Black Muslim Artists Leading the Way |

Black Muslim Artists Leading the Way

Watch our show Mujahid Talks with Imam Malik Mujahid in conversation with Timaj Garad and Tasleem Jamila

Interviewed: 11 AM Central Time Wednesday Feb 17, 2021 only on Muslim Network TV #BlackHistoryMonth#BlackMuslimArtists#BLM

Timaj Garad - Writer Performer and Arts Educator
Tasleem Jamila - The Lyrical Healer

Host: Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid - President of Sound Vision and Justice for All.

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Unoffical Transcript:

Abdul Malik Mujahid  0:02  

Assalamu alaikum and peace Welcome to Muslim network TV. Muslim network TV is always there galaxy 19 satellite covering the whole USA, Canada and Mexico with 57 million subscribers, which are mostly in rural areas where normal television is not available. We are also on Amazon TV fire, Amazon Fire TV Roku, as well as Apple TV, you can download our app on your cell phones or watch it on our website if you're among those people who watch everything through YouTube, of course you can find Muslim network TV there and do remember to subscribe if you do that. Today we have two persons who are artists. And they're doing an amazing job. They you know, they are artists but they are breaking many barriers. Each one of them has African heritage, Canadian, and Jewish heritage. They have they are both Muslims. Both top performers both have been all around and are both women. So many things. Some competition with Kamala Harris I guess. So welcome to Muslim network TV in this program Tasleem Jamila salaam alaikum

Tasleem Jamila  1:44  

Salaam Alaikum Thank you for having me

Abdul Malik Mujahid  1:46  

Walakum salaam Welcome to Muslim network TV Tasleem Jamila is CEO of my soul speak LLC Why do you have to add LLC it loses all the power of my own speaks. She hosted and produced the weekly art show for 10 years at Radio Islam in Chicago and WCv 1450 Am which has been now rolled into Muslim network TV except that she has enrolled her program into that that that that's something we need to talk about. And we have with us Timaj Garad. Assalamualykum

Timaj Garad  2:33  

Walaykum Assalam thanks for having me.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  2:35  

Welcome to Muslim network TV. Timaj Garad recently joined the Toronto art Council and is working on Black Arts funding project. Ethiopian Canadian multidisciplinary storyteller. Boy these ladies pack too much. Wow. How am I gonna compete with all of that? Don't have to compete. I'm an old man.

Tasleem Jamila  3:07  

No, you don't have to compete.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  3:09  

Alright Tell me. How do you brand yourself as a black Muslim artist?

Tasleem Jamila  3:19  

That's a great question. How do I brand myself? Well, I think just being who I am I mean, that's who I am. I am a black Muslim artists. I don't intentionally put you know, Muslim on everything or black on everything. I'm just I'm an I'm an artist. I'm an educator. And I am a founder again of my soul speaks which is a company that focuses on establishing and creating cultural and healing events, products, and edutainment for the world. And so I focus on really branding, the product, the the events and the topics of whatever I'm talking about as an artist or an educator. And so that's how I go about it and I'm just I am you know, Muslim, and I am black a woman, but I do focus on just branding being artists and an educator and a holistic healing coach.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  4:25  

SoTimaj I thought, you know, in America, people say white north to Canada. So is there is there anything black over there?

Timaj Garad  4:40  

Sorry, can you repeat the question I cut out for a minute.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  4:43  

No, no, no problem. I was saying that. You know, Canada is known as white north in USA. So how come black artists are found there are the only there are black people or just black artists?

Timaj Garad  4:58  

There, so Canada is, you know, I didn't actually know that that that was branded as the white north. But there is a community here very diverse community, particularly in Toronto, but also across Canada, of diasporic African communities, we have Afro Caribbean, East Africans, like myself, West Africans, just across the continent. And also, there's a history of black folks in Canada, even you know, predating what we know, as kind of like that, that wave of migration in the 80s. We have African Canadians who were here from, you know, before, before slavery, and also folks that were enslaved in Canada, Canada has a history of slavery, as you know, sometimes Canada likes to kind of sweep that under the rug, but that that's there, and then also black folks, that came through the Underground Railroad and, and black loyalists, there's a there's a rich history of black people in Canada. And, in fact, the first black Muslims to ever step foot in Canada were, you know, the first Muslims rather, were black Muslims. So I always like to share that because sometimes that that history is erased. So I myself am a second generation immigrant, I'm Ethiopian Harari, Harari is my the ethnic group that I belong to within Ethiopia, and there are tons of black artists too within the Muslim community here in Toronto, but also just, you know, across Canada, so something that I'm really passionate about in my work and again, I similar to Tasleem, I don't necessarily brand myself as a black Muslim artist. But I think sometimes that's just where, you know, you kind of get in where you fit in. And that's sometimes what I am branded as, by the, by the public, because of the work that I do in my community, I run a festival called luminous Fest, which is a black Muslim Arts Festival. And really, I create these opportunities for my community, because there are opportunities that I don't see happening for us, and I see a need for it. And so I just like to create the spaces that I want to see for myself and for my community. So that's sort of how I've developed my arts education career.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  7:13  

