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Black History Month events link Muslim, African American communities

By Debra J. White –

The Children of Adam lecture series, which celebrates Black History Month and its relationship to Islam, ended on Saturday, February 11, at the Tempe History Museum. After Magrib prayer, Zarinah Nadir welcomed guests and outlined the evening’s agenda that included a panel discussion offering personal insights from the civil rights era.

Nadir also stressed the importance of good relations within the Islamic community and read a Surah from the Qur’an to emphasize her point: “Made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other (not that you may despise each other).”

Dr. Aneesah Nadir (Zarinah’s mother), a retired professor and social worker, is president of Islamic Social Services, a national organization and sponsor of the lecture series. Nadir delivered a brief talk about African Americans and their connection to the Nation of Islam, which was founded in1930 by Elijah Muhammad, as well as the origins of the Children of Adam. In 1999, Dr. Nadir attended an Islamic social services conference in Virginia. Issues discussed included diversity training, handbooks for non-Muslim professionals and the importance of intra-community relations. The Children of Adam resulted from that conference.

The audience was then treated to a short play called Let Us Leave, written and directed by retired educator, actress and playwright Bayyinah K. Muhammad, who promotes a better understanding of Islam through the arts. The play showed how institutional racism affects African Americans and gave examples of the many contributions that African Americans have made to our society.

A panel of older men and women then discussed their personal and often disturbing experiences during the 1950s and 1960s. A former U.S. Marine, dressed in uniform, was forced to leave an off-base Christian church because of his race. An older African American woman raised in the South was brought up to always know her place around whites, which meant being subservient and taking a seat at the back of the bus. A white panelist, this writer, recalled the vestiges of segregation she witnessed as a child visiting her late mother’s relatives in rural Alabama from her home in New York City.

Other discussions included collaborations with the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Arizona, the Muslim Students Association at Arizona State University and the Islamic Community Center in Tempe. Topics included women’s empowerment and community engagement. There was one at the Scottsdale Mosque, one at ASU and one at ICC in Tempe.

Dr. Nadir says the overall goal of the Children of Adam series is to reclaim lessons from the past and to use them in today’s turbulent times to effect positive change. “I’m proud of all who attended and took part in the series. We look forward to next year’s Black History Month.”

Black History Month was started as Negro History Week in 1926 by the late historian Carter Woodson. In the 1970s it became Black History Month, a celebration of African American contributions to science, history, sports, medicine, literature, entertainment, education, politics and more.

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