Tri-State Defender Religion Stories


Pastor issues call to Church and Leadership Planning Conference

By Kelvin Cowans, Special to The New Tri-State Defender

A seasoned pastor, the Rev. Antonio D. Jones shepherded Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Mississippi for 11 years before recently planting himself in Memphis as the new pastor of Hickory Hill Missionary Baptist Church at 6580 E. Raines Rd. On January 21 from 9 a.m. to noon, Hickory Hill MBC will be the venue for the Annual Church and Leadership Planning Conference. Kelvin Cowans: No one can question your leadership, as you have indeed been a pastor for over 17 years. So right now our focus is on this conference that you all are offering to the church and the community. Just where are you hoping to take this one? Pastor Antonio Jones: (The) one thing that I impress upon the church is having more community involvement – extending our fellowship and love more than just inside the walls of the church. It’s all right to praise and worship within, but we must also tend to the commission and commandments of the Word, which is to go out into the world to draw and help change people’s lives. KC: What are (some) of the things that you believe the community will receive out of this conference. Pastor Jones: Opportunity and an open invitation. Having this leadership conference is one of the game-changers we are banking on. Equipping headships to lead and offering tools for others to improve plans that they already have in place. Whether you are a leader, teacher, parent or layperson, you will leave feeling more empowered to serve those who look to you for guidance. If those persons in your life are out of reach, our church family is available to you…. The theme of the conference is “There is a prescription ready for pick up, but you must take it according to the directions.” Matthew 5:16 and Ephesians 4:32 are our foundational Scriptures. What they are saying is that the Word has something for everyone and it has something that can heal anyone. …We have three awesome speakers coming to deliver those prescriptions – Minister Christine Glass, Koinonia Baptist Church; Evangelist Paulette Moore, St. Stephen Baptist Church and Pastor Brandon Walker of New Shelby Missionary Baptist Church…. KC: As a pastor with many years of experience, you’ve seen almost as many people hurting as a hospital. What do you believe is missing in our communities? Pastor Jones: There is so much that is missing, especially in and for our young people. I truly believe that we overlook the children. Some in our previous generations have become so focused on Christianity or other religious “beliefs” they forget to introduce the concept of “following Christ” to our youth. Therefore, when the family, community and the church doesn’t address their issues, the problems become bigger. Compounding those problems, now days people just don’t come to church to hear the Word of God. They come expecting lots of activity or entertainment. As a church family, we want to heal them or nurture and develop the spiritual side of the person first and then provide services such as health and awareness, business classes, extracurricular activities, spiritual group sessions and other things pertinent to their life’s fulfillment and success. …We need more leaders inside and outside of the church, so we must prepare to raise up the next generations of leaders. KC: …(The) word leadership triggers many people to think of the business world, but you guys are a church. Is it safe to assume that there will be someone to talk “parent talk” and “leadership” in that aspect? PAJ: Absolutely! The church was put in place for the family. It is the foundation (upon) which wise men stand. Our speakers will offer a wealth of information to empower parents, inspire the business-minded and impart the Word of God to everyone…. KC: Where has the ball been dropped in the church as it relates to family? You have single mothers and often single men and surely divorcees. You get a lot of broken pieces. I’ve jokingly – yet often – referred to the church as “Humpty Dumpty University.” What do you do, dean? How do they make the “Dean’s List?” PAJ: I love the broken pieces. As you know, many races of people have gotten away from biblical principles and when you do that, trouble is not far behind, causing this breakdown. Many husbands/fathers step away from the family and some wives/mothers abandon the children, leaving them with no sense of direction. In turn, the children run towards any form of love and security just to survive. Yes, there is a fail, but it can be recovered. We must start now. We must embrace our children and return to teaching them the Word of God – building the home’s foundation sturdier than ever before. Be there for them; show up for them and live our lives exemplary of that we speak or preach. It can happen, and to God be the Glory! NOTE: The conference donation is $20, with lunch included. For more information, contact Mother Ida Fitzgerald, 901-737-9016, or Diann Jones, the church’s first lady, at 901-581-7304; [email protected]. (Kelvin Cowans can be reached at [email protected].)

