Genetics in the African American Muslim Community (VIDEO)


Dr. Fatimah Jackson is the Director of the W. Montague Cobb Research Laboratory at Howard University. Last year Dr. Jackson was invited to speak at Zaytuna College, America’s first accredited Muslim Liberal Arts College, to share about her research. Her talk entitled: Between Racial Chauvinism and Counterproductive Universalism: Searching for a Meaningful African American Muslim Discourse, focuses on the history of Muslims in America and brings up epigenetics.

Dr. Jackson begins her talk mentioning facts about enslaved Muslims in America practicing Islam even with tremendous bias and oppression during slavery. She elaborates that the enslavement of Africans who were brought to America has become multi-generational, and that the African American community is still suffering, from what has been called post-traumatic slave syndrome. About forty minutes into the talk Dr. Jackson begins to discuss the scientific research that backs up her statements:

“Around the DNA we are finding these chemicals that can influence the way a gene expresses itself. One gene can produce any number of forms of a protein. What signals the gene to produce a particular protein at a particular time…your psychological experiences, the food you eat, the drugs you take, all of these can influence the chemical markers around the DNA. We now have a very robust mechanism for understanding how early trauma can influence the expression of one’s health. What we have been able to confirm is that these genetic markers are passed from one generation to the next. The passing on of these epigenetic markers can continue for at least four generations…so this is very important. It means that each of us in this room carry the legacy of the environments that our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents experienced. For African American Muslims it means that the trauma of enslavement still have markers, it’s still here. To me Islam is the best therapy for that trauma.”

Dr. Jackson has sacrificed countless hours collecting research, and it is truly our duty to make time to hear this is insightful information. Watch the full video:

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Biographical Sketch

Dr. Fatimah Jackson received her Ph.D., M.A., and B.A. (cum laude with Distinction in all Subjects) from Cornell University. Her doctoral dissertation research was on The Relationship of Certain Genetic Traits to the Incidence and Intensity of Malaria in Liberia, West Africa. She has conducted research on (and is particularly interested in): 1.) Human-plant coevolution, particularly the influence of phytochemicals on human metabolic effects and evolutionary processes and 2.) Population substructure in peoples of African descent, developing Ethnogenetic Layering as a computational tool to identify human microethnic groups and differential expressions of health disparities. Trained as a human biologist, Dr. Jackson has published extensively in such journals as Human Biology, Biochemical Medicine and Metabolic Biology, Journal of the National Medical Association, American Journal of Human Biology, Annals of Human Biology, BMC Biology, and most recently the American Journal of Public Health. Dr. Jackson’s research has been funded by: USAID, Ford Foundation, Huber Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, NIH (NIMHD and NHGRI), Wenner-Gren Foundation, and EPA. Dr. Jackson has taught at Cornell University, University of California – Berkeley, University of Florida, University of Maryland – College Park (where she is Distinguished Scholar Teacher and Professor Emerita), University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill and now at Howard University. She has been a Visiting Scholar at University of Georgia and University of Khartoum in Sudan and she was a Senior Fulbright Fellow in Egypt. She has been awarded the Nick Norgan Award for 2009 Best Article Published in Annals of Human Biology. In 2012 she was the first recipient of the Ernest E. Just Prize in Medical and Public Health Research, Avery Research Institute, College of Charleston and Medical University of South Carolina (University of South Carolina). In 2012, she was also Coined by Rear Admiral Dr. Helena Mishoe, National Institutes of Health, NHLBI and US Public Health Service (via: Howard University).

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