By Salima Suswell
NATIONAL – I was pleased to lead a monthlong celebration of Black Muslim excellence through the month of February – Black History Month – for my organization, Emgage, the largest Muslim American get-out-the-vote organization.
This month’s programming brought together the extensive work that Emgage has been doing with its African American community outreach efforts.
My goal for the month was to highlight extraordinary Black Muslim leaders from early Islamic history to the present. I sought to capture individuals from all fields and all walks of life. We shared daily posts on our Instagram account with biographies and stories about Black Muslim leaders, starting with early followers of the Prophet (PBUH) through modern changemakers and up-and-coming leaders in the U.S. and around the world.
We wanted to not only celebrate these individuals but also to educate our audience about the leaders who have made our community great.
Too often, the history of Black Muslims is erased from the discourse about Islam. Though we are 20-25 percent of the Muslim American population and were some of the first Muslims in America, our legacy is too often overlooked.
It’s time that this changes and that our community starts being fully recognized. I was pleased to write an op-ed for Religion News Service on this topic and to spotlight some of the extraordinary Black Muslims leading a variety of fields today.
The largest event of the month was our annual town hall, “Honoring the Legacy of Black Muslims.” I am proud to say that this was our biggest town hall to date and one of the most successful events Emgage has put on.
We had an amazing lineup of speakers: Rahmah Abdulaleem, Edward Ahmed Mitchell, Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, Judge Fatima El-Amin, Maryum Ali, Sharif El-Mekki, Dr. Safiyya Shabazz, Imam Talib Shareef, Dr. Yusef Salaam, Karega Bailey, and Omar Regan.
These individuals come from the fields of advocacy, law, athletics, education, medicine, and the arts. The event was fascinating, informative, and inspiring, and I want to thank the speakers and all our supporters for making it such a success.
We culminated the month with a Black History Month Leadership Lunch in Washington, D.C., where we brought community members, activists, and elected officials together to network and celebrate our accomplishments.
Our brilliant keynote speaker, Raheemah Abdulaleem, General Counsel and Special Assistant to the President, shared inspiring words and led a room full of Black Muslims in singing Wilmore Minkah Sadiki’s “I’m a little Muslim chiiiild.” This was a perfect way to end the month: … With a moment of close community and reflection.
I am proud to have led such important events and programs throughout the month – but celebrating the excellence of Black Muslims goes beyond February 1-28. This should be a daily celebration. We should continue to foster a society in which Black Muslims are supported and empowered and are recognized fully for their leadership and accomplishments.
(Salima Suswell serves as National Senior Advisor and Pennsylvania Executive Director for Emgage, the nation’s largest Muslim American civic engagement organization. She is a nationally-renowned leader in advocacy and policy initiatives. Salima is a member of Masjidullah mosque in Philadelphia. She is a wife, mother, and daughter of prominent leaders Majeedah Rashid and the late Imam Asim Abdur-Rashid (Rahimahullah). She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)