COMMENTARY: From the pulpit to the people: Kim Burrell, homosexuality and the black church

By Johnathan P. Higgins ED.D., The Root

Well, damn, tell us how you really feel, Kim Burrell. On Friday night, social media became ablaze when one of preacher-singer Kim Burrell’s sermons went viral. In the video, Burrell shared a hate-filled message about what she believes 2017 will look like for LGBTQ people if they fail to repent. Burrell had been slated to perform with Pharrell Williams on the Ellen show this week to promote the single, “I See Victory” for the film Hidden Figures. That performance of the song, from a film promoting equity and equality, has since been canceled. Following the backlash, Burrell went on social media to “attempt” to clear up the statements made in the video, only to add more fuel to the fire. In her message via Facebook Live, she stated that she never said God was going to kill gay people in 2017, but that the Lord was only going to harm those who have “deception” attached to them. On Friday night, social media became ablaze when one of preacher-singer Kim Burrell’s sermons went viral. In the video, Burrell shared a hate-filled message about what she believes 2017 will look like for LGBTQ people if they fail to repent. Burrell had been slated to perform with Pharrell Williams on the Ellen show this week to promote the single, “I See Victory” for the film Hidden Figures. That performance of the song, from a film promoting equity and equality, has since been canceled. Following the backlash, Burrell went on social media to “attempt” to clear up the statements made in the video, only to add more fuel to the fire. In her message via Facebook Live, she stated that she never said God was going to kill gay people in 2017, but that the Lord was only going to harm those who have “deception” attached to them.

New Direction Christian Church reaches out with on-demand streaming app

By Amelia Ables, Special to

Sometimes physically attending church for Sunday morning service can be difficult. Just ask the single mom who works two jobs, or the college student who lives on campus without a car. New Direction Christian Church has taken note of that, and will launch the New Direction Digital Network at the top of 2017. The network will connect to the church’s website and app to provide anyone with on-demand access to sermons, Bible studies and other church services and events from anywhere. Nationally, churches are beginning to post Sunday’s messages online to attract members, and it’s working. A Barna Group study showed that 38 percent of people listened to religious podcasts and streamed sermons in 2015. New Direction Christian Church continues to provide the community with cutting edge opportunities to worship. Founded in 2001 by senior pastor, Dr. Stacy Spencer, the church was one of the first in Greater Memphis to use an unconventional worship style to attract members and mobilize their surrounding community. Today, there are two locations in Hickory Hill and Collierville. With a growing online audience, they are continuing to look for new ways to increase the community’s spirituality and faith through technology. “We’ve always worked to serve God first, and then our community,” Spencer says, “and we’ve been successful in doing that by adapting to changing times while staying true to our Christian beliefs. We’re excited to use New Direction Digital Network as a tool to continue to connect with saved, unchurched and those in need.” Shamichael Hallman, pastor at the Collierville location and tech expert, estimates the church’s online sermons have nearly 1,000 views each week. A large percentage of these viewers are within 10-15 miles of the church, while some are from other cities where Pastor Spencer has preached at revivals. Others are former members who have moved away, but want to stay connected to their church family or viewers who serve in the military abroad. The online channel will provide them with ongoing opportunities to stay connected and engaged despite the inability to attend services. “We recognize that we have a pretty large segment of individuals watching our online sermons for a number of reasons,” Hallman says. “Some may say ‘let me check this church out and see if I want to go’ while others may have small children with hectic schedules, preventing them from attending church.” Overall, New Direction hopes the network will give anyone a chance to hear and see preaching and teaching when and wherever they need it. “Our on-demand service will provide another touch point for them and deliver the same content and life-changing messages we are known for. But now it will work for everyone’s schedule,” says Hallman. (For more information on New Direction Christian Church, visit

