My first #ChangeFromWithin reflection focused on how anger can be of service in leadership. Now I want to shift to the part that comes after anger: the action, the change, the personal vision for something better. We need a clear personal vision of what we are fighting for. In many social justice spaces, our time is spent focusing on everything that is wrong. We put so much energy into the critiques that we have little left to imagine what we want instead. While identifying the issue is important, it is just one of many steps needed to address the life-threatening issues impacting our community.
As a 20-year-old who is active in the community, my growing concern for the state of the world has motivated me to push harder for what’s possible and demand that we do better, that I do better. Some days it feels like the world is falling apart (quite literally). I am painfully aware of the 51 lives lost to Islamophobic violence during the #MosqueShooting in New Zealand, the 160 Black Muslim lives lost in the #MaliMassacre, the 750 lives lost due to climate change in Mozambique during #CycloneIdai, and the list goes on. The aftermath further increases the threat level to our community.
Scrolling through social media feeds puts me back in my state of grief. Although I have no relationship with the people we lost, I feel their absence in my being. Our humanity connects us deeply in ways I can only feel in my soul. In many ways, these incidents have become normalized. Since starting my first draft of this post, the Jewish, Sikh and Muslim community have all been targeted in incidents of hate-based violence.
We need a #ChangeFromWithin in our government, community, policy, infrastructure, and culture. We cannot settle for the reality we are living in. No person, young or old, should have to live through the countless cases of violence, which take place with increased frequency and intensity. I should never have to wonder if my mosque will be the next one to experience domestic terrorism, or practice active shooter drills at school. My heart is broken. I care so much and yet my efforts to go up against these issues are not nearly enough. We need every single person to engage in this battle for a better world. Seven billion people can move a mountain a lot more easily than just a few. If we each carry a few pebbles, we can make it happen together. It won’t be easy, nothing revolutionary ever is, but we are in it together.
Let’s focus our energy on what we want, our own personal vision of justice, so we can start to dream into reality the kind of world we need.
Grace Lee Boggs said, “…people are aware that they cannot continue in the same old way but are immobilized because they cannot imagine an alternative. We need a vision that recognizes that we are at one of the great turning points in human history when the survival of our planet and the restoration of our humanity require a great sea change in our ecological, economic, political, and spiritual values.” I am pushing myself to think beyond the boundaries of our reality and to dream beyond my fears because I want to be restored.
I want to feel the joy I would have felt had I never experienced Islamophobia. Justice is not enough. I want liberation, I want to thrive. I want my joy back!
As a woman of color, I often water down the needs and priorities of my community, hoping to get the bare minimum as the best case scenario. At the Greenlining Institute, I am surrounded by advocates who do not take “it is impossible” as an answer, who dare to dream a bold personal vision, and make brave demands for what our communities need. These spaces have allowed me to push myself to raise the bar for what is possible. This vision looks different for every community. Although our challenges are connected by similar root causes such as White supremacy, the impact can be differential.
My Personal Vision
I asked myself, “What if there was no fear? What if there was no Islamophobia? What would the world look like?” Here is my personal vision for 2070:
According to research by the Pew Center, Muslims will be the biggest religious group in the world by then. In 2070, the Islamophobia Industry is dismantled. Over $200 million of funds that previously supported the Islamophobia Industry now supports survivors of Islamophobic violence and descendants of Muslim enslaved people. Muslims have healing centers where we start to restore our joy. We practice our religion openly. My children are unapologetically Muslim and Muslims of all identities have the space to express their whole selves. This is my vision and goal for the next 50 years. The work that I am doing now is in preparation for this moment. I invite you all to imagine what this would look like. How can you this vision into reality? We all have the power to make it happen.
As advocates each of us should be clear on these questions:
- What does thriving look like for you? For your family, for your community?
- What conditions do you require to thrive? Can you name three specific demands?
- What can you do today — even if it’s just something small — to help make this a reality in the near future.
As everyday citizens, we all have our role to play and must see ourselves as responsible for creating the conditions that allow us all to thrive.
No one is coming to save us. Not our government, not corporations, not the police. We will save our own community together.