“We Are One: Reunifying A Country Divided”
We started our four-hour conversation with a panel of four engaged NYC activists.
The moderation was led by Sarah Sayeed, Senior Advisor in the Community Affairs Unit of the Mayor’s Office of NYC. Sarah introduced and later on challenged our panelist with questions about their continuing work. She thanked Peaceful Tomorrows for our leadership and highlighted the ways we are touched by divisiveness, commenting on our present struggles around immigration and Islamophobia.
We had the pleasure of meeting Sonia Lin, Deputy Commissioner and General Counsel at the NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. Sonia works to promote the well being of our immigrant population that contributes to the very fabric of New York City. She elaborated how New Yorkers are being challenged by 1) a climate of anti-immigrant rhetoric backed up by malicious actions, 2) indiscriminate law enforcement, with arrests spiking at 88% more than under the previous administration while new barriers to keep immigrants out continue to appear and 3) by the discontinuation of DACA, a very successful program young DREAMERS relied upon for their security.
Deacon Rodney Beckford, Director of our convening location, the Lt. J.P. Kennedy Center, and our generous host who explained how the work he inspires at the Center happens not because there is a budget (there is none) but because of the heartfelt desires of those who step through its doors and create programs they envision.
Aniqa Nawabi, Executive Director of the Muslim Community Network (MCN) remembered being a High School student on 9/11/2001 and being, untypically, picked up by her parents and brought home while not grasping what was unfolding in NYC. The goal of her work is to change the perception of, and increase understanding about the diverse, local Muslim community through education and advocacy. MCN is a community-based organization.
A short mediation, lead by Dr. T.K Nakagaki of The Heiwa Peace and Reconciliation Foundation of New York, helped us center our thoughts before hearing the messages of Imam Al-Hajj Talib-Abdour Rashid and Rabbi Jeffrey Myers.
Our keynote speaker, the Rev Sharon Risher, passionately encouraged us to fight for gun control in this country. She lost several family members, including her mother, in the deadly 2015 Charleston church shooting and has been traveling the country fighting for gun control while collaborating with all those advocating for new gun laws.
September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows wish for this dialogue to continue and will look into ways of making it happen through virtual conversations, conference calls and future face-to-face meetings as well as for ways to remain connected with those working in the field.