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[00:00:00]

Just a heads up yo. The following episode contains language that some people may find offensive. Like most people should find offensive if they hear it. Yes.

[00:00:11]

Majdi Waddi, you may not have heard of him, but he's pretty well-known in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

[00:00:17]

Three generations of the Waddi family living the American dream on this spot for more than 30 years.

[00:00:24]

Mojada Awadi is Palestinian American. He's a devout Muslim and the CEO of the Holy Land brand. It's a family owned grocery store and a restaurant in hummus factory.

[00:00:34]

Some are familiar now. Maybe you picked up Holy Land hummus at Costco or saw Waddi on the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

[00:00:43]

The whole thing is a little piece of the Middle East in the Midwest, thanks to the Waddi family who came to Minneapolis, by the way, Jordan and Kuwait.

[00:00:52]

But a lot has changed since the Wadis were kicking it with Guy Feherty on Thursday morning.

[00:00:59]

The CEO of Holy Land, DeLeon Grocery, put out a statement on Facebook saying in part that he had fired his daughter from the company after social media post that she made with racial slurs had resurfaced. I'm Shereen Marisol, Marjie, Gene Demby.

[00:01:14]

And this is Code Switch from NPR. Just three days after police in Minneapolis killed George Floyd and protests erupted in that city, LeAnn wadis anti black, anti Semitic anti-gay tweets were everywhere.

[00:01:34]

God already punished you for being black. So why would you make it worse by being gay? Hashtag shet. People in my family say when a in from north east Minneapolis threatens to come back to kill my dad and his family once he's out of jail. Hashtag, LMG hashtag fucking scared our poor.

[00:01:54]

She went for hard. Ah. Yeah.

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And that's not even the half ok. That nonsense that we just heard. She tweeted that in 2012, a few years later in 2016, she posted a photo of her and a monkey on IJI with the caption, quote, made friends with this little N-word today and it wasn't N-word.

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And this is in all this is an all.

[00:02:20]

There's more. So now is dead. Majdi Waddi is fighting to save his family's reputation in their business. And he says he wants to make amends and to help him do all that.

[00:02:33]

He called up a black Muslim leader in Minneapolis, Mom Makram El-Amin.

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I'll say what he said. He called me because he respects my family. He called me because we are one of the prominent African-American Muslim families in this city, in this state, you know. He called me because he needed to call him.

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I said, you know, you're busy. I need to see you. There is a situation here and I need your help not to help to build me. And I said, but I'm here today. Tell me what to do.

[00:03:11]

So is there a path to redemption for Majdi Waddi once this kind of damage has been done?

[00:03:18]

And is it the job of a black man to guide must dewilde to that path? Jeanne, NPR's national desk correspondent Leila Fadel called me about this story when she was reporting in Minneapolis after the police killing of George Floyd reignited the protests for black lives there. And I was like this right here. This is a code switch story.

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It is because close story. And Lila is here to talk to us about it. Lila, welcome back. Good. How you been?

[00:03:45]

I've been good. Thanks. You, too. I'm really glad to be back. I want to take you first to north Minneapolis, the heart of black Minneapolis. How you do about it? Good. It's good to see you. You out of court today? Yes, sir. Good to see both. Yes, sir. I'm sure. I'm sure. I was just walking, to be honest and say that Fox is doing you know, that's a man, Makram El-Amin, who we just heard from.

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He got that phone call from Majdi Waddi asking for help. Right. So on this day, he's out on the main thoroughfare of the neighborhood, West Broadway. We're a couple blocks from the historic African-American mosque. He leads Masjid and Ngau Mosque of Lights Brother.

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Every few steps, he stops to greet community leaders spread.

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We're going to see. That's a Bears fan ribbing him for his Vikings mask.

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A lot of people are out these days to help or to get help.

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This is this is a food desert. It is a food desert. So this has already been here when you have things like Kovin. And then the uprising and things of that nature. All these things are coming to a head. It's just a perfect storm right now. It's really the perfect storm.

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So between the pandemic, the protests against police brutality, there's little to no access to food. Supermarkets had been closed about a week on the day we're walking around. So the neighborhood banded together to support their most vulnerable.

