At over 6 feet tall and 300 pounds, often wearing a bulletproof vest beneath his shirt and puffing on a Padron 1964 Anniversary Series cigar, Hawk Newsome is hard to miss.
When the co-founder and chairman of Black Lives Matter Greater New York is not speaking with the news media or organizing events, Mr. Newsome, 43, can be found at marches from Charlottesville, Va., to Minneapolis to New York City. He lives in the South Bronx with his sister Chivona, who co-founded the group, their mother, Doris, and his son, William, 18. He also has a daughter, Assata, 3, who lives with her mother.
WORDS The first thing I do is open up my Bible to see what the scripture of the day is. Then I’ll start checking my social media. When I first open my phone up, there’s a number of messages that I have to read through. I’ll start going through my text messages and decide which ones I need to respond to. Usually, as an activist, this is 24/7. If there is something pressing, I’ll put it in our team’s group chat. As much as possible, unless I’m backed into a wall and need to deliver an answer, I try to get the team’s opinion. But most of us think alike.
PUFF Next thing I do, I smoke a cigar. My room door is closed, I reach over and grab the ashtray, then take a couple pulls of my cigar. A good cigar, man — it can be like a meal. I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs, I don’t party. Cigars are my only vice.
BROGA I go kiss my son on the forehead and ask if he’s hungry. He says yes, even if he just ate. So I’ll get him some breakfast. I’ll sit him down at the table. Then I’ll do “broga,” my take on yoga. I’ve done yoga for a number of years, but I am way too large to be considered a yogi. So I do my stretches and routine.
A COZY START I’ll get back into bed and start making the phone calls that I decided on. I’ll call our director of operations, Linda Cherry. She knows more about me and my sister’s lives than we do. If my sister is home, my sister will come in the room, and we’ll chat. My sister is the only person I’ll really vent to. A lot of times I wake up to people taking shots at me — or doing something crazy in the movement or some politician saying something about me — but I could vent it to her. It always ends positively.
WORSHIP If there’s anything I want back more than anything from before, it’s church. Every Sunday I’d go, twice. I’d go to morning service at either Convent Avenue Baptist Church or Abyssinian Baptist Church, both of which are two prominent Black churches in Harlem. And then at night, I’d go to Hillsong, which is like rock ’n’ roll karaoke church. It’s earthshaking, filled with young people in hats, cool sneakers. It’s come as you are, but everybody is coming fresh. I mean, you’ve got a preacher preaching in like, Jordans and skinny jeans. So these days, I watch T.D. Jakes’s daughter Sarah Jakes Roberts, who has a church stream at 12 p.m.
PREP Now if there’s an early rally, I got to get ready. I’ll shower, get dressed and I’ll throw on my bulletproof vest. In that early call with Linda, we’ll start calling everybody to make sure they’re going to be where they are. I rent cars and switch them up because it’s safer and nobody could keep track of what I’m driving. Most of the time it’s a big truck like a Suburban. I’m too big to fit in cars.
EN ROUTE So, by early afternoon, I’m out of my house and in the truck. My sister is there. Linda is there. The core team. They really run the organization; I’m really just the bad one, the mouth.
THE WORK Now we meet the rest of the team. We move like a tight unit. Everybody is always late. People start trickling in. People are getting suited and booted. We grab the flags, grab the posters. We say a prayer. Now we walk. We march in a formation to the event. When we get to the event, we scan the crowd. We say what’s up to our people and check in with the leaders of the event. Once we’re established, we’ll do some security sweeps and then give our speeches.
STRATEGY These days, we march toward the back for two reasons. At the back a lot of things happen. You’ll get people who want to break the lines with cars. We try to block any threats to anybody ahead of us. Another reason is we are the last line between the marchers and the police. They’ll put the cars behind us and bikes on other blocks to shadow us. So while we’re moving, we’re sending our people to scout to see where they are and what they’re doing, to check on the protesters. Usually, I’ll have one or two people assigned to my personal security.
Toward the end of the march, when it starts getting dark, somebody will walk up to me and say, ‘Hawk, it might start getting a bit funky out here.’ We send a runner to the front to let them know we’re dipping and they need to cover it. Then we leave as a unit.
REFUEL AND RECAP We have a usual spot in Harlem on Lenox Avenue called Barawine. They have this vegan pad thai that I’m absolutely in love with. The team loves the not-so-vegan rum punch. We usually have a couple trucks, and we’ll park outside and eat out of the truck. So we’ll be outside with the music pumping, decompressing and taking in the day. I’ll take off my shoes for a bit. It’s a crash after that action, like a roller coaster drop. Adrenaline transitioning into life, and suddenly.
CHECK-INS I’ll respond to emails and texts; my mother would have called like three times by now. She insists on calling us, in the middle of a protest, so we could order Uber Eats for her. I’ll say, ‘Mom, I’m in the middle of a rally about to speak to 2,000 people!’ And she’ll start saying something like, ‘Listen, that Italian was a little too salty last time.’
Everybody will be talking and socializing, checking in with their loved ones. We’ll go over what happened. We’ll be out there till about 10. We’ll talk to people passing by, listen to music, talk to people who might challenge us. And not long after that, we’ll start heading home.
FAMILY I’ll get home, usually my son might still be up and in the kitchen. I’ll wash up and sanitize. I’ll take off my shirt, take off my vest and air out. My kitchen space is an office now. I’ll maybe call my daughter, who is 3, and check in with her. I’ll FaceTime with her and sing her songs, watch her run around the house, showing me toys. So then when my son comes in, I’ll put a mask on. We’ll play a bit. I’ll wrestle him, ruffle him. And ask him how his day went.
Sunday Routine readers can follow Hawk Newsome on Instagram @hawk.newsome or on Twitter @IamHawkNewsome.