Date visited: September 8, 2010
Location: Oakland, CA
1652 47th Avenue
Oakland, CA 94601
Tag-team Taraweeh: No
Size of congregation: ~ 50
Capacity of center: < 400
Parking: Street. Be warned, this is the kind of neighborhood where the houses have tall fences and doors are protected by iron grills.
Minbar: They had a lectern, not a minbar.
Shoe shelves: Some
Building: A mosque/school combo
Friendliness towards women: High. Lots of women were present, and they got to take their food first during iftar.
Friendliness of congregation: Very high. You could strike up a conversation with pretty much anyone in this place.
One thing had been lacking in my quest to visit 30 mosques this past month. Even though I'd already been to two mosques in Richmond and four in Oakland, none of them had been African-American masajid. Yes, there was a smattering of African-Americans at all the masajid I did visit, but because of that, I made the decision to skip Berkeley and go to an authentic African-American mosque.
I find street parking and the first thing I notice is I've already seen two churches on this one block alone. I see that I've overshot the address of the mosque by a block so I start walking up towards the Oakland Hills. Then it hits me.
I heard the adhan. I'm not even kidding, it's like they've attached speakers outside so everyone within a reasonable proximity knows that this is a masjid. I trace the source of the sound and was stunned. The masjid was the largest building in the neighborhood, and dwarfed the two churches. This was the first time I'd ever seen a mosque dwarf a neighborhood church, and I marveled at the sight.
The building itself appears to be a converted church. The mosque is part of a large nationwide network of masajid, run by the son of the late Elijah Muhammad (yes, that Elijah Muhammad). They really haven't done much to change the church because it was clearly so functional for this community. You come inside and you can tell what is now the prayer space used to be where the pews stood, and where the Christian worshippers used to face.
By a lucky coincidence, the Muslims at the mosque pray almost in the opposite direction. What's cool about the prayer space is that the mosque wasn't leveled properly so everyone is praying uphill. It's a strange feeling praying on a surface which is angling upwards. I really don't think I could get used to it even if I came here every day.
The prayer hall is painted green and white, and is covered with a plush green carpet. There is a banquet hall right next door, where they served us iftar and I think where the children eat lunch every day.
Oh yes, there is a school on site as well, the Clara Mohammed elementary school. It warmed my heart to see that this community values education so much they established a school right next to the mosque. The proximity of the school would also explain the balloons and lights strung from the walls which celebrated the coming of Ramadan and the nearness of Eid.
The people are absolutely beautiful. Yes, I have been blessed with a large amount of hospitality this Ramadan, but this was only the second masjid where the men and women were kind and courteous towards me. Unfortunately, in the immigrant communities, it seems like gender interaction is frowned upon, even if it is civil and modest. Tell you what, you will never see a woman serving a man food at MCA, or a man serving a woman, for that matter.
The stark contrast between this mosque and the mosque in which I was raised made me think I made a good decision wrapping up this project here and not somewhere else. The whole point of me burning dozens of gallons of gas this month was to see just how different the communities of the Bay Area are. Well, it doesn't get much different from MCA than this.