So you have a black Muslim art festival?

Timaj Garad  7:19  

Yes. It's called luminous mess. We're actually entering our fourth annual year, and it's a multi disciplinary Arts Festival. So we have performances from artists across various mediums, music, spoken word, etc. We have vendors, so we support black Muslim entrepreneurs. And we also have workshops.

Abdul Malik Mujahid

Hmm. Well, Tasleem, here's a challenge for you. America has so many black Muslims where there is no black Muslim art festival.

Tasleem Jamila  7:51  

Well, you know, I think in America, we have so many black Muslims, that we have so many different festivals. I don't know, there may be one that's requestable. But I know I've been a part of so many different festivals that were organized by black Muslims in Chicago, in Detroit, in Philly, in New York, so maybe it just didn't have the name, quote unquote black...

Abdul Malik Mujahid  8:19  

...there's a whole lot of that takes place.

Tasleem Jamila  8:22  

Yes, we have so much. And even when she talks about, like, Canada, when she talked about just black people in Canada, I thought about, I was telling you before my husband's family, they from Canada, they they were part of the Underground Railroad. And you have so many people have ancestors who walked across the Detroit River. And you have so many people from Detroit that did that in Canada. So just wanted to kind of add that when she was talking about the history of black people in in Canada. He has several generations there, as far as family and so many people from Detroit have that connection through that. But as far as the black Muslims, I think we have a lot of different festivals that are all over I have been part of one in Philadelphia and like I said, in Detroit over the years. So they are out there.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  9:12  

It's very interesting you brought that your husband is from Canada from those generations of people who went there. So it seems that now the underground is in reverse gear I mean he is back to US.

Tasleem Jamila  9:29  


Abdul Malik Mujahid  9:32  

Both places you know, Timaj share a little bit what you just shared. I didn't know that. That there were first Muslims in Canada were actually black Muslims. Are those people who came who were, you know, in the US we know our history in US is that, you know, in 1730 30 40 the Muslims I mean people brought from Africa, we estimate 30% of them are Muslim. So we have grave sites and Muslim names, we have Muslim scholars who have written their diaries. So so we have the whole history, even photographs of people who came. So, so was was slavery directly, slave coming directly they were Muslims or people who came through underground were Muslims?

Timaj Garad  10:27  

So both actually, a similar estimate here is 25 to 30% of those that were enslaved in Canada, as well as those that came from the US, escaping slavery were Muslim. And I think that there's also a community here as well with that, with that ancestry and that legacy, a lot of the community of African American community live in Nova Scotia. And so there is a rich tradition that unfortunately, we don't hear about or learn about in our history classes growing up and things like that. But this country has had a long history of slavery  enslaving black people. And that is something that you know, it and it ended earlier than it did in the States. But it is still a history that that we, that we have here and that we have to, you know, be aware of and accountable to and understand, especially when we're talking about the intersections of being black and Muslim, we can't forget that being Muslim in general is something that a African people, not only African people like me that immigrated, but also African Canadian people black Scotians have a legacy of and that's our story to tell. And sometimes were erased from the narrative of being Muslim in general, which I find very ironic given that, you know, we're the first Muslims here. So I always like to share that story because of that.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  12:00  

Now you know, considering both of you are visible Muslims. I mean Tasleem this is a Canadian term visible Muslim, meaning they have a scarf or something like that they use for visible minorities, as we say, people of color normally, I think it's Canadian talk to talk visible minorities or something like that. Are there some challenges for artists?

Tasleem Jamila  12:31  

I don't find any challenges personally with myself. Over the years, I've been an artist, really all of my adult life. So from acting, I am a playwright an actor.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  12:45  

I think you started when you were not even adult.

