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Black, American, Muslim: Life Through the Lens of Three Identities

“Religion shouldn’t be punitive… you should smile when you think about it,” says Lawrence Coleman.

April 6, 2017

“I could choose to hide… but, Islam gives me a place to hope for better,” says Lawrence Coleman. He has experienced most of his life through the layered lens of three identities: Black, American and Muslim.

Throughout his life, balancing those identities has posed some unique struggles for Coleman, whose family converted to Islam when he was 8 years old.

“My parents were tough. My sister and I used to sneak Doritos in my room because they might have pork in them, so our parents wouldn’t let us eat them,” he recalls, laughing.  

Today, in his hometown of Tacoma, Wash., Coleman and his family have happily carved out a place for themselves in their Islamic faith while still maintaining a firm foothold on what it means to be African-American.  

“Religion shouldn’t be punitive... it should have peace in it. You should enjoy it. You should smile when you think about it,” he reflects. “That’s the way I practice Islam.” 



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Serena Berry

Serena Berry is an independent filmmaker and producer from Tacoma, Washington. She holds a B.A. in Communications from the University of Washington-Tacoma. As a multi-talented freelance producer, Serena’s goal has always been to create stories that often don’t get told about real people. Outside of filmmaking, Serena’s interests include reading, writing, watching independent films from around the world (with a specific love for French cinema), discovering new music and dance and spending time with family.

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