On this final day of US Black History Month we borrow some wise words from writer Adrienne Maree Brown and acknowledge that Black history is being made everyday. As we reflect on a month of legacy and celebration, we share this post with gratitude, love and an understanding that the work of establishing anti-racist hearts, homes and communities is ongoing. Here are six Muslim women who, through their compassion, research, work and teaching have helped us in our efforts and who continue to connect us with Black History and Black Futures everyday. To them, thank you. And for the rest of us, may we continue to support, amplify and stand with one another, in truth and sisterhood, ameen.
Angelica Lindsey-Ali AKA The Village Aunty
Certified sexual Health educator, trained in Fiqh of women and founder of The Village Aunty Institute, this is one ‘Aunty’ you need in your life.
We LOVE Village Aunty. Everytime we hear her speak, Village Aunty brings us straight to the intersection of Black history and Black muslim women. ALL her practices (of female rituals of beauty) and teaching of both spiritual intimacy AND sacred sexuality are based unapologetically in West and East African Islamic roots.
Through her you are inspired to re-examine the role of woman to woman communication, our connection to old folkway beauty and self care rituals and their immense importance for future generations.
She’s that mix of best friend and strict no nonsense teacher. You definitely want to hear all her stories and feel comfortable sharing yours, but you are also taking notes not wanting to miss a single gem of wisdom and instruction from this uniquely qualified and confident professional.
It is liberating to finally find an educator who can tread the line between talking with benefit around the spectrum of physical and emotional intimacy without overstepping the boundaries of adab, and who also has ALL the credentials to do so.
In the past year many women have graduated from the Village Aunty Institute having completed the Foundational Womanhood women’s rites of passage program. Aside from such programs, follow TVA for other courses and workshops that feel like a real gift to yourself.
Dr. Su’ad Abdul Khabeer
Scholar. Artist. Activist. Dr. Sa’ud is all of these and more. An Associate Professor at the University of Michigan and author of the powerful, Muslim Cool: Race, Religion and Hip Hop in the United States, Dr. Su’ad is deeply committed to public scholarship and making her work accessible to wide audience. We were particularly enamoured by the way she created a performance piece to present her academic research and even more thankful to her for founding Sapelo Square.
Sapelo Square is an online resource dedicated to the comprehensive documentation and analysis of the Black US American Muslim experience. It is inspiring, challenging and uplifting – spanning every aspect of life, religion and culture with sharp writing, commentary and perspective. During this year’s Black History Month, we’ve been learning along with their exploration of the Muslim collection at the Smithsonian\Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) – moving through the history via objects as diverse as a portrait of Mohammah G. Baquauqua, whose biography is one of the few written accounts detailing the experiences of African Muslims who were enslaved in the Americas to a pamphlet by the Organization of Afro-American Unity, founded by Malcolm X in 1964.
Finally, our hearts melted when we visited another project of Dr. Su’ad’s: Umi’s Archive. In this intensely personal digital archive, she gathers stories, notes and photographs from her mother’s life.
Dr. Su’ad is active on twitter, so follow her there for the latest updates. It’s also where we found our favourite quote by her: “You don’t need to be a voice for the voiceless. Just pass the mic.”
Ashley J May.
As an ethnographer and community engaged researcher-activist of whose conversations around community are always with her community rather than ‘about’ them, Ashley not only researches, but, teaches, lives , breathes and makes community.
Her work, rooted in Black history, centers the often invisible intergenerational caregiving and care-growing communities. Especially those such as neighbors, aunties, elders who have, in the past and who continue to provide community child care.
With a sound heart and radical love, her work with children and families through projects such as The Grass roots Morning Garden Project, the Food Program and Healing Care Baskets, Ashley inspires us to look at our own communities and ask questions about what we can do to make change.
It is not without coincidence one feels drawn to likening her work to that of a beautiful orange tree. Much like the ones in the gardens of the same property in the LA neighborhood, where she grew up and where she still lives, within walking distance of her grandparents. Where her story-keeping and documentation draw from the soil of wisdom from her elders and bloom into sweet scented fruit that she so generously shares and plants forward to sustain and nourish her community.
