Askia Muhammad

Obituary of Askia Muhammad

On March 28, 1945, Askia Muhammad was born Charles King Moreland, Jr., in Yazoo City, Mississippi, son of Nola Mae Canteberry and Charles King Moreland. Askia was raised by his beloved mother Nola and grandmother Ollie Lee Canteberry. Askia grew up in the Watts community in Los Angeles graduating from John C. Fremont High School in 1962. Askia studied journalism at Los Angeles City College and later Black Studies and Journalism at San Jose State where he edited the student paper The Jabberwock and befriended classmates and later Olympians John Carlos and Tommie Smith. In 1966, he became a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. through the Los Angeles Lambda Chapter. Later he pursued a master’s degree from Baltimore’s Antioch College.

In 1967, Askia attended U.S. Naval Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island as a Reserve Officer Candidate. After the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Askia’s path changed. With the help of childhood friend Johnny Scott, Askia secured an internship with Newsweek magazine’s Chicago office. Scott was one of the famed Watts Poets and Writers and was instrumental in Askia exploring poetry, and eventu- ally becoming a celebrated poet. His first published poems “Shorty Blue” and others appeared in Watts Poets: A Book of New Poetry & Essays.

Askia began attending Nation of Islam meetings in late 1968, soon throwing himself completely into the activities of the Nation. In 1969 he exchanged the Moreland for the Nation of Islam’s “X,” becoming Charles 67X. Askia received his discharge papers from the Navy Reserves after successfully filing as a conscientious objector to US involve- ment in the war in Viet Nam. In the mid-1970s, Charles 67X was bestowed with the name Askia Muhammad.
At the Nation’s legendary newspaper, Muhammad Speaks, Askia honed his craft and solidified his position as a liberatory journalist covering activist Cesar Chavez, Charles Gary - the San Francisco defense attorney for the Black Panthers - and the Soledad Three, among others. Eventually he rose through the ranks of the paper to become the first Muslim Editor-in-Chief of Muhammad Speaks and in 1979, Senior Editor of its successor, The Final Call. Askia’s documenting the movement and vision of the Nation of Islam included his coverage of both the 1995 Million Man March and the 2005 Million Family March. In 1977, Askia arrived in Washington, DC to write for the Chicago Defender where he became a White House correspondent and quickly became a staple on the DC journal- ism scene - covering the Hill, the White House, and the people of DC. His career as a White House Correspondent spanned nine administrations.

Askia began volunteering for, and eventually joined the staff of, Pacifica Radio/WPFW shortly after arriving in Washington, where he held several positions. Most recently in 2008 Askia Muhammad was named News Director, a position he held at the time of his passing. In that position, he launched several successful news programs, including the acclaimed “Monday Morning QB”, which he produced and hosted with a small and dedicated staff.
His widely adored music program, Yardbird Sweets, launched on March 27, 1979, continuing nearly 43 years with Askia at the helm giving us divine sustenance for soul and spirit every Tuesday morning. Ever the generous teacher and mentor, Askia invited Brother Jamil Muhammad to co-host during the last several years. Askia’s musical acumen was boundless, extending beyond the walls of WPFW through his membership in the Jazz Listening Group.
As a result of his work at WPFW, Askia began producing commentaries for NPR’s All Things Considered, producing no less than 50 commentaries over a 25-year period. His highly anticipated weekly column in the Washington Informer newspaper for over 40 years was legendary.

Askia Muhammad was a tremendously accomplished and sought-after photojour- nalist, poet, radio and television commentator of the highest order. In addition to his immeasurable contributions to WPFW, the Final Call, the Washington Informer and NPR, he was an Editor at the Black Journalism Review; a Producer for the public radio documentary series SoundPrint; Editor of National Scene News Bureau; and a regular commentator on the Christian Science Monitor Radio’s Early Edition. His articles
and photographs have appeared in The Nation, Jet, The Baltimore Sun, The Chicago Tribune, USA TODAY, The Boston Globe, and The Washington Post. Askia also ap- peared on MSNBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and for several years on Howard University’s Evening Exchange.

Askia Muhammad authored three books - Behind Enemy Lines (1996), Black Muslim Millennium (2017); and his latest work The Autobiography of Charles 67X (2018), an explosive collection of poetry and photographs chronicling Muhammad’s remarkable journey through his early life of self-development, awakening the boundaries of his social, spiritual, and political consciousness, and weaving more than six decades of perplexities of unresolved institutional racism and his methods to challenge and defy it. His poetry always encompassed commentary on economics, education, politics, labor, law, religion, entertainment, pop culture, war, and daily life. It is a testimony to the fierce beauty, defiance and resilience of every day Black folks triumphantly making a way out of no way.

Our dear Brother was the recipient of numerous awards - the Washington Association of Black Journalists’ President’s Award (1993); the D.C. Mayor’s Award for Excellence in Service to the Arts (1994); the National Association of Black Journalists’ Salute to Excellence Award for his commentaries on The Tavis Smiley Show (2003 & 2004); In 1999 the Mayor of the District of Columbia proclaimed March 28, “Yardbird Sweets 20th Anniversary Day.” The City Council issued a resolution ‘honoring his commitment to the struggle of Black people through his writings and broadcasts’ (2009); he received a recognition on the House floor by U.S. Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton honor- ing his 40th anniversary as host of Yardbird Sweets (2019), and many more tributes and accolades.

While sustaining a committed life to journalism, activism, poetry, and America’s classical music—Jazz, Askia was a committed and loving husband, father, and grandfather. He leaves to mourn his beloved wife of 29 years Alverda Ann Muhammad; two children
- Nadirah Moreland of DC and Raafi Rivero of PA; a grandson - Leo Moreland of DC; cousins - Amelia Lett, Natalie Lawless, and Kahlil Moreland of CA; Sherry Williams of IL; and Artemease “Artie” Wimsatt of MS, as well as beloved stepchildren and stepgrand- children in CA, DC, MD, and TX. Askia was also friend and mentor to many, not least of which those that read his books and articles or heard his broadcasts.

Askia was gentle, yet fierce and determined; explosive and loving at the same time. His style, grace, razor sharp intellect and wry wit remains in our hearts and minds. His empathy and integrity are instructive and a shining example of what being fully human looks like. He gave us all so much, always graciously and with a smile. Always speak- ing truth to power. Always standing up for those he loved and for right.

We must hold on to the vibration of love, truth, perseverance, hope, and joy that Askia exuded always. Let us reflect on the beautiful legacy that Askia left us, and how we can collectively carry forth the impeccable vibration of his spirit!

Thursday
3
March

VIEWING

10:00 am - 11:00 am
Thursday, March 3, 2022
Masjid Muhammad
1519 4th Street, N.W.
Washington, District of Columbia, United States
Thursday
3
March

JANAZAH SERVICE

11:00 am
Thursday, March 3, 2022
Masjid Muhammad
1519 4th Street, N.W.
Washington, District of Columbia, United States

INTERMENT

Congressional Cemetery
1801 E Street, SE
Washington, District of Columbia, United States
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