The following article by Nick Shindo Street was originally published on September 18, 2018, on BOOM California, an online media publication dedicated to highlighting vital conversations about social and cultural issues in California. The views expressed and the programs described do not necessarily reflect the views of Sapelo Square or its editorial staff and is reposted here in the interest of capturing the diverse conversations occurring within the Black Muslim community.
Image credit – Nick Shindo Street
Earlier this year, the ILM (Intellect, Love and Mercy) Foundation in Los Angeles, Ca., convened a group of sixteen Black Muslim community organizers to prepare for a public forum between the Black Muslim Community in South Central and the Los Angeles Police Department. That initial meeting morphed into a training that centered what the organizers called a “stories to solutions” framework — a way of articulating problems and demands that steered the conversation away from both “unproductive rancor” and a kumbaya circle that would avoid hard truths. The subsequent community gathering at Masjid Bilal Islamic Center was the first of its kind in recent memory and organizers envisioned it as a starting point for further community dialogues that would provide agency for Black Muslims to assert some semblance of control in their community.
During this engaging interview, Dr. Abdul Khabeer shares her own relationship with hip hop and reminisces about the songs she grew up on, such as “Top Billin’” by Audio Two, and discussing their collective impact on her personal development. For example, she shares how hip hop artist Jean Grae’s cathartic storytelling offers a pathway to explore the art of lyricism outside of a masculine paradigm. In addition, she shares how both cultural and religious identities have formed her perspective. In particular, Abdul Khabeer credits her travel outside of the United States as the impetus for her to explore religious, racial and cultural identities among American Muslim communities through hip hop.
Imagine the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and you will undoubtedly picture a man wearing a cap embroidered with a large star and crescent. This month’s post features Dr. Shakeela Hassan, the maker of those iconic caps. In this video interview with Sapelo Square Editor in Chief, Dr. Su’ad Abdul Khabeer, Dr. Hassan explains how she came up with the design alongside Elijah Muhammad at his dinner table. Her story reveals that the caps, like the Nation of Islam itself, were as much products of local, homegrown enterprise as they were of global Muslim networks.
Dr. Hassan’s story is a striking example of what Professor Sally Howell calls “Old Islam” — the theologically inclusive, ethnically diverse and explicitly indigenizing Muslim communities that arose primarily in the Midwest before America’s immigration reform of 1965. Both she and her husband, Zia Hassan, found a spiritual home in the Nation of Islam as well as close friendship with the Muhammad family upon arriving in Chicago from Pakistan in the 1950s. Indeed, as she tells elsewhere, Clara Muhammad was “nothing short of a mother to me.” Their relationship was born during an era that defied current divisions between ‘immigrant and indigenous’ Muslims in the United States. The story of these caps provides a rare glimpse into not only the personality of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, but also a bygone era that still has much to teach us.
Sapelo Square Politics Editor, Kamilah A. Pickett, talks with Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur, Board Chair of the Georgia Muslim Voter Project, about Black Muslim civic engagement, “righteous apathy”, voter suppression, and using the vote as a tool in the struggle for self-determination.