They never considered talking to us: The unheard voices of people involved with controversial leader Dr. York
On April 22, 2004, Dwight D. York, known to the world as Dr. Malachi Z. York, was sentenced to 135 years in prison based on the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) for allegedly racketeering; the Mann Act, for allegedly transporting minors in interstate commerce for purposes of engaging in unlawful sexual activity; and cash structuring to avoid cash transaction reporting.
At 77-years-old, he currently resides at The United States Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum Facility (USP Florence ADMAX), a supermax federal prison located in Florence, Colorado.
All the evidence points to other explanations for why he is in jail instead of at home with his family or in a hospital to heal from a dangerous condition.
During its pursuit to bring down Dr. York, the federal government also displaced thousands of people and took their land and homes.
Dr. York was the leader of the Nuwaubian Nation, or the United Nuwaubians, an organization of people who believed in his teachings and lived their lives as a tribe.
With over 1,000 books published, Dr. York's literature influenced the likes of Afrika Bambaataa, Erica Badu, Jay-Z, India Arie, Musiq Soul Child, Nas and others.
During the 90s, the Nuwaubians built a community in Eatonton, Georgia, which prompted members from across the country to relocate.
Known as Tama-Re Village, the community consisted of 19 developed acres sitting on 476 acres of land. It was renowned for having Egyptian structures built by the people who lived there.
Hundreds of people relocated to Tama-Re, with a majority coming from the New York area. However, the community was frequently visited by members from across the country and non-members during its heyday.
"We had our own movie theaters. We had our own schools. We had structure and educators," said Ziyaad Laroche, a man who lived at TamaRe between the ages of 12 and 24. "We do field trips. We went out and explored. We celebrated holidays. What makes it so great is that when you're a part of a larger family structure, it's exhilarating. Those were my golden years, as I see it."
Laroche is now 39 years old and works as a licensed general contractor in Georgia and New York.
"And I'm not talking about just regular schooling; we learned different languages. It's something that was very big. We had the privileges of a child who lived in a rich household. There were people who came from different countries who taught at our schools. That's how detailed things were."
Tama-Re consisted of a lot of people like him, many of whom are intelligent and productive members of society who credit a lot of their education and skills to their time at Tama-Re.
Education was one of the reasons why Dana Miller decided to volunteer at Tama-Re. Now 45-year-old, the Cornell University graduate was 27-years old at that time in 2021, while also being involved with Tama-Re's education program.
"I loved the spiritual community that was there in Tama-Re," Miller said. "I was also helping because I was a school teacher with the educational program on the land. The children who were there, either as guests or residents of the land attended school there, and that was one of the reasons that I came."
Miller is currently a fifth-grade school teacher who credits her start at Tama-Re and her time with Dr. York for her success.
"I started out with the school aspect. I was a researcher for Dr. York's publication. When Dr. York wrote materials, he would also put the source information in so that people could verify everything that he wrote. I was one of the people who worked on the research," Miller said.
Miller not only volunteered at Tama-Re, but she was also present the day the federal government first invaded the land, which was also the day Dr. York was taken into custody.
Miller defined the day as a scene from a movie; law enforcement officers drove up to the property, invaded the buildings with guns, interrogated residents and trashed their homes.
"When we went back into some of the guesthouses where people stay, everything was just dumped out on the floor," Millier said. "Beds were overturned, people's clothes were just covered with stuff. Things are planted in people's homes. People's pictures were taken out."
"Some of the law enforcement officials ate a birthday cake for a daughter who was giving it to her father. They ate food that was in the oven for people who were guests. They took the bath towels and wiped their brows on them. It was just disrespectful. It was traumatizing. After the raid, I developed panic attacks that I did not have before the raid."
The people of Tama-Re learned of Dr. York's arrest while being detained by law enforcement officials. At the time, they thought it was a misunderstanding.
Dr. York faced state and federal accusations, a highly publicized trial, recanted witness statements, inaccurate media coverage and incompetent attorney guidance.
It seemed as though Dr. York was only guilty of being the leader of a growing organization of high standards and morality that decided to lay its roots in a rural part of Georgia that was dominated by white people.