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Elamine has been in Minneapolis since the 70s. His father joined the Nation of Islam in the 50s in Chicago before El-Amin was born. That message to do for self build, black power and uplift. It appealed to him in the midst of racism and oppression.

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So his dad was in the nation, but is making the melamine in the nation. Good to know. A lot of stuff went down there. Right, exactly. So no. When Elijah Muhammad died, he was the leader of the Nation of Islam. His son, Warith D. Mohammed, was chosen as the new leader. And he rejected this idea of black separatism, brought his followers to orthodox Islam. And that included El-Amin parents. Is that how they ended up in Minnesota from Chicago?

[00:05:57]

Yep. He moved to Minneapolis. His father did to convert a Nation of Islam temple into a traditional mosque. That was happening around the country. It started as a storefront. Today, Imad Makram El-Amin leads the community in a freestanding building with a dome and also runs a community service program called My Own is from the hundred and seventh chapter.

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It means neighborly needs the neighbors.

[00:06:19]

So right now, El Marwin is in full swing, serving thousands of people a week. It provides employment services, hot meals and the carpeted prayer area that's closed for worship is instead covered in plastic wrap and supplies.

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We get like two maps that are coming in there, gloomy stuff and sent out as well. These are boxes of dry goods is going to go.

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He wants this to be more more than just a place for people to turn to, for survival, for their basic needs.

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This is just a symptom of a bigger problem.

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He wants his mosque and community center to be a place that will address the legacy of a broken criminal justice system, redlining and disinvestment in north Minneapolis.

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In this moment, that's going to take investment. So we've got calling on those who have benefited to invest now.

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So investment from those who've benefited. Who is he talking about?

[00:07:07]

Yeah, well, he's talking about businesses that built their wealth in communities like this one, some Arab and Muslim owned or owned by other immigrants of color to invest in the communities that made them. So that means places like the corner stores that in some neighborhoods were or are the only access point to food, but also typically don't carry fresh produce and opt instead for junk food. And what Elamine calls the poison lottery tickets alcohol. Elamine talked about how these businesses ended up here.

[00:07:37]

They hadn't really been allowed because of the power structure, white supremacy and other structural things that have happened to really set up shop in other communities. Right. So they found homes across the country amongst African-Americans in some cases, you know, feel like folks are coming in, taking advantage of the buying power. Even in Cornwall, poor communities they're strong by, but otherwise they wouldn't be here. But the idea of them coming in has fueled tensions over the course of time and not all of them.

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And I don't want to paint such a broad picture, but I would say to many.

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Yeah. And this tension between immigrants of color and African-Americans, it's longstanding and it's something we've talked a lot about on Code Switch. You know, we're coming up here on the 30th anniversary of the death of Latasha Harlins when she was just 15 years old, a Korean immigrant who owned a convenience store here in South L.A. shot her in the back of the head. And Latasha was just trying to buy orange juice. Yeah. Last week would have been Latasha Harlins is forty fifth birthday.

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And soon as I do, that store owner who shot her was effectively sentenced to just community service. She had to pay for Harlin's funeral cause. But that whole incident, Latasha Holas death became, you know, along with the acquittal of the police officers who beat Rodney King. One of the big sparks of the L.A. riots in 1992. And when black people hit the streets and when buildings that are getting burned, many of the businesses that were destroyed, that were targeted were owned by Korean Americans.

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Yeah, and there's still a lot of hurt over what happened on both sides all these years later. You know, and that's just one example of how this tension has played out. There are more.

[00:09:20]

Right. Exactly. Yeah. And that tension is always just one spark away from another fire because the underlying issue is still there, that these businesses are not seen as respectful to the community that they serve. There is a unique situation with American Muslims. They are one of the most racially and ethnically diverse groups in the country linked by their faith, but also the discrimination they face. But that doesn't mean there isn't anti blackness. Even with at least 20 percent of American Muslims being black and El-Amin Mosque, like many African-American mosques.

