To come to the full potential of an African American Muslim identity, we need to have two components to create a successful formula. Connectedness and Contribution: if we look at all successful Islamic societies and their different stages of development, we will see these two components are common factors that led to that success. That is, if Islam is going to thrive in America, people are going to need to connect and they will have to see how Islam makes for a better America.
The first and most critical component of making Islam thrive in America is the Connectedness. This is defined as people seeing the good aspects of themselves in you. They need not see it on an abstract level, but it goes farther if they see the good in terms of American values of good. Thus, psychologically, they cannot separate positive American values from Islam. This facilitates for Islam to permeate much deeper into the minds and the culture of any group or society. This is making the ground fertile for someone to accept this as a way of life for them.
So your identity needs to be very much African American. This means one should embody the positive aspects of African American values in themselves so that when African American Muslims display that, it is accepted and supported by the society at large. If someone is struggling to find positive aspects of this society, then that can be an indicator of a lack of Connectedness with being African American and thus failing to develop an American Muslim identity.
There are values of trust, integrity, promptness, hard work, family values, community empowerment and many more things that are respected throughout American society. If one only sees a corrupt government, alcoholism, sexual promiscuity, racism, oppression, drug abuse, criminality, and so on, this can be problematic and perpetuate the self-hatred which we as Blacks have chronic issues in dealing with that perception. The objective is not to blindly neglect these attributes and issues of our society, but to address them though the positive aspects embedded within the society. The positives are what we need to build our identity upon.
Once the Connectedness is achieved, then the next level is Contribution. One of the most valued characteristics this society upholds is Contribution: what are you giving to the people, what do you bring to the table? Furthermore, what is the sincerity of that giving? We talk about how Islam is the best thing for America and many people say it will save America. That is fine, but how will Islam save America? What is going to happen? The predominate answers by some of the more vocal members of the Muslim community address how it will take away things like alcohol, sex, drugs, ‘partying’, and all types of other corruptions. That is nice, but what will Islam Contribute? This is where people get stumped most of the time because there is not a clear picture of what Islam will bring to replace some of the ailments of our society.
Black people have contributed as much to this country as anyone in the world. We as Black Muslims know about giving to others. Now it is time as a community to give from self. Which means give because you care, regardless of if another person becomes Muslim or not. Contribution and your identity is what you are going to bring to the table, no agendas attached. You do not have to contribute everything; it does not have to be a lot of things, but just-something. It could be as simple as optimism, support, intelligence, money, passion, happiness, skills, knowledge, leadership, spirituality, just something.
So when you are able to connect effectively with the larger population in an African American Muslim way (meaning how the Prophet S would do it if he were African American himself), then you have something you can give to society no matter where you go, you then have a nice vessel for Islamic knowledge and tangible resources to function into a productive, effective, and an intimately Connected Contributor of American society with a solid American Muslim identity (semantically speaking, American is the adjective to describe the primary noun ‘Muslim’). May Allah make us all connected contributors of our societies with a strong African American Muslim identity.