Being from Damascus the hub of trade in the Middle East, buying and selling is in my blood. From door-to-door peddlers to pushcart owners to purveyors of fine Damascene fabric, Syrian immigrants have always been known as merchants. So when I was told about the Little Africa -Black Wall Street (Greenwood) in early 1920’s Tulsa, Oklahoma, I immediately felt a kinship with them. Then I went there to visit and met Imam Br. Arthur L.Farahkhan. I felt immediately at home and a strong sense of brotherhood flourished.
Br. Arthur had once heard his great grandfather, who lived to be 111 years old, mention the events of May 31 and June 1 of 1921. He knew that there was a big scare, or massacre, that his great grandfather and other elders were trying to conceal. It wasn’t until 1990 when he learned the full story. During a dinner banquet organized by the Tulsa Muslim American Community, one of the first Muslim organizations in Oklahoma, he met Mabel Little, a successful businesswoman who had lived through the events. Ms. Little had written a book entitled “Fire on Mount Zion” and shared all of what she knew with Br. Arthur. “The Fire on Mount Zion” ignited Br. Arthur’s lantern and he became the next generation’s resident authority on the subject.
As both a Muslim Imam and a Community Activist he attended many civic activities including interfaith events and conferences. In 1989 he represented Imam W.D. Mohammad in an interfaith dialogue conference in Toronto Canada. His talents developed from there in many different directions: he trained clinic staff to teach homeless people about the health benefits for homeless citizens, continues to counsel troubled youth and gang members through conflict resolution and rehabilitation, and even wrote and recorded a song about the massacre on Black Wall Street.
Br. Arthur has built a reputation both on the streets and in the courts as an honest straight shooter who genuinely cares about the people of his city. He is, so far as we know, the only Muslim nationwide who gathers guns from gang members on the street and turns them into the police department.