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Abdullah / Moving from Houston to Nacogdoches

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Interviewer: After becoming a Muslim and living in Houston--One, how did Houston differ from Nacogdoches? Helena Abdullah: There was already a large black community of Muslims in Houston. Unbeknownst to me, because I had never heard of Islam. Didn’t know what a Muslim was until I was buying those papers. When my friend mentioned it to me, he was from California, so he knew about Muslim and Islam. Interviewer: Was he a Muslim? Helena Abdullah: No, he was Christian, but he loved to read the papers and he wanted to keep up with everything that was going on. When he would write to me he would say “"As-Salaam-Alaikum.” I didn’t know what that meant and when he came home on furlough one time I asked what that meant, and he said, “Peace be unto you.” Oh okay, so I started writing it back. It wasn’t until I met my husband now that I started realizing what it was all about and the people and the customs. Actually, the customs here in America because foreigners have a different culture from ours here in America. I realized that it isn’t that far from Christianity other than the sense of women have to cover up when they’re out in public. It’s mandatory that young women have to cover up. We do not believe that Jesus was the son of God. God is an entity above all of that. He is the one God, the creator. Jesus was his prophet. That’s what we believe and that’s what we know. Just like Abraham, you know, Moses. They were all prophets. That’s the difference in Islam and Christianity. Once I became a Muslim and started reading and practicing and I just never looked back. Interviewer: How long did you stay in Houston? Helena Abdullah: Nine and a half years. Interviewer: When did you have your children? You already had one son. Helena Abdullah: I had my son and when my husband and I married, we had two girls in Houston and when we moved back here he had a trucking business that was going down because of the economy. He transported building materials and stuff and he was not making a lot of money. He said we got to make a move. So, we decided—he decided, I let him decide—to come to Nacogdoches because I knew this was a one-horse town when I left it and it was going to be a one-horse town when I got back. I said there’s nothing there. He said well let’s give it a try. If it doesn’t work out, we’ll go someplace else. We moved here and haven’t thought about moving any place else. Interviewer: So, you moved here in the eighties? Helena Abdullah: We moved back here in the fall of 1978 because my daughter was born spring of 1979. Interviewer: How have things changed since you’ve been gone? Helena Abdullah: You know, that you ask that, Nacogdoches has changed tremendously. However, the political atmosphere in Nacogdoches has not changed that much. It’s still that segment of the community that feel as if blacks should be in their place in their community. Don’t make waves. Don’t make things impossible. What I have found out is that the atmosphere at SFA has not changed in all that time. There’s still at SFA where blacks don’t advance like they should, like their counterparts. They don’t advance. You go to SFA and you look at who’s on the board of regents, who’s a department head, who’s in control of whatever and just look at the disparity. It’s still at SFA. I’m not going to say—it is political, yeah it is political, but it’s not right. You have more blacks going to SFA right now, giving their money to that school, making it flourish because they play basketball, they play football, they play baseball, they probably run track. They do all of it, but it has not changed. My feelings are that just like they used blacks in the early years, they’re still using blacks to promote SFA. Interviewer: I know there were some lawsuits at SFA by black workers. Did you know anything about that? Helena Abdullah: Yeah, because one of the guys that worked with the union that was instrumental in organizing people up at SFA, forming a little group to sue SFA, was a good friend of mine and my husband’s from Dallas. I was aware. They had several lawsuits and they won a couple of them too. As far as the hiring practices and what they do up at SFA, it’s not different. Interviewer: Would you say SFA differs from other universities? Helena Abdullah: Probably not. Interviewer: And also, what has been SFA’s relationship between the black community here in Nacogdoches? Have you seen the change in that relationship or the overall black community? Has that remained the same? Helena Abdullah: I think it’s about the same because there’s no outreach. Every now and then, they had a wonderful multicultural director that just left here, and I was just so hurt within myself that he left because I think he really could have done a great job given an opportunity. They get black, multicultural—he had a doctorate and he helped to organize a multicultural religious forum up at SFA for the community which was great. I did a candlelight vigil as a result of that in the community to put Muslims and Christians together in defiance of all this killing that the crazy people are doing. That is not Islam. If you get a Quran and the Hadith and you read it, nowhere in there is it going to say that you indiscriminately kill women, children, and old people in a marketplace, in a hotel, in a place of enjoyment. You do not do that. That is haram. That is not Islam. These are fanatical people who have been brainwashed by some idiot into doing something that is against our nature. It’s wrong. It’s wrong. It’s wrong.

Interview Interview with Helena Abdullah
Subjects Family
Family › Marriage
Family › Children
Religion › Religious Denominations
Religion › Spirituality
Religion › Churches
Tags Nation of Islam: Muhammad Speaks Newspapers
Stephen F. Austin State University
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Interview date 2016-06-30
Interview source CRBB Summer 2016
Interviewees Abdullah, Helena
Interviewers Howard, Jasmin
Locations California, USA
Nacogdoches, TX
Duration 00:06:47
Citation "Moving from Houston to Nacogdoches," from Helena Abdullah oral history interview with Jasmin Howard,  June 30, 2016, Nacogdoches, TX, Civil Rights in Black and Brown Interview Database,, accessed July 12, 2024