Musa married Tennie Ford, a black Catholic woman. They raised their children near New Orleans' Congo Square, where slaves once gathered. Ford took her children to church on Sundays while Musa knelt on a prayer rug and faced Mecca.
Musa died when Ford was pregnant with her son. Ford raised her children with African-American traditions; the ties to Bengal faded.
Shaik was aware of her Indian roots. Her name was the first obvious hint.
When she was little, in the 1950s and '60s, she rushed to the porch when phone books arrived with a thud. Her family was the only Shaik. She longed to find another name that was similar.
In India, the history of Bengali peoples evolved and was documented in print as India gained independence in 1947 and the nation was partitioned. East Bengal became East Pakistan and later, in 1971, Bangladesh.
But the sons of that land who came to America seeking a better life remained invisible. Until Bald began digging around.
Last month, he published "Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America."
The book has generated palpable excitement among the descendants of the Bengali immigrants.
"I just said, 'wow,'" said Nurul Amin, 62, whose father once sold hotdogs from a Harlem pushcart.
"This put a stamp on our world," he said.
Shaik, an author and scholar of the Afro-Creole experience, said she was finally learning her grandfather's history. It dispelled notions of a monolithic black identity and connected her to a faraway land.
California native Vivek Bald grew up with a strong sense of connection to India. He heard stories from his Indian immigrant mother that made a mark when he began making movies about the diaspora.
He'd produced a documentary about taxi drivers and was struck by the class divide in South Asian communities in America. The people who came in the wake of 1965 had taken the reins of community representation. Yet, they had little in common with newer waves of working-class immigrants from Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Bald's research led to his newly published book documenting the first waves of Bengali immigration.
In his exploration of the diaspora, he met actor and stand-up comic Aladdin Ullah, 44, one of the sons of Habib Ullah, who'd arrived by ship from what is now Bangladesh in the 1920s. Bald was fascinated with Ullah's story. He'd never imagined such a history.
"This was a population who came to the United States at a time when this country had erected quite draconian race-based immigration laws," Bald said. "They came during that time but were able to build networks in order to access jobs all over the United States.
"The story," said Bald, "was so completely different than what I had heard about South Asian immigration in the United States."
Their memories had survived in the African-American and Latino families into which they married.
Bald began researching their history. It took him nine years to meticulously comb through marriage and death records, other court documents, newspaper stories and archival treasures.