[00:09:53]

It's always sat right at that flashpoint, that intersection of race, culture, ethnicity, socioeconomic background. And in the wake of George Floyds killing Elamine phone, it's been ringing off the hook because those historic tensions he describes there igniting. He's getting calls for guidance from nonblack Muslims and then angry calls from the black community asking how he's going to handle this. The corner store that called the police on George flight that was Arab-American owned. The owner, also a Palestinian Muslim like Weddady, by the way, that owner has expressed deep remorse.

[00:10:28]

And then just a few days later, those old racist, bigoted tweets from Maji, what his daughter, Lee-Anne, they resurfaced.

[00:10:35]

Holy Lands owner said that he fired his own daughter, saying that he will not tolerate that type of behavior. That's when Makara Elamine got that call from Majdi Weddady for help.

[00:10:44]

My family has supported his business for many, many years, many years. Miano related with my mother as well, who also call me and miss. This is like what's going on with this.

[00:10:55]

But just to be clear, Holyland isn't a corner liquor store in north Minneapolis. Right. With bars on the windows, it's first of all, it's a few miles away from where you just took us. And if I understand this right, it's a full service grocery store, among many other things. Right.

[00:11:15]

It's a family business that serves a multiracial customer base. Most of its employees, people of color, immigrants famous for its hummus. It's Halaal Me. And they actually don't sell liquor at all. And that's why El-Amin says this racist incident makes it even worse. He talked about this with me later.

[00:11:32]

It was seen to be a departure from that. I like it. That was as though some better, you know, this approach that came in grow their business to a multi-million dollar business and be I mean, lots of support from all facets of the community, African-Americans, Somali. He said whatever. Right. I mean, everybody they were they were a go to place.

[00:11:49]

He says Holy Land was supposed to be different, but now people are questioning that. He told me a lot of African-Americans came to Islam, attracted to the teachings of social justice, equity, accountability, but they found anti blackness in nonblack Muslim spaces.

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The way that they looking condescendingly at my people is something that has been reinforced to society, whether through media and all kinds of things. It's been reinforced and they've bought it. And that's how I know that, because how they try to interact and treat us, you know, the prophet, peace be upon him, talked about your religion is really in your human interactions. It's not what you profess and how flowery and that what you dress and how long you'd be.

[00:12:30]

It is always foolishness and then do it. This is about how you treat people. But when the. When the stuff hits the fan. All right. I need you. This message comes from NPR Sponsor Better Help, a truly affordable online counseling service. Fill out a questionnaire online and get matched with a licensed counselor best suited to your mental health needs, whether it's depression, anxiety or trauma. Better help will help you overcome what stands in the way of your happiness.

[00:13:21]

Learn more at better help Acom and get 10 percent off your first month with promo code code. Better help get help. Anytime, anywhere. This country gave me where nowhere else in the world gave me a home for my kids. As a Palestinian, as a refugee, that's much too. And he's showing me around Holy Land in north east Minneapolis. It started as an idea when Majdi, what his brother asked him to come to the U.S. from Jordan and help him expand his little corner store into something bigger.

[00:14:03]

I said, you know what, if I will join you, if I want to be become part of this business, I need Holy Land to be different than any other business in United States of America. All of them. They said good Sanders, good falafel. But this sort of thing that only opened on community. They're not even going across the street if when I grow Holy Land. We have to grow our Holy Land to serve the six million people that they live in the state of Minnesota.

[00:14:26]

That dream, it's now a reality. He walks me into the bakery.

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We have the African bread.

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We have the Iranian bread. We have the veins in the bread. We have the Iraqi bread. We have the Somalian bread. We have that in East Africa. Bread. We have bread from all over the world. And bread and cookies. We make it in daily basis.

[00:14:46]

So all this it's in jeopardy because of his daughter, Lianne's social media posts. This is now the only location of Holy Land. They were evicted from one. They closed two others shut down their harmless factory after losing contracts with places like Costco. There is a boycott campaign. The family has received death threats. And so far, he says they've lost millions of dollars, laid off dozens of people, mostly immigrants that work for the business.

[00:15:14]

One of the hardest days of my life was the other day when I have to meet with my factory employees, 28 families and tell them I'm really sorry, I'm shutting down my factory. You've got to go home. I mean, is this is how we went to solve the problem by banishing other people? That's hard to hear.

