A salaam is a greeting of peace that Muslims offer each other usually by one saying, “Assalaamu alaikum,” and another responding, “Wa’alaikum assalaam.” A dap is a greeting of peace that Black Americans often give one another in the form of a hand slap, shake or pound, sometimes accompanied by a hug. I put the two terms together to represent, and welcome you into, the two worlds from which I’ve sprung: African American and Muslim. Peace (be unto you)!
Why Salaams and Dap
In 2009, I began reporting on a manuscript about young adults raised with both Muslim and Afrocentric values—people like myself—who now live in a post-9/11 world in which Islam is denounced and race is supposed to be muted. I wanted to talk to various Muslim-born black Americans because I’d realized that no one had ever told our story before. I started Salaams and Dap in 2010 as a chance to begin telling that story. I resume it now to begin telling my own.
I’m still working on my manuscript, which has now become a reported memoir. In it, I use my own family’s experience to document the promise of the Black Power-era African American Muslim movement and how it has, and hasn’t, been passed down to my generation.
My parents embraced Islam at a Harlem mosque that espoused the principles of Black Nationalism in the early 1970s. It was to that mosque that my father, in particular, hitched his hopes and dreams for the betterment of black Americans. When those dreams failed to be realized, my father was crushed and my parents left the mosque, years before I was born.
As a result, I grew up deeply conscious of blackness but knowing only bits about the religion into which I was born. Yet, I always wanted to learn more, made attempts to do so and, through my father, gained a keen understanding of the righteousness and revolution that Muslims of my parents’ generation believed was just over the horizon for blacks by way of the transformational power of Islam.
Although the African American Muslim movement never reached the groundswell some had hoped it would, pieces of the ideology remain with us descendants of the movement and we’ve adapted them to fit the present day. It is this perspective that informs my social, political and spiritual awareness, and how I hope to approach any topic on this blog. My view sits at the intersection of various points of view: past and present, black and Muslim, artist and nerd. This will be where it all comes together. So, on Salaams and Dap, don’t look for topics that might only interest Muslims, or blacks, because what you’ll read is for anyone who cherishes family, is mindful of history, hopeful for the future and attuned to the world around them. Thank you for reading.