Group representing Black Muslims wants to be heard nationally

The suburban Philadelphia based group said they have formed their organization so that their voices are heard by President Joe Biden and other elected officials.

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Mika'il Stewart-Saadiq, BMLC project manager, speaks into a microphone

Mika'il Stewart-Saadiq, BMLC project manager, speaks at announcement. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

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A new group has formed in Philadelphia with a goal of making sure the voices of Black Muslims are heard on a national basis.

The Black Muslim Leadership Council calls itself the first Black American Muslim led group in the country. The group’s founder Salima Suswell said they want to give voice to an under-represented portion of the county.

“For the first time in history, we are establishing an institution that will capture the voices of our unique Black American Muslim community. Philadelphia is home to one of the largest Black Muslim populations,” Suswell said. “Initially BMLC will prioritize work in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia, all states that have large Black Muslim populations.”

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Suswell said it’s time the group had their voices heard.

“I know firsthand that we must work in coalition to have our voices heard. Black Muslims are the largest group within the greater American Muslim community. The Muslim community itself is a fast-growing and influential part of the fabric of America.”

She added, “We have a long proud history of driving social and political change, but unfortunately, we are often very often overlooked by those in positions of power.”

State Senator Sharif Street added there are many Black Muslims who are already in powerful positions.

“I’m a Muslim. Ryan Boyer is a Muslim, former Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson is Muslim, Bilal Qayyum, who was a big shot in the commerce department for a long time and who is now an activist, is a Muslim. The Sheriff Rochelle Bilal is a Muslim along with Councilmember Curtis Jones, he’s a Muslim.”

State Senator Sharif Street, center, speaks along with BLMC head Salima Suswell, right
State Senator Sharif Street speaks along with BLMC head Salima Suswell at an announcement at City Hall. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Ryan Boyer, who in 2021 became the first leader of the powerful Building Trades Council in Philadelphia, said the new Muslim group wants to make sure the needs of Black Muslims are heard on a national level.

“We decided to start this so that our civic voice can be heard in a unified way. And we can change the narrative of what Islam and what Muslims look like in America, and particularly in Philadelphia during this critical time.”

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BLMC’s project manager Mika’il Steward-Saddiq said he’s proud to be part of the group.

“Quite frankly, this announcement has been long overdue. Although Black Muslims are the most populous ethnicity of Muslims in the United States, we experience America completely as Black people and as Muslims, we do experience our share of Islamophobia, but I have a far greater chance of surviving a TSA checkpoint then I have surviving getting pulled over by police for driving while Black.”

The group is not making a political stand, although the press information said the newly formed organization wants to ensure their voices are heard by President Biden and other elected officials.

The release also went on to say the group “will focus on the thousands of civilians killed in Gaza during the war between Israel and Hamas and on domestic issues such as mobilizing voters in swing states, and pushing lawmakers to lay out policies to improve the lives of Black Muslims living across the United States.”

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