[00:15:33]

Like, is this going overboard? Does the punishment fit the crime? I'm sure people listening are wondering about that, too, although although we have to say those social media post from Lee-Anne were horrific and we just scratched the surface with the ones we played, they they were definitely terrible. Yeah.

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You know, basically what he told me when he saw the posts, he was so shocked. It's so angry. He could barely look at Lee-Anne as a father.

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He told her, I love you, but you did a great mistake. You did a huge mistake. I'm not sure how you're going to live with this mistake if you didn't do anything about it. Do you want to live with it for the rest of your life? Do any of you name it lives addresses for the rest of your life?

[00:16:18]

Samajwadi and his wife have looked for answers about how Lee-Anne learned the things she wrote.

[00:16:24]

I mean, Leila Lee-Anne did hashtag her tweets.

[00:16:29]

Shit. People in my family say she tagged her cousin in multiple tweets. Yeah, that's true. I don't know. I feel like this could be a family affair. Maybe.

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Did you. Do you ask? Mostly worry about all that shit. People in my family. Did you ask him?

[00:16:47]

I did. I actually. Yeah, I asked him specifically about that hashtag when he was saying, like, where did she learn this?

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And saying shit. Family says, I'm not sure where she comes. I ask her this question. I said, where did you come from? This one. When you say shit, family says, did you ever hear me talking about. No. Oh, I mean, family and Jenna, her cousin, were lower. What about you?

[00:17:09]

I don't know. She didn't come clear to me.

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Look, he told me these were things that Leandro in high school at 15, he says that's not an excuse. But she was also going through what he called a bad phase. The only brown Muslim kid in her white high school trying to fit in.

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I came to America in 1994. She was my first child. Nobody ever told me, which is this. This is not an excuse. How to is an Arabic Muslim. Palestinian kid in America would be fired.

[00:17:39]

Lee-Anne. As director of catering. That was probably within hours of the tweets resurfacing. Issued an open letter apologizing for what she said. And he told me multiple times that the posts were disgusting and racist, but that she's a different person now. She also apologized on her iji and in the local press.

[00:17:58]

I want to apologize from the bottom of my heart. They were such like horrible and vile things. And that's not who I am. It's not what I believe in.

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Lee-Anne chose not to speak to me, but obviously must do what he did, saying he's determined to fix this. He's worried his business won't survive and all his employees will lose their jobs. And he doesn't want this to be what his family's remembered for.

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This is not the legacy that I wanna leave behind me as a racist or a father to raise racism. As I told you, that is to option at all. It is just to make hire the best. We are a company in the war. By the way, there is a PR woman in the room with us. So he did hire a PR company? Yeah. Hmm. Apologize for the beeble, the people. Human being. And then to be forgiven by.

[00:18:52]

By nature. By nature. After a while we forget. Have a nice day. Business will come back booming. Is this is what I want? No, this is not what I want. I changed my perspective about legacy now. I told you that I guess he fast. I want to be bigger than you vocally because that's how most bigger than this one. Now, I still want to do this, but I'm going to use the money.

[00:19:19]

If I succeed in doing this, to do it is the ultimate legacy. And beeble heart by being a role model in the change that this movement is looking for.

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Hmm. Hmm. Hmm. Hmm. Hmm, hmm. Hmm hmm. So he still wants to be a huge brand, bigger than she Portale. But he also wants to be a role model in the Movement for Black Lives. Am I hearing that right? Well, to be clear, it's my understanding from the long interview I did with Weddady that he wants to lead in his own community, the Arab Muslim community, on how to be a good ally and an anti-racist.

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It's kind of hard to figure out how seriously to take that, how genuinely that's over that, because a lot of businesses right now in this moment, obviously not in mostly wady situation, but a lot of businesses are doing anti-racism as ask over.

[00:20:08]

Yeah, they are. And he knows people are going to be really skeptical that now he's starting this.

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Oh, because you've been exposed. Now you're gonna start working in this one because you lost business, because you lost Costco, because you lost the bought. Because, you know, I'm not gonna convince you otherwise. We are determined.

