In honor of Muslim Women’s Day on March 27th, 2021, Gabriela Cristobal, Linda Sarsour, Grace Lee, and Bushra Amiwala met on a virtual summit to discuss leadership, intersectional feminism, storytelling, activism, and organizing, in a segment called, “How To Make Sure, ‘And She Could Be Next.'”
Gabriela Cristobal, Program Manager at the United States of Women, opens the floor by reflecting on the impact of the pandemic on organizing and activism, and questions the panelists on what gives them hope during these unprecedented times.
The “unapologetic Palestinian Muslim American from Brooklyn” activist and author, Linda Sarsour, explains that “the pandemic has impacted the way we organize,” but that it did not stop her from continuing to organize in-person and advocate “door to door” after the police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. She continues by pointing out the many layers of oppression and discrimination that many marginalized communities — more specifically, Black people — are facing in the United States.
Bushra Amiwala is the youngest Muslim elected official in the United States and offers a very unique perspective on leadership as a young woman of color in politics. She said, “What gives me hope is the same thing that motivates me – it is seeing the amount of work done, the amount of progress that we are achieving collectively in unison.” Community-building has been an essential tool of social and systemic change.
“Community keeps me going and uplifting other people’s stories,” explains the filmmaker and storyteller of “And She Could be Next,” Grace Lee. Conversations like these ones with social changemakers are the pivot to social movements. Grace continues on explaining that her driving force is that “more conversations, like these ones, intergenerational, multiracial, intersectional, with different stakeholders are happening.” Having “difficult conversations eventually leads to something generative,” she concludes.
Each woman on the panel is a great example of what leadership looks like when it is run by women of color: Successful.
Gabriela Cristobal transitions by saying, “You become an organizer, an activist when you start organizing or running, there is no time like the present. As women of color, we are not waiting for our turn anymore, our turn is now and it was probably decades ago!”
The panel of four continues by reflecting on “sisterhood” and on how can we, as feminists and women, uplift and amplify each other’s narrative. Gabriela Cristobal questions, “How do we continue to open these doors, how do we continue to make it more accessible, and make sure that she isn’t always the first or the last, that she COULD be next but that she WILL be next?”
“I am here because another woman pulled me up, someone embraced me,” Linda said. Historically, women have been at the forefront of each social movement. She said it is obvious. “Leadership, both in politics and the larger movement and organizing, is led by women.” Not only is it led by women, but by women of color, she explains. “We have been saying that for many decades. Follow women of color. Just stop for a second and follow women of color. Women of color, we know what we are doing; we know what justice is; we know how to organize; we know how to mobilize; we understand specifically what the solutions are for our communities; we don’t just complain about what the problem is, but we actually know what the solutions are. The solutions come from the communities where we come from, and eventually everyone had to learn the hard way!”
Grace Lee, as a Korean American, goes on by celebrating women of color in their entirety and explains, “I am the daughter of immigrants and I see a lot of parallels in our struggles.”
“Women of color are everywhere, we are in every industry, we are leading on the front line of the climate justice movement, the immigrant rights movement, gender justice, reproductive rights movement. Wherever there is an industry that’s succeeding, or you see that there is progress, trust me when I tell you that there is a woman of color,” said Linda by celebrating Bushra for being the youngest Muslim elected official in the United States.
All panelists gracefully expressed their gratitude to the leadership of all women, and conclude by agreeing that “When one woman rises, we ALL rise.”