Tasleem Jamila  12:48  

Yes, I wasn't even an adult when I was teaching jury making at what 18 to actually Muslims in Chicago and Marco at a masjid there. So I've always been an artist and I was Muslim. So it always blended very well. And it merged together. And I think people just got used to seeing me like that. And even when I started on poetry scene in Chicago, which is huge, even to this day, it really was my foundation. It's a spoken word. But I started off doing fashion design, and acting and directing even before poetry and spoken word. So those are my, the first mediums and I started doing fashion design with clothing. I used to do fashion shows in Chicago, with really well known designers as well. And I went to New York to do some fashion designing for some big record labels when I was 19. And then I continued to do a few movies in Chicago and direct and always acting and working in the schools teaching theater and fashion design. And so when I started on the spoken word scene, it was there were other Muslims there, but we, it wasn't like, we had a separate scene from just other poets. In Chicago, we kind of blended in, and people just accepted you for who you are. And Chicago is a very welcoming artists community. So it was just easy to be myself. I have people who are my friends today who aren't Muslim, and they know that I'm Muslim, and still to this day, and so it was always very welcoming. It wasn't something that stood out in a negative way. And it was just a way for me to blend in and even over the years, just always being myself. And I talk about just all different topics or diversity of topics. I talk about, you know, things from a perspective of outside of me what's going on in society, and also who I am and within myself, which is, you know, Muslim, so they're always elements that you will hear in that when I'm writing Some poetry from my personal perspective, because that is a part of who I am so, but it was never just something that stood out and has never been a barrier for me.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  15:10  

Thank you. This is a Imam Malik Mujahid and I'm talking with Tasleem Jamila and Timaj Garad and we'll be right back after these messages. Welcome back to Muslim network TV. And we're talking with two artists Timaj Garad and Tasleem Jamila. Tasleem did not face any challenges in Chicago art community Timaj, what has been your experience in Canada in this regard?

Timaj Garad  16:04  

So in terms of being a visible Muslim, I initially didn't really experience any any challenges because of the way that I entered the scene. I guess, as a spoken word artist, I started the first few shows that I performed that were shows that I created. So I really started creating spaces early on in my career as a spoken word artist, I would do like campus coffee houses, and then a few of my friends, none of them were Muslim. But we got together four of us and we actually co founded a poetry slam, called the Kitchener Waterloo poetry slam, and ended up performing at the Canadian festival spoken word. And that the slam it's been, I think, almost 12 years now and it's still running.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  16:49  

So you know Tasleem about the talking about the, the the role art plays in bringing about any social change, as you know, because of the electoral change. We have somewhat slowed down on the Black Lives Matter movement. But do you think you know what role artists are playing at this moment in the Black Lives Matter movement?

Tasleem Jamila  17:24  

Artists, artists are always at the forefront and of what's going on in society. On the political arena, they've always been the soundtrack to the Revolution, the spokespeople, not always in a way with out with the picket sign, which many artists are, but with our voices. And I like to quote the activist and singer Nina Simone who said, our art definitely should speak to the times that we're living in. And so I think it's an it's a really intricate time. And it's a time to make your art relevant, and to speak, and use your voice, your medium, whatever your medium is, as an artist to speak to the times. And it can be your political, or your voice in your way of adding to what is going on, into in society with politics. So artists have always been a way to document that we're here, kind of like the news media, I look at it like a Public Enemy group. We're the people to broadcast the news through our art. So it's very important to be an artist in this time, right now. And to put out as much art because people listen to artists, I say, even sometimes more than preachers or imams they'll listen to artists, just the way it is the frequency that it is made for us to listen to it. In that way. It's very, very, very important part right now.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  19:03  

Tasleem are you putting me down here?

Tasleem Jamila  19:05  

No, I'm not. I'm just I thought about that what I was saying no, but

Abdul Malik Mujahid  19:11  

Okay. I get it I get it. So Timaj, what is the....the Canadian black artist? You know, getting up their act in face of a campaign against racism, which in America, thanks to George Floyd, which took in high gear?