According to Benard Foster, a general contractor in Atlanta and tribe member, Dr. York never dealt with the day-to-day operations of the organization. Also, he didn't live in Tama-Re but had his own residence in Athens, GA, which was almost an hour away.
In August 2004, two years after the raid took place, the federal government forced the people of Tama-Re off of the property and seized it.
"That was a very heartbreaking moment," Laroche said. "We were literally forced to just leave in seven days. That was a terrible time for me and many other people. Imagine you being moved out of your homeland and being expelled to something that's less."
Eventually, all the structures on the property were destroyed by a vindictive sheriff, and the government sold off the property.
"They grazed the whole land over. They snatched it with a bogus federal court case. This is one of the reasons why they charged Dr. York with the Rico Act so that they could employ the law that was actually designed for mafias that says any interests that the individual being charged may have can be seized by the federal government," Foster said.
He continued, "They tried to say that all of the land and anything that was on it was in the interest of Dr. York, even though he didn't own the land. He wasn't on the title and two years prior, they forced him to remove his name from any title. The land was in the title of the church and the nine landowners."
The Nuwaubians dispersed after losing their home. Some tried to rebuild in Athens, GA. Unfortunately, they've never come close to their pinnacle 20 years ago.
However, the Nuwaubians still stood by Dr. York during his federal trials. Dr. York was originally indicted by both federal and state on molestation charges but was never brought to sentence in his state case as a result of it being Dead Docket since 2003.
Children's testimony and affidavits show that Dr. York's son, Jacob York, made the molestation charges. Habiybah Washington says Jacob York used child abuse to get his father arrested before the feds got involved.
"Jacob told me that I should go to the FBI with a story because there were rumors going around that some people were speaking to the FBI, that the FBI had my name, and that they knew that I was in charge of the land for some period of time. He said that there were rumors that they had been molested, and the kids mentioned my name and said I knew about what was going on. He told me to go to the FBI and that I should not wait for the FBI to come to me and ask about it," Washington said.
As she continued, Washington discussed how she went through with the plan to talk to the FBI and lie about her encounters with Dr. York.
The federal government also attempted to have 13 children testify against Dr. York.
"From the 13 so-called victims, nine of them testified on behalf of the defense in the federal case," Foster said. "Out of the other five, two of the testimonies were thrown out because they were found to be perjurious, and the last ones weren't thrown out, but if you were in the courthouse you would've heard how suspicious they were."
Washington also talked to the IRS. At the time, she wasn't aware of the financial charges that the government was planning to file. But her testimony affirmed the fact that Dr. York did not handle the finances or have dealings with money or the bank.
"They tried to say that Dr. York purposely did not put $10,000 in the bank so that he could avoid stating where he got it from. Dr. York never made any deposits with our organization. He wasn't in the finance department. Even the sister in the finance department, who was responsible for making deposits as well as responsible for circulating the money and making it move, testified to that," Foster said.
Some of the alleged victims such as Issa Michael Johnson also submitted affidavits where they not only stated that they weren't molested but also detailed how authorities tried to coerce them to falsely testify against Dr. York.
"FBI agent Richard Moultre then reminded me that my mother Kathy Jonson was incarcerated and if I cooperated and made certain statements and accusations, he could get my mother out of prison and not mention her name in the trial. Richard Moultrie wanted me to exchange false statements for this favor," Johnson said.
Other alleged victims who submitted affidavits include Salaam Laroche and Taariq Noel.
Dr. York remains in prison with no hope of parole and little contact with the outside world. However, there are people who still want his freedom.
Due to his status as a Liberian diplomat, the Liberian government has made many requests for his release over the years. People around the world have advocated for his innocence.
The Nuwaubians have continued their efforts to see that Dr. York is returned to them because they are the ones who have suffered the most. They lost their land, their home, their security and the fruits of their labor.
Without consideration, their lives were turned upside down, and they'll never get back what the United States government took from them.
"They don't care when it gets down to it. You don't believe me, as any of the survivors of Rosewood. Ask any of the survivors of Black Wall Street. If they can't beat you at your own game legally, they'll just arrest your leaders. They'll slam them in the media. And most people go for it. And here we have, the destruction of another positive black community," Foster said.
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