Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity

ociele hawkins

The Fold

by Ociele Hawkins

the decision to take my shahada had to have been random. but it was Ramadan so it felt intentional enough.

this was before Reek and Keem got killed. that night it was me, Chop, Keem, and Omar, who was driving. he was only about 3 or 4 yrs older but back then that was the difference between a bus pass and a license. before we hopped in Omar’s wheel, we were on 21st street, Keem in his 4x white T, foreshadowing his ghost. it was prolli around 7p or whenever Maghrib was coming in that night.

everyone knew i was “muslim” or that i claimed to be, because my daddy was and i swore when i was about 5 or so i heard my mom say i wore a kufi once when i was a baby, and that was all the evidence i needed to solidify my religious bloodline.

but i didn’t practice Islam.

the decision to take my shahada had to have been random. but it was Ramadan so it felt intentional enough. or serious enough to be intentional about it.

10th grade just started a month before, and algebra class was the only place i felt respected. this tall light skinned boy would give me all this hetero-imma take you under my wing and have your back kind of attention. in retrospect i thought he was cute. he hustled (trapped) so we talked about how jeezy’s thug motivation 101 was literally his life. i never mentioned my life. like how 2 months before school started my block got shot up. how i might’ve been killed. i didn’t tell him Chop got shot in the shoulder. mashallah he didn’t die.

it was prolli Chop that called Omar. he was muslim (too). fly too. wise too. we in the car. of course i’m in the backseat. the sun just set. the sky was Black like the 4 of us. we drove down 16th st.

15 was the age everything changed. the growing pains were literally palpable. fist fights became too adolescent. we didn’t play manhunt anymore — we avoided certain blocks now. trauma matured us.

Chop and Keem stayed in the car. the masjid was empty. I don’t believe he was the imam, just an older brother at the mosque reading Hadith. coolly, Omar spoke with him. the 3 of us sat. the Quran inches from me. the brother invited me to repeat after him “la illah ila allah muhammad rasul allah”.

i was so afraid. and confused. and yet, everything felt precious. like four Black kids seeking piousness while on the precipice of death.

when they died they were so young, Reek and Keem. i missed both their funerals. but if i went i would have worn a brand new kufi, rode in the front seat and recited al fatiha the whole way there — the 1st prayer i ever learned, maybe because of them.



ociele hawkins is a Black nonbinary queer femme organizer, poet, and performer from Philadelphia. Her work has been focused mainly on community organizing and public education, while her creative work, specifically her poetry and prose center her Blackness and poor and working class upbringing. To see more of her work, visit her website at For inquiries, comments and collaborations, send email to ociele at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .