Dwight York was born on June 26, 1935. Or possibly 1945.
He did not have an easy childhood. As a youth he was abused physically and mentally (and possibly sexually) by relatives; as a teenager he joined a gang and dealt drugs. He almost certainly had run-ins with the law, though he doesn’t seem to have gone to juvie — or if he did, the records were expunged when he turned eighteen.
York seemed to settle down somewhat after that. He found a job at an antique store and romanced the owner’s daughter, Dorothy Johnson. The two were quickly married and would eventually have five children together.
Then York started backsliding. In June 1964 he was convicted of statutory rape but was given a suspended sentence. You’d think that might persuade him to clean up his act, but no. In October he was convicted of assault, possession of a deadly weapon, and resisting arrest. His first sentence was un-suspended, three years were tacked on to it, and he was sent off to the Elmira Correctional and Reception Center.
Then, as now, prisons were a prime recruiting ground for the Nation of Islam, and as a troubled young black man Dwight York was a prime recruit.
The philosophies being spouted by the Nation’s jailhouse preachers would have sounded very familiar to York, because his relatives were involved with the Moorish Science Temple of America. Moorish Science was founded in 1913 by Noble Drew Ali, who preached Islam from a translation of the Qu’ran nicknamed “the Circle Seven” and claimed to have been sent by the King of Morocco to teach African-Americans about their true origins as displaced Moors and Moabites and the true founders of the city of Mecca.
Thing is, Moorish Science is not really Islam; it has more in common with Freemasonry or Rosicrucianism. The Circle Seven is not an actual translation of the Qu’ran, but plagiarized from contemporary esoteric texts including Levi Dowling’s Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ. (Probably just as well, since you’re not supposed to translate the Qu’ran anyway.) Drew Ali never met the King of Morocco, and (most) African-Americans are not Moorish in origin.
The real appeal of Moorish Science is that it builds on an established folk tradition that African-Americans are not African. The tradition emerged in early 1800s as a way for blacks to retain their civil rights. True believers claimed to be Turks, Persians, even Phoenicians — any non-African ethnicity they could pass for, which allowed them to avoid the racial discrimination and legal restrictions placed on free blacks and slaves. Moorish ancestry was particularly popular, because it was mistakenly believed that 1786’s Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship somehow placed Moors beyond the reach of the American legal system.
The Nation of Islam started out as an offshoot of the Moorish Science Temple. In the era of Négritude, of “black is beautiful” and the civil rights movement, the idea of denying one’s African heritage wasn’t quite appealing. Instead Wallace Fard Muhammad and his successor, Elijah Muhammad, updated the philosophy with contemporary black nationalist ideas: Allah was black; Africans were the first men and his most beloved children; whites were a mistake created by a mad scientist. By the late 1950s the Nation was one of the most popular new religious movements in the United States.
Dwight York saw how powerful the Nation’s message was, and took notes.
After he was paroled in October 1967 he began attending services at Brooklyn’s State Street Mosque, though he did not stay with the congregation for long. He was almost certainly disappointed that the Sunni Islam practiced on State Street lacked the black power message preached by the Nation of Islam.
There were likely other factors at play, too. You see, Dwight York liked to change his mind, and did not want to be a part of any organization where he wasn’t the one on top.
York started off small.
He began hawking incense and essential oils on the streets of New York. He was apparently quite the salesman. As part of his patter he would start philosophical arguments with passers-by, hoping they would become engaged enough to buy something. When passers-by were scarce he would bust out the street magic to build a small crowd.
Soon the debates became more interesting to York than the selling. He started reading every philosophical and religious tract he could get his hands on, and before long the cheap goods on York’s table were joined by self-published religious tracts outlining his idiosyncratic philosophy. That philosophy was a largely incoherent attempt to reconcile otherwise incompatible belief systems. It had elements of Christian and Islamic mysticism mixed with turn-of-the-century New Age occultism and contemporary black thought.
Well, if you were trying to sell a weird new philosophy to a wide audience, there was no better time or place to sell it than New York City, 1968.
Soon York had gathered a small band of disciples, young black men and women disenchanted with the Nation of Islam and looking for alternatives. They all met on Coney Island under the banner of “Ansar Pure Sufi,” which York directed as “Isa Abdullah.”
Now, Isa didn’t know anything Sufi mysticism, but that was okay! Neither did his followers. He could deflect tough questions by turning his answer into a Socratic dialogue, and look up the answer later. If it turned out he was wrong, he could always claim he was playing Devil’s advocate: the original discussion was a test, and the follower had failed by turning away from the path of right knowledge. It was a surprisingly effective rhetorical strategy.
Rabboni Yeshua Bar el Haady
Ansar Pure Sufi lasted less than a year. Seemingly overnight it transformed into the “Nubian Hebrew Mission” led by “Rabboni Yeshua Bar el Haady.” (That’s a weird mix of Hebrew and Arabic that translates roughly to “Jesus Son of God.”)
Apparently at some point in the previous few months Rabboni Yeshua had become interested in the Black Hebrew movement. If you’re not familiar with the Black Hebrews, you must have slept through last year’s Kyrie Irving fiasco. Long story short, Black Hebrews believe that modern Jews are not the Israelites of the Bible, but invaders who displaced the original Israelites and stole their identity. Variations of this belief had been around for years, claiming that the true Israelites were Saxons or Aryans — and now, Africans.
It is, to some extent, an update of the Moorish Science idea, but instead of denying one’s African heritage it proclaims that heritage is more important than ever, and has been deliberately stripped from you by outside forces. (I can’t possibly imagine why that particular message would resonate with African-Americans.)
It’s not clear what motivated the change. Maybe Rabboni sincerely believed in Black Hebrew message. Maybe he was bored with the Nation of Islam. Later events and the testimony of former disciples seem to suggest that Rabboni was trying to lure in new converts by cynically cloaking his message in the trappings of the latest fly-by-night fad.
Many of the Ansar Pure Sufi crowd left, unable to handle the abrupt transition. A small core of devoted disciples chose to remain. And why not? The basic message hadn’t changed, Rabboni was still in charge, and there was no reason that Allah’s first-born children couldn’t also be the OG Jews.
It turned out the Black Hebrew were just a passing fad. (I mean, they’re still around, but they went from “hot new thing” to “forgotten fringe weirdos” in less than a few months.) The former Sufi study group then transformed into the “Nubian Islamic Hebrews” lead by “Imam Isa.” (“Isa” being the Arabic version of “Jesus.”) Some disgruntled Nubian Hebrew Missionaries left, but were quickly replaced with new converts.
At this point Imam Isa discarded most of the beliefs he had borrowed from the Black Hebrews and the Nation of Islam, and began practicing something not unlike Sunni Islam. I say “not unlike” Sunni Islam, because the Imam could only read Arabic at a grade school level and as a result his interpretations of the Qu’ran were… uh, let’s say idiosyncratic. Like Noble Drew Ali, he tended to fill in the gaps in his formal knowledge with bits and pieces from other esoteric religious texts. To prevent his disciples from catching on, he forbade them to read the Qu’ran on their own.
Eventually Imam Isa founded a religious commune, the “Ansar Allah Community,” in June 1970 after what was either his 35th or 25th birthday, which conveniently also happened to be dawning of the Age of Aquarius and the opening of the Seventh Seal. The Community first opened on Rockaway Avenue, spent a year or so on St. John’s Place, and eventually into more or less permanent digs on Bushwick Avenue.
To outsiders the Ansar Allah Community looked no different from any other insular ethnic or religious community in New York. It started off with a mosque, but rapidly expanded to include a private school, communal dormitories, restaurants and grocery stories, a laundromat — everything a small community of five hundred people would need.
The commune’s rapid expansion was aided by the higher-than-normal number of fires in the area, which razed expensive old buildings and put their lots on the market where the Ansars could snap them up for a song. Neighbors also noticed an uptick in vandalism and petty crime — one which the Ansars seemed to avoid, somehow. They suspected the commune was trying to drive away outsiders so they could have Bushwick Avenue all to themselves. Then again maybe that was all just projection, a knee-jerk racist response triggered by the neighborhood’s shifting demographics. Or maybe it was both.
Ansars became a common sight throughout New York City, easily identified by their distinctive African dress — though the exact clothes they wore seemed to change based on whatever the Imam had been reading that week. They were as ubiquitous as Hare Krishnas and used most of the same street preaching techniques.
Ansar men hustled to sell incense and essential oils, halal food, cheap imports from the Middle East, and Imam Isa’s religious tracts. If they didn’t pull in at least $100 a day they were likely to get a beating from the Imam’s bodyguards, so many also resorted to outright begging.
Ansar women stayed at home to raise the children. They also secured the Community’s financial stability by committing welfare fraud on a massive scale. Ansars would apply for public assistance under both their maiden and married names, and from fraudulent addresses to hide the fact that they lived in a commune. They also shared positive pregnancy tests, so that when one of them got pregnant they could all claim the increased benefits from having another child.
Ansar children attended the private school where they got a free indoctrination in the cult’s beliefs and language instruction in Hebrew, Arabic, and a creole called “Nubic.”
The Community thrived. Imam Isa actually seemed to know what he was doing… though truth be told, all of the actual day-to-day administration was handled by his wife Dorothy, now going by the name “Zubaida Muhammad.”
Eventually the Ansars grew to dominate their Bushwick neighborhood, even running their own community watchdog patrols. The New York police were grateful, because it meant they didn’t have to deal directly with the other militant black groups that were springing up in the area.
Al Hajj al Imam Isa Abdalla Muhammad al Mahdi
In 1973 things at the commune were running so smoothly Imam Isa had the time to do a little traveling.
Early in the year he made a missionary trip to Trinidad. In addition to finding converts, he also got his groove back, taking a local woman into an extra-legal “Islamic marriage” and fathering a child with her. Which he then hushed up.
During the summer he made a minor pilgrimage to Mecca. On his way back he swung through North Africa, stopping in Egypt to see the pyramids and visiting the Sudan afterwards. In Khartoum he bathed at the confluence of the Blue Nile and the White Nile; toured the University of Khartoum; prayed at the tomb of the Muhammad Ahmad, the Sudanese Mahdi; and spent a lot of time hanging out with the Mahdi’s descendants.
Upon his return the Ansar Allah Community began to shift away from Sunni Islam and towards messianic Sudanese Mahdism. Their new Mahdi was Imam Isa, of course, or as he was now known, “al Hajj al Imam Isa Abdalla Muhammad al Mahdi.”
Isa rewrote his backstory to bolster his messianic claims. Now he was the illegitimate great-grandson of the Sudanese Mahdi. He pushed up his birthday by almost a decade so that it occurred on the centenary of the Mahdi’s own birth, since prophecy claimed a Mahdi would return every hundred years. As an infant was whisked out of the Sudan by the royal family to be raised in secret by the York family of New Bedford, MA. As a child he was summoned back to Africa where his heritage was acknowledged and he was instructed in the mystic ways of Mahdism. As a teenager he returned to the United States and resumed hiding his true identity, but was later allowed to return to the Sudan to attend university.
Absolutely none of this was true. Mainstream Islamic movements quickly branded Isa a heretic, to no avail. The Ansars began dressing like Sudanese Muslims in a white jalabiya and turban, and hastily revised their religious tracts.
Imam Isa applied for a passport under the name “Isa Al Haadi Al Mahdi,” which was denied and got him charged with passport fraud. He invited descendants of Muhammad Ahmad to visit the commune, conveniently failing to mention that he was claiming to be related to them. He even took another “Islamic wife” in the Sudan who claimed to be a direct descendant of Muhammad, and eventually had two children with her.
She would not have been shocked to learn that the would-be Mahdi had other wives, but she would have been astounded by the size of Imam Isa’s growing harem of wives and concubines. In 1980 the Ansars marched in a local parade with the Imam at their head, surrounded by nineteen beautiful young women — many of them the wives of his followers, and according to local rumor, all of them pregnant with his children.
Just in case his own love life wasn’t complex enough, Imam Isa was also micromanaging the love lives of his fellow communards. He actively segregated men and women, decided who was allowed to marry and when, and maintained strict control over their conjugal relations. In his defense, he apparently needed to raise 144,000 perfect Nubic children to defeat the great Shaytan and purge the Earth of evil.
If that last bit seems a bit out there to you, that’s because in 1975 Imam Isa began incorporating some wild apocalyptic beliefs into his tracts. It seems to have started as an attempt to woo Nation of Islam members after the death of Elijah Muhammad, but quickly expanded into a wholesale incorporation of any fringe idea the black community had ever toyed with.
Among some of the Imam’s less crazy ideas were:
- Heaven and Hell did not exist;
- non-blacks had no soul, and women only had half of one;
- most historical figures, and all of the prophets, were black;
- Jesus was the not the son of God but of the Angel Gabriel;
- Jesus had survived his crucifixion and fled to Egypt;
- and the Imam himself was simultaneously the reincarnation of Jesus and the Mahdi.
As for the crazy ideas… well, I’m getting ahead of myself. We’ll get there.
Doctor Malachi Zador York-El
In spite of the creeping crazies the Ansar Allah Community was surprisingly stable. If there’s anything we know about middle-aged men it’s that they love stability and routine. So in the late 1970s Imam Isa had a sort of mid-life crisis, and decided to act on his hitherto-unmentioned life-long dream of becoming a musician.
The Imam formed a new band, the Passion, and assumed a new persona to lead it: Doctor York a.k.a. Doctor Malachi Z. York, a.k.a. Doctor Malachi Zador York-El a.k.a. the Love Doctor. (There is no indication whether the “El” in York-El is supposed to indicate a special duty bestowed by Yahweh, or a distant relation to Superman.)
Doctor York was quick to assure his followers that any “Passion” in his music was platonic, in a “Passion of the Christ” sort of way. The love in his songs was pure spiritual love, even if the sensual lyrics were giving off a real Faith + 1 vibe. And sure, he wore regular street clothes and performed in clubs where decadent Western music was played. That was all part of the honey trap! Non-believers would be lured in by the smooth sounds of the Passion and then fall head-over-heels for Doctor York’s message of love and Mahdism.
