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Behind the Scenes: Anatomy of Prayer

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There are two things I wanted to explain about this short film: how and why I made it.

First question is why I made it?

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I made this video for a couple of reasons one being I had recently bought a new camera, the Panasonic GH2, so I was itching to test it out and challenge myself with a unique creative project. Secondly, my inspiration came after watching a video entitled Zen by Andrew Reid the editor of EOSHD.com. Andrew made the film in Shanghai with the exact same camera. After watching it I felt compelled to try and make the best video I could and compete with his level of production.

Now what made me think of the subject matter is while watching his video, I noticed how he highlighted the simple elegance of the Buddhist temple and the beauty of these people’s worship that immediately drew my mind to Salah. The very simple yet thought-provoking idea that we visit the house of Allah on a daily basis only to worship Him was powerful to me. Going to the Masjid for Salah on a daily basis can sometimes become a mundane practice, so I wanted to highlight the power of simple actions like Wudu and Adhan, and I wanted to showcase the hidden beauty inside of the Masjid that we walk by on a daily basis yet never really notice.

The other reason I wanted to make this video was because I wanted to make something that was simply beautiful and thought provoking. I feel like films in the Islamic realm are being used as another vehicle to preach instead of being creative works that engage an audience. Most of the Islamic or Muslim short films that you see are either preaching towards a certain cause or telling people that they shouldn’t sin because they’re going to die one day. A filmmaker’s job is to tell a story, present an idea, or pose a question to the audience and allow them to come to their own conclusion.

The second part of this post is the how. Step by step, I’m going to explain how I prepared for the shoot, how I filmed and what I did in postproduction to get the look that you see in the final version.

To prepare for this shoot, the first step was to choose the right location. It just so happened I was headed to Houston that weekend for my brother’s (Abdul Nasir Jangda) seminar (Tafseer of Surah Yaseen). Once we arrived at the newly completed Masjid Maryam I knew this would be a great place to shoot. Secondly, I needed a primary subject. One of my brother’s students who was with us, Hafidh Hassan Faye, agreed to participate; at that point I began to mentally put together the film in my head. I scouted the Masjid top to bottom gathering a shot list and organizing my day so that I could gather as much footage as possible.

In the end, I had 2 hours and nearly 20 GB’s of footage, which resulted in a 3.5 minute video. The key to any shoot is to get every possible shot because you can’t always get all of your equipment and go back to your location and recreate things exactly the same way, so the rule of thumb is do 3 takes and then do 3 more just to be safe, an extra take doesn’t cost you anything.

The next step was to film everything. This part was much easier because I had properly organized everything in step one so I simply went down my list, getting all of the shots needed. The only part that was a bit difficult was getting shots of people praying because I wanted a close intimate shot, but at the same time didn’t want to get so close as to disturb someone’s Salah by distracting them. And for the shots of people praying in Jammah, I had to man the camera and pray afterwards which required me to explain myself more times than I would have liked.

Below is a full breakdown of the equipment I used on this shoot:

Panasonic GH2 hacked

18-55mm Lens (3.5-5.6)

Quantaray 9502 Tripod

Tripod Dolly

It doesn’t seem like a lot of equipment, I know. And that’s because it’s not. I didn’t have multiple lenses to use, didn’t have a follow focus, no slider, no ND filter, no crane, and no steadicam. Would these things have made my film better? Maybe. Would they have made the shoot easier? Definitely. But the point is you don’t have to have them to create something, you simply have to have the motivation and ingenuity to go out and shoot.

David Kong wrote a great blog post over at Philip Bloom about a film he shot in Italy with literally 1 DSLR and a shoulder bag of gear. It’s a really informative post which I think any newbie filmmaker should read because when people get interested in making videos many times they can become more obsessed with equipment than actually filming.

However, now having used this camera for almost 2 years I will make a few recommendations; first you need to read Andrew Reid’s GH2 Shooters Guide back to back. He will teach you how to hack it so you can maximize the camera’s abilities and give you recommendations on lenses and settings. And he provides a great breakdown of basic camera techniques, terminology, and concepts for beginners. Its only $20 and if you really want the most out of your camera it’s well worth it. I won’t go into detail about accessory recommendations for the GH2 because that will get very long and technical, I’ll simply advise you to get his book. I’ll just quickly list which lenses I would recommend getting for this camera. I own two of them and they have served me very well and I hope to buy the third one as well. All three of these lenses are also recommended in Andrew’s book.

