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The FYI’s Uplifting Black Muslim Youth Toolkit

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.-Fredrick Douglass

Strong, Black, Muslim, and Proud!

We aim to nurture healthy, thriving children who are joyful, curious and engage with the world with confidence. In order to support this effort and recognizing that racial inequities persist in our society The Family & Youth Institute has published 1), a new book, Uplifting Black Muslim Youth: A Positive Youth Development Approach and 2), this Uplifting Black Muslim Youth Toolkit.

A fifth of the American Muslim population is made up of Black Muslims and it is time for the research and resources to reflect this fact. These resources recognize that our American Muslim communities are varied and the issues we face and the needs we have are unique. While we have gathered a lot of resources, we know there are some topics missing and perhaps better resources exist that we are unaware of.  If you have a suggestion or a comment please share here.

This toolkit was developed by Sameera Ahmed Ph.D., Madiha Tahseen, Ph.D., Rasheed Shabazz, B.A, and was designed by Sarrah AbuLughod, M.A.

We would also like to thank our panel of reviewers: Fanta Doumbia, M.S.W; Sh. Ali Suleiman Ali, Ph.D.; Nandee Shabazz, B.A.; Malika Abdurrahman, M.A.; Aamal Abdul Malik, M.A.; Hanan Hashem, M.A.; Nadeem Siddiqi, Ph.D., Muneer Khalid M.A.; Ustd Zaynab Ansari and the generous support from Islamic Relief.

Resources for Non-Black Individuals & Communities

This section was designed to support non-Black individuals who are sincerely looking for tools and guidance to help increase their understanding of race, systematic injustices and implicit bias (among many other topics) in order to support Black Muslim youth. This section is filled with articles, tools, and resources to help you begin or continue your journey towards taking a deeper look at the structures that make up our society and directly impact how we view and treat Black individuals. 

Is there a resource or topic you think should be added? If so, please fill out this survey to improve better resources for our communities.

 

Get Educated

“I believe in the brotherhood of man, all men, but I don’t believe in brotherhood with anybody who doesn’t want brotherhood with me. I believe in treating people right, but I’m not going to waste my time trying to treat somebody right who doesn’t know how to return the treatment.”
 – Malcolm X (El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz)

Black Muslim youth, like their communities, are diverse in their experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds. They may live in rural, suburban, or urban communities and may be the only Muslim or surrounded by Muslims. Some have been Muslims for generations in tightly knit Muslim communities with deep knowledge and practice of Islam, while others may have only recently converted to Islam and are growing in their knowledge. Black Muslims are rich in diversity and experience. It is important for non-Black members of the community to understand the richness and variety that exists in order to appreciate Black Muslim cultures and avoid continuing to perpetuate stereotypes and narratives of a monolithic community.

1.Understanding Color Blindness. Many non-Black Muslims do not understand why it is essential to talk about race or why the concept of color blindness is harmful. Also, you should learn why it is hurtful to question the need for the Black Lives Matter movement to exist.

2. Anti-Blackness. Anti-Black racism is pervasive among many of our Muslim communities and impacts everyday life. The impact hurts individuals and communities through education discrimination, housing (historical) discrimination, wealth accumulation imbalance,  and health (historical and current) disparities. Despite Islam’s prohibition, anti-Blackness is rampant in Muslim spaces.

3. Types of Racism. There are many different types of racism that exist. The more hidden, but destructive forms of racism that maintain it in society are institutional and structural racism. 

4. Recognize. While the 13th Amendment abolished slavery, loopholes were created to continue subjugation and have resulted in mass incarceration. Mass incarceration has a disproportionately negative impact on Black communities and is a Muslim issue.