Doctor York and the Passion did not exactly set the music world on fire. York was quick to blame their failure on a vast conspiracy of shady record label executives who only cared about money, racist club owners who didn’t want to promote black artists, and sinister media elites who felt threatened by Doctor York’s message of love and peace. (If we’re being honest, though, the Passion’s whole vibe was “mediocre disco funk,” good enough to play in the club when you wanted to cycle people off the dance floor and over to the bar without killing the vibe, but not nearly enough that you’d go out to buy a 45 afterwards. It also didn’t help that they burst on the scene in 1979 just as the disco backlash was getting nasty.)
While Doctor York was off pretending to be a musician, things started to go sour for the Ansars.
Neighborhood opposition had coalesced around Horace Green, a fine upstanding citizen who ran a daycare center. Then on April 19, 1979 Green was shot dead in broad daylight by parties unknown. Robbery and revenge were quickly eliminated as motives, and though suspicion fell on the Ansars there was no direct evidence that they were involved. The community organizers doubled down on their efforts to prevent the commune from taking over Bushwick Avenue.
Meanwhile, other Islamic groups began taking notice of the Ansars. Orthodox Sunnis called Doctor York a false prophet peddling a degraded version of the one true religion to his followers. Sudanese Mahdists denounced his messianic ambitions, claiming he had tricked members of Muhammad Ahmad’s family into endorsing his claims. Even the Nation of Islam dismissed him as a trickster and a con artist.
Then in January 1983 a mentally disturbed man snuck into the mosque disguised as a woman, carrying a 13″ knife, a .25 handgun, and a homemade propane bomb. When confronted by security guards he tried to shoot, but the gun jammed so he set off the bomb (which set the building on fire) and then stabbed four Ansars before being subdued by the crowd.
After the assault Doctor York became paranoid and decided he needed a new safe space. He purchased an old Jewish summer camp in the Catskills which he renamed “Camp Jazzir Abba.”
Ostensibly the camp was a summer retreat for Ansar children, but its primary purpose was to be a pleasure palace for Doctor York. He began building a mansion, with an indoor swimming pool and a professional-grade recording studio where he could work on his, uh, Passion projects. Mind you, he didn’t bother to get the appropriate building permits first, and wound up dragged into Sullivan County courts for years.
That September a former Ansar made the news for all the wrong reasons. Roy Savage, a.k.a. “Hashim the Warrior”, had been one of Doctor York’s bodyguards and was the leading suspect in the murder of Horace Green. At some point he left the Ansars start his own cult, gathering a small harem of women who he sexually abused. When two of his “wives” fought back Savage killed them, chopped them into pieces, fed the meat to his other wives, and stuffed everything left over into a suitcase. He abandoned the suitcase in a vacant apartment and lit hundreds of scented candles to mask the smell, but had to move it when the fire department was called in to investigate the smoke. Eventually he dumped the suitcase at a housing project in Newark, where it burst open to reveal the human remains inside. It wasn’t long before it was traced back to Savage, who was promptly arrested, tried, and convicted.
Doctor York’s paranoia increased after Savage’s conviction, and he became convinced religious and secular authorities were conspiring against him. He turned Camp Jazzir Abba into a fortified compound, hoarded guns, and ran his followers through paramilitary training drills. Ironically, this brought him to the attention of the very agencies he was trying to avoid — noise complaints from neighbors led to a full-scale investigation of the Ansar Allah Community by the FBI and the ATF.
Going through their files, they realized that a suspicious number of small-time criminals, mostly bank robbers and forgers, were current or former members to the Ansar Allah Community or still listed the commune as their address.
They also found disgruntled neighbors in the commune’s Bushwick neighborhood willing to talk. Turns out the Ansars had started running a protection racket. The mosque’s neighborhood watch groups would beat would-be vandals and shoplifters to within an inch of their life, then shake down local merchants and landlords for “services rendered.” The terrified neighbors paid up, some of to the tune of $5,000 every week.
Then there were the rumors about Doctor York’s love life. Apparently his taste in women was getting younger and younger, and his harem now included dozens of teenage “Backstreet Girls” who fought for his attention. If the Doctor ever got bored of young girls, he would just have sex with other Ansars’ wives and girlfriends for the thrill of it.
The FBI became convinced that the Ansar Allah Community was only a front, either for a vast criminal conspiracy or some sort of home grown Islamic terror cell. They never found evidence they could use to prosecute the Ansars for those crimes, because it never existed. The sins of the Ansars were much smaller, and much bigger, than the FBI could ever imagine… but once again, I’m getting ahead of myself.
In 1985 Doctor York made one last attempt to break into the pop charts. He retooled his sound, fired the Passion, dropped the phony title from his name, and started performing solo as plain old “York.” His album New (it’s a visual pun, see — the album cover just reads “New York”) flopped domestically, as did the remix album Re-New. It seems the public wasn’t exactly starving for mediocre soul music either. York bitterly complained that record labels and radio stations were afraid of him because he was a “threat” of some sort, and crowed that his albums were big hits overseas. But only in countries where it was virtually impossible to find reliable sales data.
With his music career in shambles, York returned to the Ansar Allah Community to seize his rightful place as the center of the universe.
And I do mean literally. York announced that he was now the Qutb, the perfect man and the celestial axis around which the entire universe revolves. Just for good measure he was also the reincarnation of all the other prophets, including Jesus and Muhammad, and outdid them all by also being a physical manifestation of Allah on Earth.
The secrets of the Qutb were not available to the entire Ansar Allah Community, but only to his mystic inner circle, “The Order of the Green Light.” Initiates learned the secrets of al-Khidr, an obscure figure from Islamic mysticism who is possibly the Archangel Michael and definitely the teacher of Moses. It turns out that al-Khidr was also the teacher of Imam Isa during his brief stay in the Sudan a decade earlier, and the ancient secrets of the universe had been pilfered from the writings of Ahmadiyya founder Mirzā Ghulām Ahmad.
Now we already knew the Qutb was an inveterate plagiarist; if he stumbled across an idea he liked he would steal it and incorporate it into the Ansar Allah Community’s belief systems. Over the years he had layered their brand of Islam with beliefs pilfered from Theosophy, Moorish Science, the Nation of Islam, Mahdism, Ahmadiyya, and numerous other religions.
As the years went on the Qutb became less discriminating in his sources, which grew to include outdated anthropology books (whose racist theories he delightfully turned upside down), movies, pulp science fiction, even comic books. Some of the Ansar’s new beliefs were pretty dang wacky. Here are some of the highlights:
- Black people were the original human beings, originating in Nubia, an ancient kingdom located south of Egypt in what is now the Sudan. (Okay, maybe that one’s not so crazy.)
- For generations the Nubians were the only people on Earth. Then, in the aftermath of the Great Flood, Noah placed a curse on his son Ham and his grandson Caanan, blighting them with leprosy and albinism. Canaan and his descendants were forced to flee from the blazing sun that shone on Africa and the Middle East for colder northern climates that were better for their skin. (This is actually a clever twist on the usual “Curse of Ham,” where Caanan’s skin is darkened and his descendants cursed to slavery.)
- Asians and Native Americans were the victims of a similar curse, the “Curse of Esau” which stunted them and made them susceptible to Down syndrome and other genetic disorders.