First off is the Canon FD 50mm 1.8, if you’re going to use the GH2 or any other MFT DSLR for video you have to get this lens for two reasons:

1. It delivers a fantastic image and

2. It is dirt-cheap! Literally dirt-cheap!

Canon FD lenses are outdated lenses that were used on film cameras before the advent of digital photography and autofocusing. So because these lenses have no digital mechanism and MFT cameras have no mirror they both work perfectly together. You simply need a cheap $20 adapter to connect the lens to the camera mount and you can easily pick up a 50mm 1.8 for $20-$30 on eBay. I bought mine off Craigslist for $20. All in all you get the whole setup for $40-$50.

Second is the Panasonic 14mm 2.5, this lens has been very handy because

One, it is an original Panasonic lens so it autofocuses, which is very useful when shooting quick videos, especially web content such as the Qalam Hangout which are all shot on this lens. The second reason, which is why I bought this lens in the first place, is to shoot the Qalam Hangout with it is because it is super wide. You see one of the shortcomings of the GH2 is that it has a cropped sensor. In my opinion this doesn’t affect image quality, Philip Bloom and Andrew Reid have both done image comparisons of the GH2 and other Full Frame DSLR’s and this camera performs just as well as most full frame cameras. I won’t get into the argument of my camera is better than your camera, but simply put all cameras will have some sort of shortcoming and you have to buy based on what your needs are.

I bought the GH2 for 2 primary reasons. It has a mic jack which many DSLR’s don’t and it has no video time limit, virtually all DSLR’s that are capable of video have artificial time limits such as 12 minutes or 29.59 minutes. This is done so that the camera does not get taxed as a camcorder, the GH2 is the only DSLR I know of that doesn’t have a time limit and because I quite often film extended content like lectures. This was an important feature to me. Back to the matter at hand, because of the GH2’s cropped sensor a 50mm lens will deliver a 100mm image so I needed a super wide lens so that I could easily shoot in small spaces, it cost me roughly $200 and it was well worth it.

Third is a lens I don’t own, but it will definitely be my next purchase, the Noktor 12mm 1.6. This is an even wider lens than my 14mm and it is a lot faster which will be very useful for low light, however like the 50mm it is manual focus only so I will still keep my 14mm but its definitely on my wish list. This lens is slightly pricy at $500.

Below is a video I filmed with my GH2 and the 50mm and 14mm:

Now post-production is a funny story, even though I just released the film, it was in fact shot well over a year ago. Between working full time and being a college student I don’t get much time to indulge in creative personal projects, but Alhamdulilah due to organizing my schedule better, encouragement from my brother, and the Barakah of Ramadan I was able to finally complete the film. I edited the entire film in Sony Vegas Pro. I currently use version 11. If you would like to argue with me about how Premiere Pro and Final Cut are better softwares then email me and we’ll go at it, but suffice it to say I have used every pro grade editing software and I find Vegas to be the most intuitive, compatible, functional and easy-to-use software. I also color graded parts of the film using Magic Bullet Looks.

I hope this post was informative for everyone, if parts of it were too technical I apologize, if you have any questions please feel free to contact me. If you enjoyed the film and this post then please share it with others.

By – Abdullah Jangda

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Human

    September 11, 2013 at 5:55 AM

    Thx al humduallah

  2. Avatar

    Faizan Atiq

    September 12, 2013 at 4:39 PM

    Assalamualaikum – I am one of the members of the Maryam Masjid management and wanted to say thank you for making such a beautiful video of our masjid. Everyone in the community loved it. On a side note – can you share where the athan is from and by who?

    • Avatar

      Abdullah Jangda

      September 13, 2013 at 1:03 PM

      Salam,

      I’m glad to hear everyone at Maryam Masjid liked the video, the muazzin is Ahmed Nufays, I found him on YouTube.

