Najee Ali’s open letter to Rev. Al Sharpton
'I knew in my heart being a cancer survivor, I couldn’t support. R.J. Reynolds and their plan to hire and enlist NAN activists nationally to fight [a] ban on menthol cigarettes'
‘The tobacco industry has been spending money for decades to create beautiful lies to hide the ugly truth’
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Compton Herald published a story on Dec. 14, 2017, regarding community activist Najee Ali’s parting of ways with the Los Angeles chapter of the National Action Network, the civil rights organization founded by the Rev. Al Sharpton. The story erupted in controversy after the Rev. K.W. Tulloss, who heads NAN-L.A., denied statements for which he was quoted in the story regarding Ali’s departure. Compounding the controversy is what Tulloss told the Herald about Ali’s dismissal that drastically differs from what he told to a freelance journalist, which was published in a local L.A. weekly.
The Herald stands by its story and published the following letter Ali shared with us that he sent to Sharpton to ameliorate conflicting reasons for his exit from further NAN activism.
Brother Al Sharpton:
I have always stood by you and never attacked or smeared your name. The fact that we disagreed on the National Action Network’s involvement with taking money from R.J. Reynolds was a difference of opinion. For you and Rev. Tulloss, Western regional director, to attack and betray my family, is inconceivable.
My wife has issued a public statement to the media that read in part, “I’d like to [state], there is no domestic violence in my home to address. My husband and I love each other and our daughter.”
Brother Sharpton, I have stood by [you] since the [controversy involving] Rodney King, when Black leaders in Los Angeles didn’t even want you in our city telling you to go back to New York. I stood by you after the Tawana Brawley fiasco. I stood by you when activists nationwide discovered your secret work as an FBI mob informant. I stood by you when you were accused of cheating on your wife.
But, I can’t stand with you or Rev. Tulloss with your support for R.J. Reynolds. The fact is, R.J. Reynolds is a major financial supporter of NAN. I sat at a table last month with representatives of R.J. Reynolds at our NAN-L.A. office for a meeting that Rev. Tulloss arranged. During the meeting, they asked me to arrange a meeting with key community stakeholders for a presentation. Tulloss also asked that R.J. Reynolds help sponsor the 2017 Vanguard Awards, which they agreed to do with a $15,000 donation. The night of the Vanguard Awards, I sat next to former U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meeks, a Reynolds consultant who [has] served as moderator at the R.J. Reynolds tobacco meetings over the years.
The tobacco industry contributed $202,510 to his congressional campaigns, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. Meek received $104,342 of that in the 2009-10 campaign cycle, more than any other member of Congress except for one member. As I sat next Meek, I thought about the meeting I organized for community leaders the previous day which he spoke at. I knew in my heart being a cancer survivor, I couldn’t support. R.J. Reynolds and their plan to hire and enlist NAN activists nationally to fight [a] ban on menthol cigarettes.
A ban will cost R.J. Reynolds hundreds of millions of dollars over time.
For [you] and Tulloss to say [NAN has] taken no position is a joke. [You] both are lying through [your] teeth. I was in the meetings at NAN-L.A. and heard all the details. R.J. Reynolds isn’t just giving their money away for no reason. I picked up a $500-dollar check from Tulloss for organizing the meeting with L.A. leaders that Meeks had spoken at last Thursday. My wife was by my side as a witness at his place of employment — the Carson office of Rep. Nanette Barragan.
The reason I left NAN-L.A. weeks ago was that “smoking kills on average, 1,200 Americans every day,” and “more people die every year from smoking than from murder, AIDS, suicide, drugs, car crashes, and alcohol combined.” Everyone should not get an audience in our community. The tobacco companies do not have a vested interest to make us better.
The tobacco industry could not care less about our criminalization. They don’t care about killing our people. The tobacco industry has been spending money for decades to create beautiful lies to hide the ugly truth. Those lies are spread by community leaders such as [you, Rev.] Sharpton and Tulloss. You should be ashamed of yourselves for selling out and selling death to those who believe and trust you. The tobacco industry has a long history of co-opting community leaders and organizations through financial donations and sponsorship. In doing so, the tobacco industry can buy silence,
But my silence can’t be bought. In an article that the Compton Herald published last week, Tulloss said, “We parted ways based on [his] affiliation [with NAN]. He’s been a friend and brother [but] we just have a disagreement. He was in support of the dialogues at first, then, after talking to someone [else] changed his mind.”
Anyone reading what Tulloss originally said last week, and what he said to the media [since then], that I beat my wife, knows he’ lying. Tulloss is on a smear campaign because I know the truth about the money NAN has received from R.J. Reynolds and your plans to join them in their attempt to stop the ban of the sale of menthol cigarettes. So, Tulloss must try to discredit and silence me which will never happen.
The fact he would lie on my wife and use her is disgraceful. I questioned my wife and she was straight-forward with me. She told me that, first and foremost, the validity of any text screenshot or forwarded is always questionable. The ability to forward a text also can take away and add. Secondly, in the statement my wife made, she clearly stated that she contacted Tulloss, whom she believed at the time was a minister held by the extreme confidence that a minister, priest or attorney would have when making a confession or request for clergy counseling. She stated that due to communication issues, disagreements, and a few heated verbal exchanges, she wanted a pastor and member of the clergy to counsel us.
My wife stated that she had an idea of what the life and daily stresses of a civil rights activist could be like. The day-to-day target of hatred which causes activists in the real trenches to have a heightened, even anxious stress level has at times taken a toll on me, let alone my family. The recent chain of events has forced me to look at the many years that stress has taken a toll on me and now my wife and family. For the last several weeks we have been in marriage counseling.
This week my wife and I received a call from Pastor Kevin Sauls of Holman United Methodist Church offering to counsel us. My wife was reluctant initially because of the breach of trust and confidence that she experienced when reaching out to Rev. Tulloss. After much consideration, we decided to accept the offer to work with the pastor of Holman Church, as well as working to strengthen our family goals.
After reviewing the communication from Tulloss that he was deeply concerned about my wife and daughter, I questioned why the concern came months after my wife made the initial calls for counseling. Why only now in the aftermath of the dispute between NAN and me regarding the R.J. Reynolds tobacco money that NAN has been receiving? Would a firefighter wait nearly three months to rescue a woman and child from a burning house? Of course not. Rev. Tulloss was sent texts in confidence, which he forwarded to another reporter. What type of cleric does that? How can anyone trust him ever again? The text that the reporter posted isn’t a smoking gun. Every married couple has disagreements.
In closing, I have never beat my wife. I challenge anyone to produce a police report indicating so. I refuse to let this smear and slander campaign derail me from serving the community. I now realize that you, Rev. Sharpton, Tulloss, and the NAN organization have become killers for hire. We can’t let you continue to embrace and support tobacco and R.J. Reynolds in our community. Our people’s lives are at stake.
This will be my final statement on this matter. My wife, daughter, and I plan to enjoy the holidays. We wish you a happy holiday season, as well, Brother Sharpton.