“We Are One” – An Event Summary

MARCH 2019

+++Report from our “We Are One” event+++
We started our conversation with a panel of 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 panelists with questions about their continuing work. She thanked September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows for our leadership and highlighted the ways we are touched by divisiveness, commenting on our present struggles around immigration and Islamophobia.

Sarah Sayeed, Sonia Lin, Deacon Rodney Beckford and Aniqa Nawabi (left to right) after inspiring us with their work during a panel discussion at the “We Are One” event.

We had the pleasure of meeting Sonia Lin, Deputy Commissioner and General Counsel of 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 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 the many programs that are essential to support one-another. Both new immigrants and residents born in the neighborhood jointly envision a strong community together.

Aniqa Nawabi is the Executive Director of the Muslim Community Network. The goal of her work is to change the perception of, and increase understanding about the diverse, local Muslim community and its many vital contributions through education and advocacy.

Our keynote speaker, Rev. Sharon Risher, passionately encouraged us to fight for gun control in this country. She lost her mother, Mrs. Ethel Lance and two cousins in the deadly 2015 shooting at the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Charleston, SC, the first independent black denomination in the United States. She described what a warm and welcoming congregation they had been – even to strangers. She has been traveling the country fighting for gun control while collaborating with those advocating for new gun laws. CLICK HERE for information about her book about hope and forgiveness after the Charleston massacre.

Dena and Gloria Williams with Rev. Sharon Risher (left to right.)

Rev. Dr. T.K. Nakagaki of the Heiwa Peace and Reconciliation Foundation of New York led a short meditation.

An encouraging message reached us from Pittsburgh where a mass shooter targeted the local Jewish community last October. Rabbi Jeffrey Myers of the Tree of Life Synagogue could not join us in person but spoke to us via a video recording. In the video, Rabbi Myers powerfully envisions a day when groups such as Black Lives Matter and the #metoo movement wouldn’t be needed because all lives will matter and all people will be respected.


We also heard Imam Al-Hajj Talib-Abdour Rashid’s message. He is the religious and spiritual leader of The Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood Inc., in Harlem, NY and the Chairman of the Association of African American Imams. He spoke about the systematic racism that unfortunately still exists in this country and about the challenges of being African American and Muslim.

CLICK HERE to listen to the presentations.

Imam Rashid passionately encouraged us to fight
racism and Islamophobia.


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