5. Reflect. Everyone carries implicit bias that impacts how you see and interact with the world around you. Inaccurate concepts, such as meritocracy, have become internalized and impact how we see the world. As a result, you can be against racism and still be racist

6. Microaggressions. Unrecognized anti-Black bias (conversation) is more common than you think! Non-Black people engage in racial microaggressions every day, not realizing the impact it has on the other person and how our actions perpetuate inequities

7. Hurt. Microaggressions result in racial stress and have physical, emotional, spiritual, and social impacts. Common examples of microaggressions experienced by Black Muslim youth are shared in the #BlackMuslims speak series (Nurrideen, Gareth, Nabintou, Mohamed, Vanessa, Ousainoue, Tesay, Seynabou, Ganiyat, Malaz). Additional examples are shared by Muslims in Britain and Canada. Black Muslims may react to non-Black Muslim’s microaggressions in varying ways.

8. Commit. Resist racism! Learn the difference between being “not racist” and anti-racism. Make sure to step up to the issue and step back to understand. Start by learning to listen and being a more thoughtful ally. Commit to becoming an accomplice and a co-conspirator

9. Privilege. When working to uplift the Black Muslim youth, acknowledge your bias, check your privilege and avoid engaging in behaviors of white fragility–all of which are behaviors that non-Black Muslims of Color engage in as well.  Leverage your privilege and work towards change. In this process, it is inevitable that you will make mistakes. When you do, learn from pious predecessors on how to admit mistakes and keep on trying. 

10. Racial Bias. Reflect on your language. Is Blackness ever used in a derogatory manner (e.g. “That’s so ghetto,” “don’t get darker,” “good hair,” etc.)? Do you exhibit implicit bias? Take the racial implicit bias test. Or take the internalized racism inventory to see if you have unintentionally internalized oppression. If so, read on to see what you can do about it!

11. Remember. Move past using Bilal (RA) as the token Muslim Companion. Remember that African Muslims played a central role in Islam. They are referred to in the Qur’an, African Muslims have contributed to Islam from the very beginning (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4). They were among the first to convert to Islam (Umm Ayman), to sacrifice their life (Sumayyah bint Khayat), to protect Muslim refugees (i.e. Ashama ibn Abjar, King of Abyssinia, also referred to as Negus), as well as many other companions that held important roles in the religious and government affairs. 

12. Learn. Black Muslim history is American Muslim history. Understand how and why American society has created binary identities that have resulted in the erasure of Black Muslim identity. Listen to Black perspectives on issues to better understand Black Muslim experiences. Become a member of MuslimArc, gain access to anti-racism educational resources, and learn about efforts within the Muslim community. 

13. Commit. Commit to change. You need to engage to understand and appreciate differences in cultures. Develop meaningful relationships, by inviting each other over, especially during Ramadan and on Eids. Commit to including Black Muslim voices, experiences, and perspectives. Given that we are greatly influenced by racism in society, we are very likely to engage in racist behaviors. When this happens, acknowledge, apologize, and make amends.  

14. Resist. If microaggressions or racist incidents occur in your presence, resist and serve as racial transformers. When you see racist interaction, label it and do something about it. When trying to support efforts, make sure to reflect and avoid contributing to the problem in attempting to support it. Constantly seek to learn more deeply about others’ experiences and realities. Re-examine your thoughts and actions, be willing to admit when mistakes are made and make amends.

15. Change agents. In order to reduce Anti-Black racism, non-Blacks need to interrupt racism in a family gathering, at work, in social environments. We must hold leaders and institutions accountable for reducing inequities and collectively work with others to bring systematic change.

Empowering Non-Black Parents

“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.”
-Maya Angelou

1. Accountability. Parents are responsible for children’s character development, which includes awareness of racial inequities, social injustice, and oppression. Be intentional in your actions and efforts in order to be successful. 

2. Educate. Teach children about racism. Highlight for them their implicit bias, and work together to undo the racism that has been internalized. Help them recognize the need for cultural humility, openness to others’ experiences and perspectives. Model by example that the journey to purify our egos against racial bias and arrogance is one that may take a lifetime of self-reflection, correction, and action.