- At some point the “Caananites” or “Paleman” came into contact with extraterrestrials, obese detrimental robots or “deros” who had descended from the stars to conquer the world. The Paleman and the dero teamed up to create the “religions of the devil,” Judaism and Christianity, to oppress their Nubian enemies by spreading wrong knowledge and disinformation.
- The real Jesus, black Jesus, escaped his crucifixion and fled to Egypt where he lived out the rest of his life. Eventually his legacy was erased from history by the Paleman and replaced by a pale Jew Jebusite Christ who is actually the Devil.
- The Paleman then used the religion built around fake white Jesus to blanket the world with the “Spell of Kingu,” a complex web of lies designed to keep Nubians dumb and compliant, promulgated by Christian churches, world governments, and the media-industrial complex. The spell is continually renewed by the conspiracy, whose members include international bankers, Zionists, Communists, Bolsheviks, Nazis, Catholics, and Geraldo Rivera.
- The Qutb himself was sent by Allah to spread “right knowledge” that can break the Spell of Kingu and transform sleeping Nubians into enlightened “Nuwaubians.” (They claim it’s Arabic for “prophet,” but it isn’t.)
- Time is of the essence. In 1966 the Devil impregnated thirteen women who gave birth to his children, as chronicled in the documentary Rosemary’s Baby. In 1998 his Horsemen of the Apocalypse will cause World War III, allowing the anti-Christ to take over the world. The forces of right will fight him for 27 years and will ultimately be victorious in 2025 when Arab nuclear missiles will destroy the United States. The Qutb will usher in the Kingdom of Allah, break open the Seventh Seal, and his army of 144,000 pure-blooded Nuwaubians will ascend bodily into heaven.
These doctrines were hardly secret. Indeed, they were proudly proclaimed by Ansars on street corners all over New York, who were glad to sell you horribly overpriced tracts elaborating on the “factology” and “tricknology” that lay behind them. In counterculture circles they became kitsch artifacts, prized for their bizarre audacity.
The Ansars developed some interesting strategies to deal with the constantly evolving stream of weirdness that poured forth from the center of the universe. Some of them rationalized the new revelations as metaphors or parables, “tricknological” attempts by the Qutb to shake Nubians out of their complacent intellectual slumber and make them receptive to right knowledge. Most Ansars were just brainwashed to the point where they mindlessly accepted whatever the Qutb was preaching today even if it contradicted what he was preaching yesterday.
Not everyone was buying what the Qutb was selling, though. By 1988 Zubaida Muhammad was sick of her husband’s mind games. She had spent fifteen years forging the Ansar Allah Community into a self-sustaining commune, and she wasn’t about to see it undone by a cosmic messiah who preferred wasting its funds on self-aggrandizing personal projects. She rebelled, locked him out of the finances, and tried to seize control.
The Qutb fought back, trying to weaken Zubaida Muhammad’s support by quickly switching the group back to the Nubian Islamic Hebrews and then back to the Ansar Allah Community, in the hopes that the change would drive off the lightly affiliated communards who sided with his wife. When that didn’t work he announced he was taking his ball home and “retiring” from the mosque to his tacky mansion at Camp Jazzir Abba, so he could mope about in style while lounging on a faux bear skin rug under the plastic palm trees.
That did the trick, and it wasn’t long before other Ansars regained control of the commune’s finances. Zubaida Muhammad and the Qutb’s legitimate children left for good, never to return. She was replaced by Kathy Johnson, another member of the Qutb’s growing harem.
A few years later, though, the Ansars went through a truly radical shift, completely rejecting the Islamic faith and reverting to something resembling their Black Hebrew phase but with more of an emphasis on mainstream Judaeo-Christian themes. The Ansar Allah Community became “The Holy Tabernacle Ministries of the Most High,” the Order of the Green Light became “The Ancient and Mystic Order of Melchizedek,” and the Qutb became “the Lamb of God” (though he preferred to be addressed by the humble title of “Rabboni”).
The inciting incident for the change seems to have been the November 1990 assassination of Meir Kahane of the Jewish Defense League by Islamic militant El Sayyid Nosair. Rabboni believed he was Nosair’s original target, and the assassin had only targeted Kahane after being turned away at the Ansar Allah Community’s mosque. Clearly, Islamic zealots were out to get him, and the only way to protect himself was to abandon Islam and flee to more mainstream Christian values.
This was the first major change the cult had undergone in decades. Sure, over about fifteen years they had drifted from mainstream Sunni Islam to Mahdism to complete lunacy, but those changes had been gradual. This was sudden, and it proved divisive. Many Ansars left the cult to join other Islamic sects and black nationalist movements.
The hardcore true believers remained and started taking to the streets dressed as ancient Babylonians to convince New Yorkers to “check it out” and “do the research.” The curious few who purchased a tract were treated to a hastily revised version of the cult’s factology extolling the virtues of “Supreme Mathematics” and revealing that the world was under assault by demonic forces who were also extraterrestrials, but that Rabboni and his chosen Nuwaubians could defeat these forces and lead the world to salvation.
You may be wondering why anyone stayed with the cult after such a radical shift. Maybe they were brainwashed. Maybe they were hesitant to leave the community they and their loved ones cherished. Or maybe it was that the basic message of the cult had not changed.
You see, it didn’t matter whether blacks were the first men, ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Hebrews, or Moors. It didn’t matter whether the forces arrayed against them were governmental, Satanic, or extraterrestrial. It didn’t matter whether Dwight York was the Madhi, the Qutb, or the Messiah. The three important things were:
- Black Americans had a long and storied heritage;
- that heritage was being deliberately denied to them by powerful malign forces;
- and Dwight York was the only one who could lead them to the truth and help them realize their ultimate destiny.
As long as those three basic pillars remained unchanged, Rabboni’s disciples would follow him anywhere.
Fortunately, the Devil only wanted them to go down to Georgia.
Chief Thunderbird Black Eagle
It turns out that a name change wasn’t enough to make Rabboni feel safer. The Bushwick neighborhood hated him, other Muslims hated him, and the FBI was closing in. He decided to move and instructed Kathy Johnson to find someplace quiet and cheap where he and his 500 remaining followers could be left alone.
That somewhere turned out to be Eatonton, a small city in rural Putnam County, GA whose only claim to fame was being the birthplace of Uncle Remus creator Joel Chandler Harris, author Alice Walker, and Chick-Fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy.
Eatonton was perfect for Rabboni’s needs: remote enough that he could see his enemies coming, but close enough to larger cities like Atlanta, Athens, and Augusta where he could troll for new converts. He purchased a 476-acre lot on GA-142 for $975,000 and began moving the entire commune down South.
He wasn’t moving the Ansar Allah Community, though, or even the Holy Tabernacle Ministries of the Most High. Now they were “The Yamassee Native American Moors of the Creek Nation,” led by “Chief Thunderbird Black Eagle.”
Chief Thunderbird and his followers were now claiming to be Washitaw Moors of the Yamassee Nation, a real (if obscure) tribe which had resisted European colonization before disappearing in the early Eighteenth Century. The Chief himself claimed descent from Pocahontas (not likely) and Ben York, a slave of mixed African and Native American ancestry who had been owned by William Clark (more likely, but not by much).
