Nuwaubian leader York working on his
The Macon Telegraph /July 22, 2001
By Rob Peecher
Eatonton --- Malachi York, the leader of the United Nuwaubian
Nation of Moors, is undergoing his latest metamorphosis ---
associating himself with a new organization and reworking his
York, the leader of the self-styled fraternal organization, has
in recent weeks been identified as the "imperial grand potentate
of the International Supreme Council of Shriners" and has been
tied to the numerous recent charitable activities of the "Al Mahdi
Shrine Temple No. 19."
York, who Nuwaubians now say is their retired pastor, has been
called in Nuwaubian literature the group's savior and has been the
leader of the group since before its move from New York to Putnam
County in 1993.
York's public image in recent years has been marred by
conflicts between the Nuwaubians and Putnam County's governing
officials over building and zoning disputes. Some of the
Nuwaubians' leading members have pleaded guilty to or been
convicted of criminal charges in Eatonton and Milledgeville. But
in recent weeks, York and Al Mahdi Shrine Temple No. 19 have been
publicizing their involvement in charitable activities in Macon,
Eatonton and Athens.
While York is the self proclaimed imperial grand potentate of
the International Supreme Council of Shriners Inc., presumably the
sanctioning body for the Al Mahdi temple, more traditional
Shriners do not recognize the Al Mahdi Shrine Temple as being
Gary Lemmons, grand master of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge
of Free and Accepted Masons for the State of Georgia, said there
are four recognized Shrine temples in Georgia.
"The organization functioning in and about Middle Georgia,
known as Al Mahdi Shrine Temple No. 19, is not one of those" four,
Lemmons said. "The Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and
Accepted Masons for the State of Georgia does not recognize the
organization known as Al Mahdi Shrine Temple No. 19 as Masonic or
Last weekend, Al Mahdi Shrine Temple No. 19, with York present,
donated $20,000 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, according to a news
release from the Al Mahdi Shrine Temple and media reports. The
$20,000 was raised during a July 4 "Olympics" for handicapped
children and adults, according to the news release.
The group, along with the Black Men of Athens, also donated
some 3,000 cans of food to the Northeast Georgia Food Bank, the
Athens Area Emergency Food Bank and the Salvation Army Homeless
Shelter, all located in Athens, where York lives.
Marshall Chance, a pastor with Holy Tabernacle Ministries,
another Nuwaubian-affiliated group, said there is no connection
between the Nuwaubians and Al Mahdi Shrine Temple No. 19. Instead,
Chance said, Al Mahdi donated $10,000 to the Holy Tabernacle
Ministries to pay for electricity bills.
"As far as it being a Nuwaubian type thing, I don't think so,"
Chance said. "To refer to them as Nuwaubians would actually take
away from what they're doing as Shriners."
Chance said he saw reports on television about the $20,000
Make-A-Wish Foundation donation, and "we were able to get in touch
with (Al Mahdi), and they gave us $10,000 for our children's
Thomas Chism, who identified himself as grand potentate of Al
Mahdi No. 19, also denied to Athens Banner-Herald reporter Jim
Thompson that the Nuwaubians and Al Mahdi are linked, according to
Thompson. But Chism was at one time York's agent responsible for
obtaining building permits at the Nuwaubians' 476-acre village at
404 Shady Dale Road in Putnam County --- the same address
identified as the "Al Mahdi Shrine Park" in a news release.
In April 2000, Chism was convicted of giving false statements
and writings and banished from the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit, of
which Putnam County is a part, for three years. Al Woodall, the
current agent for the property owners of the village, known by
Nuwaubians as "Tama-Re" or "Egypt of the West," is president of
the Black Men of Athens.
Several Nuwaubian and Al Mahdi Shrine Temple contacts did not
return calls or refused to comment about York's new group or its
connection to the Nuwaubians. But a news release from the Al Mahdi
Shrine Temples claims the "thousands" of charitable dollars being
raised by the group will not be given to charities in Putnam
County because of the problems the Nuwaubians have had there.
"Because of the ongoing battle between the Nuwaubians and the
Putnam County Officials that have shown outright racism against
the fraternal group, planned intentions to donate to the local
organizations here in Putnam have been aborted. All donations will
go to charities in other counties in Georgia," the news release
"We will raise thousands of dollars from all over the world for
the benefit of physically disabled children," the news release
continued. "It's a loss for the residents of Putnam County that
they allowed Sheriff (Howard) Sills and Francis Nearn Ford with
their seemly racist actions to interfere with the county receiving
thousands of dollars. ... It is evident to see that Putnam
County's natural resources are diminishing daily and many of their
utilities are in need of serious repair, in actuality the county
Ford, the husband and law partner of the former county
attorney, handled much of the county's litigation against the
Nuwaubians. This is not the first time the Nuwaubians have linked
themselves with Masons. Last year, the Nuwaubians attempted to get
the "Rameses Social Club," a warehouse that has been at the heart
of the legal battles between county officials and the group,
permitted as a Masonic lodge.
And in May, the Nuwaubians put down $25,000 in earnest money on
the Al Sihah Shrine Temple on Poplar Street in Macon. The Shrine
Temple is being sold for $800,000, and Al Sihah Shrine attorney
and member Charles Lanford said the Nuwaubians have put down
"Their contract has expired," Lanford said. "They got an
extension, and as consideration for that extension they put
$25,000 down. But they still haven't closed." Lanford said there
are other potential buyers, but so far, no one has closed on the
property. "If the Nuwaubians happen to close before (other buyers)
get us on contract, then we sell to them," Lanford said.
The Al Mahdi Shrine Temple is only the latest in a long history
of organizations under York. Before coming to Georgia, the group
had several different names and associated itself with different
religions. In 1967, York founded the Ansaar Pure Sufi mission in
New York City. In 1969, the group began incorporating traditional
African culture and changed its name to Nubian Islamic Hebrews.
For several years prior to coming to Georgia, the group was
known as the Ansaru Allah community, a segregationist sect that
incorporated Muslim traditions. York, whose given name is Dwight
York, was then known as Isa Muhammad.
When the group migrated to Putnam County, Nuwaubians dressed in
cowboy-type garb and claimed York was an extra-terrestrial from
the planet "Rizq." Since then, the Nuwaubians have claimed
heritage to Native Americans and ancient Egyptians.
Members of the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors have decried
claims by Putnam County officials and others that the group is a
cult and instead refer to themselves as a fraternal organization,
sometimes claiming to be a religion and sometimes denying it.
At a glance:
The Nuwaubians, primarily consisting of African Americans, first
came to Putnam County in 1993 from Brooklyn, N.Y., where they were
known as the Ansaru Allah community, a sect which incorporated
Muslim traditions. Nuwaubian leader Malachi York was then known as
Nuwaubians initially dressed in cowboy-type garb and claimed
York was an extra-terrestrial from the planet "Rizq." The group
has since claimed heritage to the Native Americans and the
Egyptians. At times they claim to be a religious group but at
others say they are a fraternal organization. In some Nuwaubian
literature, York is referred to as their savior or god.