An Elizabeth, New Jersey native, Jonaya Kemper has lived in Los Angeles for the past decade as a teacher, writer, actress, and artist. She she moved to California after studying Fine Art at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. In Los Angeles, Jonaya worked in both education and entertainment. She is currently a graduate candidate at Gallatin where she studies performance and storytelling as therapy and activism. Her work focuses on LARP, roleplaying studies, and interactive theater, as well as visual ethnography. Jonaya believes that imagination and empathy are the keys to community-building and she is chiefly occupied by sharing and listening to stories in a variety of mediums. Her passions include creating worlds, documenting culture, activism, and cats.
What do you think of when you think of Muslims? Who do you picture when someone says American Muslim? Chances are you are not picturing the largest demographic of American-born Muslims in the United States: Black American Muslims. “Eastwick Ummah,” is a celebration and journalistic look at my hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey. An ummah is a community of Muslims who live and care for each other. To our community, Islam was nothing out of the ordinary. Once September 11th left its mark on the United States, many Black Muslims found themselves suddenly at odds with the images being poured out of the screen. Even now, the idea of who and what a Muslim is has been twisted and convoluted. This project seeks to peel back the curtain on everyday Black Muslim family lives and show just one piece of the American ummah, Eastwick style.