3. Teamwork. It takes a village to raise a child. As non-Black parents who are members of the village, recognize your responsibilities to be part of the solution, beyond your child. Try to learn from and understand Black Muslim youth and about their parent’s realities and concerns. Incorporate this awareness as you parent your children as well as when interacting with your Black friend’s children as well.

4. Village. Be a part of Black Muslim parents’ villages. Respectfully participate in religious, cultural, educational and social events in primarily Black Muslim spaces. Share your love, provide support, and help their children with racially positive affirmations to support their identity.

5. Legacy. At least one-third of enslaved Africans who were kidnapped and brought to America were Muslims. Again, Black Muslim history is American Muslim history. As non-Black parents, we must educate our children and help them identify with a rich legacy of resistance, perseverance, and resilience despite the oppression experienced. 

6. Talk. Have conversations about race with your children during everyday interactions repeatedly over time. Watch videos and movies that promote conversations about race. Help them identify, discuss and take action against racial injustice.

7. Representation Matters. Intentionally expose non-Black children to positive Black images to counter the negative messages they may internalize from society. Read children’s books that center Black Muslim experiences, comparing similarities and differences, while appreciating each experience. Inspire your children by sharing with them the examples of many Black Muslim role models and leaders from past and present.

8. Religious Socialization. In addition to introducing children to African religious figures mentioned in the Quran, companions of the Prophet and early in Islamic history, it is important to also instill in the religious obligation for social justice in theory as well as action.

9. Action. Teach children to be change agents. Coach them on what to do if they see or hear racism taking place. Point out opportunities to engage in acts of kindness. Model participation in local efforts to reduce disparities and involve your children too! Share with them news about peers making a difference to help inspire them to engage in change.

10. Experience. Visit museums, especially those that share Black Muslim history (e.g.the American Islamic Museum and the International Museum of Muslim Cultures). Take family trips that highlight the struggle and sacrifices of the past generation, by visiting Underground railroad sites, Sapelo Island, and former plantations. Help children connect with Black Muslim history experientially and gain a deeper insight into the struggles, resistance, and attempts to liberate by Black Muslim ancestors.

Non-Black Mosque-Based Interventions

“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you.”
– Quran (49:13)

Some of the most painful experiences for Black Muslims occur in Muslim spaces. How can Black Muslim youth thrive in such conditions? This section is intended for non-Black Muslims who want to change this reality by working to create affirming and inclusive spaces and programming in mosques. It will be challenging to change the culture, institutional norms, and practices. . . but it must be done in order to follow the Prophetic legacy.  


Institutions

1. Recognize. Organizational racism exists in the mosque and Muslim organizations. Acknowledge the need to build mosques that are culturally competent and work towards greater racial equity. Start the process of cultural change.

2. Prepare. Start preparing for needed organizational changes. Assess organizational culture and conduct a social audit of how attendees connect with each other. 

3. Assess. Identify anti-Blackness in the mosque by conducting a needs assessment (Toolkit) and obtain feedback from Black Muslim congregants in your community, while consulting with experts.  Make sure to use racially inclusive practices and resources in the process.

4. Develop. Know where you are going and what needs to change. Develop a model for change and work to re-align operations and processes.

5. Plan. Develop a committed team to work towards meaningful, systematic, actionable community change with an action plan to address anti-Black bias with an oversight committee.  

6. Culture change.  Recruit congregation members who can serve as allies towards the path of change. Advocate and monitor efforts and evaluate the plan’s effectiveness.

7. Educate.  Organize regular community-wide programming to raise awareness of the prevalence of racism within Muslim spaces and their programming. Facilitate community conversations on oppression, intergenerational trauma, ongoing institutionalized racism, and anti-Black experiences. Explore the presence and impact of colonialism and colorism on congregants’ biases, beliefs, and actions. Use interactive activities to motivate mosque attendees to work towards dismantling inequities in Muslim spaces as well as in broader society. 

