NEW ROCHELLE, NY — The City School District of New Rochelle has ignored repeated requests for an explanation of photos published on Instagram account attributed to Adofo Muhammad that suggest a connection with or support of The Nation of Islam, Leonard Jeffries and the Black Panther Party. A request to interview Mr. Muhammad was ignored.
The New Rochelle Board of Education announced the hiring of Adofo Muhammad as the incoming Principal of New Rochelle High School on Tuesday night with a start date of July 1st.
The controversial photos were published on the muhammads.family.values Instagram account.
In two photos, Muhammad is wearing a black t-shirt with an image of the book cover of Message to the Blackman in America by Elijah Mohammed, founder of The Nation of Islam. The organization is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, primarily due to antisemitic and anti-LGBT rhetoric.
A third photo shows Muhammad with men in what appears to be the Bedford Academy where he is currently Principal. Several of the men are dressed in a manner similar to a style favored by members of The Nation of Islam.
In another photo, Muhammad is wearing a brown t-shirt with an image of a poster promoting the Black Panther Party, listing members alleged to have been involved in￼ various acts of violence against law enforcement.
In another photo, Mr. Muhammad is seen posing with Dr. Leonard Jeffries. In the 1990’s Jeffries was removed as the Chair of the Black Studies Program at CUNY for “claiming ‘whites’ are ‘ice people’ who are violent and cruel, while blacks are ‘sun people’ who are compassionate and peaceful. He has promoted melanin theory and claims that melanin levels affect the psyche of people, and that melanin allows black people to ‘negotiate the vibrations of the universe and to deal with the ultraviolet rays of the sun.’”
Jeffries gave a controversial speech in 1991 where he said that “’rich Jews’ financed the slave trade and control the film industry together with the Italian mafia, using it to paint a brutal stereotype of blacks.”
On Wednesday, Talk of the Sound reached out to a CSDNR spokesperson:
“Mr. Muhammad’s Instagram feed has photos that suggest a connection with or support of the Nation of Islam, Leonard Jeffries and the Black Panther Party. We figure you must have anticipated questions about that. Can you address that?”
On Thursday, Talk of the Sound followed up:
“Unless we hear otherwise, we will just say ‘declined to answer’. Ideally, we would like Mr. Muhammad to take questions, maybe a phone or email interview.”
The District has declined to answer.
There may be a good explanation. In the same Instagram feed, Muhammad is posing next to a Holocaust survivor.
The issue here may be less Mr. Muhammad’s association with controversial figures than the failure of school officials to answer questions they ought to have anticipated. We cannot know because right now the District is not talking.
In light of twenty incidents of anti-semitic hate speech and Swastikas drawn, etched or painted onto school property over the past two years, school officials should have been prepared to explain why their social media background check did not turn up links between a New Rochelle school principal candidate and proponents of anti-semitic and anti-LGBT views or say they were aware of the photos but found them acceptable or whether they even vetted the social media history of candidates for the position.
One way or another, an explanation is in order.