No one intimidates like Hawk Newsome.
Newsome, the most influential leader of the Black Lives Matter in New York, is 6 feet 6 inches and has no trouble moving inches from his face, peeking from behind dark shadows and blowing cigarette smoke.
On a recent afternoon in the South Bronx, the 43-year-old activist agreed to meet with a Post journalist just after giving a heated Fox News interview that went viral. In it, he said that if BLM protesters didn’t get what they wanted, they would “burn down the system.”
“We don’t want white people here,” Newsome told The Post, still excited as he walked near Yankee Stadium, pointing to the majestic pre-war apartments on the Grand Concourse and a brilliant sunset.
“We don’t want whites to come in and increase our rents. You cannot be a supporter of blacks if you come to gentrify their neighborhoods. Stay away from our communities. “
Newsome, whose real name is Walter, is not as harsh as he would like people to think.
He is known and loved in the neighborhood, where he grew up and still lives, in his childhood apartment, which he shares with his younger sister, Chivona, 35, and his mother, Doris. Newsome’s father, Walter Sr., died five years ago.
As he walks, he punches old friends, hugs others with an almost teddy bear hug, jokes, and shows a softer side. Everyone calls him Walt.
“My dad was the same,” Newsome said. “He would be playing dominoes and he knew everyone. He was like the mayor. I even knew what each child was reading at school and when they started a new book. “
He spoke frankly with The Post while sneaking into a Caribbean restaurant for a health shake. He revealed that his mother Doris was a member of the Black Panther and met his father at a civil rights rally in 1969, but rarely spoke of his activism.
His vision for the Bronx is equally militant: a black and brown sovereign nation with its own police force.
“Black and brown men who join the [NYPD]? he said. “You cannot trust them. They turn blue as soon as they become police, and the blue line is governed by white men. We don’t want them to tell our people what to do. “
He is unapologetic about the views that President Trump called in a tweet “Betrayal, Sedition, Insurrection” after hearing it on Fox News on Wednesday. Newsome embraces the destructive side of the movement, saying it was hypocritical for his opponents to call him for his support of violence when the United States uses “blood and bullets” to get what it wants at home and abroad.
“I was standing in front of Wells Fargo when it burned in Minneapolis,” he said. “It was very liberating. F – k that. Burn man. They only listen when we destroy things. America does not care about people; they care about property. “
Newsome is not affiliated with BLM Global Network, considered the official organization behind the Black Lives Matters movement. On Thursday, its managing director told AP that it was not part of the network, which has 16 chapters, including one in New York that does not appear to be operating.
What is clear is that no one in the movement in this city has more influence than Newsome.
But his journey to the activist leader was difficult.
He says he almost succumbed to the temptations of the bell as a teenager. He dropped out of high school before earning his GED, and has spoken publicly about his battle with alcoholism, anger issues, and being guilty of domestic violence.
He said he has been sober for four and a half years.
Newsome eventually went through Concordia College in Bronxville, then earned a degree from Touro Law School on Long Island. She found work as a paralegal for the Bronx County District Attorney’s office and later as a project manager for the Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker law firm in Manhattan.
He changed his name to “Hawk” in 2016, he said, because he has had a lifelong fascination with birds of prey. He said that the ancient Egyptians believed that birds of prey were protective from above.
Newsome is among a series of young black activists in New York and across the country who came of age observing the cases of Eric Garner and Trayvon Martin and have found their voices after the death of George Floyd.
He is close to his sister, who lost her candidacy for the District 15 congressional seat in the recent primaries.
The contrast between Hawk, the national brand of fire, and Hawk, the boy from the Bronx, is most evident when he talks to his sister about his parents, calling them “mommy and daddy.”
Chivona Newsome co-founded BLM NY with her brother, and the two have run a political consulting business for 10 years with the goal of supporting the black and brown community in the Bronx. She has two children with an ex-partner.
Both Newsomes say they are not fanatical about either Republicans or Democrats and hope that Black Lives Matter’s passionate base translates into the kind of political capital that will challenge both parties.
Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi in West African kente clothes and knee-deep? It’s insulting, ”said Hawk Newsome.
“And now Republicans are concerned about police reform? But what will change? None of them will change, but we will. We build our own community and we will grow strong. Just look.”