Go See This!!! – new film “Mooz-Lum” brings familiar faces and the conflict of Islam & Blackness in the modern world to the screen

I’m pushing HARD for this movie because whether it’s a classic or not, just the fact that it tackles such an unorthodox subject matter is compelling.

I appreciate these small indies that come from life experiences as observed or encountered by the writer or director themselves. They usually contain great realism and show flawed protagonists with interesting conflicts.

This particular film resonates with me, not only because it features an all Black cast with names and faces that we haven’t seen in a while (but who are great when given the right roles), but more importantly because it circles around 2 things that are close to home for me.

The first being the impact of the 9/11 attacks and the fervor and sentiment surrounding that during and after. The film is set mostly on a college campus, where the main character (played by Diana Ross‘ son, Evan) is attending and adjusting. I was in college when the attacks took place…Living directly across the street from The Pentagon to be exact, so I clearly remember all of the frenzy and madness.

Secondly, and more personally, this speaks to my coming of age as I was raised under Islamic principles and faith by a passively militant father who was a member of the infamous Nation Of Islam; known for its socio-political stance and race-motivated rhetoric, but more notorious for its outspoken members and imagery of Black men selling newspapers and bean-pies. Their adaptation of the Islamic following – preferably Sunni, developed a hybrid that usually Americanized and negroized alot of the religious dogma and highlighted certain parts and neglected others. The now satirized way of saying the universal Muslim greeting was coined by members of the Nation and their mispronunciation of the Arabic to the point where most Americans know it as ‘Salaam-A-Lake-Um’ as opposed to its correct pronunciation of

Asalaamu Alaykum!

This is just a reflection of how that adaptation and subsequent blending in with the very lost Culture of African-Americans has given way to many of the popular ideas and misconceptions of Islam held by the majority of the U.S. The melding with political and racial agendas has made the ideals of a community-based and peaceful religion very murky and has even lead to off-shoots such as the 5% Nation of the Gods and Earths that was heavy among Afro-centric pot-heads in the 90’s. From fallacies of oppressed women having to dress like ninjas, to imagery of a constantly aggressive and non-smiling people who starve themselves for one month out of every year, Muslims have a bad rap in this country and most of the Western world. Alot of that is based on the inherent ignorance of our societies. And alot of that has been the doing of Muslims worldwide themselves. I’m pretty fuckin’ sure that Islamic Extremists causing mass atrocities aren’t helping that either.

As my father was more of a Muslim by description than practice, I was not one of those kids walking around with 4 Arabic names and white robes and kufi’s going to private neighborhood schools. In fact, I took more of a vested interest in the faith upon entering my teens, when I set out to teach myself how to pray in Arabic and bonded with my boy Randall, who was the first Muslim kid I ever met in life that was one by choice. Most Muslim kids that I knew of were all just like me; hood babies with Muslim names given by their fathers who were members of the Nation but failed to instill any hardcore Islamic influence. I had reached a point where I felt like more of a Muslim than my own father, who doesn’t even spell his adopted Muslim name the Arabic way…but eventually, after leaving college, I succumbed to the conflict that has always surfaced within myself about the inconsistencies within Islam. I started to analyze it again, remembering passages I’ve read, and looking at everything that’s been done in its name, and this caused me to distance myself from all religion as a whole. I’ve considered myself agnostic for a while now.

However, my upbringing under the codes of conduct have influenced my life choices irreversibly and it cannot be denied. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. A life without pork and alcohol is not a life lost. I do like balance. And I feel that the skewed view on Muslims is so much the majority that the actual beauty of the core essence of the religion is never seen. What it provides at the heart, is a structure that promotes a nearly rape-free culture that doesn’t objectify women and places her value at such a level that she is to be protected, not restricted. The teachings of appreciation for and usage of the Planet Earth is almost Zen-like, and the hygienic guidelines rival others in just how close to God one can be. There’s a solidarity between most eastern Muslims that is admirable to the point where everyone can learn from. Once again, it’s those things done by people in the name of their beliefs that fuck it up for the world!

Hope this movie touches on all these things while entertaining. As most movies that I wind up promoting and suggesting, this film is only showing as a limited release, and in NYC that means only at AMC theatre in Times Square, starting Friday February 11th. If nothing else, maybe folks will never pronounce it as “Mooz-Lum” again!

My Kwanzaa Story x The Black Candle Documentary Trailer

God!

I’m trying to figure out the best way to make this post short but I have so much to say about this.

