Members of Boston's Black Ministerial Alliance might resent New Black Panther Party soldier Jamarhl Crawford for his persistently blasting them as crooks and opportunists. But the reverends should be grateful that he never found "white Jesus" — if Crawford (a/k/a UNO the Prophet) joined the cloth, he would likely have the heaviest collection plate on Blue Hill Avenue.
For his first annual Red, Black, and Green Flag Raising and Black History Month Celebration at City Hall, Crawford brandished his famously sonorous switchblades. Much like at the 10,000 Strong March on Franklin Park this past June and during his subsequent campaign against the Boston Police Department's Safe Homes Initiative, Roxbury's most vocal gadfly bypassed superficial cordiality and beelined to his message.
"When I used to work here [as a District 7 PR operative] back in 1997 . . . I noticed that there were eight-foot Leprechauns on St. Patrick's Day and giant turkeys on Thanksgiving," Crawford told the crowd of about 40 people in the Piemonte Room — across from the offices of City Councilors Bill Linehan and Steve Murphy. "But there was nothing to celebrate black history, even though this building belongs to all of us, too."
The complimentary corn bread, greens, rice, and roasted chicken didn't lure Mayor Tom Menino — or mayoral hopefuls Sam Yoon and Michael Flaherty — to Crawford's party, though all three had legislative aides present to hear Dorchester Councilor Charles Yancey deliver a comprehensive history of African-American councillorship in Boston: "One hundred years ago, there was one black city councilor," said Yancey, "and now there are two."
In his turn, Crawford thanked Roxbury Councilor Chuck Turner — who reserved the space for the festivities but could not attend — then argued reasons why Boston needs black empowerment. He delved slightly into conspiratorial territories — rhetorically asking how guns and drugs end up in black hands — but mostly focused on discrepancies between minority neighborhoods and communities where the "birds are chirping and the sun is shining."
"I'm glad there haven't been any problems so far with us hanging the red, black, and green flag outside of City Hall today," said Crawford, who noted that there was palpable dissent when those colors flew to honor Marcus Garvey back in August. "There's plenty of Italian power in Boston; and there's definitely plenty of Irish power . . . but that power's not there when you cross the line from West Roxbury into Roxbury. We're here today [because] we want everyone to realize that a city can only be as successful as all of its citizens."