If you are wondering how the cult could reconcile their new identity with their earlier belief that Native Americans were being punished with “The Curse of Esau,” well, there’s no contradiction. Chief Thunderbird came up with another clever reversal of old racist tropes. You see, the Yamassee Native American Moors predated modern Native Americans, having either sailed across the Atlantic Ocean from Egypt or possibly even just walked over in the days before North America and Africa drifted apart. It was only later that these bold Nubian mound-builders were displaced by the savage red men who stole their ethnic identity.
The Yamassee Native American Moors began pouring into Putnam County in February 1993. In an attempt to blend in, they ditched their Babylonian robes and began dressing like cowboys, with riding boots, oversized belt buckles, double-pocketed shirts, fringed jackets, and ten gallon hats. It was a huge miscalculation. Georgia is not Texas, and the new arrivals stuck out like a sore thumb.
Neter A’aferti Atum Re
Once their secret was out, Chief Thunderbird Black Eagle breathed a sigh of relief. He had never been able to consistently pronounce the name of his new tribe, and now he could go back to being regular old Doctor Dwight York. Now, Doctor York had roughly the same academic credentials as Master P, Dr. Dre, and Professor Griff, so he awarded himself an honorary doctorate. From his own unaccredited private school. For children. (If challenged, he would claim he had studied at Khartoum University, which wasn’t true.)
The cult dropped their new branding and briefly reverted to “the Ancient Mystical Order of Melchizedek” before eventually settling on “the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors.” Theoretically the group was now a fraternal organization along the lines of the original Moorish Science Temple.
It’s worth noting, though, that beneath the surface nothing had actually changed. The Nuwaubians adjusted their rituals and modes of worship, but never actually repudiated or rejected old beliefs. New beliefs were just layered on top of them, even if the new beliefs contradicted the old or created a particularly far-fetched combination.
Individual cult members dealt with this cognitive dissonance in a number of ways. Some saw it as a teaching device, that their leader was making them re-live history in order so they could learn from its mistakes and reach the status of right knowledge. Others just focused on the ritual expression of the beliefs rather than the beliefs themselves. Most just ignored it, somehow managing to slip into a quantum state of super-ambivalence where everything and nothing were simultaneously true.
Doctor York saw shifting beliefs as a useful tool. He could adjust them on the fly to chase the latest fad, attracting curious and gullible youths and hopefully turning them into converts. Then he could shift them again to drive off any recent converts who starting to have doubts. That would leave him with a solid core of brainwashed followers who were committed to the only truly unchangeable part of the doctrine: blind unthinking obedience to Doctor York.
Also, he may have just liked messing with people.
Over the next few years Doctor York revamped the Nuwaubian belief system to remove explicitly Islamic elements and bring it in line with the zeitgeist of the mid-1990s. Always one to chase a fad, he loaded up the cult’s history with kitschy Afrocentric motifs that were popular at the time — you know the stuff, bejeweled ankh medallions, Sun Ra wearing an Egyptian headdress, tacky woven tapestries of black Cleopatra riding a sphinx being sold down at the gas station.
Now, in addition to being the original Babylonians and Hebrews the Nuwaubians were also the T’uaf, the original Egyptians and descendants of Ptah the Opener. Who then traveled across the ocean and became the Yamasssee.
Jesus, Allah, and the Mahdi were pushed aside to make room for Neteru, who was either an obscure Egyptian deity, a collective noun for all divine beings, or an abstract philosophical concept. Doctor York was revered as the latest incarnation of this godhead, “Neter A’aferti Atum Re,” a name which he created by cramming together every Egyptian supreme deity mentioned in Bullfinch’s Mythology. Then he promoted himself to the rank of “Supreme Grand Hierophant of the Ancient Egyptian Order.”
To celebrate their new identity the Nuwaubians began converting their property into Tama-Re, “the Egypt of the West,” a sort of Afrocentric Egyptian living history museum. Its included a 40′ tall obsidian pyramid; a 24′ golden pyramid; more concrete scarabs, sphinxes and obelisks than you could shake a stick at; a replica of an ancient Egyptian village; and a main street lined with statues of Egyptian gods and goddesses that built up to the piece de resistance — black Jesus, crucified on an ankh, crowned by a feathered Sioux war bonnet. There was a black history museum with a gift shop selling cult literature and novelty items like “ancient Egyptian passports” or fake currency with York’s picture on it. There was even a “Little Egypt Choo Choo” to shuttle visitors around the property on a loop.
In spite of the kitschy theme park atmosphere, Tama-Re really only received visitors during the annual Savior’s Day Festival, held annually on York’s birthday, which drew thousands of visitors to Putnam County. Some were there to see Afrocentric history in action, as epitomized by York and hundreds of his followers marching in full Egyptian dress. Others were drawn by musical performances from hot acts like De La Soul. But if we’re being frank, most of the visitors were family and friends of the Nuwaubians on the commune, because this was the only time of the year they were allowed to have contact with non-cult members.
That wasn’t all, though. In addition to luring in recruits with Afrocentrism, Doctor York also lured them in with the sort of paranoid conspiracy theories popularized by shows like The X-Files.
It’s not totally surprising. At this point in his career York had successfully pilfered ideas from obscure esoteric texts, faddish belief systems, and science fiction novels. It wasn’t a huge leap to start pilfering ideas from the spiritual UFOlogy of George Adamski, the ancient astronaut theories of Zechariah Sitchin, the paranoid rantings of David Icke, the music of Parliament, and Superman comics.
It turns out the man known as Dwight York — a.k.a. Isa Abdullah a.k.a Rabboni Yeshua Bar el Haady a.k.a. Imam Isa a.k.a Al Hajj al Imam Isa Abdalla Muhammad al Mahdi a.k.a. Doctor Malachi Zador York-El a.k.a the Love Doctor a.k.a. The Qutb a.k.a. The Lamb of God a.k.a. Chief Thunderbird Black Eagle a.k.a. Neter A’aferti Atum Re — was also an alien named Yaanuwn.
You see, the original inhabitants of the planet Earth were the Annunaki Eloheem, aliens from the Planet Rizq in the Nineteenth Galaxy of Illyuwn. Rizq was a true paradise, but when the triple suns of Utu, Apsu, and Shamas started to go nova the Annunaki Eloheem boarded a planet-sized Mothership and relocated to Earth. (Why they couldn’t move the entire planet or just live on the spaceship is never adequately explained.) When they manifested on our world from plane of Ether 9 the magnesium in their bodies was replaced with iron, and oxidation turned their skin from green to brown.
The Annunaki Eloheem settled in Sumeria before spreading to Egypt and Nubia, and their children were the first Africans. They genetically engineered the Palemen from apes to serve as a slave caste, but in the process accidentally burned out their “barathary glands” and lost the powers of telepathy, clairvoyance, and psychometry. (There’s also a possibility that the Palemen are actually reptoid aliens from Zeta Reticuli, or were created by the reptoids.)
The important takeaway from this history lesson is that all Africans are human, and all non-African are therefore non-human. This makes race mixing a sin that creates abominable “neutranoids,” so it must be resisted by “right racism” to ensure “true diversity.” (No, it doesn’t make much sense.)
