OFFLOAD OFFLINE Review - Ruqayyah Fombo
As a young, black Muslimah who has existed and operated in various Muslim settings as a volunteer and employee, I have often felt like I gave without feeding myself spiritually and socially. In many of the environments I spend time in I am a minority and despite all the love, support and skills I have gained from working within the Muslim community, I realised that I needed to find myself and truly discover my identity as a black Muslimah to exist confidently in these spaces.
Luckily for me, Khadeejah B and her team of loyal supporters had been planning their launch event for the initiative - The Black Muslim Girl. After the success of her blog by the same name, it's founder realised that there were others like herself, (me being one such person), who wanted to build a community of Black Muslim women and have conversations about their experiences, obstacles and dreams.
On a cold December evening I walked into a dimly lit and intimate room in a centre in North West London. I was instantly struck by the effort and attention to detail that had been put into the decor. Fairy lights adorned the wall above tables filled with snacks, bespoke goody bags and a frame showcasing the initials of the initiative. The chairs were set out in a circular formation. Beautiful, melanised sisters from all walks of life sat and listened to Khadeejah and Ameena Roshae (make-up artist, mother and teacher) introduce the event. We began the event with an ice breaker. I consider myself fairly introvert at times but sisters who had never met me before poured their hearts out and made me feel so comfortable and at home in their presence. We were also treated to mind-blowing poetry by the phenomenal Olabara in which she discussed her battle with her identity.
After the amazing first half, we had a very fitting feast of chicken, mac 'n' cheese, pizza and drinks set to a background of soulful tunes and amazing conversations. At the back of the room there was a mixture of white and rose gold balloons adorning the ceiling, with motivational notes attached to their ribbon's. Reading the positive words of advice brought a smile to my face.
After the soul food, we reconvened and had group discussions about matters we struggled with such as procrastination, holding grudges and mental health. We poured our hearts out and advised each other with sincerity. We also had some moving reminders from Khadeejah herself, Hafsa (graduate, youtuber and presenter) and the mature and eloquent Mariam who had wisdom beyond her years. The openness, spiritual transparency and honest, uninhibited conversation was something so rare and precious to have experienced. To have entered into a safe space where attendees could speak openly about their reality without judgement of their race or level of religious practise and spirituality was special. We had built a great camaraderie and given each other the confidence and spiritual and emotional fuel to go forward and give back with a having built a sense of pride in being phenomenal sisters of melanin whose religion is Islam and whose heritage stems from across Africa and the Caribbean.
The event ended with more thought-provoking poetry from Olabara about the identity of a black woman. We were all given a goody bag and left with a sense of cultural euphoria, having met sisters who strangers who became true sisters. One of my highlights of the event was being asked to right down a card to myself which would contain any goals I had for 2019 to be reviewed at the end of the year. I truly believe that dreams and ambitions of every sister in that room were noble and when actualised, would be of benefit to themselves and the wider community insha'Allah. God bless the efforts of the organisers of the event and allow them to positively impact the landscape of the Muslim community.