Lessons from Imam Khalid

We met Imam Khalid Griggs at the Winston-Salem Community Mosque around 7pm. He was a very calm and friendly gentlemen, who graciously offered to host us for dinner. After praying Maghrib, we headed into a small kitchen beside the mosque to discuss his story over some of his “homecooked” (or possibly catered) chicken, rice, and naan.
First, a little background: Khalid Griggs was born and raised in Winston-Salem. He attended Howard University in Washington D.C., where he gained exposure to and became involved with the Islamic Party in North America, a movement of mainly African-American Muslims. He would eventually convert to Islam and return to Winston Salem to invest his time in the nascent Muslim community there. The focus of this community was mostly on service and social action, but with the help of Imam Griggs they eventually began to push for a more permanent establishment. Eventually, a building that used to serve as a church was bought and converted into the Winston-Salem Community Mosque.
In February of 2010, Imam Griggs was appointed as the Chaplain for Muslim Life at Wake Forest University. He mentioned that the Wake Forest MSA is currently in a sort of recovery phase right now. It was started in the nineties by a single socially active student, but seemed to have had died off after said student graduated. Many Muslim students at Wake Forest are apparently either reluctant or uninterested in being open about their Muslim identity on campus. However, he believes this has started to change, and the MSA has not only begun to grow within Wake Forest’s campus but branch into the local community as well. They had their first Jummah on campus last Fall.
Amongst Imam Griggs’ most impressive achievements were the connections he had helped build amongst the communities he was involved in. For example, the Jummahs at the mosque always have some non-Muslims attending and observing. The mosque is also left open and unsupervised from Fajr to Isha every day, yet they have never suffered any form of direct vandalism or theft. The Bosnian family we met spoke very highly of the Muslim community here, stating that they greatly helped the family when they were struggling to find a home and source of income. Imam Griggs also talked about the good relations Muslim students at Wake Forest have with local Muslims and non-Muslims on and off campus. I was really happy to learn that he knows the teachers at the Islamic Sunday school I went to in Burlington, and that he’s even working with them to establish an Islamic school in Winston-Salem.
When we asked him on advice on how we can improve the coordination of the Duke MSA with it’s local community, he stated that the most progress will be made through small groups of dedicated individuals, such as the student at Wake Forest or the group of organizers who founded the Winston-Salem Mosque. He recommended that we get to know the local community members on a personal level and dedicate our time to working with them. Here’s hoping our MSA will foster the types of people that will push for these initiatives.