8. Engage. Make sure Black Muslim congregants are engaged and involved throughout the planning, execution, evaluation and institutionalization process. However, do not put the burden of responsibility for change on them. If their enthusiasm and engagement decrease, perhaps they may be exhausted from the unintended microaggressions experienced by those they are working with. If that is the case, stop, reflect on your actions, and have a conversation.

9. Cultural competency. Mosque Boards, religious leadership, staff, and volunteers must increase their cultural competency skills. Be clear on what that means to the organization and why it’s important, organizationally as well as spiritually. Mosque staff and volunteers should participate in regular anti-racism trainings and continuing education. When providing religious scholarly rulings (fatawa) for Black Muslim congregants, religious leaders should consult with Black Muslim religious scholars to ensure cultural norms (‘urf) and realities are taken into account. 

10. Recruit. Inclusive spaces have mosque congregants’ experiences reflected in leadership. Recruit and retain Black Muslim staff and volunteers to ensure Black Muslim voices are represented in mosque leadership.

11. Skills. Empower mosque congregants with important skills to help make change both within mosque spaces and in society. Practice how to be an active bystander when racism occurs. Invite organizations like the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative for educational trainings. In addition, provide community organizing trainings in order to equip congregants with the ability to organize towards social change.

12. Visual reminders. Help mosque congregants create safer spaces. Provide visual cues by printing posters on microaggression and addressing racism

13. Spiritual reminders. Regular spiritual reminders are needed in mosque settings. Imams and speakers should throughout the year highlight Qur’anic and early historical contributions (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)(not just in Black History month). Imams should use Jummah Khutba (Friday Sermons) and religious programming to contextualize anti-racism efforts as a matter of faith. Using the feedback from the needs assessment, highlight specific examples of racism within the congregation to help congregants identify their biases and mend their ways. 

14. Explore. Educate the congregational community about African Muslim religious figures, scholarship, perspectives, and practices. Affirm and represent Black Muslim culture in programming and social events. Encourage congregants to be more inclusive in their social interactions, especially during religious holidays and seasons. Encourage the entire community to understand and become more proactive in supporting Black Muslim youth.

15. Activism. As congregants increase their awareness of social justice issues, encourage them to join local and national social justice efforts. Regularly share information and opportunities to support local efforts. Mobilize congregants to demonstrate against injustice, apply pressure to city officials, knock on doors and educate neighbors, etc. to help make a difference in our local communities. 


Youth Programming

1. Youth Centered. As adults in the community, we must recognize our critical role in nurturing young people and creating safe environments. It’s important for adults to understand American Muslim youth, in particular, Black Muslim youth, and recognize the challenges and opportunities. This knowledge can be used to make the mosque more youth-friendly, more welcoming and inclusive, and help adults connect with young people.

2. Training. Require mosque leaders, staff, and volunteers to attend professional training on youth development and anti-racism training. Open these trainings to parents so there are more individuals working to uplift our children.

3. Youth Model. Create an empowering model to engage youth so they become change agents. Develop a leadership pipeline and help young people realize they can make an impact.

4. Mentors. Mentors must understand Black Muslim youth development, intentionally help to strengthen their identity, and share Black Muslim history as American Muslim history.  In addition, ensure non-Black Muslim youth are inclusive in their interactions and that Black youth voices and experiences are heard. 

5. Safe spaces. Given the prevalence of racism within non-Black Muslim spaces, it’s important for youth mentors to recognize that Black Muslim youth have likely experienced anti-Black racism within Muslim spaces. Therefore, it is important to take extra steps to ensure that youth programming is a psychologically safe space. 

6. Acknowledge. In order to create safe spaces, youth programs should discuss racism within the Muslim community as well as pervasiveness in society. Highlight common examples of microaggressions by sharing in the #BlackMuslims speak series (Nurrideen, Gareth, Nabintou, Mohamed, Vanessa, Ousainoue, Tesay, Seynabou, Ganiyat, Malaz) as well as share the examples from Muslims in Britain and Canada to highlight the global phenomenon.

