The Moorish Science Temple of America
Sheik Robert Webb-Bey, Sheik Azeem Hopkins-Bey, Chairman Terrence Hopkins-Bey
The Moorish Science Temple of America (MSTA) is a religious organization founded in 1913 by Noble Drew Ali, born Timothy Drew. Among many beliefs, he asserted that Black people are descendants of the Moors who governed North West Africa. As such Black people, or "so-called Black people" as the Moorish community phrases it, are not Black but Moorish Americans "Moslems" of Islamic faith. Noble Drew Ali was reported to have stood on street corners in Chicago proclaiming: "Come all ye Asiatic of America and hear the truth about your nationality and birthrights, because you are not negroes. Learn of your forefathers ancient and divine Creed. That you will learn to love instead of hate." In addition to the assertion of a specific national identity, the MSTA was founded instill national pride and spiritual upliftment at a particular point in American history when "so-called Black people" were searching for a sense of belonging in the midst of the Great Migration and shifting national politics.
Interview: Chairperson Terrence Hopkins-Bey Discusses His Childhood in the Moorish Science Temple of America
Brother T: My name is Brother T. Hopkins-Bey II. Similar to Brother A. Hopkins-Bey, I'm the nephew of Brother A. Hopkins-Bey. My father is one of those older siblings that proclaimed his nationality on January 8, 1971.
Interviewer: Prophet's birthday.
Brother T: Yeah, on the prophet's birthday. My father was about three years old at that time, and the story is a mirror image as far as my grandparents laying that foundation and finding Prophet Noble Drew Ali's lessons in the Moorish Science Temple of America. That was a pivotal time for our family because I believe that the social dynamics of my family were remapped, changed, and placed on a different course which affords us the opportunity to be here today. As far as myself, yes, my father this particular side of my family, they're in the Moorish Science Temple of America, but my mother's side of the family was in the Baptist church.
As an eight to ten-year-old boy, I'm talking to him about us not being Negro, black, or colored and doing physical demonstrations as far as grabbing a crayon, a black crayon, and saying look; this is not us.
Interviewer: And they are still in the Baptist church?
Brother T: Yes, they are still in the Baptist church. My grandfather on my mother's side of the family, he was the pastor of that church, actually the founder of that church community and was revered in the community as well. So both of my grandfathers were leaders in their particular religious organizations. It was a blessing as a child growing up. I was in the Moorish Science Temple of America because of my father. He actually raised me because my mother passed away when I was two. Being in the Moorish Science Temple of America you learn certain things, and you're taught certain things. You take those lessons back and obviously, you regurgitate those lessons to individuals that you're speaking to.
One thing that elders do to kids when they feel as though something is wrong or that you're incorrect about something is they have a conversation to attempt to correct you or to place you back on the proper path that they see fit. My grandfather never did that. He would often agree with certain concepts or certain aspects that I would speak to him about. As an eight to ten-year-old boy, I'm talking to him about us not being Negro, black, or colored and doing physical demonstrations as far as grabbing a crayon, a black crayon, and saying look; this is not us. He would often agree with those things and agree with the message of love. As I was continuing to grow, unfold, and understand the Moorish Science Temple of America, I would speak to my grandparents, and they would often encourage me. It was a transformation. When I was about five to six, family members on my mother's side would often ask me, “when you get 18, what are you going to do? You going to come and join the church?” As a child wanting acceptance and I'm around those individuals that I love I would say yes. However, maturing and life experiences coming on board, you realize that this foundation of the Moorish Science Temple of America works for me. The Moorish Science Temple of America actually unifies me with the other side of the family more than I can imagine.
This understanding comes along with your growth, your unfolding, and understanding of the lessons of Prophet Noble Drew Ali because he brought a universal message. One of the first things that he let us know is that we honor all true and divine prophets. He names Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, and Confucius. You would also think why these individuals? If we look at a worldview and look at how many various nations identify with those particular prophets and the messages that they brought and even the experiences that they had related so much to the plight of the so-called black people of North America. It's awe inspiring to see that the true and divine prophets have messages that are one and the same. The customs may differ but the message, the principle remains the same.
There was a certain point I believe around 12, 13 where I knew that this was the foundation that I needed to be a part of. The Moorish Science Temple of America was right and exact because of the importance of nationality wasn't spoken of in any other communities that I have been a part of.