On November 6, 2018, MALA recognized a number of "Muslim American Journeys" storytellers at its Third Annual Gala.
Narimon, a Chicago based Iranian-American entrepreneur who is also a contributor and analyst for the radio program Worldview on WBEZ (Chicago Public Media), received MALA’s first annual Community Builder Award for Cultural Leadership. This Award recognizes his outstanding work in bridging the worlds of entrepreneurship, the arts, and current affairs, and, “in doing so, building a community of talent and passion.” Listen to Narimon’s StoryCorps interview, “To Chicago, from Tehran,” here.
Isra, a young Somali-American who has played a dynamic role in MALA’s growth, received MALA’s Emerging Leader Award for her outstanding contribution to the Muslim community in Chicago and her commitment to volunteer service. Listen to Isra’s StoryCorps interview, “Reconnecting with My Faith,” here.
Chicago powerhouse and long-time MALA friend Logan received the MALA Community Builders Award for Philanthropy for his “commitment to inclusion, creativity, and human connection as solutions to society’s modern challenges.” Michael of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, and cofounder of the Chicago Leadership Alliance, received MALA’s first annual Community Builder Award for Leadership. This was recognition for Michael’s outstanding work in building and mentoring leaders across Chicago: “in the process of fostering positive, values-driven, pluralistic leadership, you have built bridges that have allowed for the respectful exchange of ideas.” He also led a session for MALA’s Young Leaders at their retreat, held the day before the gala. Read Michael’s StoryCorps interview, “Global Connectivity Begins At Home” here.
Rasheed received the MALA Community Builder Award for Journalism. Rasheed is the publisher of the Yemeni American Net website and The Yemeni American News, which was launched in 2008. The newspaper and website both publish news, research, and studies that are related to the Yemeni American and the Arab American communities in both the English and Arabic languages, and highlight stories about successful Yemeni Americans.
Finally, MALA’s first annual MALA Human Rights Storytellers Award went to Mariya, a long-time gender violence activist. Taher has facilitated a powerful series of videos that allow survivors of Female Gential Cutting (FGC) to share their stories on their own terms. MALA looks forward to hosting screenings of these stories in 2019 through our "Muslim American Journeys" project.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel sent a congratulatory letter to MALA on the occasion of this Gala. He wrote: “MALA has emerged as one of our most innovative civic and community organizations whose involved programming focuses on meeting the needs and sharing the narratives of Muslin Americans.” Read the Mayor’s full letter here.
In July 2018, MALA launched an ongoing series of seminars and other events centered around Islamic art to continue our exploration of the Muslim American journey.
MALA’s inaugural event, conceptualized and led by MALA community members, was held in Chicago in July, and focused on tessellation art – the instantly recognizable swirl of geometry that is so common across north Africa and the Middle East.
The afternoon started with a conversation about the diverse origins of Islamic tessellation art – including the Greeks, Romans, and Sasanians in Iran – and the role of Islamic mathematicians, astronomers, and scientists in driving the style to its perfection. The mathematical elegance of these designs is that no matter how elaborate, they are always based on grids, and even amateur artists can build a remarkable visual spread using only a compass and ruler.
After this discussion, attendees – each of whom received a compass and ruler – got to work on their own masterpieces! Led by Gabriel and Aqsa, this wait-listed seminar was geared towards both those interested in the cultural and artistic dimensions of Islam as well as anyone interested in art more generally.
Meanwhile, in New York City in August, MALA partnered with the American Sephardi Federation to host “Maktuv,” an evening of inter-cultural art. As cognates, 'Maktoob' and 'K’tuv' mean “written” in Arabic and Hebrew, and the class used calligraphy to explore the significance of Arabic in Islam and Hebrew in Judaism, as well as the close relationship between both Semitic languages.
This hands-on workshop, which was also waitlisted, was a welcoming space for attendees to share their personal connections with the holy languages of two faiths and to engage with these two languages through the beauty of calligraphy.
This seminar was led by Ruben. Originally from Uzbekistan, Ruben comes from the native Persian-speaking Jewish population of Central Asia. This community — the Bukharian Jews — has lived alongside their Muslim neighbors for 1,300 years, engaging in cultural and intellectual commerce.
MALA is excited to host more of these hands-on, arts-centric events in the coming year, including a special tessellation seminar for architects in Chicago in October, and an exhibit of rising young Muslim American photographers. MALA is also collecting artist stories to share alongside these events.
See the full photo gallery from our New York art event on Flickr.
