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam.
“We can’t get mad because the Latino community is more organized than we are. We can learn from them,” said Student Minister Malik Sayyid Muhammad, who is also student minister of Muhammad Mosque No. 27 in Los Angeles.
“I can’t get mad because a Latino gets in power and looks out for his Latino brother, because he, too, just like we—Black, Brown, Red and White—all of us suffer from the mindset of White supremacy! That mind is not just prevalent in White folks, it’s in all of us,” he noted.
That mindset puts other ethnic groups down and elevates another to generate power and exercise racism against others, he explained.
“We believe in freedom, justice and equality. We believe in lawful and deliberate dialogue, critiquing, criticizing, but not trying to crush others. That’s what we’ve got to come to,” continued Student Minister Malik Sayyid Muhammad.
He feels a town hall meeting, or a meeting of Black leadership should take place in Los Angeles with a demand that the Nation of Islam be at the table. “If not, I don’t know if we can believe there can be some unity, but I will not bash and do a broad stroke of all Latino people because of this one woman. That’s where we’ll go wrong,” he cautioned.
BAJI (Black Alliance for Just Immigration) is part of the growing coalition that has called on all four city politicians involved to resign, saying in a press release that their comments are nothing short of disrespectful and that no context could justify the language.
“Their words and deeds make clear that their goal is to use White supremacy to maintain their political power in the city council while actively being anti-Blackness. They thus perpetuate White supremacy by proving that they vie for a Los Angeles where working-class Black, Indigenous, and Asian people come to labor and are then banished to shacks and sidewalks, invisibilized on the edge of town, or in jails, prisons, immigration detention, or deportation planes,” wrote BAJI.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta has said his office will investigate the city’s redistricting process to restore trust in the people of L.A. It could lead to criminality and civil liability, he stated.
The leaked conversation took place while the commission was meeting, and council members were strategizing on ways to draw maps favorable to them. Council members appoint representatives to the 21-member redistricting commission. Every 10 years, they meet to redraw the boundaries.
Black grassroots community leaders have called for a complete overhaul and fundamental culture shift at the County Federation of Labor to empower Black workers and labor leadership, in addition to the resignations.
Min. Abdul Malik Sayyid further said he does not believe the controversy at City Hall will have a deterring or defeating impact on street peace between Black and Brown so-called gang members.
“Many in the streets have no respect for politicians anyway. They don’t even vote. In my opinion, the enemy is using this to get the Black intellectual, the Black working class at odds, not gang members, who are already at odds,” he stated.
“They’re trying to draw in the Black labor workers, the Black intellectuals to hate on our Latino community for an agenda we don’t see. There’s a hidden agenda here, and the hidden agenda is White supremacy. It’s losing its power and trying to hold on to it,” added Malik Sayyid Muhammad.
Meanwhile, approximately 10 Latino civic leaders penned an open letter, calling for the resignations of their political representatives.
“The hateful, racist, and divisive comments heard in the recording released this weekend have no place in public or behind closed doors,” they wrote.
“It’s interesting that it comes up now, when I’m sure there’s far worse things that have been said, not to give them a pass on it,” stated Student Minister Abel Muhammad, Representative to the Latin American community for Minister Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam.
“Do we need reconciliation? Yes. Do we need healing? Yes. Is this the way to go about it in the public, in a family issue that is orchestrated by outside forces? Absolutely not,” stated the Chicago-based student minister. That’s where the problem lies, explained Student Minister Abel Muhammad, who is of Mexican descent.
It would be interesting to see if those same forces in the media that released the private conversation under the guise of concern for marginalized communities are just as helpful in bringing about reconciliation, unity, and healing, as they were to try to cause division, he said.
“I would offer that the members of the Nation of Islam, and especially as we’re in this time of the Anniversary of the Million Man March, where we were presented by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan with the steps of atonement, I think this would be a wonderful opportunity to present those steps to our council people, our political figures,” stated Student Minister Abel Muhammad.
“All of them, I’m sure have done something personally, and even publicly—too many of them— that have offended their constituents, as well as their associates, on that level. This would be potentially a wonderful opportunity to help bring real unity,” he added.