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Norfolk mayoral hopeful offers ‘servant leadership’

By Nisa Islam Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Apr 25, 2014 - 8:32:22 AM

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Norfolk, Virginia Michael Muhammad and supporters.
( - Mayoral candidate Michael Muhammad is vying to become not only the first Black mayor of Norfolk, Virginia but also the first Muslim and at age 36, the youngest.

“I’m thankful and grateful for the opportunity to extend my 22 years of community service to elected office.  I’m looking to galvanize the best and brightest minds from the citizenry to work towards forward progress in the city of Norfolk through servant leadership.”

That’s part of what Michael Muhammad would say if he wins the May 6 election for mayor in Norfolk, the second most populous city in the state which boasts over 246,000 residents.

Mr. Muhammad points to his solid relationship with the city’s Christian community as an example of his commitment to working across religious and ideological lines for the betterment of the citizens of Norfolk.

 “I’m honored as a Muslim to have the privilege to speak in every prominent church in the city.  The reception is overwhelming from pastors and congregants.”

At The Way Church under the leadership of Pastor Christian Hines, Mr. Muhammad is a welcomed guest.

“His candidacy is a great thing for the city.  He’s the first Black man to run for mayor.  We’ve had the same mayor for 20 years and we’re not seeing the progress that we need.  It’s time for a change.  Mike has a sense of reality of what’s going on.  He’s in touch with every aspect of the city,” Pastor Hines told The Final Call.

“The current mayor tends to be more concerned about the affluent sectors of the city.  The other parts virtually are ignored.  Mike connects with everyone.  It’s not an issue that he’s a Muslim.  He’s a man of faith and we’re concerned that he’s concerned about the growth of the city.”

At a recent community forum April 15, Mr. Muhammad addressed the concerns most urban areas are facing education, crime, transportation and the unequal distribution of city resources.

Mr. Muhammad told the crowd too many political contributors receive development contracts and elected officials should stay out of business deals.

“We pay a substantial amount to the city manager to manage our city,” he said.

The $89 million in public money being spent on a Hilton Hotel and conference center downtown and $37 million on the cruise terminal could have been invested in neighborhoods, he pointed out.

When asked what area of the city was most economically neglected, Mr. Muhammad said, “Everywhere but downtown” and then mentioned Church Street, 35th Street and Military Highway. “There’s tremendous neglect throughout the city,” he said.

That kind of neglect is why Patricia Holmes is voting for Mr. Muhammad on election day.  She’s known him since he was 11 growing up with her sons. 

“He’s developed into a smart, brilliant young man,” she told The Final Call.  “It’s time for a change.  He’s dependable and sticks to his word.  Certain neighborhoods are poverty stricken.  We need housing development for the people who are low income.  We need a rebuilding of our communities.”

Is she concerned that Mr. Muhammad would be the first Muslim mayor of the city?

“What does his faith have to do with him doing right by the city?  It has absolutely nothing to do with it.  Any problem I have, I know I can call on him and he will solve it.  He will be great as a mayor.  He’s all about problem solving.  I’ve lived in Norfolk all my life and the current mayor isn’t doing enough for the people.”

Mr. Muhammad has received support from a growing and diverse constituency and leans on his experience and service as a member of the Nation of Islam in his commitment to make a true difference in the city.

His over two decades of service includes being a minister in the Nation of Islam as well as National Youth Minister appointed by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan.  While some would use those affiliations against Mr. Muhammad, his work in Norfolk speaks for itself.

“We’re favoring well in the polls and are comfortable in our position.  Black youth are rallying in support of our campaign,” said Mr. Muhammad.