SACRAMENTO – Marking Black History month, a California university hosted a panel of Muslim speakers who share their stories about being black and Muslim in today’s America.
“Ideas about Islam are painted with too broad a brush,” Humanities professor William Zangeneh-Lester said, explaining that most people don’t hear the full story of Islam and just hear the bad, The American River, student’s newspaper, reported on Tuesday, February 14.
“We’re trying to not essentialize Islam,” he added. This means that we are not trying to generalize Islam and its followers.
Professor Zangeneh-Lester was speaking at the start of the event hosted last February 9 at American River College’s Center for Teaching and Learning.
The event, “I am Black and I am Muslim,” aimed to educate about Islam.
The panelists, who were both black and Muslims, included poet-songwriter Adrian Jasper, Muhammad Saifullah, a Council on American Islamic Relations member, Yusuf Ali, a retired chaplain with the California Youth Correctional Facility and travel writer, and Parrish Geary, ARC’s dean of Student Services.
The panelists were offered a chance to share stories on how they became Muslims.
“Islam brought order to my life. It gave me guidance,” said Jasper, explaining that the structured religion helped her when life seemed chaotic.
Later on, Zangeneh-Lester asked questions, including one asking about a moment where the panelists experienced their faith.
Geary explained that he experiences his faith daily because he prays five times a day. Those times that he prays, Geary said, he’s saying thank you for every moment he’s in.
The panelists were also asked about a time in their life that they experienced doubt for their religion.
“We wouldn’t be human without doubt. You continue to pray and continue to hope for the best,” Geary said.
“Faith is an uncertainty but it’s what keeps you going,” Ali said.
The event was held as America marks Black History Month in February.
Black History Month, also known as African-American History Month, is an annual occasion in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom for remembrance of important people and events in the history of the African diaspora.
It is celebrated annually in the United States and Canada in February, and the United Kingdom in October.