By Jasmyne A. Cannick
Ronald Todd Eskew, better known as Najee Ali is out as the National Action Network (NAN) Los Angeles Chapter’s political director after his current wife came forward about being physically abused by him. In the wake of the allegations, NAN both locally in Los Angeles and nationally under the leadership and direction of Rev. Al Sharpton have cut all ties from Ali.
Ali, who is frequently called on by the news media as a spokesperson for Black people in Los Angeles and is known to be a trusted confidant of L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and an ally for police chief Charlie Beck on Black issues, most recently criticized Tavis Smiley after PBS said an investigation found “troubling allegations” of misconduct by the radio and TV host.
Ali recently told the Electronic Urban Report, “Smiley is just the latest sexual terrorist that the #Metoo campaign has taken down and brought to justice…This is the nail in the coffin for Smiley. Black woman are rising up and refusing to be silenced.”
But NAN Western Regional Director and Los Angeles Chapter President Pastor K.W. Tulloss said that Najee Ali has his own skeletons in the closet–skeletons that include recently beating his wife and possibly using crack again.
Tulloss said that while he’s been told over the years about Najee Ali’s history of verbal and physical abuse of women in the community and his spouses that it wasn’t until Ali’s current wife came to him for help after he beat her that he said enough was enough.
I’ve heard allegations,” Tulloss explained. “I’ve never heard from the victims directly. But this is his wife who reached out to me and I just can’t have that. It was a process. Najee–we’ve been friends for 13 years. He introduced me to Reverend Sharpton 13 years ago. And so I’ve already had a sense of loyalty and brotherhood. His wife is a wonderful person. She doesn’t deserve none of the things that she claims are happening to her. Him pulling her hair, putting his fist across her face, throwing her across the room, punching her in front of her daughter.”
Tulloss explains Najee Ali’s wife reaching out to him.
“Around the end of October we had a dinner with representatives from R.J. Reynolds to discuss the dialogue that we’ve been having when I received a call late that night from his wife. She began to tell me that she was involved in domestic abuse by him. That he put his hands on her, pulling her hair in front her daughter and she just didn’t know what to do. I advised her to call the police and to make a report and get out of there. She agreed and said that he had a drug problem. I said that I know he’s had problems in the past that other have shared with me and so it might be crack again–and really those are the symptoms that she described to me in phone conversations and via text messages. I encouraged her to go to the authorities and she told me that she was in fear of her life. I told her that since she’s in fear of her life that she had the ability and support to make this stop by going to the police.”
Reverend Sharpton backed up Tulloss’ claims by adding, “ I know that she made a disturbing call to Rev. Tulloss and that he called me and told me that he could not condone this. Tulloss knows that I go back many years with Najee Ali but I said that we can’t condone that so you have to do what you have to do.”
Tulloss said that he called Najee Ali and told him that he was no longer a part of NAN.
“Our parting from Najee Ali had to do with him putting his hands on his wife. He’s out of control, his mind is not right. He’s battling with whatever he’s battling with. I just fear for his wife. I didn’t want to make it public but I was convinced the truth had to be made known after he made comments about Tavis Smiley and others. He’s just as worse as them.”
Estrangement from NAN
Tulloss says that Ali has been estranged from NAN for several
months following Tulloss’ refusal to testify against Skid Row activist General Jeff for allegedly assaulting Ali.
Homeless activist Jeffrey Page, better known as General Jeff or the Mayor of Skid Row was convicted of assault on Najee Ali last month after Ali testified Jeff punched him the face.
The case centers on a November 10, 2015 meeting of the Los Angeles Police Commission where according to court papers Najee Ali told the police that General Jeff was an “activist with the Black Lives Matter Movement.” Shortly afterwards, in the lobby of LAPD headquarters, Ali was allegedly heard by officers yelling, “What the hell!” before pointing out General Jeff to the police and asking if he could have him arrested for punching him in the face.
General Jeff, a well known advocate for the homeless and Skid Row, denies being a member of Black Lives Matter or punching Najee Ali.
According to court documents, officers overheard General Jeff yell, “Don’t disrespect women!”
Witnesses say that General Jeff, in defending Dr. Melina Abdullah, an organizer with Black Lives Matter’s Los Angeles chapter, from Ali’s verbal attacks and to make him stop, made a flinching movement toward Najee Ali to which Ali seemingly got scared before ducking and going over to the front desk to report to the police that he’d been allegedly punched in the face.