Mississippi church member charged in ‘Vote Trump’ arson

By Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – A Mississippi man with a prior criminal record was arrested Wednesday in the burning of an African-American church that was spray- painted with the words “Vote Trump,” and the church’s bishop said the man is a member of the congregation. The state fire marshal said investigators do not believe the fire was politically motivated, but there a signs it may have been done to appear that way. Andrew McClinton, 45, of Leland, Miss. was scheduled to make an initial court appearance Thursday in Greenville – the city where Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church was burned and vandalized Nov. 1, a week before the presidential election. McClinton is charged with first-degree arson of a place of worship, said Warren Strain, spokesman for the Mississippi Department of Public Safety. Hopewell Bishop Clarence Green said McClinton, who is African-American, is a member of the church. Green said he didn’t know about the arrest until he was called by The Associated Press. “This is the first I have heard of it,” said Green, who said he was attending to other church duties and didn't have time for a longer interview. It was not immediately clear whether McClinton is represented by an attorney. The investigation is continuing, and officials have not revealed a possible motive. “We do not believe it was politically motivated. There may have been some efforts to make it appear politically motivated,” Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney, who is also the fire marshal, told AP. Mississippi Department of Corrections records show McClinton was sentenced in 1991 to three years’ probation for a grand larceny conviction in Washington County, where Greenville is the county seat. His probation was revoked in 1992 for receiving stolen property in Greenville, said Department of Corrections spokeswoman Grace Simmons Fisher. In 1997, McClinton was sentenced to seven years for attempted robbery in Lee County. And, in 2004, he was convicted of armed robbery in Lee County. He served eight years in prison and was released in January 2012. His time served included days he was jailed before trial. McClinton’s supervision by the department ended in February, the spokeswoman said. Greenville is a Mississippi River port city of about 32,100 people, and about 78 percent of its residents are African-American. While it’s not unusual for people of different racial backgrounds to work and eat lunch together, local residents say the congregations at most churches remain clearly identifiable by race. Greenville Mayor Errick D. Simmons on Wednesday called the church burning “a direct assault on the Hopewell congregation’s right to freely worship.” “There is no place for this heinous and divisive behavior in our city,” Simmons said. “We will not rest until the culprit is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We take pride in our work to have a unified city and we look forward in continuing that work.” Hopewell was founded in 1905 in the heart of an African-American neighborhood, and the congregation now has about 200 members. While some walls of the beige brick church survived the fire, the empty windows are boarded up and church leaders have said the structure will likely be razed. Rebuilding could take months. After the fire, Hopewell congregants began worshipping in a chapel at predominantly white First Baptist Church of Greenville. Bishop Green said last month the generosity of First Baptist demonstrates that “unlimited love” transcends social barriers. James Nichols, senior pastor at First Baptist, said the Hopewell members are welcome to stay as long as they need a home. Greenville is in Washington County, a traditional Democratic stronghold in a solidly Republican state. In the Nov. 8 presidential election, Republican Donald Trump easily carried Mississippi, but Democrat Hillary Clinton received more than twice the vote of Trump in Washington County — 11,380 for Clinton to 5,244 for Trump.

