Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Tree Shakers and the Jelly Makers

July 1, 2009 will mark 22 years of my service as the Student Minister of Muhammad Mosque No.45 Houston, Texas. Tomorrow, April 1, will also mark another milestone, I was appointed the Student Southwest Regional Minister in 1994. During my public life I have tried to seek justice for the little man. We have challenged politicians, corporations, brutal elements of law enforcement, corruption in the judiciary, and misbehavior in our own community. I know that I have been used by members of my own community like a pit bulldog to go after certain elements of the establishment, only to see the benefit go not to the masses, but to a few members of the Black bourgeoisie. Ergo, the title: The Tree Shakers and the Jelly Makers.

Tree Shakers are those activists who put it on the line for the cause. These revolutionaries and activist lose their jobs, families, possessions, freedom, and are treated like pariahs while they are alive. The saddest part is we have had to pass the hat to bury many of them. I have watched the elite beneficiaries of the Tree shakers' struggle come to their funerals and express a love for them. I wondered to myself if they were sincere or not.

You see, Tree shakers knock the fruit off the tree so that the Jelly makers can take the fruit and make jelly. Too often, the Jelly makers forget or refuse to give the Tree shaker a spoonful or a jar of jelly to keep shaking the tree. Jelly makers mistakenly believe that they are the reason why they are where they are by virtue of their education and working inside the system.

Meanwhile, one by one, we watch our Tree shakers die off or go into bitter self imposed exile. Today, the Jelly makers are running out of activist to use and find themselves unable and unwilling to take the risks to advance the cause of freedom, justice, and equality. I, for one, am tired of being used by Jelly makers. It is time that a more equitable arrangement to be made that benefits both the masses and the classes. I am not knocking the educated elite among our people. I by virtue of my education and social status could be identified as elite. But I am under no illusion that a minister of the Nation of Islam will ever be fully accepted or trusted.

I, too, celebrate the election of President Barack Obama. What I am saying is that racism, sexism, classism, is not over - it has become more insidious. The struggle continues. It ain't over! Take care of your Tree shakers or face a grim future.

I return in this blog to the opportunity presented by $1.46 billion in light rail construction to begin shortly in Houston. This is the largest public works project in the history of Houston, in terms of dollar expenditure. Yet, our community doesn't seem to be in a position to take advantage of this tremendous opportunity. Is this the masses fault or should the Black intellectual class have united long ago to be poised to make some jelly for us all?

I have been involved in every referendum to build stadiums in this city during the last two decades. I have been inside negotiations and meetings with some of the most powerful persons in Houston. After all is said and done, ($1 billion dollars in stadium construction) we don't have one Black that could serve as a prime contractor on a major project in this city. In Atlanta, the Black mayors helped create a business powerhouse in Herman Russell. Where is our Herman or Ermine Russell in Houston, Texas? Out of this $1.46 billion project million in small business a Black owned company must emerge that can post a bond of $100 million, have a line of credit of $25 million, and send competent personnel to set up offices throughout this hemisphere and the world.

If in my lifetime we as a people could accomplish this in Houston, I would feel that my tree shaking has not been in vain. For more information on the Metro Solutions program visit www.communities-in-motion.org.


  1. On tree shakers and jelly makers: I'm reminded of the story of the mice who wanted cheese but were too afraid to get it unless someone put a bell around the cat's neck.

    While only one had the courage to do so, the others hid behind the hole in the wall in fear.

    Without going into the full story, however, with today's cat being so much more sophisticated, he offers crumbs of cheese to the elite mice in order to keep the others behind the wall and in fear.

    Let's keep connecting those dots...

  2. Thanks for the comment - cats, mice, bells and all!

  3. Please add me as a "Tree Shaker" as well. Thanks.