Oral History Interview with Imam Derrick Ali on October 11, 2020


Oral History Interview with Imam Derrick Ali on October 11, 2020



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Ali, Imam Derrick


Sadid, Abdul-Zahir; Perkins, Dr. Alisa (Research Director)


Oral history interview with Imam Derrick Ali, conducted by Abdul-Zahir Sadid on October 11, 2020. Interview written by Dr. Alisa Perkins (Research Director) and Abdul-Zahir Sadid. Imam Derrick Ali was born in 1948 in Detroit, Michigan. Imam Ali converted to Islam through the Nation of Islam under the leadership of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and later became a follower of Imam Warith Deen Mohammed. Imam Ali attended Wayne County Community College, where he studied engineering while also taking Arabic and Islamic Studies classes with the renowned scholar Dr. Abdul-Mumin Shakir. During the mid-1980s, Imam Ali joined the Muslim Center Mosque and Community Center. He served as one of the first imams at the Center, where he made many important contributions over the years. As an imam, he promoted dialogue and teamwork among Muslim Center members while encouraging congregants to strive energetically in their efforts toward mosque and community development. During his interview, Imam Ali reflects upon the importance of continuing the Nation of Islam’s do-for-self legacy of autonomy, leadership, self-determination, and unity among African Americans. As a Muslim Center pioneer, Imam Ali details the history, development, and leadership of the Muslim Center from its founding until today. He discusses the Muslim Center’s contribution to revitalizing its surrounding neighborhood and the importance of the younger generation continuing that legacy into the future.

Date of Interview


Location of Interview

Detroit, MI (Muslim Center Mosque and Community Center)


African-American history, African-American Muslims, Noble Drew Ali, Arabic language education, Black Wall Street, Black-owned business, Imam Momodou Ceesay, Church, Community building, Conversion to Islam, Detroit, Do for self, Dr. Cheryl El-Amin, Imam Abdullah Bey El-Amin, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, Friday prayer service, Friday sermon, Marcus Garvey, Hajj, Highland Park, Imam's role in America, Islam, Islam in America, Islamic studies, Jumu'ah, Khutbah, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Michigan, Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, Mosque, ‘Muhammad Speaks', the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, Muslim Americans, Muslim Center Mosque and Community Center, Muslim World Studies Program, Nation of Islam, Neighborhood revitalization, Philbert Omar, Prophet Muhammad, Qur'an, Religious leadership, Reversion to Islam, Jackie Robinson, Wayne County Treasurer Eric Sabree, Saudi Arabia, Dr. Abdulalim Abdullah Shabazz, Dr. Abdul-Mumin Shakir, Mitchell Shamsud-Din, Urban blight, Wayne County Community College


African American Studies | Africana Studies | Civic and Community Engagement | Inequality and Stratification | Islamic Studies | Nonprofit Administration and Management | Politics and Social Change | Race and Ethnicity | Religion | Urban Studies and Planning


Interview conducted by Abdul-Zahir Sadid at the Muslim Center Mosque and Community Center. Interview written by Dr. Alisa Perkins (Research Director) and Abdul-Zahir Sadid. Interview recorded under the direction of Razi Jafri. Videography by Zayd Walid, facilitated by Ismaeel Dhul-Quranayn and Tasneem Joseph. Video Edited by: Brooklynne Bates. Transcribed by: Inez Mendez and Dr. Alisa Perkins. Transcription edited by: Dr. Alisa Perkins. Metadata prepared by: Melissa Paduk. Metadata edited by: Dr. Alisa Perkins and Sophia Wimberley.



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Dream of Detroit Interviews were made possible by funding from the Pillars Grant and Whiting Foundation. Content is for educational purposes only and non-reproducible; interviews are not to be duplicated, but may be linked through ScholarWorks with appropriate attribution. Please direct any questions about copyright to scholarworks@wmich.edu.


Pillars Fund and Whiting Foundation


Dream of Detroit

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Oral History Interview with Imam Derrick Ali on October 11, 2020