The Beauty of Being Black

February 13, 2020

“The Beauty of Being Black”: A Genealogy of Black Muslim Fashion in the United States - SFU Harbour Centre, Room HC 7000

About this event

Kayla Renée Wheeler, Ph.D.

Grand Valley State University, Allendale, Michigan, USA

This presentation will explore the history of Black Muslim fashion beginning with the Nation of Islam in the 1930s. Through presenting archival research of articles, advertisements, and photographs of Muslim fashion from Muhammad Speaks, Bilalian News, and Azizah Magazine I show how Black Muslim women in the United States have constructed their dress practices as challenges to both white supremacy and Arab-centric Islam. I argue that for Black Muslim women, dress is a form of “embodied resistance,” which challenges what gets counted as “Islamic” and reveals how this labelling is often racialized. Through providing this historiography, I will show how these 20th century fashion pioneers laid the groundwork for the rise of the contemporary Islamic fashion industry in the United States and beyond.

This event will be preceded by a social gathering for Black Muslims and Black students in Vancouver to connect with Dr Wheeler from 3:30-4:30 at SFU Harbour Centre, venue TBA.


Kayla Renée Wheeler is an Assistant Professor of Area & Global Studies and Digital Studies at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan. Currently, she is writing a book on contemporary Black Muslim dress practices in the United States. The book explores how, for Black Muslim women, fashion acts a site of intrareligious and intra-racial dialogue over what it means to be Black, Muslim, and woman in the United States. She is the curator of the Black Islam Syllabus, which highlights the histories and contributions of Black Muslims. She is also the author of Mapping Malcolm’s Boston: Exploring the City that Made Malcolm X, which traces Malcolm X’s life in Boston from 1940 to 1953.

We acknowledge that this lecture takes place on the unceded territory of xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ / sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) nations.