On April 11, MALA hosted a pre-air screening of “The Muslim Next Door,” an episode in Katie Couric’s National Geographic docuseries, AMERICA INSIDE OUT, which premiered on the National Geographic Channel on April 11, 2018. In the series, Couric travels to dozens of cities across North America — from Freemont, Nebraska, to Montgomery, Alabama, to talk with hundreds of people to get an inside look at pressing social issues.
In this episode, Couric explored the stories of Muslim Americans in today’s America. MALA hosted the screening at the beautiful Jack Mortom Auditorium on the campus of George Washington University in Washington, DC.
The screening was followed by an impressive panel of young Muslim American leaders, who shared their own experiences as “the Muslim next door.” These included Laurel, the first-place recipient of MALA's Muslim American Journeys Scholarship competition, and MALA storyteller Sadaf, who is also a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Princeton University. The remaining panelists were a Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellow at the Truman Center for National Policy, and the President of The African Middle Eastern Leadership Project. The panel was moderated by MALA’s Deputy Director.
After the screening, MALA announced a drive inspired by the episode to continue to spotlight and amplify Muslim American voices through storytelling and to elevate public dialogue on Muslim-American identity in the 21st Century. Selected stories were shared by MALA and National Geographic, and included:
Aamir: Shanti and Salaam: "I was once asked, “What was your first memory of religion?” Being an American-born Indian Muslim having grown up near New York City, you might expect me to say “9/11.” However, my first memory relates to the interplay between Hinduism and Islam, two of the biggest faith traditions among South Asians..."
Hibaq: My American Journey: "As I stare into my mother’s eyes, I can see the misery.I looked at her arm, the scars are as visible as the stars in the dark night. I ask her how the scars appeared on her soft and beautiful skin. She reminds me of where she came from..."
Lina: A Muslim Ethiopian American’s Journey to Success: “Being a young woman who happens to be of an African-American descent and of the Muslim faith, I feel that I incorporate diversity on a daily basis of life. The fact that I am able to go ahead and pray in my local mosque in Richardson, Texas, and also volunteer in the Ethiopian community center within the same day speaks volumes about the cultural diversity within America.”
We are proud that these heartfelt stories have gone into our Muslim American Journeys collection. Thank you to our GlobalGiving family for your warm support and participation - you make this possible!
2018 ‘Muslim American Journeys’ Scholarship Contest Recipients
It is with great pride and excitement that we announce the recipients of our 2018 ‘Muslim American Journeys’ Scholarship Contest:
These individuals were chosen based on the merit of their thoughtfully crafted personal essays, each of which tells a unique and compelling story. We extend our congratulations to this year’s scholarship recipients, and our deep appreciation to all of those who sent in personal essays. Together, these stories are a beautiful illustration of the tenacity, struggle, and triumph so deeply etched into the social fabric of America.
The “Muslim American Journeys Scholarship Contest.” was created to help nurture a new generation of ambitious and diverse young leaders. MALA believes that knowledge is power, and recognizes that, in order to ensure the success of these rising leaders, higher education must be as accessible as possible. By awarding scholarships (ranging from $250 to $1,000) this program reflects MALA’s commitment to higher education, and demonstrates our faith in a new generation of leadership. Thank you to our GlobalGiving family for your warm support and participation - you make this possible!
On October 26th, 2017 MALA and Chicago Cultural Alliance presented “Preserving Heritage and Spotlighting Voices” at the National Hellenic Museum. This program was a part of “Inherit Chicago”, a city wide festival of art, ideas and performance at neighborhood heritage museums and cultural centers.
As part of NPR’s StoryCorps oral history project, The Muslim American Leadership Alliance (MALA) has collected over 400 stories of Americans of Muslim heritage – many of which are archived in the Library of Congress as part of the program. Many of these stories were also archived into the Library of Congress through our community partnership with StoryCorps, and several were even aired on NPR programs.
The event succeeded in garnering new audiences and new opportunities to empower and elevate through dialogue. Through the panel discussion, the importance of each individual’s personal narrative helped embrace an alliance of individuals seeking to elevate each other’s journeys.
In fitting with the “Inherit Chicago” theme, MALA was able to portray that there are multiple generations of Americans. We are refugees, students, public servants, doctors, film makers, law enforcement officers, artists, entrepreneurs, business owners and veterans. Our heritage spans the globe, from Afghanistan to France to India to Iran to Israel to Palestine to Kazakhstan to Libya to Pakistan to Siberia to Somalia to Venezuela and everywhere between.
This event validates a continuation of MALA’s oral history project to reach a broader audience base for inclusion and diversity in the Chicagoland area. Through our partnership with CCA, we look forward to exploring how identities are formed and how we all can strengthen our communities and our country together.
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