An ultimate confrontation between the descendants of the Annunaki Eloheem and Palemen will take place in the Year 2000. The Great Shaytan will rise to take over the world, only to be defeated by Yaanuwn and an army of 144,000 pure-blooded Nuwaubian children. The Paleman will then be driven from the surface into the caves of their disgustingly obese dero associates.
The Mothership will then return on May 5, 2003 and whisk the Annunaki Eloheem back to the Planet Rizq, which I guess was not destroyed maybe? There they will regain their psychic powers and live in paradise.
So, just to recap: over the course of thirty yers a Sufi-inspired Qu’ran study group has somehow evolved into an Afrocentric UFO doomsday cult whose members believe they are descended from psychic ancient astronaut Babylonian Ancient Egyptian Nubian Hebrew mound-builders led by an all-purpose messiah who records his own disco songs. And that cult has decided that the best place to prepare for the coming apocalyptic race war is a farm in the middle Georgia. All clear? Good.
Putnam County officials were never quite sure what do with the Nuwaubians. Ultimately, they decided to take an accommodating approach with the new arrivals. That seemed to do the trick, though there were times the county was far too accommodating.
As soon as they arrived the Nuwaubians began renovating Tama-Re. Frequently, they did not bother to acquire construction permits, or acquired construction permits for one structure and then built a completely different one. When they had tried the same strategy at Camp Jazzir Abba, Sullivan County authorities pushed back. Putnam County authorities just kind of let them get away with it. It’s possible they were just being accommodating, but also seems likely they were trying to avoid the appearance of racial and religious intolerance.
A perfect example of this would be the construction of the second pyramid on the property, the 40′ obsidian one mentioned earlier. The planning and zoning commission had originally denied a construction permit, on the grounds that the pyramid would include a gift shop and restaurant, and Tama-Re was not zoned for commercial activity. Now, we can debate the desirability of zoning regulations later, but at least the committee was applying them fairly and even-handedly. Not like it mattered; county officials overruled the planning and zoning board and up went the pyramid.
Well, once the Nuwaubians realized that they could flout the rules, they just started building whatever they damn well wanted. Sometimes they got caught, but there were never any meaningful consequences. Most of the time they just had to retroactively file for a construction permit. Infrequently there was a small fine.
It wasn’t long before Tama-Re was a mess of shoddily built structures and construction trailers. Most of these facilities were used to house cult members, but they lacked basic necessities like running water and electric power. As a result the Nuwaubians would descend on town en masse and use public restrooms for their morning ablutions. Locals complained, but the county did nothing. Not even when the cult created an illegal landfill by dumping their waste into a convenient ravine.
What finally made the county take action was Club Ramses.
In 1998 an enormous new structure went up on the property. According to construction permits it was a huge warehouse. According to everyone else it was Eatonton’s hottest nightspot. Even on a casual glance no one would ever mistake it for a warehouse, what with the disco balls and the dance floor and the day-glo lighting and the murals of Ancient Egyptians partying down and the big centre settee with a statue of King Tut in the middle. And certainly not after a second glance revealed the state-of-the-art sound system with professional-grade DJ equipment powered by huge generators outside.
As far as recruiting methods went, Club Ramses was the ultimate in flirty fishing. It was laughably easy to convince young people to come visit a trendy new nightclub, dazzle them with the African splendor of Tama-Re, pour a few drinks into them, and then hit them with the hard sell once they were nice and drunk.
The Nuwaubians tried to keep Club Ramses on the down low by only advertising it in other cities like Athens and Atlanta, but locals quickly noticed the steady stream of out-of-towners descending on Eatonton every Friday and Saturday night. Once the cat was out of the bag the cult began putting up flyers around town, and the club was even featured on a segment of the local television news.
Putnam County authorities had turned a blind eye to a lot of Nuwaubian activity, but even they couldn’t deny video evidence of an unlicensed nightclub operating in their jurisdiction. The building inspector and sheriff were sent out to investigate but were turned away at the gates of Tama-Re after a lengthy harangue from Doctor York.
So they went back into town, got some court orders, and returned wearing guns. This time they were begrudgingly let in. They quickly discovered the obvious zoning violations, and numerous fire hazards including unshielded electrical wiring run haphazardly behind particle board and tar paper walls.
The Nuwaubians were given a small fine, and ordered to shut the club down.
They did not.
The Nuwaubians clearly viewed county zoning regulations as a tyrannical overreach that violated their legal rights as landholders. Not only that, they were challenging their sacred stewardship of the land, which, okay, they had technically only owned since 1993 but which had really had always been their birthright ever since their ancestors walked across the Atlantic from Egypt.
They were going to fight back.
They were laughably bad at it. Have you ever seen a smooth-talking hustler trying to talk his way out of trouble with someone who’s just not having it? This was a lot like that.
At first the Nuwaubians claimed that Club Ramses was not an actual nightclub but a “social hall,” and the county fired back that they still couldn’t open up a social hall in an area zoned for agriculture. Then the Nuwaubians claimed that they didn’t need a alcohol license since they were only selling wine coolers, and the county fired back that wine coolers were still alcoholic beverages. Then the Nuwaubians claimed that Club Ramses was actually a “masonic lodge” and protected by their First Amendment right to freely practice their religion.
The county’s response to that was to padlock on the door and shut the Nuwaubians out of their own nightclub. (Though first they had to order the Nuwaubians to install something on the doors they could padlock, and the cult dragged out complying with that order as long as they could.)
It was the first time anyone had ever stood up to the Nuwaubians and won. They didn’t like that at all. Now they were going to fight dirty.
The Nuwaubians made a pledge to fix all code violations and then filed a petition to have Tama-Re rezoned for commercial use. When that was denied, they just went back to their old behaviors and started building whatever they damn well wanted to.
Over the next several years things settled into a predictable pattern. The Nuwaubians would agree to stop their bad behavior and fix all code violations, then immediately walk back that agreement. The county would fire back by padlocking their buildings. Then the Nuwaubians would saw off the padlocks and the county would retaliate. Then they would reach an agreement to stop their bad behavior, and it would start all over again.
One thing the Nuwaubians didn’t try? Actually fixing any of the code violations on their property, or paying any of the small fines that accompanied them. County officials suspected the Nuwaubians actually relished the conflict, because it raised their profile and brought in angry young recruits.
Each time through the cycle things got progressively worse.
It started off with childish harassment of county officials, who began finding dead animals on their doorsteps, slashed tires on their cars, and bricks hurled through their picture windows.
Then the Nuwaubians started up a newspaper pretending to be the official Putnam County Record to spread lies and disinformation and attack county officials. Their favorite target was the sheriff, who they had to deal with more often than not.
Eventually the Nuwaubians played the race card, claiming that the (mostly white) county officials were trying to shut them down purely out of racism. They took over the local chapter of the NAACP and funneled all its resources into fighting the county over zoning issues. Through their NAACP connections they convinced black politicians and civil rights activists to pressure the county, including Representative Tyrone Brooks, Ozell Sutton, Al Sharpton, and Jesse Jackson.
