How I Celebrate Black Muslim History Month

February is Black History Month. It is also a time I love to reflect on the history of Black Muslim Americans. Last year, I wrote a fairly in-depth article about the history of Black Muslim Americans. Here are some of the most interesting facts from that article.

Fact 1: Mustafa Zemmouri was an African Muslim slave who is considered a discoverer of New Mexico.

One of the first known African slaves to set foot in the Americas was Mustafa Zemmouri aka Estevanico. In 1522, he was enslaved by the Portuguese and sold to a Spanish nobleman who brought him on an expedition to colonize Florida. He led a life worthy of a Hollywood film. This African Muslim immigrant is considered a discoverer of New Mexico.

Fact 2: Historians say 15%-30% of slaves were originally Muslim.

Historically, between 15% and 30% of slaves brought to the Americas from West/Central Africa were Muslims. The majority still worshipped tribal religions. However, most of these captives were forced into Christianity during the era of American slavery.  Many of those Muslim slaves used Arabic as a language of resistance.

Every year for Black History Month, I print out a collection of coloring pages I created highlighting prominent Black Muslim American. Since I am a fan of True Detective, this year’s addition to my coloring book is Mahershala Ali. Mahershala Ali converted to Islam in 1999. He told People magazine in 2017,

“I was looking for my anchor or the thing to bring structure to my spiritual walk.”

During graduate school, a school friend (and current wife),
Amatus Sami-Karim , took him to a mosque. Mahershala told the magazine he broke down in tears during the sermon despite not understanding the Arabic words.

He continued to share, “I couldn’t wrap my head around it,” he said. “It was beyond explanation. There was this connection that pierced through it all for me. And I felt like I was in the right place.”

With that beautiful story, that also brought tears to my eyes, I respectfully drew Mahershala Ali into my collection which also includes SZA, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and Malcolm X.

How To Print Coloring Sheets:

  1. Right-Click Save As on the links below.
  2. OR open these links in a new page and print from the page
  3. Print Mahershala Ali
  4. Print SZA
  5. Print Kareem Abdul Jabar
  6. Print Malcolm X

As I sat at my kitchen table telling my 4 year old son about the people in the photos. He said, “They are Muslim? and I’m a Muslim?” I saw something flicker in his eyes, maybe recognition, maybe pride. But in that moment, I felt “representation matters” with all my being. I didn’t grow up seeing people like me in prominent positions, but I don’t believe they will have to.

Peace & Salam,

Natasha Kazi