May 04

The politics of religion and the role of Black faith


  • Su'ad Abdul Khabeer

    University of Michigan

    Su’ad Abdul Khabeer is a scholar-artist-activist. In her most recent work, she examines the intersections of official history and the untold stories of Black women and Black Muslims through the lens of her mother’s life. Umi means mother in Arabic, so she named the series of digital exhibitions Umi's Archive. The project sees everyday Black women as people who know things we all need to know.

    Trained as an anthropologist, Su’ad’s first book, Muslim Cool: Race, Religion and Hip Hop in the United States (NYU Press 2016), is a critically acclaimed ethnography on Islam and hip hop that examines how intersecting ideas of Muslimness and Blackness challenge and reproduce the meanings of race in the US. Su’ad’s written work on Islam and hip hop is accompanied by her performance ethnography, Sampled: Beats of Muslim Life. Sampled is a one-woman solo performance designed to present and represent her research and findings to diverse audiences as part of her commitment to public scholarship.

    In line with this commitment Su’ad leads Sapelo Square, the first website dedicated to the comprehensive documentation and analysis of the Black US American Muslim experience. She has also written for The Root, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, Ebony Magazine, the Huffington Post, Religious Dispatches and Trans/Missions, and has appeared on Al Jazeera English. Additionally, Su’ad is a Senior Project Advisor for the US Public Television award-winning documentary, New Muslim Cool and her poetry was featured in the anthology Living Islam Out Loud: American Muslim Women Speak. In 2018, Su’ad was profiled as one of 25 influential American Muslims by CNN and received the Soros Equality Fellowship in 2019.

    Su'ad is currently an associate professor of American Culture and Arab and Muslim American Studies at the University of Michigan. She received her PhD in cultural anthropology from Princeton University and is a graduate from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and completed the Islamic Studies diploma program of the Institute at Abu Nour University (Damascus).

  • Melissa Ford

    Slippery Rock University

    I am an Assistant Professor of History at Slippery Rock University in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania. I received my PhD in American Studies from Saint Louis University and my BA in Political Science and Philosophy from Wellesley College. I am a fifth (at least!) generation Midwesterner, born in St. Louis. I currently live in Pittsburgh.

  • Todne Thomas

    Harvard University

    Todne Thomas, PhD, is a socio-cultural anthropologist and Assistant Professor of African American Religions at Harvard Divinity School. In collaboration with Afro-Caribbean and African American congregants, Thomas conducts ethnographic research on the racial, spatial, and familial dynamics of black Christian communities in the U.S. Conceptually, her work integrates critical race and kinship theories to understand the racial and moral scripts of evangelicalism and neoliberalism.

    She has authored peer-reviewed articles for the Journal of Africana Religions, Anthropology and Humanism, and the Journal of African American Studies. She has also co-edited New Directions in Spiritual Kinship: Sacred Ties across the Abrahamic Religions (2017) with Asiya Malik and Rose Wellman. Her latest book, Kincraft: The Making of Black Evangelical Sociality (2021), explores the internal dynamics of community life among black evangelicals, who are often overshadowed by white evangelicals and the common equation of the “Black Church” with an Afro-Protestant mainline. Drawing on fieldwork in an Afro-Caribbean and African American church association in Atlanta, Thomas locates black evangelicals at the center of their own religious story, presenting their determined spiritual relatedness as a form of insurgency.


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