Askia Muhammad, renowned journalist, photographer, poet and columnist who served as editor of The Final Call, died Thursday, February 17, 2022 at his home in Washington, DC
He was 76 years old.
For more than 40 years, Mr. Muhammad was a staple of WPFW-Radio in Washington and The Final Call, the Nation of Islam newspaper. His columns also appeared regularly in black-owned newspapers, particularly in Washington.
“Words are insufficient at this time. So we just hold on to the vibration of love, truth, perseverance, hope and joy that Askia has always radiated,” WPFW officials said in a statement announcing Mr. Muhammad’s death.
“Let us reflect on the beautiful legacy Askia has left us and how we can collectively convey the impeccable vibration of her spirit.
One author, Mr Muhammad’s most recent book, “The Autobiography of Charles 67X”, featured a collection of photos, poetry and personal essays spanning his life as a politically and socially engaged journalist.
Born Charles K. Moreland Jr. in 1947 in Yazoo, Mississippi, Mr. Muhammad attended college at San Jose State University. He then joined the Navy Officer Candidate School before leaving to join Newsweek magazine as a trainee in 1968.
He began attending Nation of Islam meetings in late 1968, and joined and received the “X” in his name in 1969, he said in a radio interview.
Early on he wrote for the newspaper Muhammad Speaks and became one of its first Muslim editors. When Minister Louis Farrakhan, the current leader of the Nation of Islam, launched The Final Call newspaper, Mr. Muhammad became one of its first editors. As the paper grew, he became its Washington bureau chief, White House correspondent, and editor.
His book, released in February 2018, included an unpublished photo of Sen. Barack Obama and Minister Farrakhan. Mr Muhammad told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he agreed not to publish the photo because of its potential impact on the outcome of the 2008 presidential election.
Mr Muhammad had taken the photo in 2005 at a weekly Congressional Black Caucus luncheon where Minister Farrakhan had been invited to speak. Senator Obama announced his candidacy for the presidency two years later.
“I swore to myself to secrecy,” Mr. Muhammad, then 72, told the Atlanta publication. “If the image was exposed, it could still be a deal breaker for Obama. I felt there was an ambition that black people had for Obama to be elected president. I didn’t want to be the instrument of his fall.
His long-running weekly show on WPFW, “Yardbird Sweets,” included jazz programming and frequent appearances by Minister Farrakhan. In an interview with The Final Call, Mr Muhammad said the show’s name was taken from Charlie Parker’s song, “Yardbird Suite”, with the word “suite” changed to “candy” to avoid confusion.
In 1993, Mr. Muhammad received the President’s Award from the Association of Black Journalists of Washington. In 2003 and 2004, he won first place in the National Association of Black Journalists’ Salute to Excellence Awards for his commentary on The Tavis Smiley Show aired on National Public Radio.
In 2009, the Washington, DC City Council honored Mr. Muhammad for 40 years of news, world events and jazz programming for the benefit of its radio listeners.
“A great oak tree has fallen among us,” said Hazel Trice Edney, editor of the Trice Edney News Wire and president emeritus of the Capital Press Club. “Askia Muhammad’s name had become synonymous with respected journalism long before I met him in person. Whether through his columns in black newspapers or his comforting voice on WPFW, Askia had become known as a servant of the community, dedicated to racial justice for decades. He was warm, a perfect gentleman and fiercely devoted to black people.
A private service will be held with a memorial scheduled for a later date.