Sister Maryum Magdalene Sabree, born Mary Magdalene Murphy, was the oldest child of John Dancy Murphy and Maggie Jane Murphy, born January 2, 1931 in Angier, North Carolina. Mary was a precocious child and voracious reader as a teen and young adult. Growing up, Mama often thought of the plight of Black people and as a woman in her 20’s and older would often say “If I could cry for a whole year for my people and it would make things better, I would.” Mama was serious most times but loved to be around her family where she could laugh and relax. She graduated from Westside High School in Chadbourn, NC in 1949 and soon after attended Elizabeth City State Teacher’s College where she graduated with a degree in Early Childhood Education in 1956.
Soon after graduation Mary or Magdalene as she was affectionately called by her siblings, moved to Connecticut to live with family. After that she moved to the Prospect section of Brooklyn, New York, then to Bedford Stuyvesant.
In 1958 her first cousin Vivian Butler and her husband introduced Mary to the Nation of Islam in Harlem, New York. At first Mary said she was skeptical, but later after a few visits when she saw the consistency of the organization, she decided it was the place for her, and in 1959 Mary Magdalene Murphy received her X and became sister Mary 17X.
As a member of the NOI in New York’s Temple number 7, Sis. Mary was very involved with the community attending the MGT meetings, working in the Salaam restaurant, bringing in new members, and volunteering on weekends to assist other potential NOI members with learning English composition and writing their letters of application to become members of the Nation. Later in the 1960’s Mary met Bro. Charles 24X, her future husband whom she wed on July 4, 1963 and then moved to Harlem, from that union came seven children.
Motherhood was everything to Mama and she dedicated her life to being a great mother. Mama would often say “I love all my children, and I would not send a one of them back.” She made all our baby food from scratch, used herbs and natural remedies to cure what ailed us, and always made sure all her seven children were always neat and clean. Mama developed our moral and mental intellect always leading by the example she set. Mama even used her formal education and training to teach her seven children. Mama drilled Mustafa, Hakim, Aziz, and Sajdah in debating, public speaking, research and speech writing. She also taught the three youngest as they attended Sister Clara Muhammad School. Always the teacher she made sure that we did all our schoolwork, giving us work at home if we had no homework from school.
The religion of Al-Islam was second only to motherhood in Mama’s life and she would often quote her favorite Quranic verses such as “We plan and Allah plans, and Allah is the best of planners.” Mama made salat, fasted every Ramadan without fail, and paid as much charity as she could. She studied her religion often going to Islamic Studies classes at the Masjid in the evenings. After the death of The Honorable Elijah Muhammad, she became a devoted member of the community of his successor Imam Wallace D. Mohammed where she continued to be very active by joining such committees as C.R.A.I.D. (The Committee to Remove All Images of the Divine), the Muslim League of Voters and by becoming one of the original planners for the Annual Islamic Convention in 1988.
Mama was also a devoted member of the Sister Clara Muhammad school PTA participating in many fundraisers including bake sales where people would line up for a slice of her famous chocolate, carrot, and pineapple coconut cakes. Mama was also an eager participant in and member of all the initiatives set forth by Imam Mohammed such as AMCOP, CPC, and one of the original planners of the annual Islamic convention.
Mama died as she lived. She made her wishes upon her death often and consistently. She would tell me often, “I don’t nobody screamin and hollering over me, put me in the ground as soon as possible, don’t wait for anyone, and give me my flowers while I’m still here.” We thank everyone for mama.
Sister Mary Sabree is survived by her seven children Mustafa, Hakim, Sajdah, Aziz, Khalid, Ahmed, and Valedah. Nine grandchildren Yahya, Belal, Bashir, Sudur, Raisah, Ra’d, Suhaylah, Hassana and Uswaa. She is also survived by three siblings Harrison (Bette), Junior (Karimah) and Jerenda. Ann Murphy Hite, Warren Murphy, Iris Murphy Sabree, and Franklyn Murphy preceded her in death. She is mourned also by her 29 nieces and nephews.
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