Timaj Garad  19:37  

Well, I think in terms of, you know, the response from the black community, of course, there's a lot of a lot of pain around that. And there has been this is nothing new. And I think that that that's been echoed from you know, people that I know that have been doing the work in terms of anti black racism work, that, you know, this isn't something that is for a time or for a moment, but it's been ongoing work. And so it's been really important to elevate and amplify the voices of black artists. In my role at the Toronto Arts Council, that's part of what I'll be doing is creating a funding program for black artists to do that, we have seen a response, we have seen more programming. And black artists have always been been doing the work and alway- So there's not really anything that's necessarily changed other than, you know, continuing to do the work. And I think that it's the onus is really not on us to necessarily respond, it's really on the community, those who position themselves as allies and supporters to kind of to kind of step up and make space and see where they have power in their lives and be able to redistribute that power to, you know, amplify not just voices and experiences, but also actually give real opportunities for people to, to do that, that work of healing in their community, but also being able to, to, like, really just exist without without fear. I think it's a long road. It's not something that happens overnight, but I am sort of seeing things, things change slowly but surely within the Canadian landscape. And thanks again to the black organizers, first and foremost, who have been on the frontlines doing the work of community organizing for many years in Toronto and across Canada.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  21:30  

So what is Toronto Arts Council? Is it some government body?

Timaj Garad  21:34  

So the Toronto Arts Council is an arm's length funder for the municipal. So for the City of Toronto in terms of arts, so we fund local artists within Toronto. There are different programs, some of them are discipline specific. Some of them are, you know, specific to a community like the program that hopefully I'll be running. And essentially, it's really just a place where artists can get some funding to create work to perform to distribute their work to build programming in their communities.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  22:08  

So do what what type of art forms to they fund?

Timaj Garad  22:12  

So all different types of arts disciplines, music, dance, literary arts. Just you name it. It's funded

Abdul Malik Mujahid  22:22  

Do they do theater, films, those type of things?

Timaj Garad  22:28  

Yeah, absolutely. It's any media arts visual film theater. So there's different kind of funding streams for all of those different disciplines.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  22:39  

You know, working Tasleem working at the radio Islam, you interview Michelle Obama once, didn't you?

Tasleem Jamila  22:47  

Yes, that was an amazing experience that I am really blessed to put that down on my resume and my bio, it was a really amazing time working on radio Islam, I think about it, it was a lot, I was young, and you gave me the opportunity to blossom and to grow and to be confident. And it was amazing for me to look on the internet. This is before all the different social media outlets being one of the first to do what you were doing on a daily basis, and to look at people that I admired on all levels, from artists, to historians, who I've wanted to meet, and I got a chance to interview them. So to me that was remarkable and to be able to interview her in person. That was something that was life changing even her energy before she was the first lady that was right when Barack was, you know, running for president, it was an amazing experience to say I interviewed, you know, Michelle Obama, the first lady and her actually being from Chicago, from the Southside of Chicago, I can relate to her so much. And she's such a role model for, for me and so for so many other women around the world, and just to see them triumphed and to reach the levels that they have. And to know that she only chose a few people at that time. A few stations to interview her. We were at it was another person from radio Islam. We were there live at an event. And she said I only want two stations to interview me it was one of the bigger stations and then she said I want radio Islam to interview me and so to me, that meant a lot for her to choose us over all the other people who were trying to get at her to interview her so that was really a remarkable experience for me at such a young age in my career.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  24:43  

So is there any specific person who you met which Timaj which you remember, which helps you develop more relationship or more confidence or learn from?

Timaj Garad  24:59  

Well, yeah, definitely, there's been several people that I've had the honor of meeting just throughout my career. Some of them are, you know, big superstars. And some of them are just people that have been really influential because of who they are and the light that they provide in this world. Warson Sherry is someone who I really admire who I met several times, I've actually shared the stage with her several times. And, you know, her and I have had some really beautiful conversations about what it means to be a poet what it means to be an artist, and you know, how to not like really lose your lose your way in terms of the the grind of getting your work recognized and noticed. And really just, her reminders to me have always been about, you know, returning to simplicity and returning to understanding that, you know, you are an artist, but at the end of the day, this is not all you are, right. So I think that those are really beautiful reminders that, you know, her and I are the same age, so, but she was a lot further along in terms of visibility in her career. And so that was a good thing for me to hear prior to reaching any type of visibility. I also got a chance to share the stage with Sonia Sanchez, which was really cool. She's, you know, like one of the greats so that was a beautiful experience of just like witnessing someone who's been doing this for so long. And, and the poise and the beauty and the energy and the confidence that she held. I was like, You know what, that's I hope that's me, in like, the next 40 50 years. And that also gave me like an idea of longevity, that I can do this for my whole life. And like there's this kind of adage of, you know, a poet doesn't retire, they die, which I always thought was funny, because it's like, yeah, this is not just a vocation, it's not just a job it, you know, at the end of the day, it's not all we are, but it is a really big part of, you know, who we are. And it doesn't have to necessarily be a career, but it's, it's a part of you, it's a part of what you bring into this world. So yeah, that those are the two experiences and the two people that stick out.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  26:59  

Let me ask both of you how Islam reflects or informs what you do in your art form?

