What would a Masjid have to do with Black History Month? Plenty.
As an institution of Islamic education and outreach to neighbors and the general public, Masjids must play an active role during Black History Month. Members of Masjids' adminstration and leadership, as well as general attendees, must learn about the contributions of Africans and African-Americans. They must also present African and African-American Muslims' contributions on this continent and abroad. Here are some ideas of the kinds of activities Masjids can organize to do this.
1. Weekend programs on Mansa Musa, Omar bin Said, Uthman Dan Fodio and other notable African Muslims
Imams and community leaders need to enlighten Muslims in their communities about great Muslims like Bilal ibn Rabah, the Prophet Mohammed's Companion and Islam's first muezzin; Umm Ayman or Barakah, about whom the Prophet said she was his "mother after my own mother. She is the rest of my family"; Mansa Musa, a pious, just and very rich king of Mali, a country that once had over 10,000 Islamic schools. Or of Omar bin Said a Muslim from West Africa who was enslaved then brought to North America via the Transatlantic slave trade.
These men, and millions like them, strove to stay Muslim and retain their Islam under the brutal yoke of slavery over a period of almost 500 years. By protecting Islam, they providing some of the earliest roots of the faith on this continent. Muslims of all backgrounds need to know more about them.
2. Show documentaries like Islam in Africa and Deeper Roots
These are two excellent videos featuring Islamic scholar and historian Abdullah Hakim Quick's research about Islam, Muslims, Africa and North America. They are wonderful starting points for an open discussion on Islam and how it impacted African and Africans. This is something you can invite non-Muslims to as well, making it a double event: a discussion forum and a mosque open house. Make sure to serve refreshments after the documentary.
3. In the Masjid bookstore
While the Masjid bookstore does need copies of the Quran, books of Fiqh and various other Islamic subjects, for Black History Month, stock up on some books that talk about Islam in Africa. Make sure to put them on display, along with free pamphlets and articles about Islam and various aspects of Africa and African history. Also, for every purchase made at the bookstore, include these freebies as a gift to your customer. This will encourage Muslims to buy and find out more about their Muslim African brothers and sisters.
4. Hold a workshop on how to deal with accusations against Islam about slavery
Muslims are being accused of supporting the enslavement of Africans in places like Sudan and Mauritania. We must develop ways of responding to challenge the false belief that Islam condones slavery. Islam has always been a liberating force. However, individuals of all fatih are capable of wrongdoings not encouraged by God. We should be first to condemn these type of people. A workshop by a knowledgeable and wise scholar and/or activist who has dealt with this issue first-hand is an excellent way to raise the topic in the Muslim community while providing Muslims with the tools to respond.
5. Islamic weekend school classes should do projects on Islamic African history
If your Masjid has a weekend Islamic school, make sure that they are given readings and class projects about notable Muslims from Africa. This way they will learn about part of their history as Muslims. They will also be able to contribute to Black History Month in their public schools by being able to share knowledge about what Africans of their religious heritage have contributed to the world.
6. Give a Khutbah (Friday sermon) on the universality of Islam
This is a great way to bring up the topic of African Muslims and their contributions to Islam. Discuss the universality and brotherhood of all Muslims regardless of race and ethnicity, and make Dua (supplication) for the millions of Muslims who died as slave-martyrs when coming to America. You can use this manifesto against racism as notes for this kind of a Khutbah.
7. Hold a Muslim unity dinner with international food
What's one thing all humans have in common? They eat and most of them love good food. Host a potluck dinner during Black History Month. This is a great time to have a Muslim unity dinner that is open to the public. What a great way to show the universality of the Ummah, with people and food from different parts of the world.
8. Announce other programs that are relevant
The Masjid should announce suitable Black History Month events and lectures and encourage Muslims to attend. The purpose of this is to learn more about African-Americans and their contributions. The other aim is to provide some positive Dawa about the contributions of Muslim Africans and African-Americans while clarifying misunderstandings about Islam that may arise.
After Juma prayers is an excellent time to announce such programs. Make sure to have all of the details right (i.e. date, time, location, phone number for more information, etc.). Also, have a flyer for the event is posted in the Masjid.