Through their Savior’s Day Festival they recruited celebrities to support their cause, including Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart and running back Jerome Bettis; musicians Stevie Wonder, Erykah Badu, and Debbie Allen; and actor Wesley Snipes. Snipes really went all-in, purchasing a plot of land right down the road from Tama-Re with the intent of turning it into a training camp for his private security company, “The Royal Guard of Amen-Ra.”
Just in case the NAACP and prominent black celebrities weren’t enough to swing the balance, Nuwaubians also convinced white supremacists in the Sovereign Citizen, Posse Comitatus, and American Militia movements to support them. In 1999 they retained the services of a militia-associated private security company called the Georgia Rangers, who then made headlines by attempting to access county records by claiming to be members of the non-existent “Federal Ranger Service.” That just got the Rangers arrested.
Every time Doctor York spoke in public he made things worse. He once gave a press conference calling whitey “the Devil,” suggested county officials “go home to Europe,” and claimed he “couldn’t be responsible” for what his people would do if the county continued to oppose them. Then he let everyone know this wasn’t an empty threat by running all the adult men through martial arts training drills i7n clear view of all the traffic driving down GA-142.
Of course, while Doctor York was fanning the flames, he was also hedging his bets. He purchased a mansion in the suburbs of Athens and tried to start up a new branches of the cult under the less threatening name of “Al Mahdi Shrine Temple No. 19.” It didn’t work; the local press soon discovered that the Al Mahdi Shrine Temple was actually the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, and locals refused to sell the good Doctor any more property. Eventually, he got in hot water for running a business in a residential neighborhood and having too many unrelated individuals living under the same roof, and fled back to the safety of Tama-Re.
During the run-up to the 2000 elections, county officials wrung their hands over the possibility that the Nuwaubians might attempt a Rajneeshi-style takeover. They needn’t have worried. In spite of the cult’s outsized bluster it still only had a few hundred members. Frankly, most of them couldn’t vote anyway because they didn’t have sufficient documentation to prove residency. (A common problem in communes, because the communards don’t pay bills or get other forms of mail.)
Things went from bad to worse, and it looked like the Nuwaubians were finally going to get the Helter Skelter they’d been dreaming of. They had already missed their Y2K deadline for defeating the Great Shaytan, but they’d be damned if they weren’t going to get this all wrapped up before the Mothership returned in 2003.
Enter Jacob York.
Jacob was one of the good Doctor’s few legitimate children, from his marriage to Dorothy Johnson/Zubaida Muhammad. When Zubaida was forced out of the Ansar Allah Community in 1988 the couple’s children went with her and returned to relatively normal lives. As an adult Jacob had followed his father into the music business, with one key difference: he was actually successful. He started as an event promoter in New York City, made friends with up-and-coming hip-hop acts, and eventually became the producer of Biggie Smalls’ Junior M.A.F.I.A. and the manager of Lil’ Kim.
In the late 1990s Jacob started a support group for ex-Nuwaubians, providing much needed financial assistance and moral support and helping them re-integrate into society. Eventually he became aware that his estranged father was a serial child molester. Doctor York started grooming Nuwaubian girls at a young age, eventually started taking advantage of them sexually when they were teens, and kept making them carry his babies until they got old and he got bored. Then he would start over again with a new crop of girls. Doing some back-of-the-envelope math, Jacob figured that Doctor York may have fathered as many as 100 illegitimate children.
Jacob encouraged several ex-Nuwaubians who had given birth to his half-siblings to file for child support, but knew that wouldn’t be enough. So he quietly gathered evidence about his father’s sexual activities and handed it over to the FBI.
At this point the FBI had been investigating the Nuwaubians for over two decades with nothing to show for it. They had repeatedly tried to tie the cult to check kiting, burglary, financial fraud, gun running, arson, murder, even domestic terrorism and Islamic terrorism. Nothing ever stuck. It turns out that while there was a lot of shady stuff going down around Doctor York and the Nuwaubians none of it could be traced directly back to the cult.
Child abuse, though, well, that they could prove.
On May 8, 2002 a combined group of some 280 FBI agents and Putnam County sheriff’s deputies quietly surrounded Tama-Re, and when Doctor York drove off the property hey pounced. York was hauled out of his SUV, handcuffed, dragged to the nearest federal courthouse and charged with four felony counts of transporting young girls across state lines for immoral purposes — which is to say, he’d taken teenage Nuwaubians to Disney World to have sex with them there. Each count carried a penalty of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Kathy Johnson was charged as an accomplice. At the same time the Feds also raided York’s second home in Athens, where they found $125,000 in cash and three assault rifles.
When news of the charges broke most of the Nuwaubians’ defenders melted away. Most of their celebrity champions argued that they had nothing to due with the cult, and the evidence backed them up — for the most part they really were only guilty of making poorly thought out personal appearances. Politicians and civil rights leaders had a more difficult time untangling themselves from the whole mess, especially Jesse Jackson, who once called Tama-Re “the American Dream”, and Tyrone Brooks, who may have been the one who hooked the Nuwaubians up with the Georgia Rangers.
Doctor York was in trouble. He was facing 197 criminal charges in state court and 13 felony charges in Federal court. Over a hundred of those charges were directly related to child molestation and the sexual exploitation of minors, with the others involving related offenses including transportation, improperly influencing witnesses, and illegally structuring cash transactions. Prosecutors were sitting on a mountain of evidence, with 13 named victims and 240 witnesses ready to testify against him.
Well, Doctor York was no fool. He knew when the odds were against him and when to cut his losses. He went right out and hired high-powered defense lawyer Ed Garland, fresh off defending Baltimore Ravens player Ray Lewis.
In January 2003 Garland managed to negotiate a sweetheart plea deal for his client. Doctor York would forfeit some $400,000 in cash and other assets that had been seized during the raid and plead guilty to the majority of the charges leveled against him. In exchange he would serve a mere 15 years in Federal prison, register as a sex offender, and spend 36 years on probation. That may not sound like all that great you, but believe me: if you’re facing a hundred charges of child molestation just getting a judge to allow those sentences to run concurrently instead of consecutively is a pretty sweet deal.
Or it would have been a pretty sweet deal if US District Court Judge Hugh Lawson hadn’t thrown out the plea agreement four months later. Doctor York would still get a reduced sentence for the state-level charges, but would go to trial on the federal charges. Lawson never explained his reasoning, and excused himself from the trial before it started.
Doctor York went nuts. He trotted out every excuse he could think of to derail the trail. As a Moor he was exempt from American laws thanks to the 1786 Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship; as a Native American chief he was a head of state and could only be tried in tribal court; as a Sovereign Citizen he had opted out of the New World Order. Needless to say the courts did not agree with any of his arguments.
When it became clear the trial was going to move forward, Doctor York refused to let the government and the press use his name, producing a court order claiming that “Dwight York” was copyrighted and could not be used without a licensing fee. Of course, the court order was certified by a “Clerk of the Federal Moorish Cherokee Consular Court”… and you can’t actually copyright a name.
The trial started on January 4, 2004. During the proceedings dozens of Nuwaubians packed the gallery each day, dressed in full cult regalia. They were either there to provide moral support (according to the defense) or to intimidate jurors (according the prosecution). In truth, probably a bit of both.