For Black Muslim youth congregants, an acknowledgment of their everyday fight against microaggression and associated exhaustion can be affirming. For non-Black Muslim youth, it can raise awareness of how they may unknowingly be the source of microaggressions and work towards changing their behaviors and serving as allies. Even if there are no Black Muslim youth participating in the youth programs, these issues must be addressed.

7. Needs.  Conduct a needs assessment in order to better understand what young people in your congregation need to create safe spaces where they can thrive. Identify issues that may need to be explored (e.g. history, racism, bias, colorism, meritocracy, intersectionality, colonialism, etc), spiritual concepts that may need to be nurtured (e.g. dismantling arrogance, purification of the soul, muhasaba, etc), as well as skills that need to be developed to bring about change (e.g. community organizing, personal development, time management, etc.)  

8. Prophetic Principles.  Youth programming should include spiritual reminders that integrate topics of social justice in Islam, highlight Qur’anic and early historical contributions of Black Muslims (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4), along with addressing the arrogance associated with anti-Black racism and steps to enact change

9. Engage. Youth mentors should engage young people in activities that address racism. Watch movies/documentaries that examine social injustices, discuss impact as well as identify what young people can do (e.g. When they see us, 13th) Channel their energy by encouraging young people to get involved in local efforts to make an impact. 

10. Skills. Teach young people skills, such as how to address racism when they see it. Have regular skill-building trainings (e.g. personal development, community organizing, digital organizing, etc.) to enhance their abilities to be change agents. Partner with local and national organizations so that young people can actively use these skills to effect change.


Black Muslim Children in Schools

“Education is the most powerful weapon which one can use to change the world.”
-Nelson Mandela

As educators, we are entrusted with the responsibility of helping our students be the best that they can possibly be! This includes proactive discussion, creating opportunities for growth and even advocacy with their best interests in mind. This section will help you accomplish this (and more!) by providing resources for the different stakeholders involved in promoting Black Muslim youth development in schools.

School-wide

1. Recognize. Black student achievement is related to the pervasiveness of structural and institutional inequities. Recognize that if schools do not actively address racial disparities, they are continuing the systemic oppression of Black Muslim students.

2. Understand. Black Muslim students are developing in a complex socio-political environment which must be understood in order to promote their development. Due to bias, many educators may not realize their Black students may also be Muslim. They may hide their religious identity due to Islamophobia. Therefore, it is important to approach learning about each student with cultural humility given the diversity that exists among students.

3. Self-reflection. Understand that non-Black educators are benefactors of white privilege. Identify and acknowledge your implicit bias and reflect on how you may grow in order to better support your students. 

4. School leadership. School administration must exhibit initiative in addressing disparities by engaging in culturally responsive school leadership practices that increase the knowledge and skills of teachers and help promote student development.

5. Audit. We know racial disparities exist–but how do they look at your specific school? Conduct a school equity audit to learn where your gaps exist and what you can do about it!

6. Promote. Social and emotional development should be promoted through a racial equity lens. Be mindful of the words we use in the classroom because they can inspire change or disconnection.

7. Hire. Students need to see a reflection of themselves in the school staff around them. Teacher diversity impacts students’ learning ability and achievement. It is important to hire staff that is reflective of the student body. However, recognize that there is often bias in the hiring process. Once hired, it is also important to retain them.

8. School Culture. For Black Muslim youth to thrive, schools must create positive school culture (detailed report here and additional resources). Issues, such as dress code infractions, should be reconsidered. Greater focus and effort should be placed on creating emotionally safe spaces for students and pro-active bullying prevention efforts.