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I guess I'm I'm still not clear up to this point about what exactly Majda what he's determined to do. Right? Yeah, that's well that's probably gcas it feels like he's still figuring this out in real time. I don't think he was clear about what he should do and it's really why he called on Makram El-Amin. I mean, this is a guy who didn't have a Twitter account or know the term anti blackness until all this went down. He said things like, why can black people call him the N-word in a nice way?

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And he can't say it back off when you call me that name.

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I think it's OK to call you that name. And then he said more than once that it was the responsibility of African-Americans to reach out to Arab immigrants like him and help them understand anti blackness.

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They believe that the African American also dropped the ball where not by not fighting for their rights to being fighting for their rights for hundreds of years, but not preaching to us and educating us. Look, cultural differences is something that we have to educate our self with each other.

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Oh, my God. This is gonna be real. Real, real, right?

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Yeah. You know, he has been here for decades. So, you know, I said I said to him, he's been here 30 years. You should know something about this. But he told me, look, I'm a Palestinian immigrant who's had to teach people about my cause as a person with no homeland. And then after 9/11, about Islam, when he and his family were targeted for their faith there at this city. So in his mind, other communities should do that for him.

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But what was really most stunning for me was listening to Weddady, a Palestinian American Muslim who deals with discrimination, oppression in his own right. Listening to him start to recognize his own prejudice. And it's something I've heard few Arabs interrogate, at least the ones that I grew up around.

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You know what it is in our heart by design, without us knowing that we have this as a Muslim Arab community without without people who are going to like it or not. We have this in our heart. It's not just something Lee-Anne said. Maybe. Maybe Lee-Anne was cut. Cut.

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He said he thought about a word sometimes used for black people when he was growing up in Jordan and Kuwait. Abby. Abby. Yeah. So it's Arabic and it means slaves.

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Well, if you tell me, Majdi, did you ever used it? I would be lying if I says no. But did I use this word to discriminate or be racist? Definitely no. I use it because of the common word and a phrase that I learned. I been raised to use it.

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Mm hmm. OK. So instead of saying black person or African person, he would just call them slaves.

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So, yeah, he says now he gets it. Now he knows it's akin to the N-word. And it goes against his family values.

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OK. So this goes against his family values. He wants to be part of the solution. And we know he called on one the most prominent black Muslims in Minneapolis, where hope was that the same falls in love away about this expectation that Michael melamine does like Muslim leader, that the vote is just going to drop everything and teach him teach me how to do better. Yeah, that wasn't lost on El-Amin, this crisis. It's the first time Weddady had ever been to his house and keeping the door open.

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It wasn't a decision he came to lightly. He hasn't forgiven, but he is willing to help with a path to redemption because he told me mercy, redemption. It's what his faith teaches, something we all will seek at some point. But no one gets redemption for nothing.

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So the lingering question for me is what did he mom, Makram El-Amin, say to Majdi Whity after he got this phone call? What did he say to help him?

[00:24:12]

Try and redeem himself and his family for all this. Welcome to my humble abode. Thank you.

[00:24:19]

So when a producer and I last met with a man, Malcolm El-Amin, we're sitting on his porch, a picture of the late Malcolm X hanging in the window behind him. And he told me this is what he asked for.

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In a written memorandum of understanding, we wanted that he be a strategic, committed partner to bringing these conversations to the Muslim community. This A.I. blacklisted the Muslim community. You can't be on the side. You got to come all the way. You've got to champion this with us now. What does that mean? That that means put his money where his mouth is.

[00:24:54]

Put his money where his mouth is. Yeah. And I. I can't say the dollar amount. El-Amin asked for in that pledge, but it's sizable and earmarked to do what we heard El-Amin say he wanted to do with his organization. Earlier address the legacy of redlining, disinvestment in black communities and the pledge also asked Weddady to open a branch of Holy Land in north Minneapolis.

[00:25:17]

I live in a community. These jobs bring that wonderful Binz model over here, training people to hire from here, do some profit sharing with your employees over here, let it become a co-op that the better you do, the community benefits from here. That's different as game changing. That's game changer. That says more than I'm sorry.

[00:25:38]

Then he wants Wendy to push to have real conversations about how to combat anti blackness within the Arab community where he's had a stellar reputation.

