In the early '80s, two militant young friends from Carol City decided to join a black-power sect in Liberty City led by a preacher later called Yahweh ben Yahweh. Thirty-odd years later, the sect is scattered, Yahweh is dead — after serving time for orchestrating 14 gruesome murders — and the two friends' lives couldn't possibly have further diverged.
One, Maurice Woodside, is now a conservative, shadowy anti-gay activist called Michael the Black Man, whose nephew is tied to a new round of Yahweh-linked murder and fraud cases (a story that New Times broke two weeks ago).
Michael's friend, Lloyd Clark, meanwhile, spent almost two decades living incognito in Colorado after helping put Yahweh in prison. But now he's back in Miami, living openly — and, of all things, preaching the gospel of gay rights.
"I want people to know that just because we fell under Yahweh's control, we all didn't turn out like Maurice," says Clark, who changed his name to Khalil Amani while in federal protection.
Khalil first met Maurice and his younger brother Ricardo at Carol City High and followed them to Miami Dade College. All three ended up joining Yahweh and moving into his fortress-like Temple of Love.
By the mid-'80s, though, Khalil had seen too much violence and quit. Ricardo soon followed, but Maurice never lost the faith.
After agreeing to testify against Yahweh, Khalil was worried enough about his safety to take witness protection. He spent three years in Denver before leaving the program. "I had to see my son and my daughter again," Khalil says.
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Then a funny thing happened. Khalil began writing and re-examining his religious faith and did a 180-degree turn away from his previously militant, fundamentalist beliefs.
He wrote a book about his time in Yahweh, called My Id... Ignant & Dissfunkshunal!: Life in the Yahweh Cult, and other tomes about homophobia in hip-hop culture and his spiritual journey. And he started a new career as a medical lab technician.
In November, he finally moved back to the Magic City to be closer to his son, daughter, and three grandchildren. There's still an indelible, visible link to his Yahweh days — a tattooed Star of David on his right forearm. But Khalil doesn't run from his past; he uses it to write about his mistakes and his new outlook on life.
"My story is one of triumph, I think," he says. "Maurice and I came from the same place, but look where we each ended up."