by Alverda Ann Muhammad
DETROIT—“This is Us” was the title of an awesome program held at Muhammad Mosque No. 1, in Detroit on November 18. It was an event to assist in rebuilding the mosque kitchen.
“There was so much love in there,” exclaimed my neighbor to me as we drove home from the event. “Yes,” I said, “that is what enabled me to move to Detroit alone, (with) no relatives and one known sister,” at the time. “Wherever there is a Muhammad Mosque,” I explained, “there you have family.”
“We are Family” was the rallying song sung by performers and audience members at the beginning of the program which opened with a video tribute to a beloved member of Mosque No. 1, Brother Norman Thrasher Muhammad, who passed in 2021.
Bro. Norman was known to the music world as Norman Thrasher. The video was a recording of Bro. Norman singing at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, into which he had been inducted.
“We are Family,” the well-known tune made famous by Sister Sledge was intended by the program producer and singer Sister Zora Muhammad to enliven the performers and audience and to create a welcoming environment. It had almost everyone on their feet smiling and joyously putting their hands together.
The Opening Prayer (Al-Fatihah) was sung in Arabic by Sister Rebecca Muhammad. Her recitation established a level of spirituality felt in the room that influenced the performances of the performers.
I was very impressed by one little sister, a Junior M.G.T., Sister Eiliyah, whom I know to be very shy. Sister Eiliyah stood up with the children’s choir, formed and directed by Sister Takiyah Muhammad. Sis. Eiliyah opened her mouth and eyes wide and sang her little heart out with zest.
Sister Takiyah is the daughter of the late Sister Syreeta (Wright) Muhammad and stepdaughter of Stevie Wonder. She performed a stirring rendition of Yolanda Adams’ “Open My Heart.” Sister Jennah’s delivery of “My Friends: Oceans and Wind,” an original, was also beautiful.
The evening proceeded with performance after performance in which the artists gave their all.
Sister Zora, who sang several songs throughout the evening, performed a version of “Can You Reach My Friend?” that had almost everyone in tears. She told the story of a childhood neighbor in Detroit, who would always come over and offer to help her mother with chores. He graduated, went into the military as so many Black youths do.
He was honorably discharged, came home and started a business, however was overcome with drug addiction, which cost him his life. I had heard Sister Zora sing before at a couple of events since I moved to Detroit, but I had never heard her sing like that!
Sister Claretha Muhammad is a spoken word artist well known to the Detroit community as Peace. She masterfully shared a couple of her original works. One big surprise of the evening came when Sister Leonetta using the stage name, “Sister Smiley,” performed the first comedy performance in her life with her original material. Her performance had everyone laughing.
The guest artist, a lifelong friend of Sister Zora, with whom she had often performed, was Veronique Musique. Sister Veronique is a singer, choir director, and master of the keyboard, from Calvary Missionary Baptist Church in Mt. Clemmons, Michigan. Sister Veronique sang “Through the Storm,” and directed the choir comprised of sisters. Brother Jan played the keyboard for the song “Total Praise.”
Sister Veronique brought her parents, Pastor and Mrs. Grice, and her 100-year-old grandmother, Mrs. Trice. Mrs. Trice laughed, sang, clapped, and talked with my neighbor who sat next to her throughout the evening!
Sister Alverda Ann Muhammad is a Nation of Islam pioneer and served as an M.G.T. and G.C.C. Student Captain, which means she was responsible for the teaching and training of Muslim women. She is the widow of Final Call senior editor Brother Askia Muhammad.