Monroe, La., marked in red, has a population of about 60,000 people. Graphic credit: The Final Call

In a surprising victory in Monroe, Louisiana, Verbon Muhammad defeated incumbent Kema Dawson—widely considered a shoo-in for the recent Monroe, La., District 5 City Council elections—capturing 65 percent of the votes.

A native of Monroe, Verbon Muhammad is the Nation of Islam’s Student Minister of Muhammad Mosque No. 99 and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree from Southern University in Agricultural Economics. He has also previously served on the Monroe School Board.

Running on a campaign slogan of “Your Tax Dollars Matter,” Student Minister Verbon Muhammad proclaimed, “If we are 65 percent of the city, 65 percent of our tax dollars should be working for us and right now they are not.”

Monroe, La., has a population of 60,000, of which 64 percent is Black, and District 5 has a 95 percent Black population. Elections were held April 27.


“One of the reasons we ran is to improve the quality of life for those in District 5,” said Student Minister Muhammad. “There are some people across town that have written District 5 off and South Monroe, and they really want it to die a natural death. But we are going to save it. We’re going to get in there and try to fight for those tax dollars,” he said.

Student Minister Verbon Muhammad Photo: courtesy of Verbon Muhammad

Monroe City Council members serve four-year terms and are responsible for the annual budget that provides services to the public, enacting policies, and adopting ordinances and resolutions.

Four candidates were in the original race and the top contender was the incumbent, who had more resources, greater name recognition, and what appeared, at the time, more political backing.

“Our goal was to, if we could, get the incumbent into the run-off, (and) we would have a shot. Of course, we didn’t have a lot of money; the incumbent was well, well-financed.

She may have raised nearly $50,000. She didn’t get the job done in the primaries and we were able to push her into the run-off and once we got in the run-offs, so many people came on board from the clergy, I mean Allah (God) really took over; from the business community—I’m talking about Black people—Black clergy, business leaders, teachers, entrepreneurs, young people, old people,” he recounted.

He received a great deal of support, he said. During a community meeting, he asked those in attendance if anyone had an issue with him being a Muslim. 

“And nobody left. One pastor said, ‘Brother Muhammad, we can talk about religion, but right now we’re all Black, we’re all catching hell and so we are with you.’ It proves that with unity, we could accomplish the impossible,” Student Minister Muhammad said of their efforts.

Monroe faces high rates of violent crime and poverty.  Student Minister Verbon Muhammad explained that while his district is populated with hard-working homeowners, schools, libraries, small businesses and a zoo, they need more economic support and resources. He pointed to the lack of economic development, economic growth and development as factors in the rising crime rate.

“Now three-fifths of the City Council is Black, and we can begin to direct monies and power with our vote,” he stated. He also shared that he utilized the principles found in the book “A Torchlight for America,” by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan as his inspiration and guidance during his campaign.

The Monroe Free Press described Student Minister Muhammad’s victory as “an election that captured the essence of grassroots mobilization and community advocacy,” and called it “a story of unexpected triumph and profound change.”

“Muhammad, known for his leadership in Mosque No. 99 of the Nation of Islam and his extensive involvement in local community activities, emerged as a pivotal figure in what many saw as an uphill battle for the Monroe City Council District 5 seat,” reported

One of his first initiatives as a member of the City Council will be to focus on reducing crime outside of incarceration. “We need to put more money into our people. We have a lot of people with mentorship programs in our community.”

He also desires to bring conflict resolution into high schools and the community and utilize existing community mentorship programs geared toward helping to redirect the anger that leads to violence. “The Minister [Farrakhan] told us to make our community a safe and decent place. How does that look? How do we make that happen?” he asked.

A key supporter of Student Minister Verbon Muhammad was former Monroe mayor, James Mayo, who received media pushback for presenting the key to the city to the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan in 2017, but the mayor did not yield to the pressure.

“This isn’t just a victory for Brother Verbon, this a victory for all of us,” said Student Min. Verbon Muhammad as he shared the history of how Monroe was the same city in which Minister Abdul Bey Muhammad (formerly Troy X Cade)—who under the guidance of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad—had established a Muslim Temple in the city.

He subsequently survived an attempted lynching by Monroe police and subsequent attempted drowning by Louisiana State Penitentiary guards in 1960.