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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Essence Magazine's Bold Erasure of Black Muslim Women






A couple of days ago Essence magazine released a stunning new cover for their 47th anniversary that features 12 amazing women who have used their voices, resources, and platforms to speak out against and change/interrupt  oppression through activism, art, and film. Some of the 12 notable women includes my personal favorite writer and producer Shonda Rhimes, social activist April Reign, Opal Tometi - cofounder of #BlackLivesMatter,  Sybrina Fulton - Trayvon Martin's mother and founder of Circle of Mothers, political commentator Angela Rye, Women's March co-chairs Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez, and our good sister and community activist Linda Sarsour in her hijab. The rallying theme of the magazine is: "100 Woke Women - How we rise up, speak out, and push the movement forward"! It's an epic cover because as far as I know, it's the first time Essence magazine has ever featured a Muslim woman in full Islamic hijab - rather than just a cultural head wrap!

So I am cheesing hard thinking I can't wait for this month's Essence to be dropped into my mail box (Ummi and I have been subscribers for many years). And yes, Linda Sarsour definitely deserves to be featured on the cover. 2016 and 2017 have been great years for our sister and we are proud of her. Happily, I watch the little video of some the honorees explaining what it means to each of them to "stay woke"! I am bobbing my head and Mmm hmming along as they mention sisterhood, love, and doing our part in our communities. It's all doable and needed encouragement. But then, hold up: I scroll down a little further on the page and these words jump out at me:



"Each woman talks about her role in the fight for Black liberation..."

Hold up! Slow down, they don't love you, like I love you, Muslim girl! I say to myself, self, is this article going to be focused on how each of these women are working to help black people get liberated in their black communities? Could have fooled me! I mean, there wasn't one Black American Muslim woman included on the cover. Why come? Historically, Black Muslim women have been fighting to liberate Black people since they dragged us off the slave boats (check the Book of Negroes)! Scroll back up, I tell myself. Someone spoke of Sisterhood? Another spoke of  Love? Boldly someone even mentioned intersectionality in the black community without acknowledging the perspective of the Black Muslimah! Ugh! I am beyond disappointment by Essence's erasure of Black Muslim women. I am dismayed and enraged.  Step down though and understand that by pointing out my disappointment and tiredness of the erasure of Black American Muslims in no way, shape, or form diminishes my love and support of other Muslim groups being included! 

See, this is a community problem among Black Americans. I can't blame no one but us for this mess. Ya'll know good and well a couple of folks up at Essence may very well have some Black Muslims in their family, friends they went to high school with, a husband, brother, or uncle who reverted to Islam while he was incarcerated - or those Muslim sisters in their  hood that they buy dinners from, have borrowed that Islamic name book from so they could see how to spell their baby Karim, Latifa, Amina, Jamilah, Imani or Malik!  Or they buy their fresh oils, shea butter, black soap, kufis, or those hijabs/scarves from your Muslim shopkeeper so you can look authentic during that Kwanzaa festival or Reggae concert.....and we see you, queens!

More importantly, Black women, you see us Black American Muslim women, too! You see us at work, at the daycare center, at the doctor's office, in the parks, at the hair salon and in the mall. We have shared parents and grandparents, recipes, red icees, jelly shoes, cassette tapes, cds, spouses, relaxers, brown gel,  milk, butter, sugar, hair grease, fears for our children - especially our sons, we sit on trains together, we correct directors/supervisors when they mispronounce either of our names, and we have such similar paths to cross - trials and tests!  Which is why when I look at that instantly classic Essence STAY WOKE cover and see all of those accomplished, amazing, hard-working, and intelligent black women who were selected to grace Essence magazine's cover come together, survey the room, spot one hijab from someone not from your family, your community, or from your journey and feel okay in your hearts and minds with your Black American Muslim sisters being excluded ...forgotten and overlooked, it's sobering. 

"Fox news is out of their mind," the black folks will say. "I am tired of media only showing those types of blacks," the black folks will say.  "We ain't all like that!" the black folks will say. 

I concur! But if we don't see each other and support and make space for each other, we all lose out. 

And check this out: the really sad part about this cover is that it is going to be dropped into thousands of black (how many Arab, Desi, Turkish, Kurdish subscribers does Essence have?) Muslim mailboxes with little black Muslim girls who will immediately spot our sister Linda Sarsour. They will smile, big and bright. "Look! Ummi she has a hijab on!" the little brown and black Muslim girls will exclaim excitedly. And then as they continue scan the cover and see all of the other melanated non-Muslim women of varying beautiful hues - without hijabs, it will hit them like a ton of bricks....

Essence magazine didn't want to include anyone who looks like me!

Stay woke, y'all! 

For a list of amazing, woke Black Muslim women making an impact in our communities and around the world, please check out on my blog, Be Inspired: Black Muslim Women Shine!

If you subscribe to Essence magazine, consider these simple actions:

1. Shoot them email about their erasure of Black American Muslim women
2. Tweet @Essence on Twitter with your views and disappointment
3. Write a blog about this issue
4. Create your own list of WOKE Black American Muslim women and circulate it on social media.
5. Open up and communicate with Muslim sisters in your community of other ethnicities about how we can support each other and truly become helpers and supporters of each other. Share what you learn with Essence magazine! 

Shout out to Steve Harvey for allowing Ibn Ali Miller to acknowledge his black Muslim mother for raising him to do the right thing on national television!