On August 24, 2006 my family's life was forever changed. My youngest brother Ab-Raheem Muhammad (24) was shot and killed by a law enforcement officer under very suspicious circumstances. The officer reported him as a homeless man--this was so far from the truth, nevertheless, even homeless people deserve to live.
Raheem was unarmed and had in his possession, a bag of potato chips, a soda and black & mild cigarette. Due to the suspicious nature surrounding his death, many political officials, countless grass roots organizers and social reform organizations stepped forward to seek justice on my brother's behalf including former US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney who wrote the U.S. Attorney General to seek an investigation into my brother's death. The untimely loss of his life triggered the formation of the Coalition for Justice Against Police Murder- focusing on what we called, The DeKalb 12 (12 families of those killed by police) focusing on the unfair treatment of the families and investigating the circumstances which led up to the deaths.
Together, this coalition was successful in bringing forth to the special grand jury led by former District Attorney Gwendalyn Keyes-Flemmings, a total of 24 police involved shootings in DeKalb County, GA in year 2006 alone. These findings highlighted the continued abuse of power within the DeKalb county law enforcement, leading to more strict oversight in police involved shootings. As a result, we were selected as recipient of the Atlanta Journal Constitution's Hero of Open Government Award-highlighting our commitment to uncover unfair and unjust practices in not only DeKalb county, but the state of Georgia.
I will never forget days before Raheem's life was taken sitting at our living room table with him and he asking me if we can start a shoe business together and what it would take to find a good reasonable wholesaler. He spoke of making enough money to travel the world and help others that did not have a chance "just because"..is what he said. As a teen, he spent some time in Senegal and had experienced what he described as unforgettable poverty. The memories of this never left him.
He searched for employment day in and day out, but his first offender conviction, for a crime that took place when he was 18 was a huge obstacle--no-one would let him forget it. I remember him being upset daily that he would get turned down for jobs. I saw the disappointment in him. He wanted better and wanted more, but did not know how to move forward.
That day at the dinner table stuck with me. He believed that he needed to be self sufficient in order to be completely free--he was right. My brother's death and the days and months proceeding it proved that social injustice exists and those in poverty are usually victims of such.
Our work is reflective of solutions to those obstacles that impacted his life and that ultimately led to his death and the deaths and hopelessness of countless others.
- Iffat Walker
His Sister-Founder & President