Tasleem Jamila  27:08  

Wow, I mean, Islam is, as you know, it's a way of life. So it informs everything that I do, it is at the forefront of my my thinking, My being my heart, my soul, my spirit, it is, informs my work. The kind of topics that I addressed, it informs the way that I address them because, and I look at it, not from to say okay, this is from a Muslim perspective, but that is who I am. And so at any moment, even as I'm growing and evolving and elevating, perspectives change, I grow, I learn more. And so my art is kind of just a journey that comes along with it. And being a Muslim in the world, it is very important because our voices, sometimes people haven't heard or they haven't even been around a Muslim. And so I'm oftentimes in certain spaces where I'm their first introduction to someone that they actually viscerally like to see or their know, like to identify, like, Wow, she's a Muslim. So in a way, I'm always asking a lot to use me, you know, as a vessel, however he likes, and to know that people are always watching and I'm always a representative of a lot whether I say anything or not of Islam as well, and just of black people of my parents of where I come from. And so it has been really a beautiful journey, to be in spaces and to represent being a Muslim, and being a woman and being black. And to know that people say, Wow, I didn't know that I've never known any Muslims. Okay, you're the first Muslim I met. I didn't know Muslims, you know, their poetry or, wow, that was really powerful. Or you talked about this, or just the same ways they can relate or learning something that they didn't know. That was new. So it definitely is. It's interweaved in my whole being and who I am, so it's no way to detach it from who I am.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  29:17  

Wow, that was something you can compose spoken artwork based just on that.

Tasleem Jamila  29:23  

Yeah. Yes.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  29:27  

This is Imam Malik Mujahid and we're talking with two beautiful artists, Muslim, African American, Canadian, Tasleem Jamila and Timaj Garad and we'll be right back after these messages.

Welcome back to Muslim network TV. This is Imam Malik Mujahid talking with Timaj Gerard and Tasleem Jamila. Timaj you know, I ask a question to Tasleem about how Islam inspires or contributes to your art form.

Timaj Garad  30:35  

So this is just gonna be mostly me echoing what Tasleem just said so beautifully. But Islam is really at the epicenter of everything, it informs everything. You know, I don't sometimes  someone once asked me, you know, why don't you make more devotional work? Why don't you make something along the lines of I guess, nasheed and that kind of thing. And then I was thinking, you know, every single work that I make is, in my opinion, devotional, because at the end of the day, I'm hoping that is pleasing to Allah SWT, I'm hoping that like Tasleem said, it's, I'm able to be a vessel and channel, you know, that light and energy in my work and that purpose. The purpose at the end of the day is to return to God. And, you know, I have a lot of pieces that that speak somewhat explicitly to that not not as a Muslim, but just as someone who is reaching for God. And I think that, you know, even if I'm writing a piece about healing...thing, if I'm writing a piece about whatever else, like it's always, that's always the the focal point in terms of how my work is informed. Even if I'm not explicitly saying that I'm Muslim, or using Muslim terminology or anything like that. I haven't, aside from my one piece, my single because I'm also a singer songwriter, my single black gold, which is about being a black Muslim, that's really my only piece that I've done explicitly about my identity. But all my other work has really been about whether it's about love or whether it's about community, whether it's a story that happened in my personal life, there's no way that I can, that I can untether myself from Allah SWT from you know, being a Muslim from Islam, because it is not just a part of what I do, it's the whole it's the whole of what I do. It's really at the center. It's the nucleus of the work and the message and the purpose of of what I hope to put out into this world.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  32:28  

Mashallah. So, tell me this, Tasleem that which black artist do you admire the most when it comes to fighting and confronting racism and inequity in the society?

Tasleem Jamila  32:52  

Wow, that's a weighty question. I don't know if it's just one black artists

Abdul Malik Mujahid  32:57  

mentioned more.

Tasleem Jamila  32:59  

Yeah. Do you if you mean currently?

