Salim Muwakkil

The name James always seemed like a misnomer; he was Jimmy Weinstein to those who knew him. His spirit was a little too playful for James. I called him Jimmeth”. For me, that nickname captured his unique style: humor and rigor. Or was it rigorous humor? Whatever it was, Jimmy could bend you over in a belly laugh with a humorous aside and then straighten you up with a devastating critique of foreign policy – all in the same sentence.

Jimmy was an avid anti-dogmatist. In fact, I think it was our mutual aversion to dogma that first attracted him to my writing. I was an ideological oddity: a former Black Panther, a former editor of Muhammad Speaks and a former news writer for the Associated Press – juxtaposed between black nationalism, the secular left and the journalistic mainstream. By the early 80s, I had reached the conclusion it was my duty to debunk dogma in all of its guises. Jimmy, who had long been weary of dogma, read one of my debunking articles, realized we shared sensibilities, and offered me a job. Obviously, he was comfortable with odd juxtapositions. Although a man of the universalist left, Jimmy understood the lure and limited value of black nationalism for African-Americans. Almost alone among progressive publications, In These Times has continuously examined the race-class dialectic of left politics. Jimmy’s contribution to the progressive movement is a large one. For me, he was a sagacious mentor and a kindred spirit – where he remains.

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Salim Muwakkil is a senior editor of In These Times, where he has worked since 1983. He is the host of The Salim Muwakkil show on WVON, Chicago’s historic black radio station, and he wrote the text for the book HAROLD: Photographs from the Harold Washington Years.
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