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Where Our Superpowers lie black panther

Where Our Superpowers Lie: The Intersection of Black Intellectuals and Islam

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The mood is festive. Throngs of moviegoers are entering theaters this weekend, and their excitement is palpable. The most enthusiastic theater moviegoers in quite some time, have catapulted Black Panther advance ticket-sales into a realm far beyond the Marvel Universe. Superhero movies are no stranger to the eager audience. The devoted show up in serious cosplay, clogging the halls of theaters hours ahead of show time. This particular audience has outdone itself. Donning their vibrant African prints, and serious all-black ensembles, there is no question what they’ve come to see. Black Panther is as much a celebration as spectacle, and they are dressed for the occasion.

Minutes into the movie, and it becomes obvious. This is not your typical superhero flick. The sleek CGI effects are impressive, albeit expected. Wakanda however, is majestic.  Her countrymen all dignified and beautifully-adorned. The plot thrusts forward at a dizzying pace, but it is in the moments that it slows down, that we appreciate the elegance of the film.  Look closely. There is an homage to the Tuareg, the Masai, and the Himba people. The detail paid to aesthetic, language, sound, the stunning cast, all serve to elevate it to cinematic art. It may be tempting to leave the theater, captivated by the stunning imagery, titillated by the coolness of it all, satisfied with the overdue positive representation of African-descended people. At its best, film, like clothing, like music, can be tangible proof of the existence of a dynamic culture. African Americans have a particular challenge here.  We can wear the garb, and know the meaning of its symbols, so as not to makes it costume. Perform the dance, but also understand the rhythm, so that it’s not merely entertainment. Our challenge is to not linger in the shallow dimensions of iconography without plunging into the depths of the history and cultures that produce it.

One hundred and twenty-one years ago, faithful to the covetous nature of the imperialist, 1200 British soldiers penetrated the empire of Benin and obliterated it. Looted, were the famous bronzes that once decorated the royal palaces.  Visitors to The British Museum in London or the Boston Museum of Fine Arts have discovered evidence of this kingdom, hiding in plain sight. The elaborate handiwork of the Edo people, now designated ‘art’, commands a hefty sum in the European hand.  Some valued in the millions, if you were to follow the money trail back, you would find yourself in a land where African ingenuity was the norm.

16th Century Benin, where the artisanal knowledge of the chemical and physical compositions of metal was quite sophisticated. Equally impressive, but immovable, were the Walls of Benin, the world’s longest man-made structure. Engineered to safeguard the kingdom, when it stood, it was four times longer than the Great Wall of China.

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Filed Under: Fiction
Shaheda Ha

#BlackMuslimWriters: Shaheda Richardson Feature

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In continuing with our #BlackMuslimWriters campaign, we spotlight writer and poet Shaheda Richardson. She shares a sampling of her captivating writing with us and some of her background as well.

Q: Please tell us a little bit about yourself. 

SR: My name is Shaheda Richardson. I have studied English Literature at North Carolina Central University. Throughout my life I have been avid reader, and an advocate for literacy. I currently write for my own blog ‘Reading The Diaspora’ and am working on a book of short stories, and a novel.

Q: Why do you believe writing is so important in our current climate and why is telling your story necessary? 

SR: As creative people, we have the unique ability to defy what may confine us, and advance humanity through the efforts of our minds, and our pens. Throughout our history, African Americans have used artistic expression to expand our culture beyond the oppressive circumstances we have been subjected to. We have written our stories, and our poems, and our songs in defiance of that which has sought to stifle us. Writing has expanded our voice, experience, and influence beyond the chains of chattel slavery, the subjugation of repressive laws, and this current climate of resurrected bigotry. Those of us who belong to both the family of African-descended people in the United States, and the global family of those who proclaim “There is No God but Allah”, have a unique opportunity. I would consider it a personal responsibility.

We must expand our voices further in this climate of growing racism and xenophobia. I cannot alter history with my words, but I can shift attitudes, and appeal to the best of what is within us. This is as our tradition, to speak to, and for those oppressed among us. As Muslims, it is a divine command from God, as African Americans, it is our legacy, and repayment for the sacrifices of our ancestors.  As writers, we can use our talents to illuminate what is most beautiful about us, as well as the challenges we seek to overcome.  This is our power, it is what dignifies us, and what advances the whole of us into greater enlightenment.