Doctor York’s defense team was reduced to grasping at straws. They pressured witnesses with ties to the cult to recant their testimony. They questioned the lack of physical and DNA evidence. They grumbled he was a victim of a frame-up job orchestrated by Jacob York. (Jacob’s response: “I’m flattered that he thinks I’m that smart.”) They even claimed that the Dwight York mentioned in the indictments was a different Dwight York, one of Doctor York’s other sons.
The trial lasted about a month, and the jury did not deliberate for very long before convicting Doctor York. In April 2004 he was sentenced to 135 years in prison and was shipped off to the Federal Supermax prison in Florence, CO where he adopted his final persona to date: inmate #17911.
Doctor York and his defense team appealed, of course, claiming that government was misinterpreting the racketeering standards, that judges had erred in ruling on defense and prosecution motions, and that the jury pool had been tainted by press coverage. The appeals court rejected all of these claims.
In 2006 Doctor York tried a different approach, claiming that he had been appointed the Consul-General of Monrovia by Liberian President Charles Taylor and as an ambassador he could not be prosecuted because he had diplomatic immunity. There’s a few problems with this argument, mostly that that diplomatic immunity is an affirmative defense that must be asserted before a trial. Charles Taylor had also been deposed in 2003 and at the time he was being extradited to the Hague so he could be tried for war crimes. So maybe not the best timing there. Second appeal denied.
York made some attempts to retain control of the Nuwaubians in spite of his incarceration. He wrote letters to his followers proclaiming that he had been deathly ill but had been miraculously healed by visitors from Zeta Reticuli. (Though he could not explain why they hadn’t then freed him from imprisonment.) He also complained that prison officials had moved him into solitary because he his non-stop parade of miracles was converting too many of the other inmates. I suppose the cult could take some solace that right knowledge was gaining traction with a population of Supermax residents that included domestic terrorist Terry Nichols, Islamic terrorist Ramzi Yousef, Soviet spy Robert Hansen, and Unabomber Ted Kacynski.
Debt collectors seized ownership of Tama-Re in 2004 and sold it to real estate developers in 2005, who then bulldozed what remained of the Egypt of the West.
With their headquarters gone, the Nuwaubians scattered. Many of them vanished, drifted off to other cults, or created their own splinter groups including the Mt. Arafat Embassy Clan, the Mahdi Shrine Temple, and the Moorish Sovereign Citizens. The largest group was the Yamassee Native American Moors of the Creek Nation, led by Grand Master Consul Derrick Sanders, which downplayed the religious side of the cult and played up the Sovereign Citizen ideology. They became a local nuisance, issuing bad certified checks drawn on non-existent banks and filing fake liens on the properties of their enemies. Then Sanders went after the US Postal Service and started committing tax fraud, which did not end well for him.
Numerous deadlines for the Apocalypse and the return of the Mothership have since come and gone, but there are still a handful of devoted Nuwaubians who remain loyal to Dwight York. I am not sure what they see in a convicted child molester who changes his name and what he believes in as often as he changes his socks, but it just goes to show you: some people will believe anything.
Noble Drew Ali’s Circle Seven Qu’ran was plagarized from a number of sources, including The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ. The Aquarian Gospel purports to be a chronicle of Jesus’s “missing years” when he wandered the globe learning the mystic secrets of each country, most notably India. We discussed several modern attempts to connect Christianity to Indian religion in the episode “The Best Exotic Marigold Gospel.”
The idea that the Israelites were displaced and replaced by invaders has a long history. Its original proponents were British, who believed the English were were the original Israelites. Later it was popular with Nazis, who claimed that the original Israelites were Aryans. In America the Nazi idea was promoted by William Dudley Pelley, leader of the fascist Silver Legion organization. We ran down Pelley’s bizarre life in “Seven Minutes in Heaven.”
Dwight York borrowed the idea that Jesus survived the crucifixion from Mirzā Ghulām Ahmad’s Ahmadiyya movement. We discussed Ahmad’s unorthodox beliefs in “The Best Exotic Marigold Gospel”; and covered his bizarre prayer duel with Scottish faith healer John Alexander Dowie in “Marching to Shibboleth.”
Detrimental robots, or dero, were borrowed from the work of science fiction writer Richard Sharpe Shaver. In the 1940s Amazing Stories editor Ray Palmer caused a controversy by publishing Shaver’s paranoid fantasies as non-fiction, which we covered in “A Warning to Future Man.”
The idea that Native Americans were latecomers who supplanted an earlier civilization of “Mound Builders” originated in the eighteenth century among racist scholars attempting to justify the European subjugation of the Americas. The Mound Builders were frequently identified as Ancient Egyptians, Carthaginians, Greeks… or even Vikings, an idea which we discussed in the series “Westward Huss.”
For another tale of transporting young girls across state lines for immoral purposes, check out our biography of chromotherapist Dr. Dinshah Ghadiali, “Normalating.” (Ghadiali was convicted of Mann Act violations in 1925 for taking his secretary to another state so she could have an abortion, though it seems clear he was just trying to help her out of a bad situation and she turned on him when they were caught. Ghadiali was pardoned in 1937.)
Ed Garland isn’t the only super lawyer — there’s also our own #23, who before his retirement was a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer in the field of workers’ compensation. He’s given us legal advice on several episodes, but you can actually hear him in “French Leave” about Nap Lajoie’s weird contract situation with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Finally, for another grifter who constantly changed their identity, backstory, and M.O., check out the story of Spiritualist scam artist Ann O’Delia Diss Debar in “Spirit Princess.”
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- Osinski, Bill. “Nuwaubian leader admits sex charges.” Atlanta Constitution, 24 Jan 2003.
- Osinski, Bill. “York pleads guilty in state’s sex case.” Atlanta Constitution, 25 Jan 2003.
- “Black sect leader is granted delay in sentencing.” Atlanta Constitution, 30 May 2003.
- Osinski, Bill. “Sect leader may get trial in child molestation case.” Atlanta Constitution, 27 Jun 2003.
- “Nuwaubian scam alleged.” Atlanta Constitution, 3 Oct 2003.
- Torpy, Bill. “Nuwaubian chief’s trial starts today in U.S. court.” Atlanta Constitution, 5 Jan 2004.
- Torpy, Bill. “York convicted in cult sex case.” Atlanta Constitution, 24 Jan 2004.
- Torpy, Bill. “Judge throws book at cultist.” Atlanta Constitution, 23 Apr 2004.
- Price, Plott. “Nuwaubians vacate compound, leave behind faux buildings.” Atlanta Constitution, 9 Aug 2004.
- Gross, Doug. “Sect leader appeals case.” Atlanta Constitution, 19 Nov 2004.
- Torpy, Bill. “Demolition begins on land seized from Nuwaubian sect.” Atlanta Constitution, 11 Jun 2005.
- Torpy, Bill. “Nuwaubian sect shows support for jailed leader.” Atlanta Constitution, 15 Sep 2005.
- “Court denies sect leader’s appeal.” Atlanta Constitution, 28 Sep 2005.
- “Five deputies off the job over ties to religious sect.” Atlanta Constitution, 26 Nov 2006.