Remembering Village Voice Journalist Peter Noel’s Coverage Of The Nation Of Islam In The 1990s

Remembering Village Voice Journalist Peter Noel’s Coverage Of The Nation Of Islam In The 1990s

Peter Noel

Peter Noel photo credit: http://www.celestesloman.com/the-village-people

Neither the mainstream media nor the so-called alternative press gives much attention to the Nation of Islam unless there is a major news story or a scandal. However, back in the 1990s when the alternative newspaper, The Village Voice of New York City, was in its prime, writer Peter Noel covered the NOI with well-sourced and in-depth articles.

Noel is a star journalist with 30 years of experience in investigative reporting for Village Voice. For many, his work was underappreciated. By all accounts, he became one of the definitive reporters covering the growth and politics involving the Nation of Islam. Through the inside sources he developed, Noel could report on a side of the NOI not accessible to many other journalists.

The Village Voice, known for being the country’s first alternative newsweekly, was founded in 1955 by famed writer Norman Mailer and others as a platform for the creative community of New York City. It ceased publication in 2017, changed ownership, and reemerged in print. It is now published quarterly since April 2021.

Noel, who was covering police brutality and race issues for Black-owned City Sun newspaper, was reluctant at first to write for The Village Voice.

“I never wanted to work for the white press,” he told Caribbean Beat. “I never felt I could have used the same techniques — I call my style Black advocacy journalism: BAJ (he pronounces it bazh). And it could be quite offensive.”

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But once Noel was convinced he could spread news of the Black condition in NYC to a broader audience, he began working at The Voice. He covered the Nation of Islam, police brutality, race and politics, and the shooting of unarmed West African immigrant Amadou Diallo by four New York City police officers in 1999, among other things.

Noel’s coverage of race is among “the seven ways the Village Voice made New York a better place,” The New York Times reported in 2018.

He left The Village Voice after a falling-out about an article he wrote on local Democratic politician Mark Green, whom he described as a “phony white liberal.” After an outpouring of reader criticism, Noel told Caribbean Beat that The Village Voice had asked him to write “about hip-hop instead.”

Besides The Village Voice, Noel also wrote for The City Sun, The Amsterdam News and others.

Noel was born in Trinidad and immigrated to New York City in 1978. His journalism career in the U.S. began with reporting on police violence against unarmed Black men in Harlem as well as the rise of controversial local figures such as Al Sharpton. Besides the NYC political scene, Noel covered the Los Angeles riots and post-apartheid election violence in South Africa. He is the author of “Why Blacks Fear America’s Mayor: Reporting Police Brutality and Black Activist Politics Under Rudy Giuliani.”

Noel wrote for The Village Voice from December 1990 to December 2001. He went on to host “The Peter & Shmuley Show” with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach on the NYC radio station WWRL-AM, from November 2002 to April 2003. He is currently co-hosting “The Week in Review” and has worked as an investigative reporter for WRKS-FM since February 2002, according to his LinkedIn.

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Here are some of the topics Noel covered in writing about the Nation of Islam for The Village Voice:

  • Who is Gunning for Ex-Farrakhan Spokesmen?” March 23, 1999. This piece focused on the controversial ex-NOI figure Khallid Abdul Muhammad and his top aide, Quannel X, and a purported plot to kill them.
  • Nations of Islam at War,” May 18, 1999, covered the battle among various Black Muslim insiders.
  • Escape from the Nation of Islam,” Sept. 1, 1998, addressed the exit of the “hip-hop minister” Conrad Muhammad — once considered an heir to NOI leader Minister Louis Farrakhan — from the NOI.
  • At Each Other’s Throats,” Oct. 6, 1998, detailed the battle between NYC’s Black political establishment and “New Jack power-broker” Conrad Muhammad, the NOI’s New York rep.
  • The Hunt for Khalid Abdul Muhammad,” Oct. 13, 1998. Muhammad left the NOI to became the national chairman of the New Black Panther Party. Amid the controversy and chaos, he dropped out of sight and spoke to Noel from a safe house. 
  • Million Youth March? No Problem,” Aug. 15, 2000, talked about the struggle to get the Harlem-based Million Youth March up and running.
  • The Shame of Mosque No. 7,” Sept. 5, 2000, about the troubled historic Harlem NOI mosque.
  • Farrakhan Jews,” Dec. 7, 1999, addressed Farrakhan’s fragile, and at times heated, relationship with Jews.
  • Malcolm X’s Killer Axed,” July 20, 1999, about the then-convicted killer of Malcolm X, Muhammad Abdul Aziz.
  • In the Shadow of Death,” March 16, 1999, gave insight into Farrakhan’s health battles with prostate cancer.

Photo credit: Peter Noel, http://www.celestesloman.com/the-village-people