Formerly a member of Louis Farrakhan‘s Nation of Islam (NOI), Quanell X (originally Quanell Ralph Evans) was the longtime leader of the Houston, Texas branch of the New Black Panther Party (NBPP). He was born in Los Angeles on December 7, 1970, to parents who were both NOI members. According to HoustonPress.com, the boy’s parents “wanted to name him after the Muslim holy book—the Qur’an, as the Nation [of Islam] spells it. [But] religion forbade that, so they dropped the ‘r’ and called him Quanell.” “From the day of his birth,” writes journalist Randall Patterson, “it was drilled into Quanell that white people are the devil. All of history seemed to support this. Black Americans had been robbed of everything that could bind them together, except what white people had done to them. Slavery and its aftermath became the basis of a new faith, which sought to restore what had been lost. Quanell accepted the whole history.”
When Quanell’s father decided to bring home a second wife—NOI’s then-leader Wallace Deen Muhammad approved of polygamy—Quanell’s mother moved with her young son to a blighted neighborhood in Houston, where the boy soon became immersed in the tough life of the streets. Local pimps were among his favored role models there.
When Quanell was arrested for peddling crack cocaine in 1989, he complained that the criminal-justice system was singling out black men for harassment. After a short stint in jail, he one day attended a speech by Louis Farrakhan. This proved to be a life-altering experience for Quanell, who thereafter looked to Farrakhan as his role model and mentor. Farrakhan taught him about the evils of white people in general, and of Jews in particular. From Farrakhan, Quanell learned that a cabal of Jewish bankers had secretly controlled the world for centuries, fomenting wars designed to impoverish people across the globe and make them dependent upon loans from Jews, who in turn became wealthier in the process.
Quanell became NOI’s national youth minister during the 1990s, at which time he escalated his hateful rhetoric against police, Jews, and whites collectively. As HoustonPress.com puts it: “He told black people what the white slavemasters had done to them, how they had tied pregnant slaves to different horses and had ripped them apart and how they had stomped on the babies who fell out.”
Quanell also made a name for himself as a writer and a rap performer. Moreover, his longtime friend, the rapper Scarface, asked him for help in dealing with the media. Quanell proceeded to criticize “gangsta” rappers for promoting lyrics that demeaned black women and glorified black-on-black gun violence. In an effort to “help the brothers to a higher understanding of their talents,” he encouraged young rappers to instead direct their invectives toward whites, Jews, and police officers. Quanell lauded, for instance, the Scarface song, I’m Black, which said: “Well, United States of America, do you honestly believe just because you wear a badge, that means you have the right to treat my people like animals? I’ll be damned! Your blood will flow at the hands of the black man! Mister Officer, Mister Mister Master, I’m picking out your casket, sir. Die motherfuer … Fu you motherfu**ers….”
On October 16, 1995, Quanell attended Louis Farrakhan’s Million Man March in Washington, DC. In an interview with CNN broadcaster Bernard Shaw, Quanell warned viewers that black America was fully prepared to resort to violence as a means of addressing racial injustices. He drew national attention when he was quoted thusly in the Chicago Tribune that same day:
Quanell used similar language in September 1996 when he proclaimed his own unwavering radicalism to an audience of Texas Southern University students: “I refuse to allow some foot-shuffling, some head-bowing, knee-bending, boot-licking, behind-kissing, old-times-ain’t-forgotten, still-wish-we-in-the-land-of-pick-cotton, sell-out, window-dressing Negroes to QUIET ME DOWN, quiet down the spirit of young brothers and sisters, because Reverend Ham Hock, Pastor Porkchop, Deacon Chickenfoot and Bishop Coward would not stand up and fight for the liberation of their people—I’M SORRY!” (Emphasis in original)
Soon thereafter, Quanell’s popularity with NOI began to fade. The group had recently gone through a period of unfavorable media attention as a result of some inflammatory, anti-Semitic comments by Louis Farrakhan. Consequently, NOI sought to minimize the roles of its cruder and most controversial spokesmen. Sensing that his days with NOI might be numbered, Quanell in February 1997 announced that he was forming a new organization, the “Army of God,” whose purpose and mission he failed to define with any degree of specificity.
In April 1997 Quanell announced that he was formally leaving NOI in order to establish yet another new entity—Mental Freedom Obtains Independence (MFOI)—which he described as “a paramilitary organization for young African-American males formed to combat police brutality and other manifestations of white oppression.” Members of MFOI carried video cameras and tried to find or provoke incidents of police brutality that could be filmed and publicized. “We will deal with police corruption in the streets by any means necessary,” said Quanell. “An eye for an eye, a life for a life…. I say to those corrupt police officers, I hope you are as willing to die as you are willing to kill.” Quanell also announced that in times of rioting, MFOI members would fan out across black ghettos and distribute maps of affluent white neighborhoods such as River Oaks and West University Place, so as to encourage looters to vent their violent impulses in those locales. Moreover, he warned that if Louis Farrakhan were ever to be harmed, black people would slaughter whites in large numbers. “Blood will flow in America like a mighty river,” Quanell proclaimed.
When MFOI failed to sustain significant momentum in either the public eye or the media, Quanell moved on to other pursuits. Following the path of Khalid Abdul Muhammad, who also had been recently ousted from NOI because of his incendiary rhetoric, Quanell became one of Muhammad’s top lieutenants in the New Black Panther Party (NBPP). Said Quanell: “Brother Khalid told me never forget the struggle, never compromise and always remember the white man is not a devil, he is the devil.”