Abdul Malik Mujahid  33:02  

Currently currently

Tasleem Jamila  33:04  

Okay currently, artists who are stepping out? Let's think about that. I don't know. I'm trying to think currently, because I have a lot of people that I've loved over the years as mentors and have mentors have for me have been that I loved consistently have been the last poets. And I had a chance to work with Abiodune of the last poets on my first album, and also Omar bin Hossan, who is Muslim, he's a family friend of mine, and a mentor. And so to me, the consistency with them speaking out to the injustices and they've influenced so many people that are new school today, to who are cause they are we coin  them the fathers of hip hop. So before they were the hip hop, there, there was the spoken word. And also I love people like even consistent when you talk about artists and hip hop, consistent people like Public Enemy, you have Chuck D and Professor Griff who, another people personal people, I got to work with Professor Griff on my last album, which was released a few months ago. And so those are people to me who have been consistent, who are to me mentors and role models to newer artists today, like me, who are looking at them as being like political revolutionary. I also like Lauryn Hill to talk about, you know, female examples of women who always use their art as healing and an example and always to speaking out against injustices with outside and inside of yourself. So those are just a few to me that have been legendary in that time. And if we want to even go back further, to someone like more the eclectic jazz as I have Sun Ra, which I loved him he talked about black people being Space is the place, you know, just taken us to a whole nother cosmic level that you have many of your Afro futuristic jazz movement right now, which I am influenced by and one of my teachers from Chicago, who will also Muslim who was friends with Malcolm X, he passed away a few years ago, Babakalon filkuran who worked with him to really teach me about music from a scientific and a cosmological level.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  35:26  

You know, Jazz Festival in New Orleans? Its executive director, is an imam in New Orleans mosque.

Tasleem Jamila  35:33  

Oh, wonderful.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  35:34  

So Timaj what has been your, you know, who do you think are good in terms of fighting racism in Canada among the black artist?

Timaj Garad  35:48  

Well, again, a big question. In terms of my you know, a lot of the times when I think of artists that inspire me, again, I kind of go back to the local, the local art scene here. Because those are the artists that I've had the most like, one on one experiences with that I've had the pleasure of, you know, attending many live performances and having conversations and really understanding the intention behind their work. And there are a lot of people that that don't necessarily get that shine that of, you know, necessarily like international acclaim or anything like that. But you know, some folks that come to mind are like Rania Mugammar, who is also an anti race racism worker, she works in that field, but she's also a phenomenal poet. And a lot of American poets are coming to mind right now, too. So I'll just share a few that have inspired me growing up and artists in general, you know, folks like like Nina Simone, I would say like an early loopy fiasco, someone like Tariq Tarey, who is a poet, kind of on the come up at this moment. And, you know, I'm really just inspired by the fact that knowing that people are not are not perfect. And we need to also understand, like, when we're looking to people to inspire us that, you know, it's okay to, to look at the part of the journey that is inspiring, and that resonates with us and that, like...

Abdul Malik Mujahid  37:20  


Timaj Garad  37:23  

because that's not the nature of humanity. Um, but yeah, those are a few names really love Robert Glasper, as well. So those are a few names that come to mind.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  37:33  

Tasleem  I read an article at Rolling Stones. And it says that the music industry was built on racism. I didn't know that. You know, racism is all over the society. So in industry, it's understandable. But could you elaborate more, not only for myself, but also for our listeners? Do you agree with that statement? That music industry was built on racism? Because what will be American music scene without jazz? And who plays Jazz?

Tasleem Jamila  38:11  

Yes, well, in America, unfortunately, most things were built on racism. And yes, the music industry, it was mainly built, of course, around black artists. But it was built on them not having control over their masters signing contracts that literally sign their rights away for their music to be passed down from generations to generations, when artists just didn't have the knowledge, or they didn't have the resources, like we have now to create and be independent for ourselves. So you do have many artists who are on record labels, especially even in Chicago, many blues artists that die poor, that really die, because and the people that own the rights to who were, you know, white owners of record labels, who are still reaping the benefits from their family, with their royalties that are being passed down. And so you have that and you still have that that goes on. And now today, you still have some artists that may sign some contracts that may sign everything away, but people are really being educated more to be independent, and to own their rights. And you see, even people like Prince was leading the way when he was tied into a contract with he had slave on his face at award ceremony saying I will not be a slave to the industry. He originally, just like Michael Jackson got his rights back to his music, but you know, after their death, a whole nother story, but it's a very serious business because of art, and music. It's billions and billions of dollars. And so you have artists like you said before, when it was founded on that, to exploit them and to really use them and Give them pennies when they didn't know any better. So yes, it was founded on that. And I thank God that now you have so many examples of independent artists who are breaking out of that, who are not just looking for a record contract, or someone else to sign on to say, I can do this myself independently, we have direct contact with the public with people who admire our work and supporters on social media. And so many mediums now that you don't have to go that route, you can directly get the money yourself, we have many distributors throughout the world where our art you can put something out, I can make something in my studio, I have a home studio, I can make something and put it out the next day, myself with all the copywriting. With all the legal protection they have the different different companies and corporations that you can educate yourself to do that. So but yes, it was created on the racism. And if you read really the history of it, you see a lot of artists that will tell you that we admire that they did not make a lot of money and some still don't own like Tribe Called Quest, they still don't own the rights to their masters.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  41:10  