[00:25:46]

Many of you look at him in surprise, like, hey, this is tzar guy. You know him. He's you know, he he's the American dream.

[00:25:52]

But the key, El-Amin tells me, is once Weddady does use his money, his social capital.

[00:25:58]

Don't try to take credit for it. Don't try to step in and lead it. You need to be a support. We know what's needed here.

[00:26:07]

So invest in McCallum's non-profit and invest in other. Blackmun's is the north Minneapolis, the black neighborhood, bring Holy Land to north Minneapolis and maybe create a co-op and offer training to people in that community.

[00:26:21]

And don't put yourself in front as the leader. I'm also hearing that part as don't expect praise. Don't expect all that good press you're used to. That is quite an ask.

[00:26:33]

I'm sayin, yeah, it's it is an ask, you know, and Weddady told me he's ready to be that person to make this his top priority. He's been writing down his thoughts and they're actually printed out in front of him when we're talking things.

[00:26:47]

He's thought through this journey of self reflection and he reads one, because you did something wrong in the best does not mean you can advocate against it. No, it doesn't make you hypocrites. You just group. Solely led, the question is, has Majesty Whity signed Magnum El'ad means memorandum of understanding.

[00:27:15]

The answer is no. He has convened a group of Arab Muslim businessmen to join him, to educate themselves, fight anti blackness.

[00:27:25]

And he says he's implementing racial bias training for Holyland employees. But that pledge, he hasn't signed it yet.

[00:27:33]

That sounds like the playbook. So what is it, Mom? El-Amin, think of the fact that he hasn't sign this memorandum.

[00:27:42]

Yeah. So he told me he does believe Mezger. What? He's genuine. He also knows he's hemorrhaging money right now. But that path to redemption that he talks about. He says it won't happen without action. And in this case, he's talking about a monetary investment on the day we're recording this. I did get an email from what he's saying. His company started a charitable fund where that money will go.

[00:28:06]

Still not clear if nothing ever happens with this. I think it's going to fracture the community more, the Muslim community. This is just a microcosm of the whole society. Have no real reform or whatever comes out of this here. Then we're on a downward spiral.

[00:28:37]

After the break, we're going to talk to Rami Nashashibi. He's been working for years to get Arab Muslim business owners to treat their black clientele with respect. And he doesn't shy away from being provocative.

[00:28:49]

After the killing of Jorge Floyd and the uprisings and the riots, I saw Palestinian owned businesses, you know, in places like the south side of Chicago being protected by the managers and store owners with firearms that were explicitly intended to intimidate the residents around them. How different really is the image of settlers who, in the context of the West Bank, are often protected by armed Israeli defense forces? How different is that from, you know, store owners who may legally occupy, according to the laws of capitalism, a plot of land in the heart of a black community that they don't live in, that they are not invested in, that they don't support.

[00:29:37]

I kind of saw that that visual analogy was important to make, to challenge our community, to think, well, what sort of practices would make that analogy?

[00:29:48]

Absolutely absurd for you to have more from Rami. But first, we got to go to this break. Don't go nowhere.

[00:29:54]

This message comes from NPR sponsor Discover. Sometimes food is more than just food. It's an integral part of our community. So this year, Discovery is giving five million dollars to support black owned restaurants to places like Rodney Scott's Barbecue and Charleston Post Office Pies in Birmingham back in the day bakery in Savannah and hundreds more places in your local community all across the country. Learn how you can show your support at Discover Dot.com. I'm Jen White. The new host of NPR's One, a daily show that asks America what it wants to be.

[00:30:28]

Hear from people across the country. Listeners like you with conversations for the relentlessly curious on the issues that matter most. Join me next time on one day.

[00:30:37]

From NPR and W Ammu. Jean Shearin, Romney, Nasser Shooby code switch, Rami Nashashibi is a community organizer. He runs the inner city Muslim Action Network in Chicago, or the acronym as a man. People love acronyms.

[00:30:57]

Unkles, which he identifies as a Palestinian American Muslim grandson of Palestinian refugees from 1948 who settled in the Southside of Chicago at a time when very few Palestinian families were here.

