Building Bridges: Muslims in America: Brother Ali
Thursday, March 7, 2019 - 10:15am
From his complicated backstory to his compelling rhymes, Brother Ali is a rapper without a rival. Albino and legally blind, he struggled to find peers in the midwestern states where he spent his youth. But in a pivotal moment at age eight, he found rap, which gave him an outlet and, through the references his favorite rappers made, led him to Islam. For twenty years, he has funneled these elements of his distinctive identity into increasingly profound verses, pairing feverish calls for social justice with candid admissions about his own mental fragility. Brother Ali has never walked this tightrope better than on 2017's gripping 'All the Beauty in This Whole Life.' Written during a period of extreme political upheaval, Beauty not only acknowledges the world's problems but aims to overcome them - to celebrate love in the face of hate, to cherish wisdom in the midst of madness. Ali turns bad encounters with TSA agents into lessons on humor and empathy, a poem for his son into a sermon on staring down intolerance. His perspective - delivered from Motorco's stage as part of Duke Performances' Building Bridges project - feels more necessary than ever, providing hard-won light in the face of darkness.