Musings of a Fat, Black Muslim: A Conversation with Leah Vernon

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California Institute of Integral Studies

1453 Mission Street

San Francisco, CA 94103

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Join style blogger, plus-size Muslim model, public speaker, and activist, Leah Vernon for a conversation about her latest book, Unashamed.

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Ever since she was little, Leah Vernon was told what to believe and how to act. There wasn’t any room for imperfection. Good Muslim girls listened more than they spoke. They didn’t have a missing father or a mother with mental illness. They didn’t have fat bodies or grow up wishing they could be like the white characters they saw on TV. They didn’t have husbands who abused and cheated on them. They certainly didn’t have secret abortions.

In Leah’s latest book, Unashamed, she takes to task the myth of the perfect Muslim woman with frank dispatches on her love-hate relationship with her hijab and her faith, race, weight, mental illness, domestic violence, sexuality, the millennial world of dating, and the process of finding her voice. Tired of the constant policing of her clothing in the name of Islam and Western beauty standards, she reflects on her experiences with hustling paycheck to paycheck, body-shaming, and redefining what it means to be a “good” Muslim. Leah’s work opens up about her journey to overcome her tumultuous adolescence living at the poverty line with her fiercely loving but troubled mother, her deadbeat dad, and her siblings, and the violent dissolution of her 10-year marriage.

Join poet and social justice activist Rabi'a Keeble for a conversation with Leah where they will discuss Leah’s life and work, and how it gives anyone who is marginalized permission to live an unapologetic, confident life.

Leah Vernon is a style blogger, plus-size Muslim model, public speaker, and activist. She has been featured in BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, Elle, Seventeen, Cosmopolitan, the New York Times, Teen Vogue, MuslimGirl, and hundreds of combined podcasts, television appearances, radio spots, and other features. She’s also worked with national and international brands such as Adidas Originals, Torrid, Lane Bryant, Ashley Stewart, Addition Elle, and Eloquii. She received a 2017 Gilda Snowden Award from the Kresge Arts Foundation and is a 2018 recipient of an Ariane De Rothschild Fellowship. She lives in New York, NY. Connect with her on Instagram and her blog.

Rabi'a Keeble is a graduate of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley and received her Masters Degree in Religious Leadership and Social Justice from Starr King School of the Ministry. Rabi'a also received a Graduate Certificate in Islamic Studies and Black Church from GTU. Rabi'a is a social justice activist in Oakland primarily focusing on issues around homelessness, police violence, and racial disparities. She was elected in a groundswell of support in 2017 as a Democratic Delegate for California. Currently she serves as an alternate. Rabi'a has received many awards and commendations such as Recognition of Dedication from City of Berkeley for her work in Mental Health, Wellstone Democratic Club Award, for Leadership and Courage 2017, Mildred Parish Massey Legacy Award from Congresswoman Barbara Lee, 2019, for Community Service, in 2017 Representative Rob Bonta presented Rabi'a with an award from the California State Legislature for Achievement. Rabi'a opened the first Inclusive Women's Mosque in America on April 14, 2017. Rabi'a is a published poet and is working on a book.

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California Institute of Integral Studies

1453 Mission Street

San Francisco, CA 94103

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