Brother Jesse: You all have been very successful in New Orleans in setting up a conflict resolution center as instructed by The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. I personally bear witness that he is proud of it. What has been the key to the success?
Willie Muhammad: First, we give thanks to Allah for every conflict we have successfully resolved since 2011. What’s interesting is that we are doing what the Minister has asked us to do as part of 10.10.15 as a result of doing what he asked us to do in 2009 when he instructed us to, “Accept the Responsibility to Reform Our Communities.” We began doing this very important and dangerous work without any “formal” training or certifications. We moved out on our love for our people and our desire to see a reduction in the violence and a belief that we are doing God’s Will.
Second, we give thanks to the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan for the example he has provided and continues to provide as it relates to loving our people and believing in their ability to manifest the goodness that he constantly teaches us to look for in our people. This view helps us to not give up on them.
A final key to our success has been being consistent in our promotion of this initiative. We began in 2011 but it was some time before we had our first mediation. We have continued to bring awareness to this initiative and by Allah’s Grace Our efforts are starting to bear fruit. We have done more mediations in this year alone than in any other year.
Brother Jesse: Minister Farrakhan made the call for conflict resolution as part of the Justice Or Else platform. Why was/is follow up action so important?
Willie Muhammad: What we do post 10.10.15, not what we say will serve as the greatest example to prove to the community that this gathering was and is a movement and not a moment. The inclusion of conflict resolution as part of the platform also shows how balanced the agenda of this movement is. The platform is not solely focusing on police brutality while turning a blind eye to the violence our people are inflicting on each other within our communities. The Minister from the very beginning said that we are fighting a war on two fronts and his desire to see conflict resolution centers setup shows how serious he is about combating the violence in our communities.
Brother Jesse: How many conflicts have you all successfully resolved? What are a few of those wins that stand out? Is stopping beef relegated to street gangs as some might think?
Willie Muhammad: With the Help of Allah we have successfully resolved 34 conflicts at present and we are constantly working. Since the model has been adopted by the 10K Fearless, 15 have been resolved by cities who have agreed to participate in this Initiative. Eight in New Orleans, one in Houston, Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Shreveport, Monroe and Mobile. We believe that we will have more successes as more cities implement this Initiative in their respective areas.
Several wins come to mind. One in Mobile, AL., where a young brother was shot and word in the streets attributed the shooting to another young brother in the community. The brother who was accused of being the trigger man called a community activist who completed the conflict resolution training we conducted in Mobile. He called asking him to help get word to the shooting victim that what was said in the streets was not true. The activist spoke to the victim and let him know the accused brother was not involved. The victim agreed to not retaliate.
Here in New Orleans a violent fight took place during an actual news interview while the tv cameras were recording. One of the parties involved had a gun taken from him during the fight. This video went viral. We were able to get the video removed from a popular Hip-Hop site and we were also able to meet with the young brother who had the gun taken from him and get him and the brothers he was fighting to agree to resolve the conflict. These same young brothers later met with the Mayor of New Orleans to talk about the resolution of the “beef” and violence in the city. Our involvement to help resolve the conflict was acknowledged.
I’ll answer your question about beefs being relegated solely to gangs by talking about another recent win. Conflicts are not just a “gang” thing. Mediation teams throughout the country have helped to resolve conflicts between business people, families of murder victims and the perpetrator as well as community activists.
I’m so happy about the work that Brother Student Minister Carlos Muhammad in Baltimore and others recently did to help resolve the conflict between a very prominent pastor and several community activists. The conflict was public and immediately went viral. I was saddened when I saw it. However, that sadness was replaced with joy when I saw the live Periscope broadcast of all parties coming together to show that they sat down to have honest and open dialogue in an effort to resolve the conflict.
Brother Jesse: You’ve been touring the country doing training sessions. What are you covering in your presentations? What have the responses been like?
Willie Muhammad: Myself and two of our top mediators (when possible), Brother Calvin X and Brother Patrick 2X, go to the city to explain the purpose of the conflict mediator, the conflict mediation steps, the role of a mediator, and how to establish the initiative. We have group activities that help the participants in the training to practice the principles of mediation and to understand the causes of conflicts.
Every city we have visited and conducted the training in has given positive reviews. After one training a sister came up to me and expressed that she has a Master’s degree in Conflict Resolution. She said, “I learned more about conflict resolution during this training than I did during my time in my graduate Master’s program.” We say all praises are due to Allah!
Our training is not a Sunday lecture. We go in and get right down to business.
Brother Jesse: How many cities have started implementing the NOLA model in conflict resolution? Is there a target goal?
Willie Muhammad: Prior to us realizing that trainings conducted live and in person are more effective and impactful, we emailed copies of the model to about 35 cities who expressed interest in having this initiative. As a follow up we asked each city to complete an online form that lists the name of the members of their mediation team. The following cities responded to those requests: San Diego, CA, Miami, FL, Beaumont, TX, Mobile, AL, Milwaukee, WI, Chester, PA, West Palm Beach, FL, St. Petersburg, FL, Charlotte, NC, Baltimore, MD, Rochester, NY and Atlanta, GA.
As it relates to the target goal, the more the merrier. However, a personal goal I would like to see is that we have mediation teams effectively established in each of the top ten cities that have the highest rates of homicide and gun violence.
Brother Jesse: What is your message to those cities who have been slow in moving out on Minister Farrakhan’s instructions?
Willie Muhammad: I would only share with them what you shared with me from the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan when you expressed to him my frustration in our slowness to move out on and the lack of response to his instructions. “Tell him that I am with him in doing this! If they are not with him they are not with me.”
(Brother Willie Muhammad is the student minister of Muhammad Mosque No. 46 in New Orleans. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram. If you’re interested in hosting a conflict resolution workshop in your city, see the information below!)