Day 1: Of fear and silence and a possible way out
The sense of fear, concern, and insecurity is palpable. Sunday, as we went out to register voters for the first time in predominantly Latino/a neighborhoods and shopping areas, we met with a wide range of reactions: some registered, some didn’t need to, some didn’t care, but many many more couldn’t or wouldn’t (“undocumented,” “felon,” non-citizen, “makes no difference,” etc.) register. Some thanked us, some were upset at us, many were just surprised to see us (black and brown Muslims and others) doing this work.
Show me a person or community in fear like this and I can almost always show you some (systemic) injustice at bottom. Silence often follows fear, and then more fear can follow. And once an individual or community is scared and silent, those with power over them can get away with saying or doing just about anything. One possible way of breaking this cycle of disempowerment is for other individuals or communities to raise their voices in solidarity with such a marginalized individual or community.
Sunday had started earlier with Josina, Taheesha, Rebecca, Haseeb and Nabeel joining the First Institutional Baptist Church congregational services and Hazel, Mark, Hassan, and I attending a Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)-AZ board and staff meeting. We were provided opportunities to speak at both places and tried to impress on both communities the need to recognize the connections between their struggles and the fight against SB-1070. While such recognition and its prioritization is always a process, the initial reactions we got from both these communities were enthusiastic and positive. After the CAIR-AZ meeting, our team was also able to have a meeting with Board members from the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix. Here, while the leadership seemed to recognize the urgency of joining the struggle against anti-immigrant policies and rhetoric, the congregation, ironically predominantly immigrant itself, seems to have mixed feeling about the need and benefits of such solidarity. The reversal of such misgivings can, again, only be a process. But it is a process that needs to be engaged urgently. A good place to begin: who all needs to be part of this and how can they find the needed resources.
Later, we all were off to register voters, which brings me back to the fear that I mentioned above. It also brings me how hard such “pound the pavement,” “rubber meets the road” work is. Change certainly does not come cheap.
Somewhere during all this we managed to get some (great) soul food at Mrs. White’s on Jefferson Ave. Big up to Rebecca for ordering, and sharing with me, that Peach Cobbler. Yummm! Her and I even talked about sneaking back to that place on Monday just for that.