Black heritage event calls attention to issues of oppression

In order to call attention to issues of oppression, the Muslim American Society hosted an event Thursday called Black American Heritage: An Inspiring a Movement for Social Justice at the Digital Computer Lab.

“It’s actually a part of the religion of Islam to be involved in social justice,” said Martin Curran, emcee for the event and graduate student. “The Muslim American Society tries to bridge out to other groups and not just advocate for Muslims, but the justice of any human.”

Curran said most people are not aware that there is a long history of African-American Muslims.

“The plurality of Muslims in the United States is African-Americans, either by being decendents of slaves or immigrants from Africa,” he said.

Several people in the audience wore hijabs, or religious headscarves, and hoodies to honor Trayvon Martin, the African American teenager who was recently shot in Florida.

The event targeted education, acknowledgement and support for social justice as its aim. To educate attendees, a film called “African-Americans and Islam” was shown.

Guest speaker Mahdi Bray, executive director of the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, also addressed social justice without limits to color, religion, ethnic background or gender.

“We feel we need to support the African-American Community,” said Dr. Ahmed Taha, president of the Illinois chapter’s Muslim American Society and graduate student. “In the society we live in today, they do deserve our support. No one can say the oppression is done.”

A multi-faith Ska band called Skalalitabs, whose name was derived from Ahl al-Kitab, which means “the people of the book” in Arabic, played at the event. The band is made up of people of the Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths.

For the acknowledgement section of the event, Aaron and Carol Ammons received an award for their work in the community. Ammons serves on the 5th District Champaign County board and is a member of the Muslim American Society. Aaron Ammons is a co-founder of the Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice. The two have recently been involved in a proposal to expand on the county jail.

“Sometimes when you work hard, you don’t necessarily think people pay attention, but these kinds of awards make you continue doing what you’re doing and affect positive outcomes in the community,” Ammons said.

Rahamat Odunsi, sophomore in DGS, who identifies as an African-American Muslim, attended the event, and commented on the racial diversity among Muslim attendees.

“I was really excited to see such a mixture of different kinds of Muslims at the event,” she said.