Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price did not attend yesterday's rally on his behalf at the Pan-African Connection Bookstore across the street from Fair Park. And those who'd packed the pews at the St. Luke "Community" United Methodist Church one month ago did not fill the parking lot, or the bounce house. Attendance was ... sparse -- 20 maybe, 30 tops, and even then only toward the end. The rhetoric was heated, yes; the barren concrete, more so. Perhaps it wasn't such a great idea to hold a nine-hour event without a set schedule on a 107-degree day.
Those who did take the stage, of course, were undaunted by temperature or turnout.
"The FBI is nothing new to us. Law enforcement is nothing new to us ... government destroys our movements and destroys our leaders ... the game is always the same," said Robert Muhammad, a Nation of Islam minister in Houston, "I am here because our brother, county commissioner John Wiley Price, is under attack."
"Teach, Muhammad, teach," said someone standing nearby.
"The solution is revolution," Muhammed said.
"The only way out is revolution, and revolutions are bloody," reiterated Mukasa Dada, the former spokesman for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Martin Luther King Jr.'s old friend, once known as Willie Ricks, delivered the most incendiary speech of the day, neglecting to mention Price but praising Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and calling President Obama an "agent of capitalism."
"We must get organized," he said. "We must link the movement in Texas with the movement of our people all over the world." And, again and again, he insisted: "We need revolution." He ended his speech with the two-word phrase he coined -- "black power."
Thomas Muhammad, president of the Dallas chapter of the National Black United Front and the event's organizer, told Unfair Park that the FBI's investigation of Price has become the "spark" that reignited the black community's call to action in recent weeks.
"I can say for sure he's innocent. I know John for 20 years," Muhammad said of the commissioner, who was the best man in his wedding. "He's seen as a young Al Lipscomb, if you will. John keeps his word, and people believe in him because they've worked with him."
"You people from the other side of our skin color say we're all paranoid," he said, explaining his belief that the FBI investigation is a political scheme. "We're saying we've seen this movie before."
The press release announcing Dada's addition to the event said he'd come to know Price after "several visits" to Dallas in the past. He told Unfair Park that, no, he doesn't know much about the commissioner. But that's not the point. "I came here to mobilize the people," he said after his speech.
"We're frustrated throughout this country," he said. "I predict that there will be rebellions and people fighting in the streets."
Charles Barron, New York City council member and founding chair of NBUF'S Harlem Chapter, told the crowd, "We are under serious attack and our communities are in crisis. ... it's time for us to stop the plantation politics." At which point he turned his attention to Rick Perry -- "Slick Rick," as he called him. "Let the people of the country know that he's a racist and a lowlife."
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Council member Carolyn Davis was on hand again, once more collecting checks for Price's legal defense fund. She took the stage after Barron: "I'm here to support our man downtown, John Wiley Price. I'm here to stand with my brother."
Silk Littlejohn was there too, a civilian speaker amongst politicians (including Houston city council member Jolanda Jones) and activists. She's the the Arlington woman who suffered taunts and threats when moving into a predominantly white neighborhood only four years ago. Far as she's concerned, a rally for Price is right regardless of his guilt or innocence: ""It's for the good he's done." An investigation of yet another African-American politician in Dallas, she said, is nothing more than "salt in the wound."