What attracted you to this program?
I have to admit that the diversity at Mason is quite unparalleled compared to other universities in the metropolitan area. As a Muslim woman of color it was very important to me to be in an institution that valued different people as a sign of strength for the community. After completing my bachelor's, it made sense to me to continue to be under the mentorship of great professors such as the wonderful Dr. Rei Berroa and Dr. Lisa Rabin. I was also motivated by the fact that the program did not require a GRE exam, which saved me a lot of time as this exam takes months to prepare for.
What are things you especially like about the program?
It is rigorous enough without being overwhelming. Taking literature classes was my favorite. Reading and coming to class to discuss the novels was always a very productive and intellectually stimulating time. I loved attending Hispanic Sociolinguistic class with professor Jennifer Leeman. It was a class that challenged me to think critically about race, gender and the way language is used to discriminate against people of color.
What are your research interests?
During my last year of classes in the program, I became more interested in the narratives and literature produced by or about enslaved people in the Americas, Afro-Caribbean literature and Afro-Latinx. In taking a history course on slavery, I realized that we cannot talk about Latin American literature without talking about Juan Francisco Manzana, Nicolas Guillen, Juan Jose Nieto, Lidia Cabrera, Manuel Zapata Olivella, and the list goes on. Authors and thinkers that are often not taught but are central to the understanding of what makes up Latin American literature, regardless of the period that one is interested in. Currently, I am going a bit further and researching Islam in West Africa to understand the link between the establishment of the Sokoto Caliphate, which ruled most of West Africa for over a century, and the proliferation of the illegal transatlantic slave trade during the nineteenth century.
What are your academic or career goals?
I just defended my dissertation proposal, so I am quite happy about that. I am working on a podcast that was inspired by the 1619 project by Nikole Hannah-Jones. I hope it will make an impact on people’s understanding of how enslaved Muslims in the Americas shaped many of the religious and cultural traditions that we see are still alive but also the trajectory of certain political projects; nominally, the abolitionist movement and how Muslims have been part of the historical fabric that make up the Americas. I also intend to take on a translation project that would provide access to English speakers to the manuscripts of the Sokoto Caliphate in West Africa.
Do you have any advice for future applicants or students?
I think it is important to connect with other students that are in the program and form study groups, host discussion about the material or simply to lean on another when things get tough. Also, reach out to professors in the program and get to know them. Become familiar with their research interests and try to understand who could be a good match for you to be a mentor, a master thesis director or a member of your exam committee. Finally, be kind to yourself and never listen to those who might advise you to follow a different path than the one your heart wants to follow.