So tell me, Timaj, what is the state of networking among Muslim artists? Are they you know, not just African Muslim? But Muslim artists? Is there a good better networking? Are there whatsApp groups? How do they communicate among themselves to support each other?

Timaj Garad  41:37  

So that's definitely a gap, I believe in our community is that, you know, sometimes artists are just working in silos in in our community and various different communities. But I think especially in the Muslim community, there are a lot of challenges with being a Muslim artist, particularly being a woman. Because you know, there's that whole like, tug of war over like theology, like there's, first of all, we have to get over the barrier of should you even be an artist, because that's a challenge for some Muslims being able to see a visible Muslim, on their screen singing a song or on stage, you know, performing a poem. There has been some some some barriers or backlash, that it that even I've experienced. And so I think that a lot of like, Muslim events and festivals and things like that, you know, there has been, there has been an effort to bring people together. But unfortunately, I don't see that there is really a deep engagement in terms of Muslims collaborating, Muslim artists collaborating with each other and things like that. I think there's a little bit of a, you know, a competitive air, when you're in a competitive industry, right, like music or poetry. And part of my work, actually, my community engaged arts work, is to somewhat dissolve all of that, and to show people that actually, we're living in abundance, Allah SWT tells us that, you know, this is a place of abundance for us. But there the fear of scarcity is what keeps us away from each other. And so building those connections based on the understanding that actually, when you are winning, I'm also winning, is something that I'm really passionate about, not only as an artist, but just as someone that's part of part of this community, seeing people struggling and going at it alone, the lack of mentorship, the lack of encouragement from our community as a whole, but also from from our familial units, you know, that grow up with this understanding of like, Well, here are the pathways and none of them include the arts like doctor, lawyer, engineer, accountant, whatever, right. And that's further reinforced by a society and a community that doesn't necessarily give artists the respect to be honest with you, I can't tell you how many times I've had, you know, Muslim organizations ask me to perform for free or, you know, I get to the venue, and I'm not treated well. And this is something and again, I'm someone who has had a lot of amazing, I've worked with a lot of amazing Muslim organizers. And I've been fortunate enough to have those great opportunities as well. So this is not a slight to those that make the space and are trying, but there's still a gap. And there's still this understanding that there's, there's still not an understanding of the value of the arts, people want artists at their events at their conferences and their spaces, but they don't necessarily want to pay us or they don't necessarily see it as work. And I think that, you know, it's sad that that a non Muslim arts organization or space or promoter venue, what have you, is more readily willing to pay me than my own community that like that makes me very sad. So I think that there needs to be a really serious effort to, you know, just educate our community in terms of the value of the arts, and also really, the understanding that you know, the art there's nothing wrong with the arts. There's nothing islamically wrong with the arts. We actually have a very rich tradition as Muslims in the arts, you know, that like Muslims have been extremely pivotal in advancing the arts like some so much poetry coming out of, of our tradition, so much music. So really just understanding that the arts is very important in in our tradition and should be important in our future as well.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  45:13  

Tasleem as we're coming close to it what about performing little bit each one of you. Just we got five minutes. So take away two, three minutes each.

Tasleem Jamila  45:26  

Okay, so, um, I'll do a poem.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  45:29  


