Throughout their active period, the Nuwaubian Nation passionately promoted what they saw as truth considering themselves from the start as “Propagators of the Knowledge.”1 While in Brooklyn, the group was highly interactive with the community and shared their beliefs through religious pamphlets and street-side conversations with anyone who stopped at their traditionally African-adorned booths. In the Holy Tabernacle Ministries phase of the movement, York and his followers utilized morality plays as a teaching tool to showcase beliefs to those who passed by. Under the title the Ansaaru Allah Community, the group produced a newsletter entitled The Nubian Village Bulletin.2 In fact, propagation through the distribution of religious material was built into membership in the group as male members were required to earn a quota each day through selling incense and literature from the book store.3 In addition to telling religious materials in the movement’s chain of book stores (known as the Tents of Kedar)4 and the weekly Q&A meetings, York had a team of ministers who worked to propagate the movement’s ideas throughout Brooklyn in a unique way. Far from a religious movement distanced with culture, in Brooklyn, Nuwaubian ministers utilized their interest in hip-hop to produce religious CD’s showcasing their interpretations of Dwight’s philosophy. In addition, those interested were invited to weekly Q&A meetings where the group’s leaders and members alike delved into the depths of doctrine, expounding in detail on a variety of topics and addressing the current issues of applying their doctrine to modern culture.
Reaching for a wider audience than Brooklyn, missionaries were sent out to Baltimore, Cleveland, Atlanta, Newport, Virginia, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia. Their efforts were rewarded and the following become international as followings in Montreal, Toronto, Brixton (suburb of London), Port of Spain, and the Jamaican Islands formed.5 The group notably adjusted their styles to geographic location. As a whole, the movement focused on promoting the core value of truth seeking, showing themselves far less concerned with standardization and opted for a flexible methodology rather than a centralized model for “evangelism.”
Palmer denotes varying styles of Q&A meetings according to location as follows:
Brooklyn – “hip-hop”
Atlanta -“ordinary Sunday school class”
Philadelphia -“New Agey”
London – “Break Dance” “rhythmic responses”6
In Brooklyn, at least, the group’s strong religious claims did not seem to cause major divisions even with groups that believed differently. Palmer recalls an interaction between a Nation of Islam member and a member of the Nuwaubian Nation (Ansaar at the time). The Nation of Islam member explained their friendliness simply with “We consider them our brothers. We are all working for the uplift of the people.”7 In this case, we see the movement perceived not as a threat or opposition, but rather a helping hand toward a common cause of the betterment of people.
The group’s movement to Eatonton marks a striking change in their perception in their proximate community, and, therefore, their propagation tactics. While in Brooklyn the group’s efforts may be seen as a striving to work within the culture to draw new members, upon moving to Eatonton, the fluid movement between and coexistence of religious separatism and social cooperation stopped abruptly. Whether an intentional strategy or a natural product of the vast cultural differences between Eatonton and Brooklyn, Nuwaubian presence in Eatonton has been strife with legal confrontations and a constant flow of injured feelings on both sides.
Some typical Nuwaubian tactics were transferred; a bookstore was planted in Sparta, a town about thirty minutes from Eatonton to promote Nuwaubian philosophy.8 However, coupled with the community’s general distaste, it remains unclear whether conversation and Q&A meetings gained new membership from the Eatonton area.
Aside from small consistencies, the Nuwaubians entered the Eatonton community taking a new direction – electoral and commercial. As the Nuwaubians began to develop a compound and settled in, they sought to build an Egyptian theme park and night club as part of their expansion. In response to the zoning conflicts, the Nuwaubians opted for the democratic way and began promoting candidates for public positions. In the July 2000 primaries, 6/8 Republican candidates and 2/30 Democratic candidates were Nuwaubian members or had ties to the group.9
Propagation turned from persuasion to ensuring a political voice. While still promoting their core values, the Nuwaubian strategy seems to shift from a desire to be understood to a survival instinct of protecting their beliefs and way of life.
One large-scale event the group did host while in Eatonton was the annual Savior’s Day Festival. A local paper in Putnam County recorded that “the population [had] soared by 30,000” 10 for the six-day event, each designated one of the following themes: Children, Spiritual, Entertainment, Sports and Fun, Socializing, and Family Departs. In addition, the event showcased the Nuwaubian’s separatism as the children recited the Nuwaubian pledge of allegiance to the Nuwaubian flag and sang the United Nuwaubian Anthem. 11 Importantly, visitors were made up of travelers from across the country, not from within the local Eatonton community.
In addition, though the festival drew a large national crowd, the large numbers do not necessarily indicate the strength of the religious motivations of attenders. Palmer notes her impression that many of those present seem less interested in specific Nuwaubian doctrine and more focused on instilling a sense of community and Black Pride in their children.12 Essentially, events of this nature served more as a cultural celebration than a religious experience, per se.
Overall, the Nuwaubian Nation utilized a variety of means to disseminate their beliefs. While beginning with more traditional tracts, incense, and morality plays, movement in belief called for alternate means of spreading such as large scale events, seeking political power, and the modern creation of web blogs and literature.
1 Susan Palmer, The Nuwaubian Nation: Black Spirituality and State Control, (Farnham, Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2010), xx.
2 Ibid., 46.
3 Ibid., 52
4 Ibid., 48
6 Ibid., xxiv.
7 Ibid., xxi.
8 “Dr. Socrates Sierra Represents United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors in Sparta,” Sparta Ishmaelite (GA), Sep. 4, 1997.
9 Rufus Adair, “Nuwaubians in Electoral Politics – as GOP,” Eatonton Messenger (GA), May 4, 2000.
10 Eva Reuh, “Festival Draws over 30,000,” Madisonian Breeze (GA), Jul. 2, 1998.
12 Palmer, The Nuwaubian Nation, xxxiv.
“Dr. Socrates Sierra Represents United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors in Sparta,” Sparta Ishmaelite (GA), Sep. 4, 1997. http://uncleremus.advantage-preservation.com/
“Festival Draws over 30,000,” Madisonian Breeze (GA), Jul. 2, 1998. http://uncleremus.advantage-preservation.com/