What’s in a name?: Walt Hazzard’s struggle with Islam & identity in the NBA

By Marc J. Spears, The Undefeated

Editor's Note: The following first appeared on ESPN's The Undefeated. Rasheed Hazzard gave up $800 and two game tickets in exchange for the prized NBA jersey last year. It wasn’t for an old Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Magic Johnson or Stephen Curry jersey. It was his late father’s game-worn jersey with the name “Abdul-Rahman” on the back, which was priceless to his Islamic faith family. “Anything I can get that my father actually wore is special to me,” Hazzard told The Undefeated. “I bought the actual game-worn jersey with ‘Abdul-Rahman’ on it.” The then-New York Knicks assistant coach’s father is more well-known as Walt Hazzard, the former UCLA star guard and head coach. The 1968 NBA All-Star changed his name to Mahdi Abdul-Rahman after he converted to Islam in the early 1970s. The vintage Golden State Warriors jersey from the 1972-73 season had the No. 44 and Abdul-Rahman on the back. Once Rasheed Hazzard finally got the jersey in the mail, he was moved to tears. “That jersey is my prized possession at this point. I love anything that can connect me to him and make me feel like he’s there,” Rasheed Hazzard said. “It was just something not only for me, I felt like I had to have it for my family, especially for my nephews, my nieces who didn’t meet him or didn’t get to know him like that … That jersey has to be in our family.” Walter Raphael Hazzard was born on April 15, 1942, in Wilmington, Delaware. He starred on UCLA’s first national championship team in 1964 under legendary coach John Wooden. The two-time All-America selection was also the 1964 NCAA Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. The 6-foot-2 guard won a gold medal with USA Basketball during the 1964 Olympics and played 10 seasons in the NBA with the Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, Buffalo Braves, Seattle SuperSonics and Atlanta Hawks. Walt Hazzard ranked among the NBA’s top 10 leaders in assists during six seasons. The ball-handling specialist also averaged a career-high 23.9 points per game for the Sonics during the 1967-68 season. “He played hard and hustled,” Hall of Famer Spencer Haywood told The Undefeated. “Defensively, he was always stuck on your jersey. Guys were fighting and kicking at him just to get him off, and he’d stay right in there. He had that one-hand push shot, which was a beautiful thing to watch. He was so well coached coming out of Philadelphia.” “He was a great player. He really was,” Jaleesa Hazzard said of her late husband. But out of all of Walt Hazzard’s NBA challenges, the biggest had nothing to do with playing — it had to do with his name. Walt Hazzard played under his birth name during his first four seasons with the Lakers and Sonics. He last played under Hazzard with the Sonics during the 1967-68 season, in which he made his lone All-Star appearance, scoring nine points in New York City’s famed Madison Square Garden. His wife, formerly named Patricia Shepard, said they first began exploring Islam while spending time in her hometown of Washington, D.C., around 1970. Then-Milwaukee Bucks and ex-UCLA center Lew Alcindor, who changed his named to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar when he converted to Islam in 1971, introduced the couple to the faith. “I was wondering why [Alcindor] was spending all this time in D.C.,” Jaleesa Hazzard said. “I didn’t know about the mosque. I didn’t know about the whole involvement in Islam in the very beginning. But, he and Walt always hung out because they were very close from the time Kareem came to UCLA.” Walt Hazzard and his wife attended several dinner meetings to learn more about Islam at a home called the Hanafi Center in D.C. Abdul-Jabbar purchased the property for Islamic teacher Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, who split with the Nation of Islam in 1958 to found a rival Islamic organization called the Hanafi Movement. In 1972, Khaalis published an open letter attacking the leadership and beliefs of the Nation of Islam and its leader, Elijah Muhammad. Jaleesa Hazzard was immediately skeptical about Khaalis. “I just personally felt like it was way too controlling. Way too controlling. And, I felt that he might gut the values — that he wasn’t a very good person,” she said. Walt Hazzard told his wife that he wanted to join the Hanafi Center as a family in 1970. Despite some reluctance, she joined her husband and they both were given the Muslim names Mahdi and Jaleesa Abdul-Rahman. The Abdul-Rahmans would go on to have four children: Yakub, Jalal, Rasheed and Khalil, a successful hip-hop record producer known as DJ Khalil. “I remember the process. I remember having to shave my son Yakub’s head. That was traumatic,” Jaleesa Hazzard said. “This was Hamaas, this was his ritual. It’s a part of what they did, you had to shave your head. You had to take what is called a Shahada, where you say that you believe there is one God — it is Allah — and that Muhammad is his prophet. It’s a very simple process, but there was a lot of ritual around it.” Mahdi Abdul-Rahman’s father, a Methodist preacher, had a very hard time adjusting to the overall change. “That was a big deal. We were no longer Hazzards. So as you can imagine for my father in-law, and for his family, this is huge. He was like, ‘You’re a Hazzard, and now you’re not?’ ” Jaleesa Hazzard said. Haywood said the changing to Muslim names by two standout NBA players, Abdul-Rahman and Abdul-Jabbar, was not warmly welcomed in America. “When he changed his name, that was a big deal back then. It was wild,” Haywood said of Abdul-Rahman. “You had two players that changed their name to Islamic [ones]. Most people didn’t equate them as Muslims from a world perspective. They were looking at them as black Muslims with hate rhetoric, but they were about self-awareness black Muslims. It was confusing.” On Jan. 18, 1973, Khaalis’ property was the site of a bloody terrorist attack known as the Hanafi Murders. Philadelphia-based Nation of Islam members invaded the home, killing two adults and five children ages 9 days to 10 years old. The adults and one child were shot to death while the other children were drowned. The victims were related to Khaalis. The Hazzards fortunately were not at the house on that nightmarish, bloody day. Seven members of the Philadelphia-based Nation of Islam, who were connected to Elijah Muhammad, were later convicted and sentenced to prison. “Hamaas had a beautiful, lovely wife, and he bought this big piece of property on 16th Street in D.C.,” Jaleesa Hazzard said. “There were very few black people at all in that neighborhood, and certainly no Muslims. And, he started this community with a lot of families living there, a lot of children. He had more than one wife, if I remember correctly. “So, he was building his own community and in a certain way rivaling, and sort of considered himself a rival of the Nation [of Islam], which ended up becoming very dangerous. Eventually they came in and destroyed his community.” The murders at the Hamaas compound didn’t dissuade Abdul-Rahman from following Islam. He actually grew closer and more knowledgeable about Islam after taking a trip to Pakistan. “Walt first went to Pakistan right after he converted, and really got to see what Islam really was versus this version that they had through [the Hamaas] mosque when [he and Abdul-Jabbar] were first introduced to it. It changed his way of thinking about the religion, and he shared that with Kareem. And, that was something they grew into together,” Jaleesa Hazzard said. Walt Hazzard was playing for the Hawks when he changed his name to Mahdi Abdul-Rahman in 1971. Jaleesa Hazzard recalls her husband’s teammates being very supportive and loving the knit kufi cap he wore daily. She said Hawks ownership and management had a harder time adjusting to the changes. “They weren’t the most enlightened bunch in the beginning,” Jaleesa Hazzard said. “I’m sure they had serious conversations about it with him … I don’t think they had much of a choice.” Walt Hazzard actually didn’t want his wife and family to live with him in Atlanta because of the racism, which included the playing of the Confederate song, Dixie, before Hawks games. “I was still in Seattle. We had sold our house. He calls me, he says, ‘I don’t know if you really need to come down here right now, because they played the f—— Dixie at the first game.’ When the Hawks went to Atlanta, they did not play The Star-Spangled Banner, they played Dixie. I’m not playing with you.” Abdul-Rahman played with the Buffalo Braves — now the Los Angeles Clippers — from 1971 to 1973. It was there that his wife and Haywood say they experienced the most resistance from the NBA, team management and the fans. Haywood described it as a “lack of understanding.” “In Buffalo, it was an issue, and you could tell,” Jaleesa Hazzard said. “There were people who didn’t like him. You could tell that the league was concerned about it a little bit. ‘Is this some kind of a movement? What’s happening here? Are we hurting the brand because, again, this was an expansion city?’ You’re trying to grow your audience. You’re trying to make sure that he’s a star … ’ “I thought there were questions from [fans]. You could hear comments like, ‘Why did he change his name?’ You could hear people discussing it.” “There was a lack of understanding. [Buffalo] is where he was really treated bad,” Haywood said. After Abdul-Rahman rejoined Seattle during the 1973-74 season, Haywood said, he began following Islam when the two began studying the religion together. Haywood considered changing to a Muslim name before being scolded by his mother, who worked in the cotton fields of Mississippi. Although Seattle was more welcoming to Abdul-Rahman, Haywood recalled his challenging experiences with other black Americans. “He told me about some of the stuff that he and Kareem were going through,” Haywood said. “I said, ‘This is just for trying to clear your soul and be better people?’ They were being treated totally different. Then you went through it with all of the brothers … You’d be playing and Walt was not Walt anymore. They were saying, ‘Mahdi’ or ‘Rahman.’ He would say, ‘My name is Mahdi Abdul-Rahman.’ “So when you say it long, brothers wouldn’t want to hear that. They would say, ‘I’m calling you Walt.’ He took it very seriously.” Abdul-Rahman averaged 3.8 points and 2.5 assists in 11.7 minutes per game with the Sonics during the 1973-74 NBA season, which ended up being his last. He was invited to training camp with the Detroit Pistons in 1974 at the age of 32. While his wife doesn’t recall whether he quit the Pistons or was waived during training camp, she said that he called her and said he was retiring from playing basketball. Years later, Rasheed Hazzard asked his father if he retired because of the ridicule he faced as a Muslim. “I asked as I got older, like, ‘Well, if you didn’t change your name and convert to Islam, would you have played more in Buffalo? Would you have ended up playing in Detroit? Would you have went back to the Lakers? Would you have gone to New York? You were a ‘Showtime’ player,’ ” Rasheed Hazzard said. “And, he would just say, ‘I chose my path. I decided what I wanted to do. I have no regrets. I don’t look back. And, if those things happened, then those things happened … ’ “What he was doing in that moment was actually teaching me what the religion is about. It’s just being humble, kind.” Abdul-Rahman’s family says he was very proud of his name and his religion and never changed it legally back to Hazzard after he retired from the NBA. However, he did ultimately decide it was best to go by Walt Hazzard publicly. Abdul-Rahman was the name he used in his first coaching job with Compton College. But local media and fans often used the name Hazzard in describing him since that was what they were familiar with from his UCLA