Tasleem Jamila  45:31  

And this is just called She's Passionate. And this is from my I released the album, it's on all streaming platforms. And so it has music to it produced by Professor Griff for Public Enemy, and I'm gonna do a medley. Bismillah. They say she's so passionate, so perfectly present with divine purpose, powerfully packed and potent, persistent on a mission that's masterfully Master, a masterpiece, a mixture of spiritual power, lyrical showers and lyrical assassin now that some passion she'd be trashing a tragic torment that tattered torn souls from psychological war torn holes. I'm the daughter of Mansa Musa mine like friends Fernan phenomenal like Zora Neale Hurston and ... I study ancient texts like al ghazali antic artifacts skilled in the lyrical artifacts no PhD yet but I'm so so scholarly. That's why sisters holla at me because they hear me the angels do a near me and steer me with knowledge that so polished that they acknowledge me like I'm college, except I demolish all the lies. I'm so solid and gifted with the scrolls and scripts that's lifted from the ether around what I take trips, so I don't trip on the stagnant stain of planet chips from slave ships. I'm here to free you. So you see you. see, I come from those Southern farmers and Baptist preachers, shy town imams and mystical teachers, psychic mamas village healers, Sunday Pew kneelers. dream catchers when everyone else tried to still us, those warrior women who fight with spirit and gun those men whose bravery is unparalleled, brighter than the sun, whose grandma's cooking is conjuring bringing heaven from hell. Those who get royalty in their cells. I come from those who fly with angels and see life at every angle. I come from women who put Rose Quartz under pillows who convened in sacred circles so generations can still grow. I come from Mississippi and Alabama Dr. watts healers, those who resurrect everybody their mama and the dealers who sang freedom songs, who are God like strong, who transformed front porches to become community congregations kitchens are sacred sanctuary feeding souls and bellies with jarred jellies herbal elixirs and fixers to fix her after she's broken hearts and abortion distortions and reclaiming the Queen's to royal rituals, transformative tinters with plants and soup, bones, water bowls and crystal stones be pentatonic tones, moaning music with press circles and handclaps that made possibilities plentiful with mind crafts and spirit imaginations, water wombs and shucking corn healing okra soup, self governing elders sessions to listen to prophecy, root connection we are Earth people anchor me in power and allow me to fly free. So I hope freedom in the eyes and hands, beauty boomers, the ancestors are calling us to grandma's bosoms in the backyards baking they creating love beyond this realm, and I feel a peace of peace to sankofa in order to spring forth and we hold on to they pray us whole. They are whole. They pray us whole. Please pray us whole.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  49:04  


Timaj Garad  49:06  

That's amazing.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  49:07  

Wow I'm the daughter of Mansa Musa. You got me there, sister. Wow. So, Timaj you want to share something?

Timaj Garad  49:19  

Sure, I'll share a piece it's called black gold and it's actually a poem that I I turned into a song by the same name and it's that one poem that I was talking about that's based on identity my identity as a black Muslim woman. Black Muslim girls, black Muslim girls black Muslim girls, you are more than not. You are a multitude of dope fly out of this world love making love to love melanated masterpiece there was nothing tragic about you. The tragedy is living in a world that brings you the kind of grief that has you digging the earth with your teeth duality wrapped in your tongue as you code switch deep enough to be black and Muslim but rarely at the same time your spine is a site of intergenerational trauma and they mind your back until it cracks and exposes the black gold from your backbone that was up but this is not a minary. We are the kind of women with a softness that will sink you and lift you at the same time prayer bead woven fingers when we are triggered then proceed to whisper scriptures and strive higher than the brand of justice that was promised here here. And the dance between the ephemeral and eternal here in the in between here and that you can't hear yourself loud enough to hear your dream sometimes here, here here and the place where a woman at the masjid wants to ask me where I'm from. So I say I'm Ethiopian and she says wow Mashallah just like Bilal but then mixes it with dirty looks mixed with That must be why you're doing it wrong. Do it like this mix with so what are you mixed with? compliment and I want to tell her I'm mixed with black and even blacker than that. unapologetically blacker than black, black Muslim girls, black Muslim girls, black Muslim girls. I know the world is burning with your names right now but you are not a forest fire. You are not a forest fire you are the brilliance of many sons and the wisdom of moons. I know this system makes you nervous sometimes, but your nervous system was designed to feed you feeling impulses for your  through your pulse for healing, your winches withering and your bloom holding on to their truths. Your blackness has always been in season. Your blackness has always been in season your blackness has always been in season. And that's from my song black gold which you can...

Abdul Malik Mujahid  51:31  

Wow. powerful, powerful, so much life. Thank you so much for your kindness to share this with me with us. That was Timaj Garad who is who works with Toronto art Council. And with us was Tasleem Jamila with my soul speak... I could see your soul both of yours. And maybe you want to join LLC there. That is powerful. Thank you so much. Thank you. And thank you Sherdil Khan for inviting two great guests and hosting this show I mean producing this show and Dr. AbdulWaheed and thank you for watching. I hope you enjoy it and stay tuned for other programming because Muslim network TV is there 24 seven on a galaxy 19 satellite amazon fire tv Roku Apple TV and our website is peace salam

Tasleem Jamila  52:30  



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