MSNBC host Touré founded a student newspaper dedicated to black liberation theology while he was a college student attending Emory University from 1989 to 1992.
Touré’s flagship publication, The Fire This Time, lavished praise on famous anti-Semites, black supremacists, and conspiracy theorists whom Touré helped bring to campus. Before he became an intense-but-sardonic TV personality, Touré also decried “the suffocating white community” and defended a nationally famous fake hate crime.
In an interview with The Daily Caller, Touré described the newspaper as “an important black voice on campus” and “a form of community building.”
The Fire This Time only solicited funds from blacks. “Kujichagulia means self-determination,” he wrote. “Economic kujichagulia is an essential part of any realistic program of African-American liberation. This is why we insist on being completely funded by African-Americans.”
The newspaper’s content – a mix of identity politics and post-modern flapdoodle – mark it as an item of its time. In one article entitled “My School, My School Is On Fire… Why EU [Emory University] Doesn’t Need Any Water,” Touré chronicled racial divisions at Emory University and repeatedly asked, “Why’d you go to a white school?” The author turned that rhetorical question into a rallying cry for black liberation: “At a White School like Emory there is a greater potential for higher consciousness and more activism within the black community than at a college,” Touré declared.
The youthful Touré did not consider whether attending a “white school” might provide educational opportunities, networking advantages, or job placement leads, though these are the reasons most people choose a college.
Elsewhere in The Fire This Time, the budding pundit waxed Thoreauvian about the masses of students, albeit through his own strict prism of race and class. “To walk into the DUC cafeteria at lunch or dinner time is to see each tribe clustered in its respective group with intermingling,” Touré wrote. “Asian students are in one corner, Jewish students are in the middle… White students are largely roped off into their fraternal and sorority… Black students have their own place in this constellation of division, with a community of resources and institutions all their own. The Black tribe is possibly the strongest of all the tribes and Black students who choose not to be a part pay a heavy social price.”
Touré focused much of his piece on the plight of the “black tribe,” which, he wrote, has been forced to create its own community because of “the suffocating white community that surrounds it” and “the oppression of African Americans on and off campus.” He urged black students to “create organs to help them channel activity and support them.” Among those channels, Touré assured his readers, were “the AAAS program and student organizations like The Black Student Alliance, Ngambika, and The NAACP.”
Reflecting on his days as a college firebrand with a select readership, Touré told TheDC that The Fire This Time was “as an important media voice in the ecology.”
Touré’s duties included more than just publishing. The young campus gadfly brought to Emory speakers whom The Fire described as “role models from the real world to speak about life” and a “stunning list of visitors.”
This list of role models included Conrad Muhammad, at the time the would-be heir to Louis Farrakhan’s anti-white Nation of Islam. Muhammad later went through a transformation, defecting from the Nation in 1997 and eventually becoming the Baptist Rev. Conrad Tillard. But at the time he was Farrakhan’s “hip-hip minister” and a reliable Nation fundraiser who blamed Jewish “bloodsuckers” for creating the hole in the ozone layer.
Another role model: H. Rap Brown, a.k.a. Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, author of the autobiography Die Nigger Die! At one time, Brown had been on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List for inciting a riot and carrying a gun across state lines. He spent five years in prison in the ‘70s for a robbery conviction and converted to Islam. Since 2000, Brown has served a life sentence for murdering a black cop. Before appearing at Emory, Brown had drawn controversy for statements like, “Violence is as American as cherry pie” and “If America don’t come around, we’re gonna burn it down.”
Also included was Lenora Fulani, who ran for President as an independent in 1988. In 1989, according to the New York Times, Fulani wrote that Jews “had to sell their souls to acquire Israel” and had to “function as mass murderers of people of color to stay there.” (Fulani later repudiated and apologized for these comments.)
The most outrageous of all Touré’s “role models” was Frances Cress Welsing, a self described black supremacist. She is famous for putting forward the theory that white people are the genetically defective descendants of albino mutants. Welsing also expressed anti-Semitic views and claimed that racism is a global power dynamic by white people to prevent white genetic annihilation.
“No matter how much you may shrink the size of your nose,” Welsing wrote in her 1992 book, The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors. “no matter how many doctors, lawyers, judges, professors, scholars you may produce, no matter how many Einstein’s, Freud’s, Marx’s, or Rubenstein’s you produce, no matter how much money, diamonds, and gold you may obtain, if you are classified as ‘non-white’ under the conditions of white supremacy domination, when the hammer of white supremacy falls, you will be under that hammer.”
Welsing has also argued that homosexuality was imposed on blacks by the white man as a scheme to reduce black reproduction.
But Touré devoted his most intense passion for a fake episode, “the most celebrated of all the race-charged events Emory has seen.” Sabrina Collins, a black freshman at Emory, reported in March 1992 that a dormitory had been vandalized and racist words written on her walls. The news made national attention. Touré and others protested for television cameras. Collins said the event had traumatized her.
Six months later Collins admitted the entire dorm vandalism story was a hoax.
But Touré continued to defend Collins’ allegations after she retracted them. “In the aftermath,” Touré wrote in The Fire This Time, “THE POSSIBILITY THAT COLLINS HERSELF PERPETRATED THE CRIME HAS SEEMED TO MINIMIZE THE INCIDENT’S IMPORTANCE. IN ANALYZING THE EVENT’S IMPORTANCE TO EMORY, IT IS NOT AT ALL IMPORTANT IF COLLINS DID IT.” (Emphasis added by Touré.)
Touré went on to insist the incident be used to leverage a list of demands against the university, “including instituting an African American studies class as a distribution requirement.” Touré continued to blame Emory for not doing enough to raise the “consciousness“ of white students. “White students largely scoffed at the demands [from Touré’s group], even with TV cameras in their faces and the university added none of the demands to Emory life.”
Despite never having met Collins, Touré wrote about the importance of the incident many years later in his 2011 book, Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness? “We kept on protesting because we saw her as a symbol of all of us—a racist attack against her was an attack on everyone,” he wrote. “If she wasn’t safe on campus none of us were. We were fighting back against the same sort of blatant racism our parents had told us about, rather than the more subtle strains we encountered more often in our generation.”
The former student media tycoon is still willing to discuss the fake case at length. While cautioning that “he doesn’t remember everything [he] wrote twenty years ago” and that he didn’t want to get into the topic on “the granular level,” Touré continued to defend his views to TheDC by phone. “It was horrifying that [the Collins incident] went that way,” he said. “But everything is not Duke Lacrosse or Tawana Brawley. These are outlier situations that happen very rarely,” he said. “For every Sabrina Collins, there’s a Central Park 5 or an Oscar Grant and on and on and on. Just because this particular incident didn’t happen doesn’t mean we don’t get to talk about racism in Emory or in society. Or that we forget the tragic things that happen to black people. The point there was, she may have done this to herself, but this in no way suggests that racism does not exist.”
Touré also defended founding The Fire This Time “as an important media voice in the ecology” of Emory. He praised his roster of invited speakers, including H. Rap Brown, as “some of the heroes of black nationalism of the 1960s.”
At Emory Touré also seems to have been shy about acknowledging how posh his actual upbringing was. He describes himself in the paper as from “Boston.” In fact, Touré attended the tony Boston-area prep school Milton Academy from kindergarten through twelfth grade and lived in the majority white town of Milton.
Touré ultimately dropped out of Emory before completing his degree in African American studies to pursue an internship at Rolling Stone Magazine.
Lauren Skowronski, MSNBC’s vice president for media relations, did not return phone or email requests for comment.