WILMINGTON, Del.—On a cold Wilmington day, Brother John Muhammad of Mosque No. 35 was out doing what many F.O.I. (Fruit of Islam, the men of the Nation of Islam) can be found doing, distributing copies of The Final Call newspaper and interacting with community residents. On this particular day he encountered Sister Rachelle Wilson.
However, she had not come for the newspapers. Sister Rachelle was in anguish because her son Justyn Wilson has been locked up as part of an armed robbery sentence and has endured 13 years behind bars with seven more still to go. She contends he has been unjustly locked up and unfairly sentenced.
After her son was sentenced, Sister Rachelle had nowhere to turn. Unfortunately, justice is often not equal in America. Statistics reveal that Black adults are unjustly penalized five to seven times more than their White counterparts regarding the criminal justice system and its plea bargain deals.
Brother John ignited Sister Rachelle’s mission to educate the community on these disparities, and offered Mosque No. 35 as a platform for her powerful message. On April 8, the Nation of Islam’s Wilmington mosque embraced this opportunity and organized a press conference and community meeting. The gathering allowed Sister Rachelle to share her inspiring story.
Brother John opened the presentation with a sobering discussion on incarceration rates throughout America. He noted that Delaware ranks among the highest when it comes to incarcerating Black people. The state’s small size starkly contrasts with its significant role in an alarming nationwide trend.
Brother John illustrated the stark reality of racial disparities in Delaware’s justice system, where Blacks are overrepresented at every stage, from arrests to incarceration. While Blacks represent only 20 percent of Delaware’s population, they account for 42 percent of arrests, 64 percent of prison inmates, and a staggering 86.8 percent of those incarcerated for drug offenses.
With Ramadan (the Islamic observation of prayer and fasting) drawing to its close with the last 10 days known as “the days of forgiveness,” what better time could there be to advocate for justice?, Brother John asked.
Abundance Child, a passionate community activist and business owner, spoke to the importance of education regarding Justyn’s case. She highlighted that despite having an outstanding family with strong support behind him, his charge—a robbery without injury—was still indicative of more significant issues within the criminal justice system. Today, more Blacks are incarcerated than were enslaved in 1860, she said.
Sister Rachelle opened her presentation with a powerful message about personal growth and redemption and the recording of her son taking full responsibility for his past misdeeds. He said he accepted his guilt for the robbery committed 13 years prior and declared that through personal growth and introspection, he had made an effort to alter his mindset entirely.
Sister Rachelle has tirelessly advocated for her son, Justyn’s release since his 20-year sentence. Determined not only to reunite with him but to also help those facing similar unfair penalties in the future, she seeks support from the community through petitions and an online forum as part of her “Tubman mission,” a reference to Harriet Tubman’s selfless acts of fighting racism and freeing enslaved people.
Sister Rachelle shared with The Final Call her hope that the parole board considers moderating her son’s sentence, bringing a glimmer of optimism to an otherwise dismal situation.
Robbery in the first degree is a serious offense, as outlined by Delaware’s penal code—three years minimum imprisonment being the legal consequence. However, judicial discretion can play an essential role in determining each person’s fate.
Justyn’s case was heard in court where the judge determined that he posed a significant danger to society due to previous run-ins with the law as a juvenile and as an adult. He faced up to 38 years in jail for the latest charge.
With unparalleled passion and conviction, Student Minister Robert Muhammad of Mosque No. 35 reaffirmed the importance of community building during his introductory remarks at the “Justice 4 Justyn” gathering. “The mosque is an important space for sharing perspectives and reflecting on difficult experiences with support from others.
I firmly believe that freedom will ultimately be granted to those who have unjustly suffered at the hands of tyranny. Most of our people are in prison for ‘b.s.’ reasons. God has come to set down all tyrants,” he said.