You can purchase Ashley’s Zine Thirty Sunsets And A Moon here, a perfectly formed sweet volume of heirloom recipes, handwork, and thoughtful reflections on her ethnographic work in community with Muslim families.
Support Ashley’s most recent community effort; Healing Care baskets for Black Mamas and children.
Ashley is always serving some of the best ‘tea’ to be found. Go join her for a cup.
Shaykha Ieasha Prime is the Scholar-in-Residence and Associate Chaplain at The Islamic Center of New York University (ICNYU) and Director of Women’s Affairs at Dar al Hijrah. She is also the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Barakah, Inc. – an instution which seeks to educate and empower people to better themselves, their families and their communities in order to build a vibrant Muslim community which thrives spiritually, politically, socially and economically and frankly, sounds amazing.
A defining characteristic of Sh. Ieasha’s work and teaching is her analysis and discussion of questions which continue to arise regarding the Black Muslim experience, including explaining why Black History is particularly important for Muslim communities, how our faith considers the examination and preservation of legacies and what it really means to be nations and tribes.
We particularly appreciated this lecture on ways we can better live the egalitarian and inclusive principles of Islam in our homes and neighbourhoods. many of which, thankfully, are available for free online.
Shaykha Ieasha Prime is one of those people who are able to continue smiling while talking at the same time, and we feel so connected to her warmth of character as well as excellence of knowledge! Her love and passion for the work she does shines through and when she talks she holds the attention of her audience, we imagine, in likeness of how another excellent speaker of knowledge did in her namesake Ieasha (ra)
Educator, researcher, mother and founder of the beautifully named Light Legacy Books, Ustada Rukayat Yakub is doing the good work. The work of telling stories centered in Black History to muslim children. Stories that intend to go a long way in the work toward teaching Black Muslim children to love, respect and know their heritage and in increasing the exposure of the importance and value of Muslims in Black History for non-Black children.
With over a decade of experience living in West Africa where Ustada Rukayat ‘sat at the feet off scholarly men and women’, she was able to unearth and curate stories of historical figures from Black History that had immense influence and value on the practice and culture of countries in the historical and present day muslim world.
Light Legacy Books – supports the work of independent self-published Black Muslim authors and seeks to amplify uplifting true stories of scholars , rulers, sages and other unsung heroes from West Africa and beyond.
Follow her for webinars and workshops for young people. With courses such as Muslim American Heroes for Teens , Let’s learn about Shaykha Nana Asma’u and Ahmadu Bamba Sage of Senegal and many more in the pipeline, we love how perfectly suited the ones we have tried with our own children have been.
Dr. Kayla Renée Wheeler
An expert in contemporary Black Islam, African-American religious history, and material religion, Dr. Wheeler not only teaches as a Professor of Gender and Diversity Studies at Xavier University in Cincinnati, but is deeply involved in preserving and archiving oral history through the Oral History and Ephemera Archive, highlighting issues gentrification, demographic shifts, and urban renewal through her Mapping Malcolm’s Boston Project and is currently writing a book titled Fashioning Black Islam: Race, Gender, and Belonging in the Ummah. She is also the curator of the expansive and nuanced Black Islam Syllabus, through which we first learned about her.
As we all know, how we learn our history and who we learn it from will directly impact our breadth of knowledge, understanding of contexts and how relevant we consider the past in our lives. Free to all, the Black Islam Syllabus aims to promote a more inclusive approach to the study of Islam. It is continually update and you can use it to find sources for anything from the Black companions around the Prophet, to the history of Islam in the Americas, to the connections between Islam and hip hop. Words can’t express how grateful we are that Dr. Wheeler has put together this resource for us, making it incredibly easy for us to expand the sources we use in our own study and teaching.
Listen to Dr. Wheeler speak more about her work on the Black Muslim Syllabus in this wonderful interview on The Classical Ideas podcast, where she also speaks about her research on fashion, beauty and faith, and afterwards make sure to follow her on twitter to keep up with her latest work – we know you’ll want to.
Illustrations by Aiysha Malik