Chicago native and longtime Madisonian Caliph Amiri Muab-El has many irons in the fire, always with an eye toward justice and improving the lives of young people of color: he’s executive director of Breaking Barriers Mentoring, program director of Brothers Aligned Coalition, a member of the African American Leadership Commission for Mass Incarceration, CEO of Forever We Shine Records, and cofounder and program director of the Focused Interruption Coalition, which is focused on responding to and reducing gun violence.
Rank your Top 5 MCs.
- Kurtis blow
Which motivates you more: doubters or supporters? Doubters, they remind me why the fight for justice is real. My supporters are often doubters first. Rightfully so.
Why do you live in Madison? My Grandmother, brother and father are here along with a host of cousins.
What three leaders in Madison under 50 have impressed you the most?
- Henry Sanders
- Michael Johnson
- Roxie Hentz
What’s the biggest stumbling block in Madison to turning the corner on our racial disparities? Being honest about having a problem. We like to scratch the surface on critical issues, and then put Band Aids on infected wounds. Our communities of color have been hit with so many atrocities in this city. We are suffering from politics, poverty, and disparity of every kind. There are a lot of people geared up to make a profit off of our suffering.
What are your top three priorities at this point in your life?
- My son
- Making Breaking Barriers Mentoring the Mecca for youth to have breakthroughs and successful pathways into the future.
- Resting. But, I can’t rest until I see change and real Justice for my people and all people.
I have a very common name. You have a unique name. Does it stand for anything? Caliph means: “Successor of God or Prophet Muhammad, Supreme religious head, man’s original state of being before the fall.” Amiri means: Prince or Commander. Muab-El means: Original Tribe of God.
You are a member of Focus Interruption Coalition. There seems to be some tension with FIC and the Mayor around creating Rapid Response team. You made a strong statement about the mayor: “It wasn’t long ago that Mayor Soglin endorsed F.I.C.’s 15 Point Plan. Since then, the Mayor has failed to follow through on his promises. He is trying to put Black leaders against each other and scrambling to find ways to circumvent working with F.I.C. because we aren’t controlled by peanuts to fix major issues”. Can you explain what made you make such a strong statement? The Mayor knew nothing about Violence Prevention, Peer Support Mentoring, or Specialists prior to F.I.C. In fact, F.I.C. did the leg work to convince the Mayor and the city that this evidence-based practice was needed to decrease violence in Madison. The Mayor reluctantly agreed to endorse The 15 Point Plan framework. F.I.C. leveraged the fact that there was no other plan in place at the city level to prevent violence in Madison outside of Alder Cheeks and Alder Phair’s Framework that later merged with the 15 Point Plan. To be honest, it is possible the mayor felt bullied into endorsing the 15 Point Plan. F.I.C. lobbied nearly every resource at our disposal to see the 15 Point Plan passed and funded. Now the mayor is employing divisive tactics among the so-called Black Leaders in our Community by attempting to play us against each other. (100 Black Men of Madison) Floyd Rose called Mr. Johnson’s (Boys and Girls Club of Dane County) Board Members on behalf of the Mayor and he doesn’t even work for the city to my knowledge. Why would he do that? Now it is being reported that the mayor is entering into a contract with Alex Gee to do Peer Mentoring and Peer Mediation. When has Nehemiah done peer support? I have great respect for the work of Nehemiah, but they have not done peer support. Voices Beyond Bars (which is now defunct) was a separate organization under the fiscal agency of Nehemiah, and I have no knowledge of peer support work being done at Nehemiah outside of Aaron Hicks and Anthony Cooper, whom are both members of F.I.C. F.I.C. are the first responders in many crisis requiring peer support, de-escalation, mediation, etc. Why are we now being left out of the conversation? How can we be overlooked for funding and expanding work we’ve already been doing? Despite the Mayor’s personal biases and insistence upon funding and working only with people of color with whom he is comfortable, doing what’s right by the people is his job. Being upright is a requirement to lead and serve people effectively. He needs to keep his word and stop with the political games. People are dying, suffering, and misguided. Simple.
Some people in Madison fear people from Chicago coming and living in Madison. You being from Chicago what would you tell someone in Madison if the concerns are valid? A lot of the problems in these streets are homegrown, let’s just face that reality first. Next, people that are disconnected will buy into anything that camouflages the facts that make up their reality. Most of the people committing crimes are committing crimes for a reason called suffering; that’s called “poverty,” that’s called “trauma,” that’s called “alienation,” that’s called “lack of role models.” A lot of the people in question may be from Chicago originally, but, they have been here since they were children. That’s homegrown. That’s the definition of a T.H.U.G. as Tupac said: The Hate U Gave. They are products of a culture that rejects them. Don’t blame that on Chicago, blame it on dishonesty regarding what the Madison community breeds. Lastly, there are people here from a lot of other places than Chicago; if you have boots on the ground you’d know that.
What is your favorite thing to cook? I’m a great cook. I can cook a lot of things, but, nothing compares to my barbeque.
Last book you read? Liberation of The Soul by Shaikh Muhammad Nazim Adil Haqqani
You are a Grand Sheikh of the Moorish Science Temple of America. Can you explain what that is and what it means? We teach Nationality and Divine Creed. Our people are not negro, black and colored people. There is no national status in those titles or names. There is no connection to a human family tree in those titles. We’ve been socialized to believe we are not human beings but, rather corporate beings that are not alive. It locks us into a slave status. The Moors were here first, most of the slaves were not brought from Africa, they were already here. This is the biggest lie ever told. We are Moors born in America which was originally a part of Morocco called the Greater West ( Al-Maghrib Al-Aqsa ). Our Divine Creed is Islam, the African science designed for the spiritual elevation of our people, where the science is the true study of self, the True Self which is One with God. Noble Drew Ali was the first man to revitalize this Science in America, teaching our people real freedom through Nationality and Divine Creed.