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Services held for activist, servant, humanitarian

Thomas Muhammad

Thomas Ali Muhammad
Thomas Ali Muhammad

Thomas Ali Muhammad, a man who wore many hats and is often referred to as an historian, activist, Muslim scholar, warrior, writer, servant leader and friend, died Monday.

Born in Dallas, TX on January 12, 1951, Mr. Muhammad was an Orthodox practicing Muslim who made his journey to the Holy City of Mecca in Saudi Arabia for Hajj (Religious Pilgrimage) in July 1990.

A student of religion, he was also a friend to many in the Nation of Islam (NOI) as well as other religious and community-based communities.

Over the years, he was involved in numerous organizations, activities and movements. As a teenager attending James Madison High School in South Dallas, he was a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

From that point on, if there was a cause that he believed in, he was definitely on the front lines; advocating, picketing, fundraising, organizing and working in front of cameras or behind the scenes to effect change.

He wasn’t trying to win any popularity contests. He was about the work, making a difference and changing things; while also shaking things up a bit, he would laughingly say. During the 1990s, in addition to being a tri-chair of the Dallas Community Leadership Luncheon with Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price and Attorney James Belt, Muhammad was also a regular on picket lines as The Warriors spoke out about everything from bias in the media and police brutality to unfair hiring practices and racism. He also served on the inaugural KwanzaaFest committee.

“Thomas Ali Muhammad was a warrior and a relentless, unapologetic advocate for this community,” said Commissioner Price. “When going to war there was no one better in a fox-hole than Thomas.”

The chair of the National Black United Front’s Dallas chapter and co-founder and board vice president of the South Dallas/Fair Park Inner-city Community Development Corp, he also served on board of The Black Academy of Arts and Letters and was instrumental in starting the first grassroots Muslim political organization in Dallas.

Thomas Ali Muhammad
Thomas Ali Muhammad

Muhammad loved his home but he also traveled to other homes, namely Selma, AL to be with family and also serve and champion causes.

An outspoken advocate for voting rights, he served on the Executive Board of the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute for more than 20 years. The Museum hosts the historic

“Selma to Montgomery” March across the Edmund Pettus Bridge each year.

The annual event commonly known as “Bloody Sunday” became famous after 600 civil rights marchers were beaten and tear gassed on Sunday, March 7, 1965 by Alabama troopers for simply marching for the right to vote in elections in America.

It was a cause he was passionate about right up to the time of his death.

A student of Malcolm X, who he affectionately called, “Brother Malcolm.” he put his efforts and resources into telling a side of the human rights activist that he felt was not being adequately portrayed and shared with youth.

“If I left the planet tomorrow, the one contribution that will last forever is this film,” Muhammad told Norma Adams Wade of the Dallas Morning News, describing his many experiences while traveling the country doing filming and later at private screenings for the documentary, Malcolm X: An Overwhelming Influence on the Black Power Movement.

He was an organizer. He loved planning events and inviting notable folks from across the country, and around the world to share their stories with Dallas.

For him, sitting down to take someone to task in one of his insightful, cutting edge commentaries brought him so much joy. For years, he wrote for the Dallas Weekly, North Dallas Gazette and I Messenger Media and he proudly shared his works on social media; oftentimes cracking up at his own analyses!

Longtime friend Berna Dean Steptoe said he will be “sorely missed.”

“Our local and national communities have lost more than an organizer and an activist. We have lost a champion,” she said, adding that he defended and worked for the rights of the impoverished and the wealthy, the disenfranchised and the privileged. “It didn’t matter to him who benefited – only that his work helped to make life better for everyone.”

Although not related by blood, they had a special bond and without fanfare or publicity, they would meet regularly and as was the case with many, they could discuss the issues and disagree without becoming enemies.

“I will miss my brother,” added Steptoe. “We were more than close friends – we were family.”

Family, especially his wife Ameenah and those who proudly called him, “Unk,” was important to Muhammad, as were several friends, fellow freedom fighters, Warriors and childhood friends.

Thomas Ali Muhammad
Thomas Ali Muhammad

“Thomas Muhammad was a Supreme Servant who confronted injustice up to his final breath,” said long-time friend and confidante Diane Ragsdale. “He loved Allah, his family and humanity.”

A retired City of Dallas employee, he was elected Co-Chair of the Green Party of Texas. His other civic involvement included being Founder of Africans & African Americans for Enslavement Reparations and African Arab Forum Institute.

Also a member of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and Dallas/Fort Worth Association of Black Communicators (now DFW-ABJ), he was a life member of the Coalition for the Advancement of Civil Rights (CACR), and a member of the Coalition of Blacks to Maximize Education and the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) Bond Advisory Committee responsible for overseeing spending of school district’s $1.3 billion 2002 bond funds.

Muhammad has been awarded numerous community service awards, including: Texas Peace Officers Association Unsung Hero, Operation Relief Center Man With A Vision, The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development’s Strongest Supporter, Sister Clara Muhammad School Community Service, Inner-city Community Development Corporation’s Volunteer Appreciation, Islamic Association of North Texas’s Community Leadership Recognition Award, the Greater Dallas Community Relations Commission’s Outstanding Community Services Award.

He has received dozens of proclamations and certificates from many prominent Texas elected leaders such as former Texas Governor Ann Richards, former Dallas Mayors Annette Strauss, Steve Bartlett and Ron Kirk, as well as proclamations from former Dallas City Council members Diane Ragsdale and Al Lipscomb and awards
from prominent leaders such as Kathlyn Gilliam – former DISD School Board Trustee and John Wiley Price, Dallas County Commissioner District 3.

Thomas Ali Muhammad
Thomas Ali Muhammad

Muhammad battled illnesses for several years, although he rarely talked about his challenges and when his health allowed he not only, continued to write commentaries for Texas Metro News; he also loved going by the ICDC office, Pan African Connection Bookstore and Resource Center and Sunny Side Athletic Club; where he loved to workout.

He transitioned in his sleep on Monday morning, Aug. 15, 2022 and was buried at Laureland, following a traditional Islamic Janazah service, Tuesday, Aug. 16 at the Duncanville Masjid.

There has been talk of plans for a community recognition of Muhammad.

Many might say that if he had any parting words, they would be of encouragement to keep doing as he did, fighting; because as he ended his column, “The Struggle Continues.”

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