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Out of Convenience

North Memphis group boycotts Arab-owned businesses.



Last Saturday, with tension continuing between the African-American and immigrant communities in North Memphis, about 10 people picketed the Northside Food Market.

"Hey, they killed my brother, man. Don't give them any business," one protester yelled at a potential customer.

The Northside Market is located at Watkins and Jackson, less than a mile from the Watkins Market where 26-year-old Darramis Stevenson was killed New Year's Day. The first homicide of the year, Stevenson got into an argument with the market's store clerk, Yahya Murshed.

After Stevenson left and then returned to the store, Murshed shot him twice. The Yemeni native was charged with second-degree murder and later released on bail.

Since then, Murshed's truck has been set on fire, and the market has been set on fire three times. Murshed's attorney, Leslie Ballin, says his client is concerned for his safety.

Other North Memphis residents have formed the Darramis Stevenson Justice Committee, the group that organized Saturday's protest. It was their second protest in as many weeks.

In addition to the protest, the Darramis Stevenson Justice Committee has organized a boycott, posting fliers around North Memphis that ask people to "withdraw support" of "Arab-owned businesses" in the community:

"We say 'Thumbs Up' to keeping our business out of these stores ... Spend your money where you are not a suspect when you enter the store. Spend your money where your life means more than some change. ... Without your support, they cannot exist."

Members of the group have refused to meet with store representatives, saying they've been verbally threatened by the owners.

However, local activist Norman Redwing took issue with the protests, saying they don't address the more urgent issue of black-on-black crime.

"We have black men killing black men every day in North Memphis, and we're not singing 'We Shall Overcome' about those incidents," he said. "We need to be more concerned about all the killings in North Memphis."

But the justice committee thinks their approach is working.

"If you look behind us, there are no cars here," said Tanika Jennings, Stevenson's fiancée. "The store is pretty much empty."

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