To each (community) is a goal to which Allah turns him; then strive together (as in a race) Towards all that is good. Wheresoever ye are, Allah will bring you Together. For Allah Hath power over all things.
Qur’an – Chapter 2: verse 148
ASALH, the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History, is coming to Indianapolis Oct. 3-7 for their 103rd annual conference. “What happened 103 years ago that gave birth to ASALH?” “Who is the person who started ASALH?” You may ask, “Why is ASALH important?” Well let’s get started.
We all are familiar with African-American (Black) History Month, the time for observing and celebrating the struggles and achievements of the children of Africa who now make America their home. Originally Black History Month was called Negro History Week when it was started by the honorable Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the noted author of the book, “The Mis-Education of the Negro.”
Indianapolis receiving the honor to host the 103rd ASALH conference is very important because 103 years ago when Dr. Carter was addressing the educational and social needs of his people, Indiana was poised to give birth to the Ku Klux Klan. By 1920 Indianapolis had become the stronghold for the Ku Klux Klan. From the Statehouse to city government the tentacles of the KKK extended across the breadth of Indiana, influencing every aspect of our lives.
Today we happily acknowledge that Indiana has come a long way over the last 100 years yet we, African-Americans, have not arrived to our destiny as a people; thus entities such as ASALH are very much needed. The continual study of our African-American life and our history is essential in guiding us towards reaching our African American destiny.
Woodson was transparent with his hopes and aspirations for his people. He keenly assessed the African-American condition and observed:
“If you teach the Negro that he has accomplished as much good as any other race he will aspire to equality and justice without regard to race. Such an effort would upset the program of the oppressor in Africa and America … Let him learn to admire the Hebrew, the Greek, the Latin and the Teuton. Lead the Negro to detest the man of African blood — to hate himself.
“If you can control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his action. When you determine what a man shall think you do not have to concern yourself about what he will do. If you make a man feel that he is inferior, you do not have to compel him to accept an inferior status, for he will seek it himself. If you make a man think that he is justly an outcast, you do not have to order him to the back door. He will go without being told; and if there is no back door, his very nature will demand one.
When Woodson, along with his colleagues, began his work, the physical bodies of African-Americans were only 50 years removed from chattel slavery. Woodson’s efforts were to totally remove the stains of slavery from the minds and souls of African-Americans. The work of Woodson continues with ASALH, and they are coming Oct. 3-7 at the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown, 350 W. Maryland St.
The local chapter of ASALH, the Joseph Taylor branch, is under the leadership of Dr. Monroe Little, the former associate professor of Africana Studies and History at IUPUI. He is spearheading the revival of ASAHL in Indianapolis.
Hosting the ASALH conference in Indianapolis is a very good opportunity for our city. The theme this year is “African Americans in Times of War.” Few know that Indianapolis devotes more acreage than any other U.S. city to honoring our nation’s fallen and is second only to Washington, D.C., in the number of war memorials.
There is so much more to be said about ASALH and the 103rd conference. Please visit asalh.org to learn more about an organization dedicated to African-Americans reaching that Promised Land; yes, reaching our destiny as a people striving towards human excellence within the family of mankind.
This writing is a perspective of Michael Saahir, the Imam of the Nur-Allah Islamic Center, firstname.lastname@example.org