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Black Life Texas

Who is the First Black Muslim?



It’s Muslim Awareness Month, and I would love to share the story of Bilal ibn Rabah, a man of African lineage who is the first Black man to convert to Islam. Bilal’s story is one of immense faith, loyalty, and perseverance, and he is respected by Muslims worldwide. Not to be confused with the Nation of Islam in America (founded in 1930), Bilal ibn Rabah’s story takes place in what was considered the holy lands of Saudi Arabia in ancient times.

Born in Mecca during the era of Jahiliyyah (what Muslims refer to as the period of ignorance before Islam), Bilal became the first African companion of the Prophet Muhammad and a symbol of equality in the Islamic tradition. Bilal was the son of a captured Ethiopian princess named Hamamah and was enslaved to a wealthy merchant, Umayyah ibn Khalaf, known for his cruelty. Hamamah was not just a captured Ethiopian princess but a princess of the blood, which means that Bilal is a descendant of the royal house of Ethiopia. Bilal’s mother taught him arithmetic, reading, writing, poetry, and song, and this literacy would serve him well later in life, and he would use these skills in service to the Islamic faith.

Despite the intense persecution he faced for his belief that there is only one God or the monotheistic message of the Prophet Muhammad, Bilal remained steadfast, refusing to renounce his faith. Umayyah, his cruel master, subjected Bilal to unimaginable torture, forcing him to lie on the scorching desert sand under the searing sun and placing heavy rocks on his chest. Yet, even in his moments of utmost agony, Bilal’s unwavering response was, “Ahad! Ahad!” (One! One!), reaffirming his belief in the absolute unity of God.

Bilal’s steadfastness caught the attention of Abu Bakr, one of the earliest converts to Islam and a close companion of the Prophet Muhammad. Deeply moved by Bilal’s unwavering faith and courage in torment, Abu Bakr purchased Bilal’s freedom. This act of emancipation symbolized the significance of freedom and equality in Islam, transcending racial and social barriers.

Hearing Bilal’s resonant and melodious voice, Prophet Muhammad invited him to become Islam’s first Muezzin (the one who calls for prayer). Because of this, he held a unique position and responsibility. It is the Muezzin who summons the believers to their daily prayers. His soul-stirring and captivating Adhan (call to prayer) symbolized inclusivity, signifying that Islam was open to people from all walks of life, regardless of ethnicity or social status. This spirit of equality and diversity remains a core value in Islam today.

In addition to being the only one allowed to call the Adhan while Prophet Muhammad was alive, Bilal was appointed as the minister of the Bayt al-Mal (treasury). In a time when most were illiterate and even fewer could understand arithmetic, this tall, imposing son of an Ethiopian princess could do both.

Bilal accompanied Prophet Muhammad into every battle during the early days of Islam. And not only did he fight by his side, but Bilal also had the honor of carrying the Prophet’s spear. To understand Bilal’s place in Islam, one must understand a little about Islam. In Islamic tradition, the same angel that delivered the Qur’an al-Majid (holy book) also delivered the Adhan (call to prayer), which the Prophet Muhammad passed to Bilal. One can also understand Bilal’s place in Islam by reading in the Qu’ran what the Prophet asked of his closest companion. The Prophet or the Messenger said: “O Bilal, what special deeds you have done that I heard sounds of your walking steps ahead of me in Paradise.”

When scholars interpret what the Prophet Muhammad said about Bilal walking ahead of him in Heaven, they all reach the same conclusion about Bilal’s relationship with Allah and about Bilal’s holiness and service to Allah, the faithful, and Islam.

In examining the legacy of Bilal, one must also understand not only his connection to Islam as one of the first nine converts but his royal lineage through his mother to the royal house of Ethiopia. After Prophet Muhammad’s death, Bilal left Medina and went to spread Islam in Syria. After Bilal died in Damascus, his wife left with some of his sons and returned to his royal line in Ethiopia. In contrast, some of his other sons ventured into West Africa and eventually established Niani, which remained the capital of the Muslim Mandigo empire for 300 years. It was from Niani and this group of sons that a ruling dynasty was created, and this dynasty eventually became the Empire of Mali. We all know that it was the Malian Empire that gave the world the great Sundiata Keita (the first ruler of the Mali Empire) and the fabulously wealthy Mansa Musa (one of the richest people in history), both descendants of Bilal ibn Rabah.