[00:31:13]

Rami has been working with a mine for years to get corner store owners in Chicago. A lot of them Arab and Muslim, to be more integrated into the black neighborhoods. They're running their businesses in.

[00:31:25]

You're listening to this serene. It reminds me so much of like the dynamics of the corner stores around me growing up in South Philly. We call them Chinese stores or poppy shops, Chinese stores or poppy shops.

[00:31:40]

So, Poppy, like I'm supposed to assume that they're Latino X owned, right? Exactly. That seems really derogatory because I'm sure your folks are saying Chinese stores and they have no idea where folks are from.

[00:31:55]

Exactly. They could've been Korean. They could be Vietnamese. And obviously is telling that people like the stores are being described by the assumed ethnicities of the people run them like because for the people, my neighborhood in South Philly, that's by the Muslim contact we had in our very segregated black neighborhood with like nine black immigrants. And so there was all these tensions just in the little exchanges in the stores about, you know, cheap but still overpriced fares through the Plexiglas in both directions.

[00:32:24]

Right. Like the store owners were snippy with customers. The customers were suspicious of the store owners, which is a mess. But I digress. Cherine, you spoke to Rami Nashashibi about his work in Chicago and his connection to make them El-Amin and Marty Waddi in Minneapolis.

[00:32:39]

I did. And he's been on the phone with those two and also going back and forth to Minneapolis trying to help them sort this mess out. But to your point, I did want to know more about his corner store campaign. You know, what has he been asking Arab Muslim store owners to do to change their business practices?

[00:32:56]

Some of those steps are fairly simple. I mean, it's how do you talk to residents in a way that kind of lifts them up and celebrates them as they come into your store, as opposed to contributing to the feeling that they're being watched and surveilled and those types of thing. Are you walking into a dignified business where you feel dignified or are you walking into something that looks like an extension of the prison industrial complex where you're having to negotiate for a bottle of milk behind three inches of bulletproof glass and degraded by having a point towards something?

[00:33:26]

And, you know, those types of interactions, how to mitigate those things by simply changing the layout of the store, what you offer in the store, your hiring practices.

[00:33:38]

Mm hmm. How have you gotten aira corner store owners specifically to recognize their anti blackness?

[00:33:47]

There was a hip hop artist here in Chicago still around by the name of Mickey Halstead. He had a really controversial track called the Liquor Store Out. You know, it really blatantly confronted some of the practices of the liquor store and the Arab owned liquor store explicitly. There was a line in there, something along the lines of, you know, I heard the owner say a salon won't let go. But if you follow the crime, why the Effy selling bacon A to white?

[00:34:16]

I don't see you like you ain't got no idea why people drink, too. Where do you live? Well, you kids go to school. You open up there. Are we just the pools. I know you think that was stupid and you feel like the class, but we reserve the right to shut your waist down. Yeah.

[00:34:35]

Why not? Mincing words. Me? Yeah. Yes. Yeah. When Romney said this track was controversial. Gene, I think that might be an understatement. He did say really controversial. So maybe like you add an extra really, really, really controversial. So making house dad calls these liquor store owners leeches. In the video, an Arab store owner has a gun. He's really sinister looking. There's a line in the rap that says he shot a 10 year old just because they wanted juice.

[00:35:04]

Wow. That is obviously very reminiscent of the circumstances under which Latasha Harlins was killed in what was then south central. Now South L.A. back in 1991.

[00:35:14]

Yeah. And the Arab community in Chicago was absolutely outraged at this portrayal of them.

[00:35:22]

And Romney told me they made it known. But Rami decided, I'm going to use this really, really controversial track as a jumping off point for public conversations between Arab store owners and the black residents who frequented their businesses.

[00:35:39]

So we did a whole series. Things like that over a number of years and many of the store owners were coming from Palestinian backgrounds, we were able to have a very honest conversation with their own experience of oppression. Think about their sets of practices and experiences through the filter of their experience as Palestinians in, you know, the West Bank or Gaza or wherever they may have been coming from. We were able to generate significant identification not only with the large African-American community, but real honest set of conversations about racist practices and what those look like.

[00:36:14]

So the work that you were doing with Makram El-Amin, it was around this. Right, bringing this initiative to Minneapolis. Had those conversations already started between corner store owners in Minneapolis and the community?

