Taking a Closer Look at The Black Hebrew Israelites

 

 

 

August 17, 2019 in front of Madison Avenue Headquarters, with a view north toward 125th Street and Promise Academy in the background on the left

The  viral video taken on January 18, 2019, on the day of the Pro-Life March in Washington D.C., brought attention to a little-known group ~ The Black Hebrew Israelites, who were involved in the initial confrontation that day. From the language used in the video, it appeared that the five Black Hebrew Israelites in the video were part of a division of that group called Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge (ISUPK), known to demonstrate at the corner of Seventh and H Streets in Washington D.C. This group, headquartered in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, occasionally makes an appearance in Harlem, staging themselves in front of CVS Pharmacy on the corner of Lenox Avenue and 125th Street, megaphone in hand, spewing their hateful rhetoric, and most recently on the opposite side of Lenox Avenue, between 124th-125th Streets.

On Tuesday, December 10, 2019, the Black Hebrew Israelite movement was once again in the news when David Anderson, a one-time follower of the Black Hebrew Israelites, brought hate and violence to Jersey City in a murderous spree.

Since the head of the Black Hebrew Israelites in East Harlem, and its treasurer are preparing for sentencing in New Jersey in January, 2020, we thought it would be a good time to take a closer look at this particular division of the group, and its Headquarters on Madison Avenue in East Harlem.

Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge (ISUPK) in front of CVS on 125th Street and Lenox Avenue in Harlem

The Black Hebrew Israelites have many subgroups and denominations, known to vary considerably in practice, with the subgroup, Israelite Church of God in Jesus Christ, headquartered in East Harlem.

Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge (ISUPK) in front of CVS in Harlem

With its World Headquarters located at 1941 Madison Avenue between 124th-125th Streets, members of the Israelite Church of God in Jesus Christ ~ men, women and children ~  line up near the entrance each weekend wearing traditional robe garments, while men clothed in all-black ~ the back of their shirts reading ~ Enforcement Protection, stand at each side of the entrance to the building.

Parked along Madison Avenue at Marcus Garvey Park on Sunday, September 1st, Labor Day Weekend, while residents celebrated the Holiday in the Park.

Members begin to gather in front of a closed commercial space on 124th Street, right around the corner from the headquarters. They come by car from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, driving slowly looking for parking and looking for fellow members, standing at each corner ready to assist.

July 10, 2019 on the corner of 124th Street and Madison Avenue

Below, the entrance to the Israelite Church of God in Jesus Christ Headquarters, located on Madison Avenue between 124th/125th Streets in East Harlem sandwiched between commercial businesses and townhouses.

Entrance to the Headquarters on Madison Avenue in East Harlem

Parked in front of the entrance is a large, shiny Mercedes, be it van or sedan. On this day, it was a Mercedes-Maybach.

Today, December 23, 2019, a Mercedes-Maybach parked right in front. As soon as I lifted my camera to take a picture, Black Israelite Security came running toward us!

You don’t often see a new Mercedes-Maybach parked on Madison Avenue near 125th Street. We no sooner lifted our cameras, then Security came running from behind us. We were saved by a huge fellow emerging from the Headquarters who ‘called off the hounds.’ We left with our images (and cameras) in tact. Shortly after, the shiny, lux vehicle with a sticker price above $150,000, was removed.

A scuffle ensued ~ but we left with our images in tact

On Sunday mornings for several years, the Enforcement Protection part of this organization would march over to Marcus Garvey Park in East Harlem at 8am sharp, where they performed various exercises and chants for several hours. This stopped quite suddenly around May, 2019.

Walking on Madison Avenue, two block from Harlem Headquarters

It isn’t easy to take pictures of the Harlem group ~ even when they line up on the side walk on Madison Avenue, extending around the corner onto 124th Street, in full view of the public.

Israelite

‘Security/Enforcement’ is watching, and those with a camera will be aggressively  told not to take pictures. This is quite a different Sunday-in-Harlem than photographers, who so loved capturing the dapper men and well-dress women-in-hats, are use to. Madison Avenue between 124/125 on a Sunday is not a place for a camera, and photographers will not get a smile and a Sunday greeting.