“Najee became very angry with me when I refused to testify against General Jeff,” Tulloss said. “I got subpoenaed. I went down there and I told them that I didn’t remember anything that happened. He was furious in reference to that. So Najee hasn’t been a part of NAN for a while besides him writing articles saying that he’s our political director.”
R.J. Reynolds Meeting
Once Ali was aware that Tulloss and other members of the community knew about his recent domestic violence against his wife, Tulloss says that Ali has been on a public relations rant to try and smear NAN, Tulloss and Reverend Sharpton in an attempt to try and save his public image and keep the truth from coming out.
A recent article in the Compton Herald claimed that Ali’s ousting from NAN was over a disagreement with tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company’s attempt to fight efforts by public health advocates to restrict its menthol sales. Ali says that he took money from Reynolds to his a meeting of Black leaders in South Los Angeles but later had a change of heart.
“I was paid a small sum to invite a group of leading South L.A community leaders for a private presentation on the tobacco issue a few weeks ago,” he told the Compton Herald. “But after listening to the presentation, I realized that I didn’t want an association with a corporation responsible for so much death, disease, and suffering. [Afterwards] I apologized to all my colleagues I had invited.”
Reverend Sharpton sharply contradicts that narrative.
“Whatever the difference are with the Los Angeles Chapter of NAN and Najee Ali it had nothing to do with no tobacco position because we haven’t taken a position. Our position has been that since a former congressman came to us–because Eric Garner was choked to death for selling loosies–saying that this could potentially happen again if there was a ban of menthol because it could give police the right to deal with people selling loosies in the same way–we let them come before our convention. Some of our chapter leaders were for it–some against it. They voted and agreed to do a series of forums around the country if they would pay for the travel and all for it and that was the agreement. But we didn’t take a position for or against the ban. I did one myself. I did one in Watts where I listened to those who were for the ban and those who were against it as did Reverend Tulloss. It is not true that there were differences over that. It was because when Reverend Tulloss shared with us the disturbing phone call he’d gotten from Najee’s wife and when he shared about the whole situation around Najee wanting Tulloss to testify at some police hearing that’s when there was a disagreement. It had nothing to do with tobacco.”
NAN’s L.A. Chapter President Pastor Tulloss agrees and says that the narrative Najee Ali is trying to paint is patently false and that Ali was barred from further participation with the group because of his domestic violence against his wife.
“Two years ago ex-Florida Congressman Kendrick B. Meek attended NAN’s national convention and we had a discussion in reference to the ban on menthol,” Tulloss explained. “Our group at the urging of Eric Garner’s mother decided that we were going to have these conversations across our chapters around the country. We didn’t take a position on the ban. We didn’t a stance in regards to the ban. We simply said we’d have a discussion and so that’s what we’ve been doing the last few years–having these discussions. We had one in South L.A. in January of last year and we had one in Watts during that same time period. We have still not taken a position. We just wanted to make sure we heard from everyone and got their input. So this is something we’ve been working on for a little while. So fast forward to most recently, R.J. Reynolds was coming back to the city [Los Angeles] and they asked if we could get a group of leaders together and have another discussion and we did it at the Buffalo Wild Wings where Najee Ali works in the kitchen. So they did it there and they had a discussion. We just had dialogue with community leaders–not that we’re supporting any of that stuff. We just had a conversation.”
Tulloss says that his group was not paid to host the meeting.
“I think they [R.J. Reynolds] made donations to a lot of the organizations. We [NAN] decided to do it on the basis of Eric Garner’s mother asked us to do it and that’s why we did it. But our chapter was not given any money to do it.”
Eric Garner died in in 2014 in New York City after a New York City Police Department (NYPD) officer put him in what has been described as a chokehold for about 15 to 19 seconds while arresting him. The New York City Medical Examiner’s Office attributed Garner’s death to a combination of a chokehold, compression of his chest, and poor health. NYPD policy prohibits the use of chokeholds. Garner was alleged at the time of his death to have been selling “loosies” (single cigarettes without a tax stamp) in violation of New York state law. His death spawned nationwide protests against police brutality.
A History of Violence Towards Women
“We stood by Najee Ali when he got into physical confrontations with everyone from the Nation of Islam representatives there [Los Angeles] going back a few years and they wanted us to severance ties and we said no we stand by him,” said Reverend Sharpton. “He got into a whole shouting match with Maxine Waters and we stood by him. So to reduce Reverend Tulloss and them to this now when’s he defended him against Congresswoman Waters, the Nation of Islam and everyone else and then to distort it I think is unfair.”
