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Who was Muhiyidin d’Baha, Black Lives Matter activist gunned down in New Orleans?

Muhiyidin d’Baha, identified by the New Orleans Police Department as the 32-year-old man who died after being shot on Bienville Street early Tuesday (Feb. 6), was a Black Lives Matter activist from Charleston, S.C.

d’Baha, whose legal name is Muhiyidin Elamin Moye, made national headlines in February 2017 when he took a flying leap to wrestle a large Confederate battle flag from a protester in South Carolina, and the event was captured on video.

That incident occurred at an event at the College of Charleston, where activist Bree Newsome – known herself for climbing a flagpole to remove a Confederate flag at the statehouse in Columbia, S.C. – was speaking.

d’Baha was at the event, and told the Washington Post he was talking to elders in his group when he saw someone holding the flag.

“And I looked at our elders and I saw, like, fear in their eyes,” he said. “And I saw them back up, almost. That was the moment for me. We’re not going to pass this on another generation. Not another generation of people are going to be intimidated by this flag.”

He leapt across caution tape and tried to grab the flag away to “help them understand what it is to meet a real resistance, to meet people that aren’t scared,” he told the Post.

He was charged with disorderly conduct and malicious injury to real property, according to The Post and Courier in Charleston. The sequence of events was caught on video, as well as on a live TV broadcast, and the footage rapidly spread online.

Muhiyidin d’Baha grabs Confederate flag at protest.

d’Baha is originally from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and moved with his family to South Carolina when he was 13, according to an interview in the New Yorker.

“As a kid, he got in trouble for stealing cars, but then he straightened himself out and went to a good magnet school; in college, he studied psychology and played football,” the New Yorker article said.

In that interview, he spoke of the conflict he saw in “respectability politics,” referring to what the article described as “voices of forgiveness” from the black church community in court proceedings for Dylann Roof, who killed nine people at a black Charleston church.

“That was accommodating white feelings and white superiority. It was ‘Yes, Massa, can I have another?’,” he said in the interview. “But, at the same time, it was spiritual fortitude forged in a crucible of terrorism. It speaks of a spiritual level that I haven’t attained… There has been an arrangement here, created over generations, to be able to endure terrorism. At this point, this is the way it is. We endure. We don’t ask for more.”

A candidate for mayor of North Charleston in 2019, Thomas Dixon, who leads an activist group there call The Coalition, told the Charleston City Paper that d’Baha was “a consummate social justice activist.”

While the two disagreed on some matters, Dixon told the outlet, “we both understood that the mission and the message superseded differences, so we were always friends no matter what.”

Dixon wrote in his activist group’s Facebook page on Tuesday to meet that evening with flowers outside City Hall to remember d’Baha.

“My brother, I am eternally grateful to you and for you … for your spirit that refused to accept injustice, your courage that showed the world that fear in the face of wrong was not an option, and your strength that kept you on the battlefield, even when no one else was there,” Dixon wrote of d’Baha on the Coalition’s Facebook page.

Brandon Fish, who described d’Baha as his “dear friend” in a social media post, wrote of the loss on Facebook. “We all have lost so much, so very much, whether you know it or not. This world was a better place because he walked around in it,” Fish wrote, asking for respect for the family as more information is made available.

Damon Fordham, historian and author of a 2008 book, True Stories of Black South Carolina, wrote in a Facebook post he saw d’Baha last summer, before d’Baha “left for Louisiana, where he passed.” Fordham said in the post d’Baha reached out to him for historical information to guide him, and referred to Fordham and his nephew as “big brothers.”

“To those who complained of the apathy of the millennial generation, he was proof of the error of that thinking,” Fordham wrote.