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Black History

Celebrate Black History Month: Africana Muslim conference

NASHVILLE PRIDE — From 1926 until the current date, contributions made by African American Muslims are rarely discussed in celebration of Black History Month.

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By Wanda Clay

As we go into the month of February, many events will be held in an effort to celebrate what is known as ‘Black History Month.’ On Saturday, February 9, the third annual Africana Muslim conference will be held from 9 am-6 pm at the Muslim American Cultural Center, 1513 Jefferson Street in Nashville.

From 1926 until the current date, contributions made by African American Muslims are rarely discussed in celebration of Black History Month. Therefore, the sponsors of this event, the African Muslim Association of Nashville (AMAN) and Muslim American Cultural Association (MACA) have come together as a Pan African framework to create a study of Africana to “reclaim that which is lost,” as a part of the celebration of ‘African American History Month 2019.’

As the theme denotes, ‘Muslim Youth are Our Future in the World Community,’ and equipping our youth with the education of Black heritage is the focal point of this conference. However, adults can also benefit from learning. Carter G. Woodson started Negro History Week in 1926, and African Americans then began to celebrate a whole month with Black History Month.

“When African American Month began, people talked about Muhammad Ali,” said Amari Al Hadid, founder of The Great Debate series and coordinator of the conference. “But that was Ali not Islam. They talked about Malcolm, but that’s Malcolm, a Black nationalist. This conference is about the Africans that were captured in tribal wars, were put in ships and brought here as prisoners of war. At least 25% of the African Americans brought here were Muslims. So when do we talk about that 25%? Approximately 10% of contemporary African Americans practice Islam. We know about Kunta Kinte, but we want to bring attention to Prince Abdul Rahman Ibn Ibrahima from West Africa.”

Al Hadid and the conference developers are excited about the youth participation during the second half of the conference. Young people from elementary, middle and high schools will participate in a competition where they will recite chapters of the Quaran. About 20 students of the Bantu Community Center Weekend School will participate. They have committed the Quaran to memory, some more than half and some the entire 114 chapters. The students will also participate in a Quiz Bowl that will help in learning and understanding Muslims of African decent in the Western and Eastern hemispheres as well as on the African Continent. These students are from East Africa, Bantu, and Samoles.

While some are from refugee camps, we want our brothers and sisters from the ‘mother land’ to know us, and we want to know them because they are what we used to be. Kunta Kente was brought here as a Mandigo warrior, and he was stripped of who he was by changing his name, beaten and tortured. Why? The European kidnappers actually understood the power of Islam.”

This third year conference will consist of a ‘Great Debate,’ as well as including: Nobel Drew Ali; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz; ‘Prince Among Slaves,’ a tribute to Prince Abdul Rahman Ibn Ibrahima Sori (1762-1829) from Futa Jallon, Guinea, West Africa; Quarani Recitation Contest among students enrolled in Bantu Community Center Weekend School; Africana Muslim Quiz Bowl by Middle and High school students, Bantu Community Center Weekend School and an African Marketplace.

Email greatdebateuniverse@gmail.com for more information.

This article originally appeared in the Nashville Pride

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Black History

Arthur Bertram Cuthbert Walker II: A Space Science Inspiration for Generations

For young Arthur Bertram Cuthbert Walker II (1936–2001), the only love in his future was science. Born in Cleveland, his family relocated to Bronx, NY. It was there that he, with the support of his parents, would begin studying what would direct his future.
Arthur first attended an elementary school of which his mother, Hilda Walker, disapproved.