In the late 1990s, one of Quanell’s bodyguards was Jeffrey Leon Battle, who in 2001-02 gained infamy as a member of the Portland Seven, an Oregon-based cell of Islamic terrorists who conspired to wage war against the United States and to provide support and resources for al Qaeda and the Taliban. In October 2002 Quanell traveled to Portland to attend a court hearing for October Martinique Lewis, Battle’s ex-wife, who was sentenced to three years in federal prison for her role in abetting the Portland Seven.
On March 30, 2004, Quanell initiated a confrontation with Houston mayor Bill White, taking the podium at a Houston City Council meeting and demanding that White put a reparations-for-slavery study on the Council’s agenda—something the mayor had previously refused to do. Eventually White had to call police to remove Quanell from the Council chambers.
In June 2004, Quanell was arrested for evading police—i.e., failing to stop his car for officers who had activated their emergency lights and sirens—while transporting 24-year-old Derrick Forney, who was suspected of having shot a Houston police officer. Claiming that he was merely attempting to drive Forney to a police station where the suspect could turn himself in, Quanell characterized his own arrest as a typical example of “lying, corrupt officers” harassing a black man.
When Quanell’s trial (related to the Forney incident) commenced in November 2004, his backers formed a “Coalition for Justice” to support him, packing the courtroom every day. Ultimately, Quanell was exonerated on the charge of evading arrest but was convicted of fleeing a police officer. At Houston’s New Black Panther Party office, Quanell told his followers and the press: “When the common whites see in the system what our people have experienced for over 400 years, this country will be destroyed not from without but from within. My case was a small part of bringing about a realization of the corrupt criminal-justice system…. The system is now angry and frustrated. They want to get rid of brothers who are leaders and who stand up to the system. We’re upsetting their world order.”
On December 2, 2007, Quanell led a rally in front of the Pasadena, Texas, home of Joe Horn, a white man who had shot and killed two black illegal aliens who were members of a Colombian burglary and fake-ID ring, while they were breaking into the house of Horn’s neighbor. Speculating that the shootings may have been racially motivated, Quanell demanded that Horn be charged with murder. Quanell also led dozens of protesters in a demonstration against Horn, who in June 2008 was cleared by a Harris County Grand Jury, which decided that his use of deadly force had been justified under the circumstances.
In May 2010, Quanell led a rally protesting the jury acquittal of a white police sergeant in Bellaire, Texas who was on trial for having shot and wounded a local black man on New Year’s Eve 2008 (while attempting to arrest him for driving what the sergeant mistakenly believed to be a stolen car). “This cop is a criminal, this cop should be in jail,” said Quanell. “If you shoot one more black man in Bellaire in cold blood, then your damn city will go up in flames.”
In March 2011 Quanell traveled to Cleveland, Texas to support 18 young black men—aged 14 to 27—who were accused of having participated in the gang rape of an 11-year-old girl. There, he helped stage a town hall meeting to address what CNN described as “rising concerns—especially in Cleveland’s African-American community—about the case.” Most notably, Quanell stated that the girl had not done enough to stop the alleged assailants. “It was not the young girl that yelled rape,” he said. “Stop right there — something is wrong, brothers and sisters.” Quanell also questioned the role of the girl’s parents: “Where was the mother? Where was the father?” he asked.
On July 15, 2013, Quanell and hundreds of fellow demonstrators blocked Texas State Highway 288 to protest the jury acquittal of George Zimmerman, the “white Hispanic” who was on trial for his highly publicized fatal shooting (in 2012) of a black Florida teenager named Trayvon Martin. When the rally began—at a funeral home near the campus of Texas Southern University—Quanell said: “This is where they wish to send young black men—to the funeral home…. Our motto today is: We’re fired up and we’re not going to take it anymore.”
In a December 2014 appearance on Fox Radio, Quanell condemned the allegedly widespread incidence of excessive police use-of-force in minority communities. “My biggest concern with this,” he said, “… is if there is not a significant change of attitude and mindset of police officers in the inner cities of black America, this country is on the verge of a civil war.”
In September 2016, Quanell became involved in the case of Skyla Madria, a fifth-grade Texas girl who, during the daily recitation of the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance in her classroom, elected, as a sign of protest, to go down onto one knee rather than stand. Her actions were intended to protest not the words of the Pledge, but rather a reference to slavery in a line from the barely known, mostly unsung third stanza of the U.S. National Anthem: “No refuge could save the hireling and slave from the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave.” When Madria subsequently claimed that her school’s principal had spoken harshly to her regarding her actions, her mother, Elizabeth Owens, demanded an apology from the school district and contacted Quanell X. Among Quanell’s comments were:
The school district decided that with her mother’s written permission, Madria would be permitted to kneel during the daily Pledge of Allegiance.
While Quanell cast himself as a devoted advocate for victims of such offenses as police brutality, murder, and wrongful termination, in October 2016 a number of people from Houston and Beaumont, Texas held a rally outside the Harris County Criminal Courthouse charging that Quanell had failed to provide any substantive services in exchange for the money they had paid him. Eventually, in February 2018, the Houston branch of NBPP announced that it was severing its ties to Quanell, in response to continuing allegations that he had not delivered services to families he was paid to represent. “This has been going on for over a decade in the community … and we will not stand for it any longer,” said NBPP national chairman Yahcanon Ben Yah. “He has been in this situation before and what we want to do now is come out and let the people know that we do not condone his actions. He is not a part of us. He is not our leader.”