By Sheila Bapat (Program Officer) and Deborah Makari (Program Assistant)
Earlier in February, the Trump administration’s expanded Muslim ban went into effect. The ban now limits the entry of individuals from six more countries, including Nigeria, Tanzania, Eritrea, and Sudan. While the ban is still in essence a Muslim ban, it is important to note the extension to many majority-black African countries, demonstrating the administration’s continued targeting of communities of color.
As February, and Black History Month, comes to an end, the RISE Together Fund sees the latest iteration of the Muslim ban as yet another example of how anti-Black racism and anti-Muslim sentiment are intertwined, and how important it is for communities of color to stand in solidarity against policies like the ban. Indeed, according to ISPU’s 2019 American Muslim Poll, 28% of American Muslims identify as Black or African American. We have recently taken further steps to deepen knowledge around, and to fight, anti-Black racism, particularly within our communities.
A powerful example of this includes our grantee visit in December 2019 to the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama as part of our racial justice learning journey. Through this journey, we worked with our grantee Project South to engage with participants and increase knowledge and understanding of the historic context of slavery, lynching, and anti-Black racism, and their pervasive, contemporary, and enduring systematic impacts. With this visit, we also sought to connect these themes to the history of racial and economic justice organizing in the South, as well as to present-day issues facing Muslim, Arab, and South Asian (MASA) communities.
We hoped that by gaining insight into these legacies of hate and racism and the linkages to current struggles, participants would bring a new lens to their work and take some of the strategies and tools we employed back to their own communities and organizations. Among many powerful reflections, one participant shared what they learned and how they would carry with them this new understanding: “It taught me to recognize I have a responsibility to be intentional with my actions, partnerships and words in this space.”
Earlier this month, our MASA Organizing network coordinators, Arjun Sethi and Deepa Iyer, curated a webinar around how to better support and center black communities in our work and the intersection of anti-Black, anti-Muslim and anti-Arab sentiment. RTF grantees including MuslimARC and Believers Bail Out shared important insight on the historical context of these sentiments and how the issues our communities face are interconnected. Kamilah Pickett of BBO left us with an important reflection as we continue to engage these issues: “For me, as a Black Muslim in spaces like this, I would like us to be talking about this all-year-round and I would like us to be including Black Muslims in conversation outside of just incarceration.” Cultivating genuine relationships with Black community members and collaborating on all issue areas is essential as anti-Black sentiment is ingrained in every facet of our society. By understanding the frameworks of the oppressive systems that are in place and building strong partnerships, these groups envision a more cohesive dismantling of these structures.
The final portion of our webinar drew from our EJI trip and the call to action we invoked, encouraging all participants to bring an anti-racist lens to their organizing initiatives. We were excited to have Taneeza Islam, Sarah Farouq, and Majadi Baruti share some of their key takeaways from the experience and how it translated into their work in South Dakota, California, and Alabama. They expressed how enriching the experience was and that even though their respective communities may be in different phases of learning and work on racial justice, they are committed to centering Black voices and mobilizing with the understanding that issues we are working on are intersectional.
RTF is committed to continue learning about the white-supremacist frameworks we are living within and the ways communities of color are continuously attacked, while also funding across communities to tackle these issues together.