Department of Sociology
Though his parents hail from Mississippi and Arkansas, Mark Alexander King was born in Chicago. He grew up in Memphis (TN), St. Charles (MO), and Kansas City (MO) before moving to the DC/Baltimore Metropolitan Area to attend college and graduate school. He remained there for a total of 11 years. During this period, Mark’s understanding of Blackness was internationalized through personal experience and his spirituality became rooted in the African heritage of humanity. While still a graduate student, Mark moved back to Tennessee. He remained there for only 2 years, but his new relationship with a Babalawo (a priest of Orunmila, the highest level of Yoruba divination), work in manhood development and first trip to Africa (Senegal and The Gambia) were life altering. On his second trip to Africa (Senegal and The Gambia), Mark embraced Islam and changed his name to Bilal. Following common African wisdom, Mark King remains in his name. This denotes the refinement and expansion of spiritual growth without a full erasure of one’s past. The Mandinka title for an emperor “Mansa” was added before Bilal’s name to correct the order of things. After making the pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj) in 2007, Bilal took a year off of his Africa trips. When he returned to Africa in 2009, it was to Ghana. There he met his current wife, Fikiratu. They married in Ghana the next year. She came to Atlanta in 2011, and they now have two beautiful daughters.
Dr. King earned his bachelor’s of science degree in Psychology, with a minor in Mathematics, at Howard University in 1997. He then worked as a research assistant at the American Institutes for Research (AIR) for 2 years. His work focused on transforming fragmented service delivery agencies into systems of care. These systems are often anchored in schools, and their clients are disproportionately low-income people of color. With his underlying concern being racial/ethnic stratification, in 1999 he began graduate study with a focus on the sociology of education and race. However, he was soon drawn into Family studies. Dr. King was teaching at Middle Tennessee State University when he completed his Ph.D. in Sociology. His dissertation investigated the relationship between child-well being and family structure – with a focus on father figure involvement. He began teaching at Morehouse College half a year later.
After publishing a chapter on father figure flows into and out of low-income African American children’s lives, Dr. King began to prepare for another shift in research focus. Teaching on Morehouse’s first two study abroad trips to Ghana (MPAGE-Ghana 2009 & 2010) allowed him to investigate conversion to Islam among mostly Christian Akan-speakers in southern Ghana. Afterwards, he published an article on this topic. In 2009, Dr. King had also begun to volunteer with the Islamic Speaker’s Bureau (ISB) of Atlanta. By 2011 he was working on content for their parent organization, the Islamic Networks Group (ING). Two years later, he became a co-principal investigator of the After Malcolm research collective. The group conducted oral histories, digitized written records, and made them all available to the public in the first online archive of African American Muslim history. Dr. King also wrote and narrated a 25 minute documentary. Directed and produced by Amir Muhammad, the film was entitled African-American Muslims and the Black Freedom Struggle. In the summer of 2014, the film and the digital archive were featured at the Zuckerman Museum of Art (at Kennesaw State University) and in the spring of 2016 they were featured at the Center for Civil and Human Rights. In the spring of 2015, Dr. King was invited to join a team that was preparing a new study abroad program. The New African Diasporas: Transnational Communities, Cultures, and Economies study abroad program will take students to Senegal, Italy, and China in spring semesters. It was built as a partnership between Morehouse College and the School for International Training (SIT). Dr. King will be the traveling faculty person for the inaugural trip in the spring 2017 semester. He will teach the courses: Africana Muslims, Fieldwork & Frameworks, and Migration and Entrepreneurship. Students will also take a Wolof language course, and do home stays. Dr. King plans to use this trip to begin writing about the role of faith communities and discourse in the formation of Blackamerican Diaspora communities.
In addition to introductory and theoretical sociology courses, Dr. King has taught: Men in Society, African American families, The Family, African and African Diaspora Families, Race and Ethnicity, and Introduction to African American Studies. He will also teach Africana Muslims on campus after the spring of 2017. His recent public talks include:
Interfaith in Peace Work: Examples and Ideas (Mercer University)
Crimes Against Humanity in the Land of the Free (Peacebuilders Conference at Morehouse College)
The Invisible Matter: How we Impoverish Liberal Arts Education by Marginalizing Africana Muslims (Eastern Illinois University)
(below is a direct link to the slides)