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Arthur Bertram Cuthbert Walker II/ Wiki

For young Arthur Bertram Cuthbert Walker II (1936–2001), the only love in his future was science. Born in Cleveland, his family relocated to Bronx, NY. It was there that he, with the support of his parents, would begin studying what would direct his future.
Arthur first attended an elementary school of which his mother, Hilda Walker, disapproved. Teachers there, she alleged, left their classrooms throughout the day to run personal errands. She soon had Arthur transferred to a school outside of their district, where he began to blossom as a student.
It was a combination of the library and his science-related studies that defined Arthur’s goal: to study the universe like Albert Einstein. His mother began to work with him to prepare for the Bronx High School of Science entrance exam. But not everyone would embrace him as a thriving, ambitious student.
While attending high school, his first interest was chemistry. His teacher though, did his best to discourage him from studying any genre of science because “the prospects for Blacks in science were bleak.” Hilda Walker again stepped in, warning the teacher to back off, adding that her son would study whatever he pleased.
By the end of high school, physics had won Arthur’s heart. Hilda then encouraged him to apply to the Case Institute of Technology (now part of Case Western Reserve University) in Cleveland. 
There he earned a bachelor’s degree in physics with honors in 1957, and master’s (1958) and doctorate (1962) degrees at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
After completing his education, Walker joined the Air Force as 1st lieutenant. He was assigned to the weapons laboratory, where he developed instrumentation for a rocket-launched satellite to measure Van Allen belt radiation in Earth’s magnetic field. This opportunity and exposure piqued his interest in space-based research.
Post military (1965), Walker joined the Space Physics laboratory of the Aerospace Corporation in Southern California. There, he began investigating the sun’s atmosphere, first at ultraviolet wavelengths, and then X-rays, using rocket-launched instruments.
In the late 1970s, Walker became interested in multilayer technology for making special telescope mirrors that could reflect that radiation. At that time, it was thought to be “a risky and untested concept.” 
Technology he researched and helped develop then is now in wide use, and is aboard two major NASA satellites: the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory and the Transition Region and Coronal Explorer.
He also became a professor in the Applied Physics department at Stanford University in 1974.
One of nation’s top scientists in solar research, Walker shot innovative telescopes into space, giving scientists a view of the sun they had never seen before, and from 1987, developed telescopes that have ridden satellites into space, capturing the first pictures of that corona.
Walker spent his lifetime helping women and minority students find careers in science. This resulted in Stanford having more minority graduate physics and applied physics students than any major research university in the country.
Walker died of cancer at his home at Stanford University in 2001.

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Black History

Ambassador Ruth A. Davis Pioneered Diversity in Foreign Service

UC Berkeley Grad Continues to Bring International Economic Empowerment for Women

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Ambassador Ruth A. Davis (left) is meeting with Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

Ambassador Ruth A. Davis was recently named as a distinguished alumna by the School of Social Welfare at the University of California, Berkeley. 

She also has been honored by the U.S. State Department when a conference room at the Foreign Service Institute in Virginia was named in honor of her service as director of the Institute. She was the first African American to serve in that position.

Davis, a graduate of Spelman College received a master’s degree from UC Berkeley in 1968.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee, also a graduate of the School of Social Welfare, now chairs the House Appropriations Committee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs. She praised Ambassador Davis as “a trailblazing leader and one of the great American diplomats of our time. Over her 40-year career, she had so many ‘firsts’ on her resume: the first Black director of the Foreign Service Institute, the first Black woman Director General of the Foreign Service, and the first Black woman to be named a Career Ambassador, to name just a few.

“She served all over the world, from Kinshasa to Tokyo to Barcelona, where she was consul general, and to Benin, where she served as ambassador,” Lee continued. “ I am so proud of her many accomplishments. She has represented the best of America around the world, and our world is a better place because of her service.”

During Davis’ 40-year career in the Foreign Service, she also served as chief of staff in the Africa Bureau, and as distinguished advisor for international affairs at Howard University. She retired in 2009 as a Career Ambassador, the highest-level rank in Foreign Service.

Since her retirement, Ambassador Davis has served as the chair (and a founding member) of the International Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge (IWEC), an organization devoted to promoting women’s economic empowerment by creating an international network of businesswomen.

