Time Magazine, July 12, 1999
By Sylvester Monroe/Eatonton
Strangers from the North send a Southern town into a tizzy"I
am the lamb, I am the man," declares Dr. Malachi Z. York,
54, on his website. "I am the Supreme Being of This Day and
Time, God in Flesh." And by the way, says the native of the
planet Rizq, a spaceship is coming on May 5, 2003, to scoop
up believers. The believers have been making quite a
spectacle in the tiny town of Eatonton, Ga. (pop. 5,000),
seat of the not much larger Putnam County (pop. 17,000).
There, the man born Dwight York, of Sullivan County, N.Y.,
decreed the founding of Tama-Re, Egypt of the West, a
19-acre evocation of the ancient land, complete with 40-ft.
pyramids, obelisks, gods, goddesses and a giant sphinx. It
is the holy see of the Nuwaubians.
But don't call them a religion. The Nuwaubians describe
themselves as a "fraternal organization" of people of
different religions, including Christians, Muslims and
others who just happen to share a few extra tenets.
Says Marshall Chance, head of the Nuwaubians' Holy
"The main thing that brings us together is fellowship and
facts." Among those facts: that black people are genetically
su-perior to whites and that the Nuwaubians are direct
descendants of Egyptians who, having walked from the Nile
Valley to the Americas before continental drift separated
the landmasses, are actually the original Native Americans.
York and several hundred of his followers wandered from New
York to Georgia in 1993, buying up 476 acres of land on the
perimeter of Eatonton for $575,000. And now, as a tribe of
Native Americans, the Nuwaubians believe they can argue for
being a sovereign people not subject to local or state
jurisdiction. Not so fast, say officials in Putnam County.
They have just emerged from a long wrangle with York over
building-code violations in Tama-Re. And prominent citizens
are smarting from the words of a leaflet campaign the
"fraternal organization" inflicted on them. Among those
criticized was county commissioner Sandra Adams, whom the
Nuwaubians called a "house n_____." "They feel because I am
black and they are black I should be in their corner," says
Adams. "But I have to obey the law, and so do they." Putnam
County Sheriff Howard Sills, another object of Nuwaubian
ire, says he fears that young people are being held against
their will. "No one in Georgia has ever dealt with anything
like this," he says. "You only draw parallels to Waco, and I
don't want a Waco. This is a cult." A Nuwaubian spokesman
scoffs at the idea:
"There is no one being held on Tama-Re against their will.
No one is allowed to move to Tama-Re that is under 18. The
children that are here belong to grown adults who have made
the choice to be Nuwaubians. Nuwaubians are insulted when
they are confronted with accusations that they are
brainwashed or are being told by one man what to do." But
don't they believe in the spaceship? Says Minister Chance:
"Some of us do, and some of us don't."
Few Nuwaubians speak to the press on the record. Those who
do are proud of the group. "You are here on the land," a
Nuwaubian man said pointedly to a reporter in Tama-Re. "Do
you see a cult or a compound? We are just people who have
come together in love and peace." Still, the Nuwaubians, who
now call themselves the Yamassee Native American Moors of
the Creek Nation, are increasingly high profile in local
politics. They have enrolled their children in public
schools, registered to vote and joined local branches of
civil rights organizations en masse. About 125 of the 550
members of the Putnam County N.A.A.C.P. are Nuwaubians. The
people in the county, 30% black and 70% white, expect the
Nuwaubians to flex their muscle at the polls any time now.
"They're the nicest people," says a young white waitress at
Rusty's, a small diner in downtown Eatonton. "But I'm afraid
they are trying to take over the town."
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