I resolved last year to try to make a collective effort to get all of my friends and family to embrace the celebration of Kwanzaa this time around. I was introduced to it in the 3rd grade, and then my family tried to initiate it into practice before the turn of the century courtesy of my brother Khalid’s ex-wife who thought it was a happy medium for my family that is part Islamic, part Christian, and part whatever.

Safe to say it didn’t stick, although my sister Veen and her children and husband picked it up a few years back and have been going strong now for a minute.

So I was determined to re-teach myself the values and rituals, but this time with a fuller understanding of why and how. As a child and the way it was presented to me in school, I thought it was the coolest thing since sliced bread that this even existed.

But as I grew older, I got severely turned off by Afrocentricity and the personalities of people who were engulfed in it. In my experience, the folk who are super in touch with their “Roots” have a tendency to be dramatic, overbearing and a little outdated. I never quite got the whole Pan -African thing. Africa is the Biggest continent in the world, with the most countries and nations, and what afrocentricity does is blend it all into a hodgepodge of oneness, mostly leaning towards the West African influences, as if each region shouldn’t be acknowledged for it’s individual identity and cultural distinction. Somalia is nothing like Togo. And Swaziland is nothing like Morrocco. I even had to ask if Swahili is a national language of any African country, and Iam still researching. Yet and still, it is the universal dialect of Africa-obsessed Americans.

So my experience has been a jaded one. I have spent a great amount of my lifetime around this lifestyle, and have rarely come across someone who is truly down to Earth and in touch with their African ancestry. It always just seems so sad to me that we as Black Americans will always be that people who will never really know our clear history, and only be able to tap into it by engaging in these neo – cultural, amalgamations of traditions scattered across The Continent. What’s even more saddening to me is that in my experience, Africans who I’ve met from the continent never seem to have such a sense of urgency as we do, and quickly differentiate themsleves from the African-American. Although, by technicality, they themselves are classified as such.

But what an amazing people we are for trying!, and always creating something from nothing.

I want to be as in touch with my ancestry as possible, but I don’t want to have to grow dreadlocks or wear a dashiki to exhibit this. I don’t need to have a bunch of statues of oblong breasted figures or giraffes around the house or do dances. What I need to do is just talk to my Grandmother who is a well of history herself and can tell me firsthand so many things about her life growing up as a Liberian woman. Lord knows my Mom sucks at it. She can only remember her life in Africa up to the age of 9. Which was quite an Americanized one, since most people contest that Liberia is a made up Country.

Nevertheless, I wanted to get into Kwanzaa for what it represents, and coincidentally, my homegirl Indigo put me on to this film that was done by a talented Young Man named M. K. Asante Jr. titled The Black Candle. It’s an award winning documentary on the black experience and the creation and foundation of the Kwanzaa celebration that features in depth commentary by the creator of the holiday(Maulana Karenga), as well as many famous Black leaders, and is narrated by the one of a kind Maya Angelou. You should really read the description on the youtube page, because it does it better than I can.

Now this film blew me away and I took my little nephew Winnie to see it with me. We watched it in a screening room of the Teachers’ College among a group of teenagers. Prior to this viewing, Winnie asked me what Kwanzaa was, and I was shocked to see that his school hadn’t yet made mention of this celebration that by now is so widely practiced that it should be given it’s own televised parade (but that would be too black). But even more than that, I was taken aback at how many of the teenagers themselves were in the dark about it, as their questions and comments after the viewing displayed a total lack of awareness.

This was an issue that was visited in the documentary itself. The quick clips from street interviews with local youth pointed at the fact that there is a lack of positive self awareness and crucial historical education.

I kept thinking, damn, how could something I learned back in the day in 3rd grade have regressed to a point of obscurity in the local education system instead of progressed??  I thought curriculum was supposed to advance! It’s not like I went to a special school where the aim was teaching Blackness.

This let me down a bit, but the film gave me such a reinforced and stronger motivation to take on the Kwanzaa festivities, with renewed determination to instill some of the principles into my nephew while he’s still young. I also want to see the togetherness of my friends and family all moving in unison for something that we may actually understand all of, as opposed to Christmas, where we just do without really thinking about why.

I’m also Hellbent on making this holiday Fly! It’s not meant to be commercialized, but still, it’s not all about hand woven baskets and books. We can have a 7 day extravaganza of dope gift-gving (homemade and store-bought) AND enlightenment.

So let the Celebration begin!

It all goes down on the 26th of December. I’ll be posting up each principle daily. I  just hope I can get my stuff in time…