So, here we have the first Black Muslim, the son of an Ethiopian princess, the grandson of an Ethiopian emperor (King Solomon), the first treasurer of Islam, the first Muezzin, Prophet Muhammad’s most trusted and most loyal Sahaba (Companions of the Prophet), the only person the Prophet would allow to call the faithful to prayer in his lifetime, the Prophet’s spear bearer, Islamic holy warrior, and ancestor of what would eventually become the largest, most wealthy empire in all of ancient Africa, the Keita dynasty and the Empire of Mali.

In America, this Black man is little known, but to more than 2 billion people worldwide, they remember him fondly five times a day, each day, as they ready themselves for prayer. In their heads, they can hear this Black man with his deep, melodious voice summoning the faithful to prayer. His voice was a symbol of Muslim unity.

It was a Black man who fought by the Prophet’s side. It was a Black man who managed the treasury so that the Muslim armies could fund their campaigns to spread the faith. It was a Black man who spread the faith in Syria and the Levant. It was a Black man who showed the world that faith has nothing to do with the color of one’s skin but everything to do with the depth of their character.

Black Life Texas

The Real History of Thanksgiving




The history of Thanksgiving cannot be discussed without recognizing the reality of genocide committed against Native Indigenous people. Free land was the enticement for European settlers to come to the Americas. The Native populations on these lands would have to be removed or conquered to accomplish their goals.

Many foreigners were already slave owners who wanted to plant cash crops using Black slave labor. The history of the United States cannot be fully understood unless one examines “settler colonialism.” Settler colonialism was founded on the ideology of land theft, genocide, and slavery. Those who have written American history with an eraser of bias have found it easy to perpetuate the Thanksgiving myth of Europeans sitting down with Native Americans and enjoying a food feast together—nothing could be further from the truth.

What came before this so-called “Thanksgiving” was murder, genocide, and slavery of Native people before and after the mythical thank you dinner. Puritan settlers came up with the idea of the “Doctrine of Discovery,” a racist law enacted by the Pope of that time and brought to America by the less-than-honorable Christopher Columbus. This is the part of the American origin myth that professors and teachers still ignore to be accepted in the world of historical falsehoods. Settler colonialism is a genocidal policy of murder and land theft to satisfy a false religious belief in racial destiny (also called Manifest Destiny). Settlers required violence to realize their dreams of wealth. No community will willingly give up their land, children, resources, and dignity without a fight, and Indigenous people did not go down without a fight against these ideals that were rooted in a colonial agenda that had a religious spin on it. When European settlers were crossing the ocean and illegally crossing borders, it was something supposedly legal and sanctioned by God.

America was not a virgin land or wilderness filled with wild animals but a land tame to Native people. It was a network of native communities that linked people through roads and trails they carved themselves, which they built long before Europeans arrived. Native people cultivated farmland and crops to survive the harsh winters in the northern parts of America. The Native people knew where the oyster beds were, the water routes, and what plants had medicinal value. Settlers came to America with a culture of conquest and killing that they experienced in hundreds of years of religious savagery between Catholics and Protestants, especially the killing and exploitation of the Irish by the English and Scottish. White supremacy can be traced to the Christian Crusades against Muslims and not to capitalism, though capitalism exploited the idea to the fullest later.

These Europeans did not tame the wilderness. They invaded and murdered the original inhabitants. There are many fake origin stories from one country to the next, as apartheid South Africa once claimed and is now claimed by Israel using similar tactics for decades in a systematic way to force Palestinians from their homes, according to Amnesty International.

The fake Captain John Smith story never mentions his threat to kill all Native women and children if the Native people would not help feed and clothe the settlers from England and provide free labor for the English settlement. When Native people refused, the settlers burned their crops in an attempt to starve out the so-called “Indians.” This would result in the Pequot War, in which settlers would slaughter the Pequot tribe in the 1600s. Unknown to many, this was the first “Thanksgiving,” according to research by historians, in which settlers had a celebration thanking God for their murderous exploits. Scalp hunting was brought to America’s shores by the Scottish Protestants, who also invented the term “Redskin” to describe the bleeding head of one of their victims. Mutilated bloody corpses, which Puritans scalped, were the origin of the term “Redskin.” It was not developed as an indication of “race.” Later in history, the practice of scalping and gutting pregnant Native women would be carried out by the Scotsman Andrew Jackson, whom many now call the “Hitler of America.”

