MLK Children and Youth Program
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7th Annual Rackham King Talks
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From the Beloved Community to the Umma: How Martin Luther King Jr.’s Legacy Shapes Muslim Americans’ Solidarity Politics

January 25, 2024 | 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm | Virtual Event

Center for Middle Eastern & North African Studies

“I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government…”

- Martin Luther King, Jr.


Since 9/11 and the global War on Terror, we have seen the racial projects of Islamophobia grow to dangerous ends, targeting Muslims and those who ‘appear’ Muslim as unassimilable Others to be surveilled, contained, and eliminated. At the same time, we have seen growing coalitions of diverse Muslim, Middle Eastern, and Arab Americans coming together to challenge anti-Muslim politics and the systems that legitimize them. These solidarity politics have found roots in the legacies of Dr. King and the Black freedom struggle. However, recognizing the interconnection between Muslim immigrants and Black Americans has been a longer and more complicated journey that offers us all lessons for the deep divides that face us today. This talk draws on archival data and focus groups to trace the strategic trajectory of Muslim American activism from histories of aspirational whiteness to futures of intersectional coalitions. Muslim activists progress from early strategies centered on maintaining their distance from Black identity and history to eventual strategies that use the memory of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement as a cultural bridge, joining Muslim identity with Black identity in multiracial coalitions. What results from this new understanding of “who we are” is not only a reclamation of what it means to be American but also an emancipatory conception of what it means to belong to a human community across borders, boundaries, and time.



Hajar Yazdiha, Assistant Professor of Sociology University of Southern California

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