Abdul-Aliy Muhammad, who uses they/them pronouns, is the cofounder of the Black and Brown Workers Collective, a direct action social justice organization dedicated to fighting racial and gender injustices in Philadelphia. The activist author is also a poet, a contributing writer with TheBody.com and cohosts the podcast For Colored Boyz.
The first thing I ever noticed about Abdul-Aliy Muhammad were their eyes. If it is true that the eyes are the window to the soul, then Abdul-Aliy’s soul has been around for centuries. There is a depth to what they have seen and what they have witnessed that informs how they choose to move in their body.
I had heard about Abdul-Aliy before I met them. I was told they were too political, too nuanced, and had too many opinions. I knew that this was someone I wanted to know and that when the time was right, would become connected to. That connection actualized when we as workers within the HIV non-profit sector began testify to each other about our experiences. In our first meeting, we prayed together. This divine connection has informed our work and has come to define how we choose to engage in this struggle for Black Liberation.
We are clear that our Ancestors, those in our bloodline who have come before us, led us onto this path and continue to lead this vision. For Abdul-Aliy, their mother Melody Beverly, embodies this truth. Although she no longer resides on this plain, it is clear that her heart and commitment to community live on through Abdul-Aliy. It is for these reasons and more that I am beyond grateful to call them chosen family and comrade. I sat down with Abdul to ask them a few questions about their journey.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Currently I am most proud of The Black and Brown Workers Collective. Cofounding and creating this cooperative—that has built a base of over 400-plus workers, impacted city-wide anti-discrimination policy that can now act as a tool for marginalized folks to demand equity in their work places, and that now also focuses on the very real problem of gentrification—has changed the landscape of Philadelphia. It has literally been a part of changing what is possible and creating even greater pathways to equity and ultimately liberation.
What do you still hope to achieve?
What’s your—or the HIV+ community’s—biggest challenge now?
The Trump regime and non-profits who pretend to show up for Black queer poz folks but actually use our narratives to build legacies off of our backs and profit for themselves. Also, the challenge now becomes believing that we, as Black poz, people can lead our own narratives and movements that work to eradicate HIV.
SHANI AKILAH ROBIN is cofounder of the Black and Brown Workers Collective. An anti-oppression organizer, activist, and author, she formerly worked with the HIV organization Philadelphia FIGHT.
[Editor's note: this piece was updated January 15, 2018]