National News

Muslim-Christian unity wins primary election

By Abisayo Muhammad | Last updated: Aug 15, 2009 - 10:26:57 AM

What's your opinion on this article?

Pictured in this June 5 photo are Commissioner-at-Large David Shaw (left seated), Min. Louis Farrakhan (c), Duane Seats (right seated) and Marcus Muhammad (standing) in a show of solidarity in their quest to become commisioners-at-large for the City of Benton Harbor. Photo: Hassan Muhammad\FCN File Photo
BENTON HARBOR, Mich. ( - Ignited by the last presidential election, the slogan “change” reached local politics as the citizens made new choices in the tight race for the City Commissioner-at-Large seats August 4.

Two longtime friends and community workers decided to join forces and run to reach a broader base bridging members of faith with elders, youth and community to make an impact. “There are no differences when considering the whole of the problem,” said running mate and pastor of Abundant Life Church Duane Seats. “The keyword is unity. When you have unity, then there is union and with union you have a common denominator and that is for the betterment of our community,” he said.

Marcus Muhammad, head coach of the local high school basketball team and student minster for the local Nation of Islam Study Group, with Pastor Seats received enough votes to beat a former incumbent who held the seat for over 25 years. Both move to the general election to campaign against the other two top voter-getters, Ruthie Haralson and Ricky Hill.

“This was a great victory for the citizens and the city,” said Mr. Muhammad. “There was no one person that is responsible, but it was a collective effort by the citizens who sent a message that there is a new day in Benton Harbor politics,” he said.

This election was very critical in the eyes of some who believed it was life or death for the city. Longtime resident Gloria Taylor recalled how ironic it was that the change slogan that electrified the country in the last presidential election did the same for the city of some 9,500 residents. “A lot of time God holds things to the appointed time and this is the time for change in Benton Harbor. Everyone is excited about the vision of Muhammad and Seats and we will follow their vision,” she said.

Once making nationwide headline news when civil unrest broke out back in 2003, after a local police officer was involved in a motorcycle chase that led to the death of a Black man on his bike, Gov. Jennifer Granholm intervened in the 97 percent Black city, a taskforce was created that led to new programs and resources to mend social problems resulting from the incident and tensions between twin city St. Joseph, which is 90 percent White.

Benton Harbor also drew national attention when Rev. Edward Pinkney was jailed for citing biblical verses and divine punishments in a Chicago newspaper after a controversy connected to a recall election and charges he bought votes. The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan spoke in defense of Rev. Pinkney and called for unity and justice in Benton Harbor in June.

While student Minister Muhammad beat all vote getters with 354 votes and Pastor Seats came in second with 249, there were 9,593 eligible voters. Newly- elected school board member Sharon Triplet-James believes that is a sign of a lot more work has to be done. “One significant thing the poll says is that a great majority of the citizens did not participate because they are either unaware or disengaged. We now have to work on a strategy that will recover the thousands of voters that did not make it to the polls,” she said.

Mayor Wilce Cook believes the city has made progress in the last five years. “This last election shows how alike the citizens are. The city belongs to the people and not to government,” he said.

The top four winners will face-off in a Nov. 3 general election.