Brother Ali urges brotherhood at breakfast with Gary Schiff

Brother Ali has breakfast with Gary Schiff.

Brother Ali has breakfast with Gary Schiff.

Brother Ali wants you to know that he's not giving up his day job for politics, even though he's been lending his time of late to politicians like Mayor R.T. Rybak, congressman Keith Ellison and gubernatorial candidate Matt Entenza.


"That would be kind of gross," he joked, after a breakfast talk this morning at Mercado Central with Minneapolis City Councilman Gary Schiff.

The point of his appearance wasn't to back any specific policy, he said. Instead he wanted to lend support to people who stood for the principles of diversity and community he raps about in his music.

So while about 100 folks sipped coffee and tucked into eggs and tamales, Ali took the microphone and, in a humble and soft voice, recalled his childhood as a misfit albino kid, his journey into Islam and, eventually, the Rymesayers cooperative.

None of it would have been possible without the community support and connections he found in Minneapolis, he says. And the philosophy at Rhymesayers is to give back to the community, rather than grab a record deal from the East or West coast and leave town. They're here, and staying.

He also used the opportunity to address the rising anti-Muslim hatred that has welled up ahead of the November elections.

Gary Schiff and Brother Ali

Gary Schiff and Brother Ali

"I know there are some seriously crazy, seriously deranged, what-the-hell-are-you-talking-about Muslims," he said. "There aren't a lot of them."

Like most middle-of-the-road Christians, most Muslims just want to go about their daily lives, he said. But because too many people form their opinions about other religions and races based on what they see on TV, rather than through personal connections, they get the wrong message.

The way Brother Ali figures it, appearances like the one this morning with Schiff are ways to reinforce the personal connections he tries to make in his music.

But he's not getting into politics to accomplish that.