  3. Avatar

    Salaah

    September 19, 2013 at 9:35 AM

    Beautiful Mosque and great video editing. Who is the Imam there? Here are my thoughts on prayer. I like standing in long periods of time in prayer without distraction because it brings out the essence of the prayer which is supposed to be a conversation between you and Allah. When I want to keep it short, I would read half a page of Quran per rakat minimum but I would to do one page of Quran minimum.

  4. Avatar

    Zia-e-Taiba

    October 31, 2016 at 7:00 AM

    Nice to see an article about Importance of prayer in Islam>

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#Current Affairs

Oped: The Treachery Of Spreading Bosnia Genocide Denial In The Muslim Community

The expanding train of the Srebrenica genocide deniers includes the Nobel laureate Peter Handke, an academic Noam Chomsky, the Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić, as well as almost all Serbian politicians in Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. One name in this group weirdly stands out: “Sheikh” Imran Hosein. A traditionally trained Muslim cleric from Trinidad and Tobago, Hosein has carved his niche mostly with highly speculative interpretations of Islamic apocalyptic texts. He has a global following with more than 200 hundred thousand subscribers to his YouTube channel, and his videos are viewed by hundreds of thousands. He has written tens of books in English, some of which had been translated into major world languages. His denial of the Srebrenica genocide may seem outlandish, coming from a Muslim scholar, but a close inspection of his works reveals ideas that are as disturbing as they are misleading.

Much of Hosain’s output centers around interpreting the apocalyptic texts from the Qur’an and Sunnah on the “end of times” (akhir al-zaman). As in other major religious traditions, these texts are highly allegorical in nature and nobody can claim with certainty their true meaning – nobody, except Imran Hosein. He habitually dismisses those who disagree with his unwarranted conclusions by accusing them of not thinking properly. A Scottish Muslim scholar, Dr. Sohaib Saeed, also wrote about this tendency.

In his interpretations, the Dajjal (“anti-Christ”) is American-Zionist alliance (the West or the NATO), the Ottomans were oppressors of the Orthodox Christians who are, in turn, rightfully hating Islam and Muslims, Sultan Mehmed Fatih was acting on “satanic design” when he conquered Constantinople, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 were a false flag operation carried out by the Mossad and its allies, and – yes! – the genocide did not take place in Srebrenica. Such conspiratorial thinking is clearly wrong but is particularly dangerous when dressed in the garb of religious certainty. 

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Hosain frequently presents his opinions as the “Islamic” view of things. His methodology consists of mixing widely accepted Muslim beliefs with his own stretched interpretations. The wider audience may not be as well versed in Islamic logic of interpretation so they may not be able to distinguish between legitimate Muslim beliefs and Hosain’s own warped imagination. In one of his fantastic interpretations, which has much in common with the Christian apocalypticism, the Great War that is nuclear in nature is coming and the Muslims need to align with Russia against the American-Zionist alliance. He sees the struggle in Syria as part of a wider apocalyptic unfolding in which Assad and Putin are playing a positive role. He stretches the Qur’anic verses and Prophetic sayings to read into them fanciful and extravagant interpretations that are not supported by any established Islamic authority.

Hosain does not deny that a terrible massacre happened in Srebrenica. He, however, denies it was a genocide, contradicting thus numerous legal verdicts by international courts and tribunals. Established by the United Nations’ Security Council, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) delivered a verdict of genocide in 2001 in the case of the Bosnian Serb General Radislav Krstić. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague confirmed, in 2007, that genocide took place in Srebrenica. In 2010, two more Bosnian Serb officers were found guilty of committing genocide in Bosnia. The butcher of Srebrenica, Ratko Mladić, was found guilty of genocide in 2017.

In spite of this, and displaying his ignorance on nature and definition of genocide, Hosain stated in an interview with the Serbian media, “Srebrenica was not a genocide. That would mean the whole Serbian people wanted to destroy the whole Muslim people. That never happened.” In a meandering and offensive video “message to Bosnian Muslims” in which he frequently digressed to talking about the end of times, Hosain explained that Srebrenica was not a genocide and that Muslims of Bosnia needed to form an alliance with the Orthodox Serbs. He is oblivious to the fact that the problems in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in the former Yugoslavia stem not from the Bosniaks’ purported unwillingness to form an alliance with the Serbs, but from the aggressive Greater Serbia ideology which had caused misery and destruction in Bosnia, Slovenia, Croatia, and Kosovo. 