In 2006 Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters accused Ali of stalking her and was issued a temporary restraining order against him.
According to the Los Angeles Times, in the court filing, the congresswoman said Ali has “confronted me on several occasions.” She said she believes he is attempting to “set me up” and accused the activist of having a “long history and reputation for confrontation.”
The restraining order also stated that Ali “threatened ‘to get me some day.’ “
Ali is “attempting to create a situation that will appear to be harassment in order to sue me,” the order said. “He will stalk me. I’m very public.”
In 2008, the Los Angeles Sentinel newspaper documented one of the multiple restraining orders filed against Najee Ali by various women.
Ali has had confrontations with many well-respected elected officials and community leaders including Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Supervisor Yvonne B. Burke, Councilman and former police chief Bernard Parks, Brother Tony Muhammad of the Nation of Islam, Laura Hendricks, a merchant in Leimert Park and even his former father-in-law, Imam Warith D. Muhammad. He has a reputation of antagonizing members of the community, forcibly intervening in the affairs of families during their time of crisis, and showing up and/calling press conferences to promote himself. Some of the mainstream media are complicit in Ali’s less-than-honorable behavior; they seem to parade him as a leader which actually insults the community where he is generally considered a person non-grata and a predator.
Hendricks is one of the individuals whom Ali has intimidated to the point that she had to get a restraining order against him. When told that he had been sent to prison, she said, “I think it’s about time that some of these things he has been doing catch up with him because he’s been slipping and sliding all through the system …. So it’s about time, that’s the way I feel.”
The slipping and sliding through the system that Hendricks referred to are the numerous encounters Ali has had with the law. He was arrested for hit-and-run for leaving the scene of an accident while he was on bail for another charge of purchasing false documents to be able to get two drivers licenses from the Department of Motor Vehicles.”
More recently after the 2015 LAPD shooting death of 43-year-old Charly “Africa” Leundeu Keunang on Skid Row, Najee Ali took to Facebook to attack and “gang bang” on well-known civil rights attorney Nana Gyamfi. Najee Ali said, “That’s on my hood. I’m easy to find,” before claiming South L.A. gang “73 (Seven Tray) Gangster Crips.”
In 2016, Najee Ali was recorded on video at a meeting of the Los Angeles Police Commission verbally assaulting Black Lives Matter Los Angeles organizer and Cal State L.A. Pan African Studies Chair Dr. Melinah Abdullah and Black Lives Matter Pasadena founder Jasmine Abdullah.
Ali, whose most recent stint in prison came after he was found guilty in 2008 of trying to tamper with a witness outside his daughter’s preliminary hearing on two counts of assault with a deadly weapon and one count of leaving the scene of an accident, called Jasmine Abdullah a felon after she was recently convicted of felony lynching stemming from a Black Lives Matter protest.
This happened right before he attacked Marcus Vaughn, the husband of Redel Jones—a Black woman killed in South L.A. by the LAPD in 2015. When Mr. Vaughn tried to defend the two women from Ali’s attacks, Ali told him taunted him by repeating “you ain’t gone do nothing” before adding “that’s why she was killed.”
No word on if Ali will continue to enjoy his access to L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck in the wake these allegations.
Earlier this year on the subject of domestic violence Garcetti said, “No one should ever be afraid to go home, or live under the constant threat of physical harm. We’re bringing more resources to this work — so that victims can become survivors, and more Angelenos can break free of the cycle of violence.”
NAN is currently trying to work with Najee Ali’s wife to provide her with the resources and support she needs to file criminal charges against Ali and to remove herself and daughter to a safe location away from him.
Tulloss concluded with, “At the end of the day he needs help and the only way he’s going to get help is if those within the community who say they love him really push him to get the help that he needs. That includes Mayor Garcetti, Chief Beck, Karen Bass–those that support him. The only way he’s going to get help is if us that claim that we love and appreciate him get him the help that he needs. He needs some help.”
Jasmyne Cannick is a nationally known writer and commentator on political, race and social issues. She was selected as one of ESSENCE Magazine’s 25 Women Shaping the World, one of the Most Influential African-Americans in Los Angeles Under 40, one of Los Angeles’ Most Fascinating Angelenos by the L.A. Weekly and one of 40 People Under 40 by the Advocate. She’s worked in the U.S. House of Representatives and at all levels of government helping to shape public opinion and encourage civic engagement while advocating for underrepresented and marginalized communities in the political arena. Learn more here.