A sampling of Shaheda’s work: 

UNDEFINED GIRLS

For Nabra Hassenen (2017)
For Abeer Qassim Hamza Al-Janabi (2006)
For Rekia Boyd (2012)
For Mary Turner (1917)

savs-black-girl

Do Not teach your daughters how to run away,

Or look over their shoulders,

Do not teach them to watch their backs, or peak through fingers

Order them to Raise their gaze, About-face, and Square off

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Filed Under: Featured, Poetry
How to Write Memorable Characters

How to Write Memorable Characters

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The shadow of a story in your mind, you sit down and begin to write.

Too soon however, you are stumped and your mind wanders in circles. Your hero just cannot seem to find their footing in your story. Your dialogue is stale, your story becomes stagnant.

What happened?

Chances are, even with a fleshed-out plot, if your characters are not motivated, unique, flawed, and dynamic, your story will fall flat. Your readers will fall out of love with even the most deliberately crafted prose.

To keep readers engaged, create characters that are memorable and three dimensional, from protagonist and villain to sidekick and supporting character.

Follow this guide to create characters that are human, believable, and worth rooting (and reading) for.

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Filed Under: Featured, Writing Tips
Word Count Woes? How to Break Out of the 'Content Mill' Mindset

Word Count Woes? How to Break Out of the ‘Content Mill’ Mindset

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The topic of rates for article writing and copy-writing came up in a networking group I’m in and it really got me thinking (AKA riled up!)

Hear me out.

I want to address something for all those who are struggling as freelance writers and working to find their place on the scale that is FREELANCE PAY RATES (capitalized because I want you to read that in a loud announcer voice in your head!)

The group was discussing whether $.01 per word is a reasonable rate for an article that needs intense research and development. 

I really wish we could, collectively as writers and publishers, get off this “per word” rate merry-go-round. It is, quite frankly, complete nonsense! 

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Filed Under: Business, Featured, Writing Tips

#BlackMuslimWriters: Umm Zakiyyah Feature

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Who Is Umm Zakiyyah?

Professionally, “Umm Zakiyyah” is a pseudonym or pen name that I use for my writing and business projects.  So when I think of the professional persona of “Umm Zakiyyah,” she is an artist who shares her heart with the world through novels, self-help books, blogs, essays, and through other people’s stories in hopes that this sharing will inspire others to look deep within and challenge themselves to be both honest and compassionate with themselves on their personal, emotional, and spiritual journeys in this world. And most recently the artistic persona of “Umm Zakiyyah” is now sharing stories through filmmaking.

Personally, I view myself as a regular human being like everyone else, with all the emotional, personal, and spiritual struggles that come along with our life journeys on earth. Behind the scenes, I spend a lot of time reflecting, journaling, and reading and studying Qur’an. I’m also blessed to teach Qur’an, and this is something I enjoy immensely, as it allows me to connect with my sisters in Islam in a way that isn’t really possible in the “professional” Umm Zakiyyah world. I look at this as my “down time” from all the public work, where I can just connect to others in a way that allows us to inspire each other.

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Filed Under: Muslim Authors
The Five Ways I Beat Writer's Block - Overcoming writers block for Muslim writers

The Five Ways I Beat Writer’s Block

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I have been writing since I was eight or nine. I recognized it as my main passion at the age of eleven or twelve. I’ve been outlining stories long before I knew outlining was really a thing.

Even with pages of frenzied notes and elaborate scenes playing in my head, for years I’d made a habit of not lifting a pen to write it all out until true inspiration hit – even if it happened only once or twice every few months.  

The result of waiting forever to be fired up?

Nothing other than countless, quarter-filled notebooks and reading every story that sounded even remotely like mine with a twinge of envy.

Fast forward to my life now as a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM). My personal time is always seen as flexible at best, and nonexistent at worst. However, I’m more consistent with my writing than I ever have been, and I make sure to be inspired every evening at seven.

