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Sheikh Wali Akbar Muhammad
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes — Ella Baker
Waliakbar Muhammad (Emerson Wayne Brandon) was born in Washington, DC, the grandson of former slaves and the ninth of ten siblings. He grew up in an artistic and enterprising family, attended segregated schools until the fall of 1954. It was right after the Brown v. Board of Education decision by the U.S. Supreme Court he became one of the first students to de-segregate public schools in the United States.
He was introduced to a camera by his siblings before he was six months old (he has the picture). However he didn’t become involved in photojournalist until 1968 after becoming fast friends with Ghayth Nur (FKA Lonnie Kashif), a contributing writer for Muhammad Speaks Newspaper. After concentrating on local photography for a while, Muhammad carried cameras and darkroom equipment to Chicago for the first ever Muslim Parade in the fall of 1969. He earned his first set of “official” press credentials by printing a series of photos for publication overnight in his room at Roberts’ Motel.
February of 1970, Muhammad’s photographs of the annual Muslim Convention were featured on the cover of the Muhammad Speaks. That same year he was hired to work in the Camera & Plate Making department of Muhammad Speaks and moved to Chicago. A tireless photographer, he carried his camera everywhere and worked freelance for the Chicago Defender, Chicago Sun Times, Chicago Tribune, Associated Press and United Press International.
In 1972 he went to work in Muhammad Speaks editorial department. Later he was personally commissioned by Elijah Muhammad to visit NOI (Nation of Islam) Temples throughout the U.S. to document the growth and development of the Muslim community. These photos appeared in the publication’s weekly eight-page pull-out entitled the Progress Section.
After 1975 was given the name Waliakbar and continued to work with the succession of publications that mirrored changes in the Muslim community: Bilalian News, World Muslim News, American Muslim Journal and AM Journal where he served and Editor and Publisher’s Representative from 1981 to 1985; after which he relocated with family to Atlanta, GA. Now he resides (2012) outside Houston, TX in Kemah and is Curator of the Brandon Institute, a research, preservation and publishing institution.
At age seventy four (three score and ten…), Waliakbar has begun to catalog photos, slides, negatives and other relevant documents (Insha-Allah) with intent to produce a series of multi-media documentaries on “American Muslim Life” based on the events and experiences, “Allah has blessed me to be a part of…” over the past fifty plus years.