By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide
In February of 2014, King Salim Khalifani, then the Executive Director of the Virginia State NAACP, arrived at work one morning and found the locks to the door of his office had been changed.
To this day, it is not clear why state NAACP officials ousted him from a position he occupied for over two decades.
Where is he and what is he doing now!?
No longer answering countless phone calls, emails, snail-mail, and motoring countless miles across the state fighting injustices faced by the poor and minorities, on behalf of the NAACP, Khalifani is still doing those things, but as an independent advocate.
During the recent session of the Virginia General Assembly, Khalifani was walking the halls of power, engaging lawmakers he once supported and antagonized to advocate for a variety of legislation on voting rights and other judicial reforms; labor issues, such as raising the minimum wage; and the future of the state’s HBCUs.
He says he is not a lobbyist, for these are the people who get paid and are backed by deep-pocketed interests. He is not.
With his 4-page brochure entitled “How to Survive an
Encounter with Police,” Khalifani gives lectures on “what to do and not to do” while on foot or during a traffic stop to avoid joining the list of unarmed Black men who died while engaging conflict with police.
He used personal notes from his own experiences while motoring through rural areas of the state with a “funny sounding name” and driving up to police roadblocks or being stopped for a license plate light out, “although it is in the middle of the day.”
“The first page of the brochure tells you how to live to fight another day, if you feel that you have been disrespected or accosted by the police illegally,” said Khalifani. “Being polite and calm does not mean you are a chump.
Getting the policeman’s badge number and other information and knowing your rights will allow you to fight for your rights later.”
Currently, he is writing editorial columns on this topic and other issues related to civil and political rights. He also has a talk show on Richmond’s 1450 AM radio and Comcast Cable talk show called “Let’s Get Busy.”
This version of Khalifani’s life was created when one door closed, and he chose to open new ones, without regret, bitterness or tension.
Life for Khalifani was launched in Cleveland, Ohio as Edward Dwayne Hudson, Jr. – the son of construction worker Edward Hudson, Sr. and his wife, Marva Lois, who taught high school English.
“I got into trouble a bit,” he recalled. “The police would catch me because I stayed behind to protect and help the kids who could not run fast enough or were too small to protect themselves.”
While attending John F. Kennedy High School, Khalifani recalls Mrs. Lillie Lewis, a counselor and alum of Virginia Union who persuaded him to accept an invitation from the school’s basketball coach and to enroll at her Alma Mater in 1976.
“Coach Robert Moore recruited me to play basketball, but I was a quarterback,” Khalifani recalled. “I tried out and I got cut … several times before I finally decided I wanted to play academics and get my degree in History and Political Science.”
He was encouraged to pursue some form of community service by the late Benjamin Lambert, a member of Union’s Board and a State Senator from Richmond; and the city’s first Black City Treasurer, Dr. Frank Gayle, a Union Professor of History and Political Science.
He recalls catching the bus from campus and riding to downtown Richmond to observe city council meetings and Virginia General Assembly sessions in action.
“Cleveland, which had elected the first Black mayor in 1968 (Carl Stokes), had Black political leaders, but they were at a distance from the average person,” said Khalifani. “But in Richmond you could walk up and meet and watch members of council or other power brokers in the legislature.”
Khalifani was unsure if he would return to Union a second year, despite great academic success.
But by August of 1977, as other college-age youth in his neighborhood were returning to school, he made up his mind to return to school and caught a bus back to Richmond.
By the time he arrived all of the dorm rooms had been assigned. So he was given a list of boarding houses near the campus in Highland Park, a working class section of the city.
The one he selected was owned by Mrs. Elsie Coleman, the mother of the city’s second Black police officer Harold Coleman.
“She did not treat me like a boarder. I was family,” Khalifani fondly recalls. “I was a stranger, but I became a member of this huge, loving … extended family who lived in that house and in the community.
“I would call home and tell people how nice and trusting the people were down south. I was not used to it,” he said. “That house was the go-to place for everybody who needed love, food and family. They also taught me about the history of Richmond, the importance of church, Black culture and family.”
Part of that history is how the state bulldozed parts or all of old Black neighborhoods like Jackson Ward, Fulton and Navy Hill to make way for Interstate 64, thereby destroying the culture and economy.
Khalifani witnessed the Black community’s effort to get Richmond to adopt a ward system to elect council to use its voting strength at the polls to secure political power.
He saw the capital of the confederacy elect its first Black Mayor, Henry Marsh; elect a majority Black council; and elect Doug Wilder as the first Black governor.
In the late 80s, Khalifani got involved in the NAACP and worked with then State Conference Executive Director, Linda Byrd-Harden, on various projects.
He was also with the Richmond Peace Education Center and state Association to Abolish the Death Penalty.
The state NAACP’s Branch and Field Activities Coordinator’s job became vacant and the position was offered to him.
“I didn’t really want to accept the position,” said Khalifani. ”I asked Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) of the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party (A-APRP) should I accept it. I was the state Political Education Coordinator for the Party.
“Kwame said, ‘Take the position. Who will listen to you representing the A-APRP? You won’t last 6-months before they fire you.”
He warned, “You can’t change organizations and institutions. Push them as far left as possible before they fire, defame or kill you!”
Khalifani eventually became State NAACP Executive Director and lasted for 23 years and 4 months.
He served as state president and board member of the organization as others came and left, as the political levers of power in Richmond changed hands between personalities and parties.
All along he mastered the role of advocate, administrator and activist, skills he now uses in writing the current chapter of his life.
“I am taking on the same issues and people, using a broader form of media and personal independence,” said Khalifani. “I am being critical not only of the White Power structure, but the Black Power brokers for ignoring the people who voted to put them in power. The fight for freedom never ends.”