Sky Is Ours Banner.jpg

The Sky Is Ours:

A Self-Care Primer for Black Muslims

This self-care primer was written on July 6, 2016 (with an introductory reflection by Dr. Kameelah Rashad), following the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd have been killed by law enforcement and vigilante white men. Unfortunately, tragically, almost four years later, the need for these resources are still as urgent as ever. We are saddened and outraged by these killings. We urge Black Muslim folks to take the time necessary and deserved to engage in self and collective care. 

“The dead won’t let me sleep

The living won’t let me die in peace

My heart filled with the yesterday that never happened

My hands filled with my face

My long breaths bleeding between my fingers”

~Amir Sulaiman, Come To The Hills (We Must Win)

"I Want  My Daddy"

#BeingBlackandMuslim in a post-9/11, post-Ferguson world

As we all struggle to cope with the onslaught of unexpected but incessant death and violence, I feel compelled to turn my care, my ministry, my love and comfort intentionally towards members of my community. Black Muslims. We who are uniquely impacted by both antiBlack racism and antiMuslim bigotry and violence. Standing at this beautiful and complicated intersection, we are deeply wounded by the deaths of Black people. According to a policy brutality database created by The Guardian called The Counted, 137 Black people have been killed in 2016 as a result of deadly force. We cry silently as the names of yet another slain man, woman or child becomes a trending hashtag. A man, woman or child who looks like someone we love dearly (there but for the grace of God go I).

 

This particular political cycle has ushered in a new and emboldened form of Islamophobic rhetoric and discrimination. According to a report by the Bridge Initiative titled: When Islamophobia Turns Violent: The 2016 US Presidential Elections, in the last 16 months, there have been approximately 180 reported incidents of anti-Muslim violence, including: 12 murders; 34 physical assaults; 49 verbal assaults or threats against persons and institutions; 56 acts of vandalisms or destruction of property; 9 arsons; and 8 shootings or bombings, among other incidents. In the last 10 days alone, Muslims have been brutally attacked, stabbed, shot and injured in Brooklyn, NY, Houston, TX, and Dinkytown, MN.

 

As a result of our experiences with racial bigotry and oppression, Black Muslims remain steadfast yet hypervigilant given the rise of hate crimes against Muslims across the country  (trust in Allah and tie your camel).  This vigilance and strength in the face of these assaults take an emotional and psychological toll we don’t often acknowledge, recognize or now how to address.

I admit still

Shookin’ up every time I see Emmett’s grill

Until my molars spark and I taste battery acid

Maybe that’s too drastic

Maybe I’m overreacting

Maybe seeing dead babies shouldn’t phase me

But it does

It does

It does

Are we not flesh and bone?

Are we not minds and souls?

Are eyes either blind or closed

As if we don’t see

As if we don’t know

They’ll kill you!

They’ll kill you

They’ll kill you like it’s no Biggie

No Diddy

~Amir Sulaiman, Come To The Hills (We Must Win)

"I Want  My Daddy"

Sky%20Is%20Ours%204_edited.png

"I Want  My Daddy"

Strength & Perseverance

"I Want  My Daddy"

In the Black community, there exists a cultural imperative to be strong, stoic and resilient in the face of unimaginable horrors. This has kept us living, loving and thriving for hundreds of years.  The poise and courage of Diamond Reynolds as she witnessed her loved one die in front of her, exemplifies this almost incomprehensible fortitude. The emphasis on patience and perseverance from an Islamic perspective resonates strongly with the cultural image/stereotype of indominable Black strength. Verses from the Holy Qu’ran related to suffering and trials are often used as a form of religious coping and to frame emotional issues:

 

“Oh you who believe! Seek help with patient perseverance and prayer, for God is with those who patiently persevere."

Holy Qu’ran (2:153)

 

While this spiritual understanding of suffering may provide solace, many still struggle silently with feelings of grief, anxiety and sadness or depression.  We can no longer deny that this call to be strong and persevered comes at a cost. We are asked to be gracious, forgiving; respectful, polite and calm while being terrorized. Our Black pain, suffering and grief in these moments is not validated or acknowledged. In fact, many turn away from the inconvenient and uncomfortable reality of the pain and degradation Black people continue to endure. This unspoken pain may manifest itself in other ways: in poor eating/over eating and diet, abuse of drugs or alcohol, extreme stress, high blood pressure and heart disease.

 

Despite the challenges that Black people generally, and Black Muslims specifically face, we are also a resilient and vibrant community with limitless potential. Donna Auston, scholar, activity and PhD Candidate in Anthropology offered this brilliant Ramadan reflection on Sapelo Square (an online resource on Black Islam in the United States): "We, Africa’s displaced children, see ourselves in Musa. The very land that engineered our captivity, received the stolen bodies of our ancestors, and continues to enact violence upon us, leaving scars we can see and many more that we cannot, is also our source of strength. It is our home. We are the parable of the goodly tree, the seed of Word and prayer planted by our foremothers and forefathers, a tree whose roots have been firmly fixed, in bitterness and toil, whose branches reach to the heavens (14:26)." Through the hard work of cultivation in our individual selves, in the various collectives to which we belong, and faith in a hopeful future that we cannot always see, we are transformed.

Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare. 

- Audre Lorde

 

It is time that we address the unresolved trauma, pain, fear, and despair that is keenly and uniquely felt by Black Muslims in these moments of crisis and upheaval.  Engaging in a fierce and dedicated practice of self-care is one way in which we can begin to heal. Self-care is defined as a set of actions, practices or rituals that help an individual restore balance in one’s life and improve physical, mental and emotional health. In other words, self-care is: “one’s ability to pay attention to, take responsibility for, and engage in practices that nurture one’s body, mind and spirit in order to manage stress and live happier, more effective lives”.

Inshallah (God willing) we have the power and potential to not only survive, but thrive through the challenges that confront us.  Black Muslims can experience what is called post-traumatic growth: a positive change experienced as a result of the struggle with a major life crisis or a traumatic event. This crisis can help us as individuals and community members develop a sense that new opportunities have emerged from the struggle, opening up possibilities that were not present before.  It can lead to an increased sense of connection to others, a renewed understanding of our own strength, a greater appreciation for the life that we have been given and a deeper commitment to our deen (way of life). We must be unwavering in our dedication to self-care and emotional well-being. Caring for our holistic health is an act of resistance and commitment to a vision of a healthy and flourishing community.

This Black Muslim Self-Care Primer will cover the following:

  • What is Trauma? What Are the Emotional & Psychological Symptoms of Trauma?

  • Self-Care Tips & Strategies

  • Create Your Own Self-Care Plan

  • Mental Health Resources & Helpful Links

    • For hyperlinks to all resource​s, click HERE

"I Want  My Daddy"

The sky is ours

Heaven’s fallen

We either fly or die

We

Must

Win

We have died so many times

They have killed us so many times

We have died so many deaths

We have died for everyone

We have died for everything

We have died for nothing

We are done with death

We are done with death

We will not die another day

We are the true and living and

We

Must

Win

~Amir Sulaiman, Come To The Hills (We Must Win)

"I Want  My Daddy"

"I Want  My Daddy"

Amir Sulaiman

Come To The Hill (We Must Win)

"I Want  My Daddy"

"I Want  My Daddy"

Black Muslim Psychology Conference

c/o Muslim Wellness Foundation

7433 Limekiln Pike

Suite 204

Philadelphia, PA 19138

info@blackmuslimpsychology.org

Tel: (267) 571-1730

Become A Supporter

© 2020 by Muslim Wellness Foundation