days. He went back to using his birth name publicly as a coach, starting with Chapman College. Jaleesa Hazzard, who uses Abdul-Rahman privately, described the use of both names as a “dual life.” “He realized the cache of it,” she said. “If he really wanted to coach, he decided that Hazzard is what people knew him as. He made his name in this town, and the name he made was Hazzard from playing at UCLA. So he decided to use that. “It didn’t bother me. It was fine. But, around [home], he’s always Abdul-Rahman.” Rasheed Hazzard used the Hazzard surname while working with the Lakers and the New York Knicks as an assistant coach, scout and in player development, but his emails and checks would say Abdul-Rahman. He said the name Abdul-Rahman caused him difficulties going through security at airports following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He also believes he was recently deemed unqualified for an assistant coaching job for one NBA Western Conference team after the head coach learned he had a Muslim name. “[My father] didn’t want me to deal with any backlash or any misunderstanding or anybody, you know, trying to profile me, as a certain kind of person, based on my name and my religion,” Rasheed Hazzard said. “He was always very proud of being Abdul-Rahman, loved it. We used Abdul-Rahman. All of us changed our name. “This wasn’t a lack of pride thing. This was a looking out for your son going into an industry you’ve already been in thing.” Under the name Walt Hazzard at UCLA, the 1987 Pac 10 Conference Coach of the Year made one NCAA tournament and won the 1985 National Invitational Tournament. He had a 77-47 record at UCLA during four seasons, but was fired after the 1987-88 season. Hall of Famer Reggie Miller said he played at UCLA in large part because of the atmosphere that he provided. “We were all always invited to come over and have food and watch games and just hang out,” Miller told The Undefeated. “I think that’s what made our UCLA family so special and tight is because of that open-door policy. That’s probably why I stayed all four years is because I really enjoyed my time at UCLA and the family-type atmosphere that surrounded that program.” “Zero. Not one time. Nothing,” Miller said. “Of course you knew, but it never came up. He never brought it up. I never brought it up because we focused on academics, we focused on athletics, and that was it. We didn’t talk religion or politics or anything like that. “If I wanted to, I’m sure he would’ve. We just never did.” After his coaching days with UCLA, the Lakers hired Abdul-Rahman as an advance scout and he used the name Walt Hazzard. On March 22, 1996, Abdul-Rahman was hospitalized after a stroke. He never fully recovered physically, ending his ability to be an advance scout for the Lakers. Then-Lakers owner Jerry Buss said Abdul-Rahman would remain a Lakers employee for the rest of his life with health insurance, four Lakers season tickets and two parking spots. The Abdul-Rahmans’ Los Angeles home still has a Lakers logo painted on the curb. “My mom [was] concerned about health insurance and his paycheck,” Rasheed Hazzard said. “The day before he [went] into surgery, you look up and, not a messenger but [then-Lakers general manager] Jerry West walked off the elevator with a folder with a contract from Dr. Buss that basically said that he would have a job and get a check, and have season tickets until the day he wasn’t on this earth anymore. And he honored it, to the last day.” After Abdul-Rahman’s surgery, he became a regular at the Lakers’ practice, where he developed a close bond with fellow Philadelphia native and Lakers star Kobe Bryant. “I always tell people this one thing, Shaq [O’Neal] and Kobe, you can say they hated each other, they fought. But if there was one thing they agreed on, it was how much they loved my pops. You can ask both of them. They both took care of him,” Rasheed Hazzard said. Abdul-Rahman would also attend Rasheed’s practices when he coached at Venice High School, and would later support his son when he worked for the Lakers. Before Lakers home games, they would often give each other a hand signal to acknowledge each other. In 2011, Abdul-Rahman’s health began to worsen and he was hospitalized in intensive care. He died at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center on Nov. 18, 2011, due to complications following heart surgery. During his final days, the one friend who spent the most time at his side was the man who introduced him to Islam. “Kareem to the very end, like my dad’s last month, he was in the hospital for hours,” Rasheed Hazzard said. “Kareem was up in the corner of the room asleep or he was in there talking. You know people say Kareem doesn’t talk? He would talk. He would come sit in the room with him and my dad, and sit in the room with me. “I guess he sees me like an extension of my dad. Me and Kareem have long conversations. And, he was one of the people when I was with the Lakers, to tell me the stories about my dad, and his connection to Islam, and why it was so important to my dad. He was like passing the stories along to me because [my father] couldn’t tell them himself.” Rasheed Hazzard said Muslims often still come up to him to express appreciation for his dad. He hopes his dad’s story is an example to Americans of what a true Muslim is. “I’ve met Muslims in New York, and my dad meant so much for them,” Rasheed Hazzard said. “Kareem, my dad, championed the cause for them. Not only were they proud Muslims, they also did it the right way. They were good men. They were family men. Say what you want about my dad or Kareem, but they’ve conducted themselves with dignity, and people respect them. And, if the media would put more attention on these Muslims, and these people doing these good things, there would be a whole different perception of what Islam is.” Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for The Undefeated. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.