Hosein’s views are, of course, welcome in Serbia and in Republika Srpska (Serb-dominated entity within Bosnia), where almost all politicians habitually deny that genocide took place in Srebrenica. He had been interviewed multiple times on Serbian television, where he spewed his views of the Ottoman occupation and crimes against the Serbs, the need to form an alliance between Muslims and Russia, and that Srebrenica was not a genocide. His website contains only one entry on Srebrenica: a long “exposé” that claims no genocide took place in Srebrenica. Authored by two Serbs, Stefan Karganović and Aleksandar Pavić, the special report is a hodge-podge of conspiracy theories, anti-globalization and anti-West views. Karganović, who received more than a million dollars over a six year period from the government of the Bosnian Serb-led Republika Srpska for lobbying efforts in Washington, was recently convicted by the Basic Court in Banja Luka on tax evasion and defamation. The Court issued a warrant for Karganović’s arrest but he is still on the loose. 

True conspirators of the Srebrenica killings, according to Hosain, are not the Serbian political and military leaders, and soldiers who executed Srebrenica’s Muslims. The conspirators are unnamed but it does not take much to understand that he believes that the massacres were ultimately orchestrated by the West, CIA, and NATO. Hosain even stated on the Serbian TV that if people who knew the truth were to come forward they would be executed to hide what really happened. Such opinions are bound to add to an already unbearable pain that many survivors of the Srebrenica genocide are experiencing. It is even more painful when Bosniak victims – who were killed because they were Muslims – are being belittled by an “Islamic” scholar who seems to be more interested in giving comfort to those who actually perpetrated the heinous crime of genocide than in recognizing the victims’ pain. These views are, of course, welcome in Serbia, Russia, and Greece.

It is not difficult to see why Hosain’s views would be popular in today’s day and age where misinformation and fake news are propagated even by the world leaders who should know better. A conspiratorial mindset, mistrust of established facts, undermining of international institutions – these are all hallmarks of the post-truth age. In another time, Imran Hosain would be easily exposed for what he truly is: a charlatan who claims religious expertise. Today, however, his opinions are amplified by social media and by the people who already question science and established facts. For these reasons, he needs to be unmasked to safeguard the very religious foundations which he claims to uphold but ultimately undermines. 

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#Life

A Festival Amidst a Pandemic: How to Give Your Kids an Eid ul-Adha to Remember

Eid ul-Adha is less than 3 weeks away!  This year, more than ever, we want to welcome Eid ul-Adha with a full heart and spirit, insha’Allah, despite the circumstances we are in with the global pandemic.

If you follow me on social media, you probably know that my husband and I host an open house brunch for Eid ul-Adha, welcoming over 125 guests into our home. It’s a party our Muslim and non-Muslim neighbors, friends, and family look forward to being invited to each year. It’s a time to come together as a community, share heart-felt conversations, have laughs, chow down lots of delicious food, and exchange gifts. Kids participate in fun crafts, decorate cookies, and receive eidi. The reality is that we cannot keep up with the tradition this year.

Despite social distancing, we have decided that we will continue to lift our spirits and switch our summer décor to Eid décor, and make it the best Eid for our family and our child. We want to instill the love of Islam in my daughter and make the Islamic festivals a real part of her life. We want to create warm Eid memories, and COVID-19 isn’t going to stop us from doing that. I really hope you plan to do the same.

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Here are 4 ideas to inspire you to bring that festive spirit alive for your family this Eid ul-Adha:

Hajj and Eid ul-Adha themed activities and crafts

There are so many activities to keep the little ones engaged, but having a plan for Eid-ul-Adha with some key activities that your child will enjoy, makes the task so much easier.

