The sign on the small, faded brick building in a quiet corner of Atlanta's black West End reads: "In the name of Allah, Most Gracious , Most Merciful. The Community Store." Inside, a tall man minds the shop, watching over a battered white scale on the counter, dispensing candy for pennies and nickels from neighborhood children. When business is slow - and it usually is, judging from the meager stock on the shelves - the clerk crosses the street where he plays pickup besketball on a public court.
Even framed by the crocheted cap, the hair almost touching the dashiki, the face behind the counter of The Community Store is recognizable: it belongs to H. Rap Brown, Proprietor.
One of black power's staunchest soldiers in the '60s now calls himself Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin. He is a Muslim. He dislikes visitors. He talks guardedly with a reporter, permitting no notes, no photographs.
Al-Amin is working off a 10-year parole that grew out of a conviction for trying to rob a New York City bar.
"Truth crushed to the earth will rise again," he said at this sentencing. He was best known to Washingtonians as the man Maryland authorities couldn't find after he was charged with inciting riots in Cambridge in 1967, riots that caused about $200,000 in damage to the black section of that Eastern Shore community. The charges were eventually dropped, though after an arrest in New York in 1973 Brown was returned to Cambridge where he pleaded guilty for failing to appear for his trial in 1970.
If pressed, Al-Amin, 34, will say conditions for blacks in America haven't improved much since his days as head of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. But he wants to leadership role in changing society; his life is to be spent in service to Allah. A reporter, remarking on Al-Amin's obscure life as an Atlanta grocer, says the violence of the '60s seems distant, that Al-Amin seems a new man. The man behind the counter won't concede the point.
"Muhammad," observes Al-Amin, "said expect a mountain to move before the character of a man. Life is simply one step after another."