[00:36:27]

I think I called him initially because. I saw in the first video, the first video that came out, that graphic, gut wrenching, eight minute, 40 second moment. There was a probably 30 second clip within that that has what was clearly a young Arab dude coming out of the store.

[00:36:54]

And Rami is obviously talking there about the video that captured the police officer with his knee on George Luis neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds.

[00:37:04]

A quick reminder that the call to the police came from a corner store called Cub Foods. We talked about that earlier. The owner is Palestinian.

[00:37:13]

So Rami tells me he calls it Makinen Melamine, who he's known for years to figure out how are we going to address this and market him, tells him there's another Palestinian owner of a set of businesses who is extraordinarily successful, who's in the thick of a nother emerging controversy right now because of a set of tweets are that had surfaced from his daughter.

[00:37:40]

That's Majdi Whity, who maybe is sincere about wanting to make amends. But, you know, I know there's a lot of people who are listening to this who are probably like he did call on the most prominent African-American Muslim in Minneapolis to help him out. Maybe he just wanted some cover or maybe he just wanted somebody to save his reputation. And that was the person to turn to.

[00:38:10]

There was undoubtedly a part of that that did lead him to probably reach out to Malcolm as someone who he can turn to. The fact is, though, this all of us can probably relate to moments when we are facing it, when the proverbial shit is hitting the fan, so to speak. We are on our knees in intense sincerity. In fact, there's a quote Alnwick verse that talks about the people who are lost at sea. And when the when the wave is about to overwhelm them and overcome them, they turn to God.

[00:38:43]

And they expression is Mukhlis seem Fadime. They turn to God with the most intensely sincere prayers and invocations. And when that wave subsides and you're back to shore as is like, man, you never called on God in the first place. You're back to your wants in ways. And so there is part of that that is very just being human. Now, our interest in facilitating any type of reconciliation or reproach mom with him in the broader community would be really on the basis of what it meant ultimately for building real black institutional led power and strength in places like Minneapolis, whether that was led by Markram or others within the African-American community.

[00:39:29]

This was something that required much more institutional commitment towards the larger types of conditions that I was explaining to Majda that our community has never really taken seriously. It is still unfair on some level, even acknowledging antiblack racism in the store owners, not to look at the larger socio economic context that these stores are operating in. The Palestinian immigrant or refugee is not responsible for creating the conditions through which he's operating in in most cases.

[00:40:09]

I certainly see a lot of beautiful aspects of our community. I believe in the type of intervention that Makram is making with Modi. I'm not cynical about it. I think it comes from a beautiful part of our tradition that is not only about calling out, but calling up. As long as that's what's driving it and it's driven with a vision for true justice and equity, we're going to be there and I'm personally going to be committed and standing with him every step of the way.

[00:40:49]

That's our show. If you want to put some faces to some names, we've got photos of Majdi Wildy and Markram El-Amin on the Code Switch blog.

[00:40:57]

This episode. You're listening to was edited by you, Cherise Tranch A.. Well done. It was produced by Kumara Devarajan with fuel production help from Liz Baker and Gabriella SBB.

[00:41:09]

A shout out to the rest of the CSPI media. Karen Grigsby Bates, Alyssa Giang, Perry, Natalie Essabar.

[00:41:16]

Just come Ella Johnson and Steve Drummond next week because the reckoning capital t capital or is all inclusive. It is. We're sticking to the theme of anti blackness within black communities, even when they're brown people.

[00:41:30]

Anti blackness is actually a part of Asian American racial formation in a ton of ways.

[00:41:36]

Lots to talk about next week on Ko's, which until then, remember, we have a huge back catalog. So if you're new to code switch and want to binge. We got you. We also have a newsletter and it's good to sign up. Go to New York, slash news letters with an S. You'll find us there.

[00:41:53]

I'm Shereen Marisol, Marjie, Gene Demby, BCO piece. We're only months away from Election Day and every week or even every few hours, there's a new twist that could affect who will win the White House.

[00:42:13]

To keep up with the latest, tune into the NPR Politics podcast every day to find out what happened and what it means for the election.