Kids love stories, and for us parents this is a great way to get a point across. Read to them about hajj in an age appropriate way. If you don’t have Hajj and Eid-ul-Adha related books, you can get started with this Hajj book list. Read together about the significance and the Islamic traditions of hajj, and the story of how zamzam was discovered. While you teach them the story of the divine sacrifice of Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), ask relatable questions. As a lesson from the story, give your child examples of how they can sacrifice their anger, bad behavior, etc. during this season of sacrifice for the sake of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Ask your children how they would feel if they had to give away their favorite toys, so that they can comprehend the feeling.

Counting down the 10 days of Dhul Hijjah to Eid ul-Adha is another fun activity to encourage kids to do a good deed every day. Have different fun and education activities planned for these 10 days.

Family memories are made through baking together. In our household, Eid cannot pass without baking cookies together and sharing with friends and family. Bake and decorate Eid ul-Adha themed cookies in the shape of a masjid, camel, or even lamb, and share with the neighbors one day, and color in Islamic wooden crafts the next. This DIY Ka’bah craft is a must for us to make every year while learning about the Ka’bah, and it’s an easy craft you can try with your family. Have the kids save their change in this cute masjid money box that they can donate on the day of Eid.

Decorate the main family areas

We are all going to be missing visiting friends and relatives for Eid breakfast, lunch, and dinner this year, so why not jazz things up a bit more at home than usual?

Start decorating the areas of your home that you frequently occupy.  Brighten up the living area, and/or main hallway with a variety of star and masjid-shaped lights, festive lanterns, and Eid garlands, to emphasize that Eid has indeed arrived. Perhaps, decorate a tent while you tell your children about the tent city of Mina.

Prep the dining room as if you are having Guests Over

Set up the breakfast table as if you are having family and friends over for Eid breakfast.

These times will be the special moments you spend together eating as a family. Now, with all hands on deck, plan to get everyone involved to make it a full-on affair. What specific tasks can the little ones take on to feel included as part of the Eid prep and get excited?

While the Eid table set-up itself can be simple, the moments spent around the table sharing in new traditions and engaging in prayer will insha’Allah be even more meaningful and memorable.

 An afternoon picnic

Family picnics are a perfect way for family members to relax and connect. If Texas weather permits, we may take advantage of a cool sunny day with a picnic at a nearby, shady park. With the heat wave we are experiencing, it may either not happen or will be an impromptu one.

Out of all the picnics, it’s the impromptu family meals on the lawn or at a park that I love the most. The ones where we grab an old quilt, basket, light meals, fresh fruits and venture out into the backyard or a nearby park. It’ll be a perfect socially distanced Eid picnic.

Eid ul-Adha comes around just once a year, so let’s strive to make the best of it for our children, even amidst this global pandemic.

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#Society

The Problem With “When They Go Low, We Go High” In An Anti-Black Society

In 2016, First Lady Michelle Obama’s quote, ‘When they go low, we go high’, was first invoked in response to growing anti-black and racist sentiments hurled by the current president and his supporters. Like many others, I believed it was stirring and motivational, yet never felt right in my heart, let alone mind. Going high, but what was the starting point? How are we defining the actions of the ‘they’ or ‘them’? What is the breaking point, when engagement with the ‘they’ becomes problematic and leads to your destruction? Are there rules to this engagement? What game are we playing? Who gets to be the judge or referee? So, the quote and the sentiment never really set right in my heart and led to more questions than answers.

The first assumption of the quote, ‘they’  have a moral compass and actively engaging you in this manner, placing you on the same level. The reality, whiteness in America seeks to maintain its power and control. White slaveholders and the system of hate they used to justify those they enslaved, built a model of power and control, which is the foundation of our current economy and societal structure. This institutionalized whiteness is so ingrained in our culture we are blind to its implications and oblivious to how we each play a role in maintaining this system. Ignorance of the historical development of this country and the narrative of being ‘American’ allows for ‘them’ to maintain their control and a passive acceptance of ‘their’ control and power.

