Ex-MATAH owner remembers murder of Ken Bridges

KEN BRIDGES, Co-owner of the Matah Network

Gaston Armour, a longtime activist in Chicago, recently paid tribute to his fallen hero, Ken Bridges, the co-owner of the worldwide MATAH online business. Bridges was the 8th victim of the D.C. sniper 21 years ago.

At 53, Bridges was fatally shot by 17-year-old Lee Boyd Malvo as he pumped gas near Fredericksburg, Virginia. Bridges and Co-Owner Al Wellington had just signed a $100 million contract to include the coveted Grenada Nutmeg Oil (GNO) natural pain reliever.

The oil would have been the highlight of the many products sold by Black to Blacks on his MATAH online business that promoted African American products. The injection of the $100 million would have created hundreds of jobs for Blacks and paved the way for the expansion of new African American entrepreneurs.

“The bullet that pierced Ken stopped everything. It stopped our unified Black economic movement,” Armour told the Chicago Crusader. “MATAH gave us the venue to support Black-owned businesses, but the bullet fired by the sniper took that away when he chose to kill Ken.

“He killed the dreamer of economic Black unity, and our dream and goals of supporting and expanding Black businesses,” Armour said. As a former MATAH store owner, Gaston added, “I am still sad about his death.”

After signing the contract, his friends warned Bridges not to stop before he got home because of the D.C. snipers. Ken wanted to tell his queen, his wife, Jocelyn, the good news about the $100 million contract. After all, having the GNO product would elevate the MATAH Network to international heights.

So, he stopped at the Exxon gas station, called his wife and while talking to her was fatally shot by Malvo, a 17-year-old Jamaican who was trained to become a serial killer by 42-year-old John Allen Muhammad.

The two snipers went on a killing spree shooting and wounding people for sport. Known as The Beltway Sniper, Muhammad died at age 48. Malvo received a life sentence without parole.

Gaston said, “The DC snipers took the life of a good man, husband, and father—a man who cared about his people and practiced what he preached—Black economic empowerment. He talked of unity and love. Ken was a man of peace.”

Born June 24, 1949, in Detroit, Michigan, Bridges, the father of six, was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. He had a vision and began the MATAH Network, which he called “The Black Channel, dedicated to the ascension of Black MATAH ancestors.

The MATAH Network came with a product catalog where customers could purchase books, air fresheners, multi-purpose cleaners, liquid laundry concentrate, fabric softeners, disinfectants, detergents; Grenada Nutmeg Oil (GNO); body oil sprays; hand and body moisturizing oil; water filtration systems and so much more.

Gaston said, “I still feel devastated because everything, Black economic freedom stopped with that bullet. October 11th will always be a sad day for me, for all former MATAH store owners.”

When asked how we can carry on Bridges’ legacy, he said, “We can still support each other. It’s harder to buy from Blacks now because we don’t know where they are. We no longer own grocery stores or gas stations.”

He attributed this state of Black economics to the failure of the “system that does not support Blacks and us as Black people. Between the two, it has helped to erode African American businesses.

“But there are a lot of Blacks who own businesses, but they don’t advertise, and we have not promoted them,” said Gaston. 

One of Bridges’ biggest supporters was the late Father George Clements who introduced Gaston and many others including this reporter to Bridges who dreamed big but died a victim of gun violence. Before his death, Father Clements worked hard to promote Black economic unity.

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