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UK's Black Muslim Renaissance Celebrates Global Muslim Blackness
Oct 8, 2020
Layla Abdullah-Poulos
contributing writer
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Image source: Black Muslim Renaissance
Layla Abdullah-Poulos
contributing writer
Black Muslims often face unique cultural experiences and social challenges at the intersection of faith and race. It is no secret that many Black Muslims face layers of racism and anti-Blackness inside and outside of Muslim culture.
As Shaykh Omar Suleiman says in his “40 Hadiths on Social Justice” series with Yaqeen Institute, “Blackness was disparaged in some parts of Muslim history and black people struggled.”
It is an unfortunate commentary on our Ummah, but the reality is that many non-Black Muslims make it hard for us to exist in a myriad of ways. However, in our typical awesome Blackness, many Black Muslims have developed conversations and venues to highlight our experiences and offer wisdom and advice that appreciates them.Having the ability to navigate in Black Muslim spaces offers people like me opportunities to engage in Islamic fellowship while appreciating and honoring my heritage and experiences .
Here in the U.S., annual events like the Black Muslim Psychology, NbA Muslims Black Muslim Authors, Black Muslim Symposium conferences and Black Iftars increase in number and attendance as more and more Black Muslims demand the honoring of our perspectives.
This movement is also growing outside of the U.S. In the UK, Black Muslims also continue to organize events that push back against the rampant cultural racism antithetical to Islamic teachings and create spaces for spiritual and social development. During the month of October, people can gain access to the Black Muslim Renaissance digital family festival, a compendium of discussions, seminars, workshops and showcases highlighting facets of Black Muslim culture and family.
Organized by author and public speaker, Na’ima Robert, the event comprises an impressive list of Black Muslim scholars, professionals and influencers, including yours truly.
Na’ima Robert, organizer of Black Muslim Renaissance
A Month of Muslim Blackness
Na’ima explains her inspiration for the event, which includes the global impact of the killing of Black Americans by law enforcement and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.
“I genuinely feel that there has been a shift in the last few years, certainly in the UK community, where Black Muslims are taking up space, creating their own spaces and having more internal conversations.
“The community-wide trauma that was felt as a result of the murder of George Floyd and the BLM protests in the summer was a catalyst for more Black Muslims [around the world] to start speaking up and organizing. My first foray into this was The {VIRTUAL} Salon, an online discussion space for Muslim intellectuals, creatives and activists. It was while I was encountering so many amazing Black Muslims that I thought 'We should have a festival to celebrate and highlight this awesomeness!'”
Muslims on both sides of the Atlantic have become proficient at conferencing for one to a few days. Annually, we have available a plethora of acronyms representing organizations hosting events. Here in the U.S. when it comes to Muslim communities, there is also the typical surge of Black History Month speakers in February, usually centering Bilal, Malcolm X or both. Focusing on it for a month is hardly enough. Na’ima explains that the Black Muslim Renaissance is deliberately held for a month to coordinate with Black History Month in the UK.
“There is too much to cover and too many amazing people to highlight! In the UK, October is Black History Month, so I thought this online festival would be a refreshing change from the usual emphasis on slavery and Caribbean culture.
“The festival is actually only on the weekends, and we have tried our best to space out the events and vary [their formats], so you have panel discussions, seminars, interviews and workshops, as well as screenings and Q&A sessions.”
Each weekend of the renaissance has sessions with a central theme:
Week One: Soul
Week Two: Family
Week Three: Wealth
Week Four: Village
“I believe that there is talk of an after-party poetry slam,” says Na’ima. “I'll have to see what my partner-in-crime Boonaa Mohammed says about that!”
Coming Together and Building
Na’ima anticipates that the Black Muslim Renaissance festival will facilitate positive developments in Black Muslim culture in the UK, U.S., Canada and beyond.
“[I hope to see] more connections being made, new projects, new collaborations, an increased sense of pride, unity, awareness and respect within the broader community. I would love this to be a game-changing event for the speakers and attendees, one of the defining moments of their 2020, and a taste of amazing things to come, Insha’Allah.
“By creating and collaborating on joint platforms. You would be surprised how different UK, U.S. and Canadian experiences of Blackness and Muslimness are. This was something we found quite striking in our {VIRTUAL} Salon conversations. It will be even more apparent at the festival, as we have Africans from the continent, as well as the diaspora taking part, from Nigeria and Uganda to South Africa, Somalia and the Arab world,” she says
“Coming together and learning from each other is a great place to start!”
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