by Bashirah Mack
Last week, I did what many Black Muslims did for Eid, I stayed home. It was at home that I was able to prioritize my health and worship from the comfort of my desk and overworked laptop. In preparation for Eid salat, I played a melodic rendition of Eid takbir from a hometown friend, on repeat of course. This set the tone for my day and brought back fond childhood memories of Eid’s past, this time with a feminine twist. As I perused text messages from friends, I found a few Zoom links to join different video conferences of sermons in progress. Since I wasn’t going anywhere — my commute being a short distance from my bed to my desk — I decided on abundance and joined not one but three khutbahs. I even prayed Eid salat by following along to a local imam via Zoom, a first. After coffee, I FaceTimed my family to wish them a blessed Eid and to see the smiles on each of my beloved’s faces. And that was it. That was my day. And that brought me a joy I did not know I needed. In hindsight, I can see why I needed those simple moments of joy — of feeling and being connected to others and seeing my people in our best state.
“After coffee, I FaceTimed my family to wish them a blessed Eid and to see the smiles on each of my beloved’s faces. And that was it. That was my day. And that brought me a joy I did not know I needed.”
For the past few months, I, like many others in my community, have been inundated with news of Black death whether death by pandemic or death by police. An April 2020 Mother Jones article highlighted that Black people in urban areas like New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago contracted COVID-19 and died at higher rates than other racial and ethnic groups. In Georgia, Michigan, and Louisiana, the same is true. At the same time, folks in my community have gone through the soul-numbing cycle of learning the names and fates of Black people like Breonna Taylor who were killed by police or police adjacents. Black people’s deaths from COVID-19 and police brutality are two sides of the same coin — disproportionate and a direct result of hundreds of years of violent structural racism.
“Black people’s deaths from COVID-19 and police brutality are two sides of the same coin — disproportionate and a direct result of hundreds of years of violent structural racism.”
With this understanding, I was more than happy to experience joy for Eid ul Fitr with my community, albeit with a view from my laptop and various social media apps. As we completed Ramadan during a global pandemic, Black Muslim Eid joy manifest in several ways, of which none were as deliberate and inspiring as the festive displays of Eid home decor; the communal processions and parades through American cities; or the fashionable, always impeccable dress of fellow believers. This lifted my spirit and made me proud to see Black people create, reclaim, and express joy in the ways that resonate with and reflect who we are culturally.
Yet, even as we created joy for ourselves and our loved ones, we contend with the gross reality at hand. In fact, I get a pain in my chest whenever I think about how Black Muslims celebrated Eid ul Fitr over Memorial Day weekend only to be met with the news of the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police on Memorial Day. How abysmal is it that an officer took Black life, literally stripped a man of breath, on a national day of mourning that was first commemorated by Black people who fought to be free?
“I know that Black people in the United States have been here before, wading through life’s waters; creating joy as we cope with pain; and doing so on our own terms.”
As I move between complex feelings, I keep in mind what history, my community and experience has taught me: I know that Black people in the United States have been here before, wading through life’s waters; creating joy as we cope with pain; and doing so on our own terms. I know that joy has restorative powers and it is up to us to create and sustain it. I know that while sheltering in place, I can still connect with others to experience joy. I know that the mechanics of when we seek joy, how we seek joy and why we seek joy are significant and linked to our ancestral ways and inherited wisdom. I know that when we tap into our God-granted agency we can express joy as resistance to our oppression, for survival, in celebration of life, and because we are fully human.
“To truly be free, we must choose beyond simply surviving adversity, we must dare to create lives of sustained optimal well-being and joy.” – bell hooks
*Featured image: © Zakiyya Latif
Bashirah Mack is a Sapelo Square contributor and alumna. She loves storytelling, Islam and Black folks. As a student at the University of California Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, Bashirah hopes to use documentary filmmaking to tell those stories and more.