9. Learn. Creating a positive school culture requires educators, staff, coaches to be familiar with Black Muslim student’s realities. Gain knowledge about the inspiring history of Black Muslim students and their diverse cultures. Integrate history throughout the curriculum to increase their connection to classroom material and strengthen their identity. 

10. Build relationships. Invest in building positive relationships with students. Get to know them by asking questions. See their potential, verbalize expectations for success and encourage them to be the best that they can.

11. Discipline. When students wrong another, engage in restorative justice, rather than relying on punitive methods. 

12. Accommodate. Be aware of student’s religious beliefs, acknowledge and celebrate racial and religious holidays, and make religious accommodations.

13. Support. Provide students with academic and emotional support, mental health resources, and address obstacles that prevent academic success (e.g. information barriers to college).

14. Recognize. In school settings where Black Muslim youth are a minority, make sure to listen to their experiences and make changes in the school culture in order to help them thrive.

15. Parents. Engage parents by making the school more welcoming, reaching out and viewing them as partners. Help them recognize their power and support them in making positive changes in order to better meet their children’s needs.

In The Classroom

1. Recognize. Understand and recognize what Black parents want you to know when they entrust their child to you. Recognize that you will have biases and that part of our work as professionals is to do our homework.

2. Safe spaces. Work to promote equity and diversity in the classroom. Integrate anti-bias educational instructions in the classroom, even when they are in pre-school so that students feel they matter and belong.

3. Racism. We need to talk about race in the classroom. Discuss racism and the impact it has on individuals and society within the classroom. Use mini-films or books to help students talk about race, racism, and microaggressions within the classroom. Help peers understand what it’s like to grow up Black. When students or staff engage in microaggressions, take action!

4. Culturally responsive.  In order to be culturally responsive in the classroom, a systematic process may be helpful to tailor to your classroom’s unique needs. Recognize that resources used may change by developmental age (early childhood vs. high school).  Integrate Black Muslims throughout the curriculum (e.g. literature, history, math, social studies, etc.) and perspective throughout the year and across curriculums. However, when covering topics such as history, don’t begin with enslavement because there is more to Black history than enslavement! Be mindful of Black students in your classroom, especially when engaging in experiential activities that may be well-intentioned but may negatively impact them. 

5. Identity. Encourage activities and conversations, and support the development of a positive identity

6. Learning style. We all learn in different ways. Vary how you teach students, use multi-modal approaches, use cooperative learning, and integrate creativity and real-world skills in the classroom, so that each child gets a chance to shine.

Islamic Schools

In addition to the above recommendations for public schools, the following are suggestions for non-Black Islamic schools. 

1. School Climate. Listen to the experiences of Black Muslim youth’s experiences in Islamic schools. Understand their reality. Recognize that Anti-Black racism is prevalent in Islamic schools and change must happen in order to promote Black Muslim students. 

2. Acknowledge Anti-Black Racism. While we may be against racism, our behaviors may unintentionally be racist because we are a product of our society. Acknowledge your unconscious bias. Anti-Black racism training is essential in order to identify our racial biases, change institutional processes, and create a safer environment to promote Black Muslim youth development.

3. Understanding Race. While staff may share a religious identity, they are often not as familiar with the intersection of racial and religious identities. It is therefore important to learn and  appreciate Black Muslim religious and cultural experiences, and the need to uplift and celebrate Black Muslimness.

4. Recognize. Black Muslims have contributed from the beginning of Islam, have deep roots in Africa, and have built America. Black Muslim history is rich and an integral part of American history and should be taught as such.

5. Islamic Studies. Islamic schools should integrate social justice into their curriculum, highlight the Qur’an’s mention of African Muslims, and early historical contributions of Black Muslims (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4). African Muslim scholar’s thoughts and perspectives should be introduced to students to increase student’s awareness of this rich history in Islam. In addition, teachers should address the negative ramifications of arrogance and how it is the reason for the presence of anti-Black racism. Finally, provide students ideas and opportunities to enact change

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