Inspiring change through fashion: the story of a young black entrepreneur
By Taqua Ammar
Photography by Taqua Ammar
“There is only one destination in life and that destination is death. Everything else is just a journey, and upon that journey, we go from goal to goal to goal.”
How does one overcome the statistics of growing up in an impoverished community? More so, how does one undertake such a task as a minority in America? Jibrial Muhammad has found a way to accomplish his goals while inspiring others in his community through fashion.
“I believe that I can complete every goal in life that I set out to obtain regardless of how astronomical or impossible it may seem,” he said.
When asked about his goals he answered in a philosophical manner.
“I don’t have just one goal in life. I set myself upon a journey in life, and upon that journey, I complete different goals,” he said.
“I would say that the most relevant to my conscious at this moment is to uplift, create, and instil freedom, justice, and equality through black enlightenment, by giving the most value I can, and assisting by pushing forward to a place where we would never ever be oppressed again.”
Growing up as a Muslim in West Oakland
“I was born in St. Louis. We moved when I was two to Oakland, West Oakland,” he said.
“My parents converted to Islam before I was born.
“They instilled that into all of their children at a very early age — the principals of Islam and pillars of Islam — in order for us to grow into that generation that would see the world to the hereafter.
“Growing up for me was an interesting experience because none of my friends and a lot of people I grew up around with, in the hood…none of them was Muslim. None of them really knew what Muslim was.
“We were always those children that were different because we didn’t eat pork, we spoke a certain way, and our belief system was different. Our God was different in that sense.”
Islam and Muslims have suffered negative implications in American society long before September 11th. The aftermath of September 11th has brought more and more challenges to those who are both American and Muslim. However, Jibrial did not view his upbringing as a Muslim in a negative way. He explained how his childhood was different than the average African American child living in West Oakland.
“Coming in with a different sense of self than everyone else. Going over to their house, we couldn’t eat certain foods that their parents would prepare, just because we did not have the same dietary restrictions that they did,” he said.
“It was always being an outsider on the inside.
“A lot of people that we grew up with at the time, they did not understand a lot of the things and why we did the things we did, and what we said. They would sort of make fun because they would always see some stigma of a character they thought a Muslim was without having any understanding of it.
“That was cool though because we did not mind.
“As we got older a lot of those people now look to us because now more people understand that we were ahead of them when it came to that curved consciousness and the development of self.”
Growing up as a black Muslim in West Oakland
“Growing up as a black person in America, your culture has been robbed from you. You do not really have that feeling of belonging in a place. Sorta like a kidnapped victim. You exist in America but that is not where you are from,” he said.
“Being black in America you do not have that cultural identity, besides the one that we make up through our oppression. It’s the identity that we created ourselves through the black experience.
“It is interesting having a self-knowledge that teaches you about the history before slavery.
“If we have that sort of self-awareness we could, you know, do mental surgery on ourselves to be able to fix those issues that we may be born with.”
“My older brother he started the clothing line with me. At the time I was doing mostly marketing, funding, and sales,” he said.
Jibrial’s brother left the clothing line at which point he constructed a secondary revolutionary clothing line Musahill. He has worked to promote his brand for the last four years.
“The only time that we start to learn, the only time that we start to progress is when we pay attention to the positives or become aware of the values of what’s good in life is when something negative happens, like black death, or war, or you know Donald Trump,” he said.
“Musahill is getting over that hill of ignorance to where that necessary example of murder or violence or negativity is necessary before we start to pay attention to what is righteous.”
Jibrial’s previous experience in the fashion world may have been an inspiration for his movement. His experience includes working for the luxury clothing line Prada.
“I had started just doing security and loss prevention and then I worked my way up to sales and management,” he said.
“At the time they had never hired someone who had just come in the door, six months with no sales experience.”
Through dedication, Jibrial worked his way up the corporate ladder and to a position with substantial compensation, but he wanted something more.
“I decided to take what I learned from them and go independent,” he said.
“I wanted to be independent so then I could go and teach that independence to others, so when I do gain that success I could be an example of that blueprint of what to do.”
Musahill works to influence the community in a positive way. One of its campaigns is the Black Dreams Matter line. In the heart of downtown Oakland, overlooking Lake Merritt, Jebrial mentions how gentrification has taken over his community.
“It does not look like anything like it used to just a year or two back,” he said.
As tech corporations consume Oakland and neighbouring cities, more and more of the native ethnic communities are being forced out due to rising housing prices.
“Walking down downtown is a little depressing because you remember what it was and now you are looking at what it is,” he said.
This is why Jebrial is so passionate about his message.
“When people would walk pass the shop and see Black Dreams Matter, it was almost like a ray of hope,” he said.
“They would come in and see that this is a safe spot and a safe haven, that they could come in and be celebrated.
“I do not think the experience of negativity is 100 percent wrong, I think it is what you do with the knowledge of that experience that makes it correct.
“I think that all things have to go to pressure to be formed.
“We need to work towards enlightenment so that enlightenment produces a change in the environment.”
A Path of righteousness
“I’m building right now,” he said.
“I want to definitely be able to create this international business of Musahill to where I can create righteousness and consciousness in the symbolism of ready-to-wear apparel everywhere.
“Being able to instil that wealthy thinking in our people and building a black business, creating black assets and ownership, and really pushing the importance of economic empowerment.
“I believe that life is a journey of becoming the greatest version of yourself. If you go along that journey in life becoming the greatest version of yourself, then the world will catch up to where we want it to be.”
Jibrial is a 27-year-old artist, entrepreneur and activist. He hopes to bring about a greater dialogue amongst the struggling communities of the world through his inspirational clothing line. He aspires to challenge himself and others daily to become the best version of ourselves we can be.
To learn more about Jibrial’s movement visit: musahill.com. IG:@musahill