The ‘they’ is often not embodied in a singular person or one group, but a collective body of thoughts and behavior; perpetuating fundamental beliefs or maintaining a perceived status quo. It is individual, institutional, and structural. While social media is full of single racially- charged incidents, when viewed as a whole, they are rooted in long-held beliefs and perceptions of white superiority and disdain for Black presence in their daily lives. Guilt, maybe. Fear. Many are not even aware of how and why they ‘hate’ Black people they simply, do. Here is where we will begin, if you cannot soundly identify or recognize why you hold a particular belief or idea, your actions can never firmly centered in a morally or ethically position. Many of the recent encounters reveal whiteness is predicated on lies; and the belief that white words are superior to truth. The interaction between a San Francisco couple, confronting a Black Man. provides a case study in how we are often engaged and the surveillance of our presence. Threats to call the police, with false information was of no significance to them in their minds, they were right and justified. This incident and the modern-day lynchings of Black persons, allows us to understand ‘they’ or morally bankrupt and will do whatever is necessary to maintain their perceived control.

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A quote by Matshona Dhilwayo bridges the gap between the contradictions in my heart and the understanding my mind seeks,

“It is possible to turn the other cheek when one has stopped counting.”

For generations, Black Americans have taken the ‘higher’ road in response to prejudice and discrimination. At times I believe, we have stopped counting because we knew few changes were coming or justice. During the pinnacle of the civil rights movement during the 60’s the emergence of Malcolm X, challenged the idea of ‘turning the cheek’ when faced with violent acts perpetrated upon Blacks by Whites. The slaps, the senseless murders of Black people on the streets, you count and recognize your enemy for who and what they represent.

In confronting our enemy, we must meet them on their home field of engagement. Millions have taken to the streets across the globe, no longer willing to accept the status quo and suffer needlessly at the hands of those who seek to negate our very existence. As a country, we must understand, this was NEVER a fair fight, on an equal field of battle, or with ample weapons. Nothing about the ‘American’ way of life ever guaranteed any of us a fair shot or equality.

You can not get justice from a system founded by people who in the 1700s published books on how to address the ‘negro problem’. Even Thomas Jefferson knew this day was coming, but in the end, he still held firmly to the belief we were an inferior race who could be easily controlled and manipulated.

Did the enemy play fair when Dr. King was trying to catch a moment of calm at the Lorraine Hotel? Was the enemy morally centered when Malcolm stood in the Audubon Auditorium and was assassinated in front of his family? Did they think twice as Medger Evers pulled into his driveway to spend the evening with his wife and family? When Fred Hampton lay in bed beside his wife was there a second thought?

The idea is not to meet your enemy on some lofty plateau of moral superiority, because they have none; their superiority is based on an ideology that doesn’t even recognize you as their equal. The real lesson, learn from your enemy- their tactics, fighting styles, and methods of engagement. Fight them not with their tools, but your own.

As people of faith, we tend to view those around us, as divine creations of The One; forgetting it was one of those divine creations, who we call the Shaytan. Yes, we accept others for who they are and respect all of humanity. The balance then becomes in recognizing just as the Quran teaches, not everyone will be called to faith or will lead peaceful harmonious lives. This is where we find ourselves, after almost five hundred years of oppression and abuse across the world, here in America, there may not be any redemptive hope for our enemy or the system they created. This does not mean, we simply acquiesce to their control and power, it means we engage them on a level playing field and defeat them using their own rules and weapons.

Knowing your enemy does not mean you become them; nor does it eliminate Divine intervention during periods of unrest. Knowing your enemy, is simply that you fully embrace the reality that they are your enemy and act accordingly. While we hold firm to our faith and the knowledge that He is the Best of Planners, we cannot enter into the enemy’s seat of power believing our mere presence and fervent prayers will somehow miraculously and instantly change their heart. That is not our calling or role, and not our divine purpose. Imams, scholars, and activists engaged in the work of justice and equality, are not divinely elevated to personas and are not representatives of our Lord, but mere offering religious insight and guidance. They hold space, offering insight, and protection.

Never, in the history of this country, have those in power and control ever fully recognized, accepted, or atoned for the entrapment, kidnapping, and enslavement of Africans. Instead, they have violently and systematically created a country of denial and continued oppression. The argument is that things have improved from the ’60s.  My response, I am still not free of the anxiety of having my children taken from this world, simply because they are Black.

We are not allowed to move about this world without having to do twice as much; be ten times better; while still being thought of as less than.

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