Strange Fruit – A Reflection on Ben Keita


By Nandee Shabazz from South Florida
Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

Southern trees bear strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees
– Strange Fruit, written by Abel Meeropol

In November of 2016, Ben Keita was reported missing by his parents in Washington State. In January of 2017, he was found hung from a tree in a wooded area not too far from his home.

Just imagine that.

In 2017, a Black child of 18 years old was found HUNG from a tree.
Ben Keita was Black, but he was also Muslim; which makes the pain of his death even harder to bear.

As someone who is active within the Muslim community, I hear talk, and give talk of my own, about the intersectionality between the plight of Muslims today and Black Americans since the construction of America. I find myself repeating over and over that we must unite against a common foe for us to enact real, lasting, positive change.

So, Trump issues ludicrous and unconstitutional executive orders that affect my fellow Muslim brothers and sisters, I feel enraged, and I try to speak out as much as I can against the evils that he does.

When my Syrian brothers and sisters are murdered in an unethical civil war, I try to speak out as much as I possibly can, because these issues are not just Syrian, or Palestinian, or Yemeni; they are all of our issues. So we all must stand up and fight against them, right?

And then comes the news about Ben Keita.
A Black Muslim at the tender age of 18 who was found hung from a tree.
As Black people living in America, we know that when Black people are hung from trees, it’s called a lynching. So let’s reword this:

A Black Muslim 18-year-old was LYNCHED in Washington state.
And the Muslim community across the nation has been silent.   

We are constantly talking about the intersectionality with the Black and Muslim struggles, and more often than not, I am finding that while Black Muslims overwhelmingly understand and support this thought, we are still waiting for our Arab and Desi Muslim brothers and sisters to catch up.

We find ourselves at airports protesting hand in hand with hijabi sisters and bearded brother, but when we show up for Black Lives Matter protests, we are alone.

When a Black Muslim boy of 18 is lynched, the Black Muslim community is enraged, and when we look for empathy from our Arab and Desi brothers and sisters, we are ignored.

This vicious cycle of choosing which lives we mourn when Muslims are killed or which stories of injustice we choose to make “trending” needs to stop. We must all collectively come to the realization that Black Muslims, are in fact Muslim, and that our lives matter just as much as the Arab or Desi Muslim.

We must collectively make the effort to be just as outraged when three Arab Muslims are killed as when Three Black Muslims are killed.

We must collectively decide to not be silent in the face of injustice regardless of the race of the person whom that injustice has been done against.

We must collectively do better.
Or we will all collectively fail.

What you can do to help:

  • Make dua’a for Ben Keita and his family

  • Be Informed – Read the story of Ben Keita

  • Spread awareness – Have conversations about what happened, and the greater issue of selective outrage in the Muslim community. Bring it up in family discussions, talk to your community leaders; urging them to address the issue of violence against the black community and what we as Muslims can do to help stop and uplift our communities together.

  • Join in on the next MAS-BLM Working group 4th space to learn how to become more involved


Comments or opinions expressed on the blog are those of their respective contributors only. The views expressed on this blog do not necessarily represent the views of the Muslim American Society, its management or employees. The Muslim American Society is not responsible for, and disclaims any and all liability for the content of comments written by contributors to the blog.

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