Just over a year ago, I made a commitment to my goal of being a writer: specifically, a novelist.  That simple declaration lifted a decade’s worth of mental fog. The path toward real progress on paper (or Word doc.) rolled out in front of me.

Since that day, I’ve written out the first draft of a novel that’s been in my head for the better part of fifteen years. It’s a fifty-chaptered gem that I’m currently polishing a little more each day. I’ve also submitted shorter works. Twice I actually won something.

Perhaps it’s not full speed ahead, but it’s a lot further than where I used to be. I’m loving the process and myself more because of it.

With all of that said, here are a few things that helped me out of my writer’s rut…

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Filed Under: Business, Content Marketing, Writing Tips
#BlackMuslimWriters

#BlackMuslimWriters Campaign: Call for Proposals

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Asalamu Alaikum, my name is Sakeena Rashid and I’m the founder of the Muslim Writers and Publishers Association. My goal in forming this association is to increase Muslim visibility and voices in media and publishing. I’ve tried to heighten Muslim identity through other endeavors, like my Isamoji App which created a fun set of Muslim-themed emojis for use on our smartphones. Presently, I am working on an online campaign for Black History Month to recognize the contributions and brilliance of Black Muslim Writers.

Share Your Story

I believe that each of us has a story to tell, something that is special and uniquely our own. I want you to Share Your Story. I invite Muslim poets, journalists, authors, bloggers, and writers of all backgrounds to contact us and submit a brief proposal detailing:

Who You Are (Bio):

What Your Writing Work Consists of (include samples):

And answer this question: Why do you believe writing is so important in our current climate and why is telling your story necessary?

My Ummie said shine your light on the world

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Filed Under: Lifestyle
The Power of Influencer Marketing for writers and publishers

The Power of Influencer Marketing for Writers and Publishers

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There is an old adage that all publicity is good publicity.

I disagree.

Some might argue that the only thing worse than any kind of publicity is not being in the public spotlight at all. Oscar Wilde famously wrote in The Picture of Dorian Gray, “[…] The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”

However, in the age of the internet, managing the public image of your brand can become an insurmountable task if you start circling the drain. Hitching your wagon to the wrong horse…er, I mean people…can also irreparably tarnish your reputation.

And you better believe that all that bad publicity will not be good for your brand.

However, there are types of publicity that can do wonders to boost your image, raise your status, and get you and your work in front of more people. It’s known as influencer marketing. [click to continue…]

Filed Under: Business, Marketing
The Pampered Muslimah

Muslimah Planners 2018: Plan Your Life and Deen Beautifully

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Another year draws to a close, and if you’re anything like me you’ve already started creating a mental to-do-list for 2018. Setting both personal and business goals, and planning to buckle down on your Quran studies once and for all.

I’ve had my eye on a few gorgeous planners created by some awesomely talented Muslimahs. In one of the Facebook groups I’m in, someone asked where they could purchase an Islamic themed planner. It reminded me that I needed to order my planners for the coming year! I had saved my favorites on Facebook along with about a million other things and I didn’t want to dig through all the viral videos, life-saving articles and enticing recipes I know I’ll never make. So I suggested that we create a list of all the super-cool planers available for 2018 by Muslimahs. So here it is! A listing of daily, weekly, and monthly Muslimah created planners for 2018.

Mariam Poppins

mariam poppins

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Filed Under: Lifestyle
Content Marketing Strategy for writers and authors

How to Develop a Content Marketing Strategy: for Writers and Authors

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Developing a content strategy is a key component of online marketing and book promotion. If you’re planning to market your book (or multiple books) online, you’ll need to create, publish, and distribute content to your targeted audience.

If you’ve heard the term “Attraction Marketing,” content marketing as part of a content strategy is a similar principle: the aim is to attract your ideal customers and readers to you with your marketing.

Arguably most everything we write or create is “content marketing” in a certain sense, even if you’re not specifically selling something. It’s content marketing because you have something to say and you have an audience in mind – an audience that you want to read your work.  [click to continue…]

Filed Under: Business, Content Marketing, Marketing