The Thanksgiving Myth is that of smiling “Indians” welcoming the European explorers to America, showing them how to reside in this ‘wilderness,” and sitting down to dinner with them. They supposedly hand their lands off to “frontiersmen,” so these invaders can create an incredible country committed to freedom, opportunity, and Christianity until the end of the world. That is the story — it’s about Native People yielding to settler colonialism. The myth is bloodless and, in numerous ways, an argument for the racist idea of Manifest Racial Destiny. Thus, the Thanksgiving myth was created to present a false history to deny the horrors of American origins and later to invent a fake ideology coined “American Exceptionalism.” American Exceptionalism was derived from these false ideas, created by criminal or ignorant historians, which claim that America is an “Innocent Nation” while other nations may have blood on their hands. Nothing could be further from the real history of America and the truth about Thanksgiving. Today, many of us celebrate family and friends and want nothing to do with the invented narrative. We can always choose to provide our own meanings and, at the same time, educate our community about the lies.

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Downtown SA Lights Up for the Holidays



Downtown San Antonio will sparkle this holiday season with an array of lights and holiday events. 

Set against the backdrop of one of the city’s most historic and charming walkways, five blocks of Houston Street will buzz with twinkling lights, decorations, entertainers, and vendors from Nov. 24 and runs through January 2. 

 Additionally, on Nov. 24, kick off the holiday festivities with the Annual H-E-B Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at Travis Park. Festivities begin at 4 p.m. and include live entertainment, food trucks, letters to Santa, giveaways, holiday crafts, a special visit from Santa, and a movie screening of “The Grinch.” The tree-lighting ceremony begins at 6 p.m., followed by the movie at 7 p.m. This event is free and open to the public. 

Get front-row seats to the 42nd Annual Ford Holiday River Parade, which offers a spectacular one-hour parade along the San Antonio River Walk starting at 6 pm at the Tobin Center. This year’s theme, “Holiday Stories,” will kick off the San Antonio tradition. Always held the day after Thanksgiving, the parade and river lighting ceremony will feature 28 illuminated floats and over 100,000 lights (2,250 strands) illuminating the River Walk. The lights turn on from sundown to sunrise every day until the weekend following New Year’s Day. Seating ranges from $15 to $40. It is broadcast live at 7 p.m. at the Arneson River Theatre.

The Rotary Ice Rink, presented by Valero, will also return this fall at Travis Park in downtown San Antonio. Since 2019, nearly 200,000 people have enjoyed the rink and surrounding festivities. For more information, including hours of operation, pricing, and specials, visit (

For more events, go to (

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Black Life Texas

Black Soldiers’ Convictions Overturned – A Century Later!



More than 100 years later, the U.S. Army recently overturned the convictions of the 110 Black soldiers of the 3rd Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment (also known as the Buffalo Soldiers), who were falsely found guilty following the World War I-era Houston Riots. 

The records of these soldiers will be corrected, to the extent possible, to characterize their military service as honorable. Seventeen of these men are buried at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio. In 2022, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs unveiled a sign telling the story of these men to educate visitors about what happened. 

Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth said, “After a thorough review, the Board has found that these soldiers were wrongly treated because of their race and were not given fair trials. By setting aside their convictions and granting honorable discharges, the Army is acknowledging past mistakes and setting the record straight.”

The Houston Riots took place on Aug. 23, 1917, following months of racial provocations against members of the 24th — including the violent arrest and assault of two Black soldiers. Following the assaults and amid rumors of additional threats to soldiers, a group of more than 100 Black soldiers seized weapons and marched into the city, where clashes erupted. The violence left 19 people dead.

In the months that followed, the Army convicted 110 soldiers in a process that was, according to historians, characterized by numerous irregularities. Ultimately, 19 men were executed in the largest mass execution of American soldiers by the U.S. Army. The first set of executions occurred in secrecy and within a day of sentencing, leading the Army to implement an immediate regulatory change that prohibited future executions without review by the War Department and the President.

In 2020 and 2021, the South Texas College of Law petitioned the Army to review the convictions. Shortly after, the Army received petitions from retired general officers requesting clemency for all 110 soldiers.

“As a Texas native, I was grateful to participate in this process early in my tenure at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, and I am proud that the Army has now formally restored honor to soldiers of the 3-24 and their families,” said Under Secretary of the Army Gabe Camarillo. “We cannot change the past; however, this decision provides the Army and the American people an opportunity to learn from this difficult moment in our history.”

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been deeply involved as this case has unfolded and is prepared to assist any family members upon receipt of the corrected records. Relatives of the soldiers may be entitled to benefits. Family members or other interested parties may request a copy of the corrected records from the National Archives and Records Administration, in accordance with NARA Archival Records Request procedures found at (

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