The severe beating of Dhoruba bin Wahad at the recent Power Belongs to the People conference in Atlanta has revealed a rift between two factions for control of the controversial New Black Panther Party. Dhoruba, a leading critic of COINTELPRO, was beaten unconscious with his jaw broken in three places, now faces steep medical bills and a slow recovery from a six-hour surgery to mend his injuries. A public statement issued Aug. 26, but written a week earlier, condemns the attack on Dhoruba and confirms a split in the New Black Panther Party.
Dhoruba spent nineteen years in prison, framed for a 1971 attempted murder in a drive-by shootiing. Dhoruba, a Black Panther and member of the militant Black Liberation Army, was freed after he obtained COINTELPRO documents that showed the Federal Bureau of Investigation had withheld exculpatory evidence. Dhoruba had been a target of the clandestine counterintelligence program directed by J. Edgar Hoover, Dhoruba sued the FBI and was awarded $400,000 for damages from the counterintelligence action.
Dhoruba bin Wahad was beaten Aug. 8 while confronting Malik Zulu Shabazz who was speaking at the Atlanta conference. Dhrouba considers the New Black Panther Party to be a hate group, heavily infiltrated by the FBI, and a modern-day COINTELPRO operation to divide the Black Power movement. Shabazz, who resigned as chairman of the organization in 2013, heads an affiliate group called Black Lawyers for Justice. Shabazz handpicked his successor, Hashim Nzinga. Both men are former members of the Nation of Islam. Dhoruba allegedly called Shabazz a “nigger” after which Shabazz ordered security to remove Dhrobua and six others from the conference. Witnesses say that about two dozen New Black Panthers moved on Dhoruba’s group, some wielding chairs.
Rival “National Chair” Krystal Muhammad said in a formal statement: “We do not condone the use of excessive force on any Nu Arikan or human being ESPECIALLY an elder….Furthermore none of the members of our formation were involved or present during this unfortunate incident.”
Muhammad claims she was elected to replace Shabazz on December 1, 2013, at a “national summit” in Atlanta. Both leaders claim to head the New Black Panther Party and both use the party logo. The Texas-based Muhammad is a bail bond agent by occupation and has capitalized on media opportunities in Texas and elsewhere to assert her leadership. Nzinga continues to control the NBPP website and hosted the conference where Dhrouba was attacked. Shabazz continues to have a strong presence in the group and some maintain that Shabazz is still secretly in charge. Shabazz has not made any statement about Dhoruba’s beating.
Atlanta law enforcement authorities have sidestepped the assault. In May, Dhrouba was beaten on his porch by a deputy. A cell phone video of that beating resulted in the deputy’s termination and pending grand jury charges against the fired lawman.
Ironically, one of the workshops at the Power Belongs to the People conference was titled, “Remembering Political Prisoners.” The New Black Panthers are not related to the orlginal Black Panther Party, some of whose members are serving long prison terms from COINTELPRO era convictions.