Kenny Gamble (Luqman Abdul Haqq), who has sat on the board of a radical Muslim organization and been suspected of building a "black Muslim enclave," now stares down from a South Philadelphia mural honoring "local and national African-American pioneers." Developed by Gamble's Universal Companies in conjunction with Philadelphia's taxpayer-funded Mural Arts Program and city agencies, the work overlooks a playground in the heart of Gamble's real estate empire. Mayor Michael Nutter took part in the dedication ceremony on May 25.
The men's portraits (photo here) cover one wall, while the females (photo here) are illustrated on a second. Along with Gamble, his wife Faatimah, and a few other locals, historically significant figures such as George Washington Carver, Bessie Coleman, Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Thurgood Marshall, and C. Delores Tucker are depicted.
However, based on a fawning note from the Mural Arts Program, the inclusion of his spouse, and both his and her high placement on the walls, one could be forgiven for thinking that the project is mostly a tribute to Gamble — a "larger-than-life homage to himself," quoting Daniel Pipes.
When will Philadelphia elites begin asking hard questions about the two-sided Gamble? One Kenny is a songwriter/producer, redeveloper, and education mogul. The other Kenny is listed on the governing body of the Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA), an Islamist organization whose founding was driven by Jamil al-Amin, a cop killer whom MANA still supports long after his conviction. MANA's "emir" is Siraj Wahhaj, a radical imam fingered by prosecutors as a potential unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center attack. Gamble's colleagues on the MANA board also have included terrorist-praising Muslim separatists Abdul Alim Musa and Luqman Ameen Abdullah, who was fatally wounded in a 2009 shootout with the FBI.
Confronted with concerns that he is using property acquired from the city for chump change to assemble a self-contained "black Muslim enclave," Gamble bolstered these fears with a rambling defense of segregation. Reporting by Beila Rabinowitz also ties Gamble to the Jawala Scouts, which she describes as an "Islamic paramilitary boys group" that features "hand-to-hand combat, firearms training, and survival tactics." Photos show the kids marching and wrestling in fatigues.
But as the mural demonstrates, these facts are ignored and the love train rolls on. In the past year, Gamble and his music partner were honored by the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, while also getting a street named after them. The School Reform Commission transferred the management of two schools to Gamble's Universal Companies, Universal won a U.S. Department of Education grant, and the Pennsylvania capital budget nominated Universal to receive piles of tax dollars — seemingly not (yet) disbursed.
Would a Philadelphian associated with Christian extremists — some linked to violence — and whose words and deeds suggest the goal of a "white Christian enclave" be immortalized on a new city-backed mural? If not, then Gamble should not have been so exalted either. Perturbed citizens are invited to tell the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program precisely that (email form here).