Nuwaubian leader York working on
his public image
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 public image.
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 legitimate.
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 Shrine affiliated."
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
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
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 stated.
"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 is dying."
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
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 another $25,000.
"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
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 Isa Muhammad.
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