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From protest to politics: Young Muslim politician vows not to forget his mission

By J.A. Salaam -Staff Writer- | Last updated: May 30, 2017 - 1:09:12 PM

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St. Louis Alderman John Collins-Muhammad at his desk in St. Louis City Hall. Photo: by J.A. Salaam

ST. LOUIS—St. Louis is a city known for its famous 630-foot-tall steel monument, the Gateway Arch and as the home of Dred Scott, Maya Angelou, Miles Davis and a host of other Black greats. With a Black population of 72 percent, it is a city with a history of over 253 years of polarization, racism and White domination over the political, educational and economic status of its Black residents. Recently, a fresh-faced, energetic young man entered the political arena in hopes of influencing change in St. Louis.

John Collins-Muhammad, 25, joined the political scene and the race to occupy the vacant Aldermanic seat of former Ald. Antonio French and was a familiar face during the Ferguson unrest following the police killing of Michael Brown, Jr. Tory Russell, another Ferguson activist and front liner is Mr. Muhammad’s chief of staff and was his campaign manager.

Mr. French ran for St. Louis mayor against four other Black candidates which split the vote and Lyda Krewson who is White, won. She is the first female mayor of the city.  Mr.  Muhammad was elected with a strong solid campaign with limited financial resources. He won with 44 percent of the votes on the city’s North side April 5, 2017.

After his victory, Mr. Muhammad hosted an event in the park for his supporters to meet him. Hundreds of people came out to express their appreciation and prayers for the young leader.

“It was a beautiful event. Mr. John laid out his plan for moving the community in a new direction. He talked about everything; crime, jobs, education, housing. He has a vision and that’s what we need,” said Earlene Walker

“I’m proud of Alderman Muhammad because he represents the next level. A young Black man in our city who’s committed to making a difference. We must rally around him and help him in his mission which should be all of our mission; and that’s a better, more unified St. Louis,” said Pastor Darryl G. Gray

Alderman Collins-Muhammad (R) and his chief of staff, Tory Russell.
Mr. Muhammad is a member of the Nation of Islam’s Muhammad Mosque No. 28, located in one of St. Louis’s roughest neighborhoods in an area called “Murderville.” He said he decided to take a stand and become more actively engaged in his community after years of listening to the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. 

Mr. Muhammad said he has always wanted to make a difference in the Black community and make an impact but said it had to come from sitting at the table on the inside where decisions and policies were made. So, when Mike Brown Jr. was killed Mr. Muhammad was compelled to become more active in the community and join an organization so he chose the Nation of Islam. 

“My prayer is that he goes out front in creating a new paradigm shift in how a Black politician truly represents the needs of the people that he serves and should always be a servant of the people and never become a sell out,” said Student Minister Donald Muhammad of Muhammad Mosque No. 28.  

Alderman Muhammad told The Final Call that he intends on having a working relationship with the new St. Louis mayor as long as her policies do not conflict or go against the community.

“As long as she is concerned about the progression, advancement and the development of my community, which is predominately African American, then she and I will be OK,” he said.  

A fellow Ferguson protestor now Missouri State Representative of the 78th District Bruce Franks, recounted his relationship and faith in the young alderman. 

“I’ve known John since Ferguson 2014. We were out there protesting together. We got tear gassed together. I know the same energy and passion he has on the streets in Ferguson, he’s going to take that same energy and passion to City Hall, to the Board of Aldermen,” said Rep. Franks.

“I have to remember these people whose doors I knocked on. I sat in their living rooms or kitchen table. I carried their stories, their stories of struggle, stories of heartache, painful stories. I can’t forget that and I have to know that I have to just fight for them, because, if I don’t fight for them, who will?” said Mr. Muhammad.

“So they believe in me and that’s what I want them to do. I don’t want them to break that bond. I don’t want to break that commitment. In turn, just as much as they believe in me, I believe in them,” he continued.

“In order for me to be as effective as possible, I need them to always hold me accountable, to always make sure I am transparent; to make sure I am doing everything that I possibly can to improve their quality of life and that’s what needs to be done. I am optimistic in our future, because I believe in our future. I believe in our community.”