St. Augustine propels member to NAACP Teenager of the Year

By TSD Newsroom St. Augustine Catholic Church member Paige Harris was crowned NAACP Teenager of the Year at a festive ceremony held at First Baptist Church-Broad on Friday (Dec. 9)...

Kirk Whalum’s ‘Gospel According to Jazz Tour’ takes the stage at Clayborn Temple on Dec. 11

By Tony Jones

The sounds of jazz-accented gospel music will flow from historic Clayborn Temple on Sunday (Dec. 11) night courtesy of a Memphis favorite son, Kirk Whalum, and his Gospel According To Jazz tour. Slated for 11 cities, the tour winds through St. Louis and Chicago before stopping in Memphis this weekend. While hitting a home spot is always special for any member of a traveling band, Whalum said he’s really feeling Sunday’s show. The New Tri-State Defender caught up with Whalum as he and his fellow music makers were traveling from Houston to Beaumont, Texas. “The connection at Clayborn Temple is really special because I had my eyes on that building to have a place that I wanted to call Café Kirk,” Whalum said during a brief but fun exchange. “The name Kirk means church in Gaelic. My idea was for it to serve as a place for a cutting-edge ministry. To see it being renovated with an openness for something like the thing that I’ve started is really exciting.” Soaring hearts and warm spirits ushered in revitalization plans for historic Clayborn Temple downtown at 204 Hernando Street on Oct. 25. Closed since 1999, Clayborn Temple was the home base for the 1968 Sanitation Workers strike that drew Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Memphis during the fateful year of 1968. NPI Clayborn Temple, LLC purchased the building and reportedly is working on a plan for rehabilitation and raising funds while looking for another nonprofit end-user. Whalum will bring what he calls a truly sizzling ensemble with him for the Clayborn Temple performance. That includes keyboardist and composer Keiko Matsui and guitarist Norman Brown. Whalum’s brother Kevin is on vocals, with John Stoddardt (piano), Braylon Lacy (bassist) and Marcus Finnie (drums) in the mix, along with singer/songwriter Shelea, whom Whalum says is lighting up the industry. “She is changing the game,” Whalum said of Shelea. “She’s been touring with Stevie Wonder for two, maybe three years (and) has played the White House three times….“She made a Youtube video as a tribute to Whitney Houston on just solo piano, and it got like two million hits…. “She grew up in church playing piano and singing in the choir, so she can hit the stage and run the gamut from old school gospel and tear the house down like Aretha. And again like Aretha, she can turn on a dime and do authentic jazz. I mean like Billie Holiday or someone like that. Just to let you know where she can go, the product she’s finishing now is with Marilyn and Alan Bergman, who wrote “The Way We Were.” That’s the type of artist she is.” Whalum is arguably the hottest saxophonist in the jazz industry since David Sanborn. He cut his teeth in the pop world, hitting the stage like a buzz saw as the musical director for Houston. That dual musical imprint made a new turn when – melding his Memphis upbringing into the mix – he evolved gospel into his contemporary jazz sound. The immediate reception to his utterly personal, even beautiful interpretation of gospel music proved Whalum is a master storyteller with his horn. Another measure of proof is several Grammy awards. In 2011, Whalum netted his first Grammy award for Best Gospel Song (“It’s What I Do,” featuring Lalah Hathaway), along with Jerry Peters, a talented writer and longtime friend. While he’s proven to be a master of the game, Whalum, who grew up making music in his father’s church choir, said, “I try not to pay too much attention to the Grammy process because it can be a stress. But I really appreciate you mentioning it.” Whalum’s next CD is titled “#LoveCovers,” which can can be advanced ordered from his website ( It features Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.” He didn’t say whether it will make Sunday’s performance, but who knows what Kirk Whalum’s going to do next?

The NEW New Olivet

By TSD Newsroom

Seven months after selling its Southern Avenue Worship facilities to the neighboring Memphis Country Club, The New Olivet Baptist Church has purchased the idyllic former site of Woodland Hills Country Club at 10000 Woodland Hills Drive in Cordova, according to Pastor Kenneth T. Whalum Jr. “It’s a miracle,” the Rev. Dr. Whalum. “To go from being basically land-locked on one acre to being primed for exponential growth on 15 acres is nothing short of a miracle. God is so good!” The Woodland Hills property, which includes three buildings, rolling hills, a tree-filled landscape and a fish pond, presently serves as Woodland Hills Event Center, hosting proms, banquets, weddings, trade shows, and other meetings. Whalum said the facility will still be available for such functions moving forward. “The paradigm of church buildings being restrictive and exclusive for a few has been transformed. Successful churches are multi-faceted.” Pinnacle Bank financed the deal. According to a Pinnacle spokesman, “We at Pinnacle are excited about being the bank of yet another iconic Memphis organization, and congratulate the New Olivet Baptist Church on the move to their new worship center!” Whalum was introduced to the property owners by Crye-Leike agent Mack Browder. “One of the great pleasures of being a real estate agent is participating in win-win transactions and meeting wonderful people. Woodland Hills is ideally designed for a church campus,” Browder said. “One cannot help but fall in love with its many beautiful features. Buyer and seller immediately hit it off and it was fun to work through the process of completing this transaction. I pray that New Olivet Church thrives at this new location.”

