As Black History Month draws to a close, AmPopsy had the chance to sit down with a few dynamic women who are making waves in their respective industries to discuss their thoughts and reflections on celebrating the rich history of African-Americans this month and every month.
In our final interview for this series, we speak with Crescent Muhammad, creator and host of “The Madness Collective”, a weekly online show featuring firecracker commentary from Crescent and her co-host, Antwane Cowen, on the major news and entertainment headlines of that week. Below, she speaks on the impact of growing up watching activism in action, finding hope through social media, and the new Black Renaissance.
Your mother, Gladys Muhammad, is very well-known in your hometown of South Bend, Indiana, due to her work on and around racial justice issues. How did your mother’s work in the community influence and shape your ideas around activism and celebrating black culture?
I grew up going to rallies and attending cultural events at local community centers. I had bookcases full of stories about African-American leaders like Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass. I knew all three verses of Lift Every Voice and Sing at ten years old. My mother took me to see For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf when I was nine. Granted, I didn’t understand all of what I was watching, but I loved seeing black people on stage.
At five, while my mother worked on mayoral campaigns, I sat at a desk at campaign headquarters drawing pictures. I remember holding my mother’s hand when she opened the door to let a woman and her child into the battered women’s shelter she ran when I was four. My mother was frequently on our local news stations, either discussing the community revitalization work she was doing or leading a press conference calling to task our local banks for their redlining policies.
I say all of that to say – literally from birth I was present for her activism, dedication and love of our community. I saw my mother fight as hard for me as she did for the people in our community, and I saw her get results.
By the time I got to high school I was well equipped to fight for myself. My freshman year I needed to change my schedule to take an AP class, and the guidance office said it didn’t work because of the time the class was offered. Well, I was prepared. I had already rewritten my schedule and showed them how it could work and voila! My request was granted.
That instinct to not take “no” for an answer was a direct result of being the daughter of Gladys Muhammad. My interest in politics, civil rights and telling black stories is basically in my DNA.
What brings you hope in this day and age when it comes to the ongoing fight for racial equity?
What brings me hope is the passion for equity and equality I see in younger millennials and Generation Z. That passion combined with today’s technology is uniquely powerful. And I was encouraged by the 2020 election, that was a multi-generational, multi-racial achievement. I am definitely concerned regarding the 74 plus million that voted for the other guy, but I am staying hopeful that the 81 plus million that voted for Biden will continue to stay engaged in the process.
What are your go-to places and spaces to explore and celebrate your blackness?
There is such a wealth of truly magnificent black centered content in this era. Watching Lovecraft Country literally fed my soul. Regina King and Yahya Abdul-Mateen in Watchmen were epic.
I hate to keep referring to the 45th president but him winning the 2016 election AFTER having had Barack Obama for eight years shifted something in me. That was the first time I felt hopeless regarding America. Being a part of the generation that came after the civil rights movement allowed for a certain level of freedom and optimism that was shattered in 2016.
What helped was what I feel like was another Black Renaissance in TV and Film. Being able to dive into any number of well-told black centered stories was soothing and uplifting. Even the black-centered reality tv shows were helpful. If for only being able to check out for a minute and lol at the foolishness. It felt less isolating to see at least some of us continuing to live our lives and achieve success in spite of the stark racism and sexism that was front and center.
TV, film, books, my amazing community of friends and, of course, my family keep me steeped in all things blackity–black and I love it.