Israelites hanging out in front of a closed commercial space on a Sunday morning on 124th Street at Madison Avenue

Below, Enforcement Protection in black shirts stand on all corners within two-square blocks of the Headquarters, walkie-talkie in hand. On this particular day, this ‘Enforcer’ is sporting a bulletproof vest.

August 17, 2019 ~ Something new ~ a bulletproof vest

Over the years, the hundreds of members who attend the meetings or guard the building, do so quietly and without confrontation with locals, unlike the ISUPK and other divisions of the Black Hebrew Israelites in other locations. Locals have become used to the silk-skirted men in head-dress standing at all corners from 125th Street to 123rd Street and from Madison to Park Avenues. And the Sunday morning local dog-walkers and children going to and from the park were equally use to the men in black, chanting in a weekly routine on the lawn in the Park at 124th Street and Madison Avenue.

They come from all over and are of every age. This young man got out of a car with New Jersey license plates

All the divisions of the Black Hebrew Israeliites believe they are the descendants of the 12 tribes of Israel, claiming that African Americans are descendants of the Hebrews in the Bible. This claim dates back to the end of the 19th Century, with Black Hewbrew groups forming in the United States from Kansas to New York City beginning in the late 19th century.

Rain or shine, members use to march to Marcus Garvey Park every Sunday morning at 8am. As you can see by the art installation, this picture was taken in January 2019

The membership of the East Harlem group makes mandatory monthly ‘tithes’ to the organization, headed by its leader Jermaine Grant ~ the Chief High Priest Tazadaqyah. Over the past few years, we observed the East Harlem Headquarters being raided twice by the FBI (2019 and 2016). As stated by SPLC, and the Indictment, “Jermaine Grant aka Chief High Priest Tazadaqyah, and the group’s director, vice president and treasurer, Lincoln Warrington, diverted over $2 million from the groups coffers to other ventures, including the leaders’ luxury household expenses. It is also alleged that they did not report over $5 million in income to the IRS. This occurred over a period from 2009 through 2017.” In addition, Grant went on an $11,700 shopping spree at Neiman Marcus, and received about $2.9 million in income from his ‘church’.

125th Street and Madison Avenue in East Harlem

We were curious about Grant, and came to learn that he is a former music producer and restauranteur. Additional information from SPLC also alleged “that Grant and Warrington took money straight from ICGJC (Israelite Church of God) which paid for properties, luxury cars, clothing and home furnishings for the Grant family. This included two Gucci handbags that cost more than $3,000 each, private school for the Grant children, as well as a personal chauffeur driving them to school in a leased Mercedes Benz, and a Disney vacation.” The money was also used to purchase real estate for Grant and his family in New Jersey, New York and Florida. In an article about his court hearing in May, 2018, the fact that Grant showed up to court in black Prada high-top sneakers caught our eye, especially since he will leave court with an ankle monitoring device tracking his movements while he awaits his sentence ~ which has been delayed more times than we can count. Grant pleaded guilty of conspiring to defraud the United States, but still leads the church and plans to continue doing so, even while incarcerated.

The East Harlem Isralite Church of God and Jesus Christ is described as the second largest Black Hewbrew Israelite groups in the country. It currently holds a tax-exempt religious status in the State of New York, with 19 chapters across the country. They have been labeled an active hate group by watchdogs for their anti-white preachings.

Headquarters on Madison Avenue between 124/125th Streets

It was interesting to note that Grant has an additional job ~ described in court documents as being a 50 percent owner of Black Icon Entertainment  ~ a for-profit company with offices in Hackensack, New Jersey, but no website or other online presence on this company could be found.

Raid on Israelites Headquarters on Madison Avenue, East Harlem

It is also alleged in the 30-page indictment that Grant and Warrington dodged taxes by moving approximately $2.4 million from the church through Black Icon Entertainment, and in addition, Grant received about $2.9 million unreported income from the church. More information can be found in the Daily News.

Raid on Israelites Headquarters on Madison Avenue in East Harlem

In the meantime, hundreds of followers can be found on line waiting to enter the East Harlem headquarters every weekend. The tax fraud conspiracy charge to which the two (Grant and Warrington) pleaded guilty carry a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. If a plea agreement is accepted, each defendant could be sentenced to a maximum of thirty-months in prison. Sentencing has been postponed several times, now set for January 28, 2020..

 

 

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