Panel shares stories about being black and Muslim


Guest speakers, Adrian Jasper, Muhammad Saifullah, Yusuf Ali, and Parrish Geary speak at Unite: I am Black, I am Muslim on Feb. 9.

Jared Smith

UNITE, and the Center for Teaching and Learning held a college hour event on February 9. The event, “I am Black and I am Muslim,” aimed to educate about Islam.

The panel event included four guest speakers, 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.

Each panelist was Muslim and black, and they all  shared their stories and experiences with the audience in an effort to educate what it’s like to belong to the faith.

Humanities professor William Zangeneh-Lester opened the event and spoke of what Islam is and explained why it’s important to study and understand different kinds of religion, -—even if you don’t believe in them.

“Ideas about islam are painted with too broad a brush,” Zangeneh-Lester said, explaining that most people don’t hear the full story of Islam and just hear the bad.

“We’re trying to not essentialize Islam,” he added. This means that we are not trying to generalize Islam and its followers.

Each panelist was given a chance  to talk and each shared  stories on how they became Muslim and why.

“Islam brought order to my life. It gave me guidance,” said Jasper, explaining that the structured religion helped her when life seemed chaotic.  

After the panelists shared stories, Zangeneh-Lester then asked questions, including one asking about 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.