By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
I went back to asking the row of young people questions. They were here, they politely informed me, to hear "The Doobies"--a rap group that was scheduled to begin performing, along with a whole host of other rap groups, as soon as these "speakers" were finished talking. As a matter of fact, these kids had paid $5 to get into the room--to hear music, not racist rantings from their elders.
According to one of the performers I talked to later, whoever had scheduled the New Black Panthers rally had booked the music in the hopes of attracting young people to the press conference. "I guess they were trying to target some people from the street level--some of your 'young black males on the street who don't have guidance' to attract them with the rap and get them to listen to what's going on," said Derric Taylor, a rap artist known as "Big Dank."
Clearly, though, this information wasn't very good public relations for the Fruit of Islam or the mighty, gun-toting New Panthers; the members of both preferred the illusion that they could fill a room based on the strength and popularity of their message.
"Now my sister asked you to stop this," said a 7-foot Muslim who suddenly appeared between me and my young rap-loving interviewees. "You are harassing the people here. And I'm going to take you out. You got that in your little notebook?"
And with that, the large fist of a tall Muslim man who wouldn't give me his name went into the small of my back. And that fist--and that very tall man--pushed me all the way across the room and back out the front door.
Where I was more than ready to go.