Muhiyidin d'Baha addresses a group of demonstrators in Marion Square
Local Black Lives Matter activist Muhiyidin d'Baha was shot and killed in New Orleans early Tuesday morning, according to a GoFundMe page set up by his niece. The New Orleans Police Department have not returned requests for the full police report.
Camille Weaver wrote that d'Baha was shot at around 1 a.m. and died of excessive blood loss at around 9:30 a.m.
"We don’t have many details, but will update as soon as we do," she wrote. "His body is currently in New Orleans, LA and we are raising money to bring him home to Charleston and then have a memorial service/funeral for his family and friends. This is all so unexpected, so any contribution will help."
D'Baha is best known for the viral moment in which he leaped and attempted to tear down a Confederate battle flag being waved outside of a speech by activist Bree Newsome at the College of Charleston. He was subsequently charged with disorderly conduct and malicious injury to real property, according to police records.
Speaking to local interviewer Quintin Washington, d'Baha outlined his grassroots approach to political activism.
"We can insulate ourselves from a lot of the tumultuousness and a lot of the happenstance that is happening at those levels right now by becoming stronger at our neighborhood level, at our community level, becoming stronger at our city level," d'Baha said. "And then we can really look after individuals and look after people, and thats a little bit different than just winning talking points or changing public opinion so we can get someone into office."
Thomas Dixon, head of the activist group The Coalition and a candidate for mayor of North Charleston in 2019, wrote of the loss on his Facebook group.
"For all who have stood on the battlefield of social justice activism in the Lowcountry and throughout our state, we’ve lost a great brother to senseless gun violence today," he said.
In an interview with CP, Dixon said that though their methods differed, he had the utmost respect for d'Baha.
"He was a consummate social justice activist," Dixon said. "He was a man that was driven by the spirit of community. We didn’t agree on everything, but we both understood that the mission and the message superseded differences, so we were always friends no matter what."
D’Baha’s mother is Baha’i, and his father is a Muslim. The family moved to South Carolina from Poughkeepsie when d’Baha was thirteen. As a kid, he got in trouble for stealing cars, but then he straightened himself out and went to a good magnet school; in college, he studied psychology and played football. D’Baha is thirty, burly, and wears beaded dreads and a Black Lives Matter T-shirt. He shows great respect to the elders of the black-church community, but he also talks about the insufficiency of “respectability politics” and the barrier that it creates between “the power establishment and the revolutionaries and disgruntled masses.” The voices of forgiveness at Dylann Roof’s hearing struck d’Baha as understandable in the context of the black church and the legacy of civil-rights-era thinking but, at the same time, as a form of political masochism.
“That was Charleston,” he said. “That was accommodating white feelings and white superiority. It was ‘Yes, Massa, can I have another?’ But, at the same time, it was spiritual fortitude forged in a crucible of terrorism. It speaks of a spiritual level that I haven’t attained. What it also meant to Charleston was that, without the families’ backing, we couldn’t demonstrate at the pitch we wanted. Walter Scott’s mom said the same thing. When the families give these signals, and the pastors instill in the families a sense of grace and forgiveness, the anger never reverberates. No leadership arose demanding to have this pain recognized. Again, it’s let me accommodate you so you’re not scared, we’ll just get on the bridge and hold hands, Jesus is good, we’re over it. There has been an arrangement here, created over generations, to be able to endure terrorism. At this point, this is the way it is. We endure. We don’t ask for more.”
Brandon Fish, a friend of d'Baha's, called the killing a "random act of violence" in his own Facebook post of Weaver's GoFundMe link.
"The last thing he said to me was that he was doing community work out of town and that he was learning so that he could come back to Charleston and help empower the people," Fish wrote. "He was loved by all of his friends and respected by all those who want to see social and racial justice in Charleston. We all have lost so much, so very much, whether you know it or not. This world was a better place because he walked around in it (barefoot, so he could feel the vibrations of the Earth of course)."
Indivisible Charleston treasurer Sara Stevenson sums up the first time she heard d'Baha speak — during a CofC panel about policing in schools — with one word: "powerful."
"I still have the flier taped to my office wall because it had such an impact on me," Stevenson said. "When he was speaking you could hear a pin drop in the room. You could tell that he loved his community and he knew his community deserved better, and he wasn't going to stop fighting for it."
Dixon announced on Facebook that he will stand outside North Charleston City Hall at 6:30 p.m. to "peacefully remember Muhiyidin and to pray."