I am very grateful and so excited to be awarded a partnership opportunity with Sapelo Square and Sacred Writes. The award will allow me to continue my work on Muslim movie stars and bring it to a broader public audience. I will be writing about the relationship between activism and fame though the example of Mahershala Ali, which is a continuation and deepening of the research I started in an essay, “Intersectional Islamophobia: The Case of a Black Ahmadi Muslim Celebrity,” published in the Journal of Africana Religions. That essay explored Ali’s 2017 award season speeches as a moment for the public assertion of his Muslim identity, which he used to combat anti-Muslim animus around the so-called “Muslim Ban,” which was happening at that moment. The essay also examines the illegibility of Black Muslimness and global responses about Ali’s Muslim “orthodoxy,” due to his affiliation with the Ahmadi tradition.
Mahershala Ali is a rich and evolving example to think through the role of Black Muslim activists, both past and present. Ali is he able to publicly subvert older stereotypes of the Black Muslim as a protest figure while also embodying the revolutionary spirit of his activist foreparents. The heightened circulation of his image as one configuration of the Black Muslim experience allows us to rethink contemporary issues of Islamophobia, racism, media representation, public opinion, and global spectatorship. I am privileged to partner with the Sapelo Square and Sacred Writes teams and look forward to how the project will develop.