She also chairs the selection committee for the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship at Howard University’s Ralph Bunche International Affairs Center, where she helps to oversee the annual selection process. Finally, as vice president of the Association of Black American Ambassadors, she participates in activities involving the recruitment, preparation, hiring, retention, mentoring and promotion of minority Foreign Service employees.

Gay Plair Cobb, former Regional Administrator of the Women’s Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor in the Atlanta, and San Francisco offices, was Ambassador Davis’ roommate at UC Berkeley. Cobb said, “Ruth always exhibited outstanding leadership and a determined commitment to fairness, equal opportunity and activism, which we engaged in on a regular basis.”

Davis has received the Department of State’s Superior Honor Award, Arnold L. Raphel Memorial Award and Equal Employment Opportunity Award; the Secretary of State’s Achievement Award (including from Gen. Colin Powell); the Director General’s Foreign Service Cup; two Presidential Distinguished Service Awards; and Honorary Doctor of Laws from Middlebury and Spelman Colleges.

A native of Atlanta, Davis was recently named to the Economist’s 2015 Global Diversity List as one of the Top 50 Diversity Figures in Public Life and is the recipient of the American Foreign Service Association’s Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy Award.

 

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Black History

Ruth Carol Taylor: Breaking the Sky-High Ceiling

During a 1997 interview with Jet magazine, Taylor described herself as a “blacktivist,” and admitted that she had “no long-term career aspirations as a flight attendant but only wanted to break the color barrier.”

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Ruth Carol Taylor. Fair Use Photo

It was the 1950s. The United States had been dubbed “the world’s strongest military power.” The economy was booming. Jobs were overflowing; housing was plentiful. But for Black Americans, racism was on fire, the Civil Rights Movement was gaining speed, and the best-paying jobs were for whites.

The airlines were no exception.

None of this stopped Ruth Carol Taylor (1931–), a journalist and nurse from New York City, from submitting her application to Trans World Airlines (TWA) for the position of airline stewardess (known today as flight attendants).

Her application was rejected almost immediately because she “did not meet the airline’s physical standards.”

Stewardesses, at the time, were selected because of their physical attractiveness and height/weight conformity. But the decision made to reject Taylor’s application was racially motivated. She filed a discrimination complaint with the New York State Commission and approached other airlines offering the position.

Mohawk Airlines, a regional passenger airline operating in the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S., mainly in New York and Pennsylvania, began advertising open positions for stewardesses. The company also announced the open recruitment of Black women. More than 800 applied, and Taylor became one of the new hires. This made her the first African-American airline flight attendant in the US. It was 1958.

When asked about being the only Black hire, Taylor said that she believes it was “due to nearly white-passing skin and features.” She completed her training in early 1959 and was ready to take on her first flight.

After a few months, TWA, threatened by the lawsuit, brought its first Black stewardess onboard: Margaret Grant.

A short time later though, Taylor was grounded. She was let go from Mohawk on another discriminatory practice: she met and married Rex Legall and was forced to resign from her position. A ban against stewardesses being married or pregnant was not uncommon at that time.

Due to the decisive court case of Diaz vs. Pan Am., the no-marriage rule was eliminated throughout the US airline industry by the 1980s.

Taylor and Legall traveled and lived abroad for a few years. After their divorce, Taylor, in 1977, returned to New York City and nursing.

Best known for breaking the color barrier in the airline industry, Taylor was also an activist for minority and women’s rights. In 1963, she covered the March on Washington as a journalist for a British magazine, Flamingo.

By 1977, she began to focus more on her work as an activist. In 1982, she cofounded the Institute for Inter-Racial Harmony Inc. There she developed testing designed to measure racial bias in educational, commercial, and social settings.

During a 1997 interview with Jet magazine, Taylor described herself as a “blacktivist,” and admitted that she had “no long-term career aspirations as a flight attendant but only wanted to break the color barrier.”

Today she lives in Brooklyn.

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