Holy Hypocrisy:

By Rev. Earle J. Fisher, Special to The New Tri-State Defender

I’m not really surprised. But, I am grief-stricken and traumatized. Yes, I knew that the vestiges of white supremacy and sexism are in the structural DNA of our country. I knew the bigoted dog whistles were not landing on deaf ears. I knew closeted racists would come home to roost. I knew that the freedom struggle ebbs and flows in the most inconvenient of waves. I knew Trump could become president. I just didn’t want it to be so. I also knew that calls for an immediate unity and superficial peace would soon follow. Photo ops and revisionist histories are being produced as we speak. I’ll trust historians, sociologists and political scientists will uncover most of the truths about the moment. But, as a spiritual leader and social activist I will not let the faith community camouflage its hypocrisy. Let’s call a spade a Trump. What the president-elect expressed as his platform was intentionally and unapologetically exclusionary, divisive and hateful. These tenets are inconsistent with what most people of faith claim as ideals. One of ‘The Donald’s’ top surrogates, Rudy Giuliani (aka Mr. Stop-And-Frisk), tweeted during Election Day, “We cannot let blacks and Hispanics alone decide this election for Hillary!” Wow. Trump’s animus towards inclusivity and diversity, which many mainstream Christians appeal to as hallmarks of the faith, was front and center. And still. Over 80 percent of white Evangelicals (4 out of 5) punched the ballot for a divorcee, self-proclaimed adulterer, alleged sexual assaulter and professed tax-evader. So much for rendering unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God. Nevertheless, Mr. Trump knew what scriptures to (mis)quote. He knew what hymns to hum and how to obtain the blessing of the Christian right (which might be better titled the Christian “wrong” after this election). The day after the election, Kate Shellnut wrote that while Hillary Clinton neglected outreach efforts to evangelicals, “Trump spent much of the months leading up to Election Day directly courting evangelical support. Those voters – particularly in battleground states such as Ohio, North Carolina, and Florida – proved to be one of his strongest support bases.” Steve McQuilkin of the USA Today inquired, “How did people of faith reconcile the teaching of Christ with the tough rhetoric of the reality star and real estate mogul?” He rationalized that, “For many, it came down to a few major issues, such as abortion and Supreme Court appointments. They also were swayed by party loyalty and fear of a government under Hillary Clinton.” Let me do McQuilkin and the rest of us a solid. It’s called – hypocrisy. The White Church has never been able to overcome (or collectively repent from) its imperial theology, which allowed its members to stand in the sermonic support of slavery while saying they believed in freedom and liberty for all. White evangelicals, by and large, preach about being pro-life but also cling to guns and war tighter than the Apostle’s Creed. Christian conservatives for decades have tried to claim a moral high ground as progenitors of the Prince of Peace. Nevertheless, they walked in droves into a ballot box more private than their prayer closet and inserted Trump/Pence into the holy grail of democracy. If the White Church is sincere about its current calls for reconciliation, I’d suggest they start with some collective, public and documented confessions. Meanwhile, the Black Church quite often parrots most of the religious tenets and ideologies of White Evangelicalism. It’s blasphemous. True, only about 22 percent of evangelicals of color publicly confessed a commitment to Trump, but we do know how people are prone to sin in secret. Thirteen percent of African-American men voted Trump. They said, “Give us Barabbas.” Clearly, the residue of white supremacist patriarchy that is masked in Christian faith rubbed off in this election. Nevertheless, although we meet this moment with, at best, some cognitive dissonance, we can still chart a more positive, progressive and prophetic path forward. God is not mocked. Although there are some that believe a Trump/Pence presidency will lead to a resurgence of religious fervor and church attendance, I beg to differ. In fact, the Black Church is currently unprepared for such a revival. For now, all of us must consider how much what Trump preached on the stump resonates with American Christianity. We need reclamation of the type of faith that serves as a conscious of a society and not the compass of political opportunism. We must continually challenge the church to be a better reflection of the values we have bragged about. We have to recapture the courage needed to reject parts of Biblical literature and culture that are appropriated to justify bigotry, hatred, cultish conquest and violence against “others.” In these perilous times, we need to establish a necessary infrastructure for the Church to be a safe haven for those who need refuge in this renewed environment of overt racism. The Black Church is still the institution with the most potential for leveraging what we need for a Black Liberation that will help “justice to roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Let the Church say, “Amen.” Or, nah. (The Rev. Earle Fisher is senior pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church and co-spokesperson for the Memphis Grassroots Organizations Coalition.)