The ICNA Council for Social Justice recently sponsored a billboard to go up in Baltimore City with the words “Black Lives Matter Muslims Against Racism” displayed brilliantly across it. Above the words, an array of skin tones is painted, from dark to fair, cognizant of the diversity in color that the black race engulfs.
The location of the billboard is relevant and poignant, as Baltimore was where the 2015 protests and riots against the killing of Freddie Gray occurred. This gesture of solidarity within a city racked by this conflict is crucial.
This billboard goes up after many attempts by the social justice organization to garner support for it through several advertising companies and across several cities. After ad companies refused to put the statement up, ICNA CSJ decided to fund the board themselves.
Here’s to congratulating this organization for taking the initiative. Their struggle to gain support for the board can be viewed as a metaphor for the larger struggle of the Black Lives Matter movement itself. The fact that ad companies are still struggling to take a stand and are afraid this statement will perhaps compromise their customer base is deplorable.
The very fact that supporting this movement is considered controversial shows the sheer amount of work we have left to do in this country for civil rights. Here’s to hoping the ISNA CSJ is able to spread this billboard across the United States.
On the long road to social justice, it is important to celebrate small victories along the way. Taking a visible stance on an issue is an integral step toward advocating for a necessary cause. Showing solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement is our duty as Muslims and human beings. It is a wake-up call to both our community and the world at large.
That billboard reminds us to fight for our brothers and sisters, both in Islam and of the world, regardless of their religion. While the Black Lives Matter movement brings up images of police brutality, mass unjust incarceration, and holes in the justice system, the movement encompasses more than that. Those outrageous injustices start due to the seemingly minor, every day aggressions, and become part and parcel of society. To destroy those injustices, we cannot let any of them go.
Muslims are of every race and shade imaginable and our Black Muslim sisters and brothers face a unique and difficult challenge. From the country at large, they face oppression on two accounts: their race and religion.
We must lessen the burden and make it easier from within our religious communities and remind ourselves that yes, Black Lives DO Matter.
They matter even when an uncle’s tone of disgust is apparent when he refers to blackness.
They matter when our aunties grant more power to fair skin by worrying about children’s exposure to the sun, god forbid they come back from the playground looking black.
They matter when the topic of interracial marriage is strife with passive aggressive or sometimes outright protest against the race of a potential partner—but he’s black. When a Black person’s race is the only factor against their getting married, we have a deep-seated problem.
We must speak out and not let these micro and macro aggressions go unaddressed. The battleground starts right here. The billboard is a beginning, we must continue our support beyond it and find new ways to tackle the injustices faced by the Black community. Black is beautiful, black is powerful, and most importantly, black is human, and we cannot and will not forget that.