port of harlem magazine

May 12 - May 25, 2011


New in DC: Islamic American Heritage Museum Opens

Estevanico, the first non-Native American to visit what is now Arizona and New Mexico, was not only of African descent, but was a Muslim. So was Salem Poor, Yusuf Ben Ali, and Bampett Muhamed. These were early Americans who many forget were Africans and even more forget or never knew were Muslims. That's about to change with the opening of the Islamic Heritage Museum in Washington, D.C.

From America's earliest times, the exhibit moves to the 1700s. With copies of early U.S. Census records, the curators count 292 Civil War veterans with Muslim names.

wayne young, port of harlem publisher with Amir Muhammad, co-founder of the Islamic American Heritage MuseumWhile historians continue to find African-American cultural expressions that have roots in Africa (such as the making of sweet grass baskets), museum cofounder Amir Muhammad revealed another tradition rooted in Islam: the holding of one finger in the air to symbolize one God. One exhibit displayed old graves of Muslims with such carvings. Muhammad also explained that when the enslaved built the historic First African Baptist Church in downtown Savannah in the 1850s, they wrote in Arabic (an indicator that writers were educated Muslims).

The museum also includes recent American Islamic history including the rise of the Nation of Islam. Muhammad explains that the movement was the "seed of growth" of Islam in America. The spacious museum also includes the pictures of America's first Muslimah judge, Zakia Mahasa of Baltimore, MD, who Port of Harlem featured as our November 2001 to April 2002 issue's cover story, and the two Muslim U.S. congresspersons, Keith Ellis (Democrat-Minnesota) and André Carson(Democrat-Indiana).

Cofounder Amir Muhammad and his wife, Habeebah Muhammad, who works for the Smithsonian Anacostia Museum of African-American History, first conceived what is now the museum as a traveling exhibit called "Collections and Stories of American Muslims" in 1996. The traveling exhibit later became an exhibit at the Anacostia Museum and a website.

The museum is closed Mondays, open 10a to 5p Tuesday through Saturday, and open Sunday from 11a to 5p at the former Clara Muhammad School, 2315 Martin Luther King Ave. SE . Entrance fees are $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and students, and $3 for children 6-12. Groups of 10 or more get a discounted rate of $3 per guest. To learn more, call 202 678-6906.

A Charitable Organization Opens Next Door

Zakat Foundation of America (ZF), an international charity organization, plans to open an office next door to the museum by July 2011.   ZF's goal is to address immediate needs and ensure the self-reliance of the poorest people around the world with Zakat and Sadaqa dollars of privileged Muslims and the support of other generous donors. It is the organization's belief that those whom God has granted wealth need to cleanse that wealth through charity and those whom God has tried with loss are accorded a rightful share from the resources of the affluent.

Photo: POH Publisher Wayne Young with Amir Muhammad.

Theo Hodge, Jr. M.D.

Afro-Venezuelan Congressman Visits U.S.

modesto ruiz espinoza

It is May; therefore, it is Africa Month in Venezuela. In honor of Africa Month, Venezuelan Congressman Modesto Ruiz Espinoza, President of the Subcommittee on Legislation, Participation, Warranties, Duties and Rights of African Descendants in the National Assembly of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, visited Washington, D.C. His stops included the University of Maryland at College Park, Howard University, and the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington.

Espinoza has been a deputy from the state of Miranda, which encompasses the historically Afro-Venezuelan region of the country known as Barlovento, since 2006. As the President of the Subcommittee on Legislation, Participation, Warranties, Duties and Rights of African descendants, he is responsible for the drafting of a national law against racial discrimination and intolerance that is expected to pass this week. He has also been involved in the move to include recognition of Afro-Venezuelans as a distinct group for the purposes of the 2011 Census in Venezuela and has been a member of the Network of Afro-Venezuelan Organizations since 2007.

Francisco Obadiah Campbell, the Afro-Nicaraguan ambassador to the United States, accompanied Espinoza to his talk at the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington. During the talk, Espinoza had high praises for his president's effort to include Blacks in the country's history, and expanding the number of embassies it has in Africa from 4 to 18 (including one in The Gambia).

A journalist by training, Espinoza tended to blame racist behavior as colonial behavior. When you see me simply as an African, you are "looking at me through the eyes of the colonizers and not my brother," he said.

President Hugo Chávez Embraces
His African Heritage

Hugo Chávez is the first president in Venezuela's history to claim and honor his indigenous and African ancestry. In an interview with Amy Goodman in 2005, President Chávez said, "Hate against me has a lot to do with racism. Because of my big mouth, because of my curly hair. And I'm so proud to have this mouth and this hair, because it's African." During his talk in Washington, Espinoza spoke of Venezuela and the United States as having presidents of African descent.

Afro-Venezuelans Today -
Survivors of the Middle Passage, Too

The embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the United States prepared the document Afro-Venezuelans and the Struggle Against Racism to highlight current status of its citizens who are children of the survivors of the Middle Passage.

Photo:  Modesto Ruiz Espinoza and Francisco Obadiah Campbell.

Things to Do

c.r. gibbsThursday, May 12, 2011, 7p
SE Neighborhood Library
403 7th Street, S.E.
Stony the Road We Trod: From the Civil War to Civil Rights
C.R. Gibbs, Port of Harlem contributor (pictured left)


Tuesday, May 17, 2011, 7p
Greenbelt Branch
Ancient African Empires
C.R. Gibbs, Port of Harlem contributor

Gabon's George Mbourou at Parish Gallery
Mbourou is one of Gabon's most celebrated contemporary artists
Through Tuesday, May 17
Parish Gallery
1054 31st St NW
Washington, D.C.

Mini-micros: a World Tour of Small Breweries
Tip a glass with celebrated brewmaster and author Garrett Oliver
Tuesday, May 17 at 7p
National Geographic Live! Washington, D.C.
1600 M Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20036
202- 857-7700
NG Member: $75 / General Public: $85

philip j.  merrill2011 Preservation and Revitalization Conference
Thursday, May 19, 2011, 2:15p - 3:45p
St. Anne's Parish House
199 Duke of Gloucester Street
Annapolis, Maryland

Philip J. Merrill, Port of Harlem contributor, (pictured left) coordinates African American Heritage Tourism session: Connecting the Story to the Place, Race and Time

African Liberation Day
Saturday, May 21, 9a-5m
12th Street Christian Church
1812 12th Street, NW
Washington, D.C.

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Black Faces of War: A Legacy of Honor from the American Revolution to Today

black faces of warI am not fan of war or the celebration of war, so I am lukewarm about Black Faces of War: A Legacy of Honor from the American Revolution to Today by Robert V. Morris. However, what is most fascinating about the coffee table book is that it documents African-American involvement in American Wars. Lt. Gen Julius W. Becton, Jr., the former Superintendent of D.C. public schools, provides the book's Foreword.

Transgender African-Americans Face Discrimination, Too

While many non-Whites in America feel that discrimination is pervasive, a recent study revealed that 19% of transgender African-Americans reported being refused a home or apartment and 11% reported being evicted because of their gender identity or expression. One in five respondents experienced homelessness because of their gender identity or expression.

An astonishing 41% of respondents reported attempting suicide, compared to only 1.6% of the general population. The study was released by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality.
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In Washington Business Journal

The Washington Business Journal recently featured Port of Harlem advertiser Darrin Davis. 

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