Expressing shock, disbelief, and outrage, residents of the small West Michigan city of Muskegon Heights are mourning the death of Julius Muhammad, shot by a gunman after he opened his inside door and stepped onto his three-season porch upon hearing knocks. Remembered by neighbors, local leaders, and family members, as one striving to serve his community through atonement and service, many are praising him for the best of his deeds.
According to MLive.com, Mr. Muhammad “was to join the Muskegon Heights Board of Education in January, (and) was fatally shot on Monday, Dec. 19, at his home. Police said the shooting was ‘an isolated incident and is not related to his position on the Muskegon Heights School Board,’” the news article said.
Detectives and the Major Crimes Task Force are still investigating the crime as an isolated incident with two people detained, one of whom has been charged with homicide—open murder—as a habitual offender, according to a December 21 Muskegon County Felony Complaint. An unnamed adult female and Mr. Muhammad’s seven-year-old son were both inside the house at the time of the shooting. The child is now in the custody of a maternal aunt, and a motive has not been made public as of Final Call press time.
“The first words that come to my mouth about him was a beautiful brother, just a beautiful brother,” Pastor Jeffery A. Hough, of Angel Community Church in the City of Muskegon, told The Final Call. “The way he carried himself, his mannerism, his love for his people, and his community.
I first met him when he was going around the community introducing himself, and he came and stopped at the church to talk to me. We just had a fruitful conversation, where the scripture says iron sharpens iron, and that began our relationship,” Pastor Hough said of his and Mr. Muhammad’s friendship over the following years.
Camille Johnson, a 33-year employee with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, told The Final Call that the first time she met Mr. Muhammad was while asking for directions at her place of employment. “He has always been such a beautiful spirit, and I saw Brother Julius a couple of weeks ago, he was on the corner selling The Final Call, and the past couple of times I saw him, I didn’t have any cash on me, and he said: ‘Take the paper anyway.’”
Adding that she believes that spreading the word was more important to him than making money, Ms. Johnson said the best of what she remembered of Julius Muhammad was his smile and his positivity. “He always had kind words to say,” she said.
During the city’s 2022 elections, Mr. Muhammad won a seat on the Muskegon Heights Public School Board and was scheduled to be seated January 9. The city residents remain in shock. The Muskegon Heights school board released a statement about Mr. Muhammad’s death the next day:
“The Board of Education extends our condolences to Julius’s family, children, grandchildren, and all those he touched throughout his 53 years on earth. May they find peace, together, as they remember the good works Julius did during his lifetime. Board of Education members were looking forward to working with him in the new year. He had a desire to serve the Muskegon Heights community and its children as a newly elected school board member,” the statement read in part.
Known as an advocate for his community, and for being a devoted father to his children, Ms. Dee Oakes, who was also elected to the Muskegon Heights Public School Board, said Mr. Muhammad unapologetically promoted the Nation of Islam’s “do-for-self” work ethic and often encouraged others to engage in Black excellence.
“He was all about making the community a safe and decent place to live,” Ms. Oakes insisted. “One thing I remember was sitting in the Us Café coffee shop with Mr. Muhammad where we prayed together over the community,” she recounted tearfully. “He was a person who held you accountable.”
Rodney Walker, who works as an administrator for a different public school district in Muskegon County, told The Final Call that Julius Muhammad was a close friend and a mentor and said they had been friends for at least five years. “I definitely ran into him selling Final Call’s out on the corner and doing his thing on his post. In his own quiet way, he moved silently but was powerful, he wasn’t loud with his voice, he was loud with his actions. In the community, he helped the cause, and helped people find themselves and just mentoring to the younger brothers in the community,” he said.
One of Julius Muhammad’s middle children, Ashia Muhammad, said hearing the news of her father’s death was both tragic and devastating. “He made a really big impact on this city as a whole, as far as the things he believed in, got other people to believe in, he brought a positive outlook on a lot of things, where they think it was negative, but he turned a lot of things positive,” she said.
Reading an ode on behalf of his sister, Khaleefa Ameen-Muhammad, his son Farrakhan Ameen-Muhammad said it was fitting as a tribute to his father, Julius Muhammad’s memory:
“As we look back over time, we find ourselves wondering, did we ever thank you enough for all you have done? The times you’re by our side to help and support us, to celebrate our success, to understand our problems, and accept our defeats, by teaching us, by your example, the value of hard work, good judgment, courage, and integrity.
“We wonder if we ever thanked you enough for the sacrifice you made to let us have the very best in life and for the simple things like laughter, smiles, and time we shared. If we have forgotten to show our gratitude, for all the things that you have done, we’re thinking of you now and we’re hoping that you knew this all along—how much you meant to us, and everyone.
“I just wanted the world to know that he was the best father and person ever and he really cared about family and the people. We will all love him and miss him for that, and we want to just say thank you for all he has done and taught the world,” their family’s statement read.
Mr. Farrakhan Ameen-Muhammad added about his father, that change for the better will come only from those who really want change, and that it must come from the people in the streets. “There’s too many resources in this world for them to be violent and they really have to want to change before the world can change,” he said.
Mr. Julius Muhammad’s death remained under investigation as of Final Call press time, and the Nation of Islam asks his friends and supporters to read the statement by Student Minister Ishmael Muhammad, National Assistant to the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, regarding this tragic event. The janazah (Muslim funeral service) for Brother Julius Muhammad will be held, Wednesday, December 28 at 12:00 noon at Angel Community Church, 446 Ada Avenue, Muskegon, Michigan 49442.