In the midst of interviewing me a few weeks ago, entrepreneuse/Kreol editor Georgina Dhillon fielded a call from Jihad Muhammad. She let me speak to him to make at least an initial acquaintance by phone. “You two need to get acquainted and talk about the work both of you are doing,” she advised. Muhammad and I agreed.
Upon receiving emailed information from him, my curiosity grew when I read his résumé that hails Dr. Jihad Muhammad, Ph.D. as the first African American to receive a degree as a Medical Forensic Illustrator and Forensic Scientist.
“As Director, Faculty Lecturer and Senior Medical Artist/Scientist for the Anatomical Teaching and Learning Museum at the University of Illinois Medical School at Chicago, he created new techniques in bio‐specimen preparation and mortuary restorative approximation including permanent preservation using plastination, which is the preservation of body parts through a process that replaces water and fat with a curable polymer.” This is superior to Egyptian mummification.
Albeit macabre in tone, the following is very critical to forensics. “Under the leadership of Prof. Muhammad, the anatomy museum offered a unique educational focus which provided training in the art of science for reconstruction of mutilated bodies. Later, as medical and forensic scientist and illustrator, he created graphics using medical investigation, commercial art, drawing, painting, and photographic technology for teaching those pursuing medical education.”
In a science that will literally affect each one of us sooner or later through some undertaker in a funeral home, Professor Muhammad dominated and revolutionized methods that had been static for a month of decades. It redounds to the greater convenience and benefit of all of us in our most trying end time of life.
“Professor Muhammad taught at Worsham College of Mortuary Science and implemented innovative technology and research methods developed in medical forensic science to reshape academia and the practice of mortuary science.”
Recognizing the lack of historic foundation necessary for students to achieve the goal of this specialty, Professor Muhammad set out to fill that historical gap by sharing the unappreciated knowledge and techniques of the African people.
“Hence, with the introductory curriculum on …the origins of Kemetic (African) funerary beliefs and practices, he exposed the blueprint of ancient Kemetic practices demonstrating the immense contributions that African people made in the field of funerary/mortuary science. Later, he incorporated the use of bio‐genetics research in his pursuit to identify the unknown missing link between African progenitors and their progenies, a phenomenon spanning the Atlantic Slave Trade.”
Dr. Muhammad’s research and investigation pays dividends far beyond the immediate benefits for funerals and forensic science, reaching into the grave itself, “tracing the historic footsteps of Black progenitors’ burial grounds in the Americas.
“The African American burial ground retrospective and future visions for theory, ethics and practice is driving his passion to research and rewrite lost, forgotten and recovered annals within the African American community, using techniques of forensic, anthropology and visualization imagery.”
He has the same passion for “genetic DNA mapping of historic unidentifiable Africans (Blacks) in the Delta Diaspora while identifying ports of origin of those enslaved people. His laboratory created three‐dimensional facial facsimiles identified from the skeletal materials found in the tombs of enslaved African Americans. The unearthed skeletal remains provided conclusive documentation of historical significance; cause of death, age, sex, ancestral lineage, and scholarly pursuit of similar questions to academicians, inclusive of African diasporic origins, transformations, quality of life of the enslaved and modes of resistance to slavery.”
“The African Scientific Research Institute (ASRI), conceptualized and founded in 1975 by Dr. Jihad Muhammad, Ph.D., Dr. Warren St. James, Ph.D., an African American economist (now deceased) and Dr. Sam Hunter, MD., Ph.D., Medical Biochemist, to employ modern archaeological methods, forensic medicine, and DNA mapping to transform the burial plot into a gravesite laboratory. The intent of the Institute’s research team efforts was to recover and reconstruct a facial facsimile of DuSable’s (the black founder of Chicago) skeletal material, especially the skull, as the first ever to be employed for identification purposes.”
Predictably, this activity led our creative scholar to explore the awesome epic of the Underground Railroad whose spidery network involved every state in the Union. This research identifies key figures in black resistance to slavery.
Aside from writing the genuine history of Haiti, Dr. Muhammad is involved in some entrepreneurial things like a company that produces medical maxi prostheses services to cancer patients. Also, reminiscent of the plush Warehouse District of New Orleans, he is active in projects like the Pearl District of Portland, Oregon where loading docks and cobblestone streets hint at its warehouse district’s past that is now alive with stylish bars and gleaming lofts.
Rev. Jerome LeDoux, SVD
“God is love, and all who abide in love abide in God and God in them.” (1 John 4:16)