The dust has settled on the Women’s March and cooler heads may prevail. We asked Ieasha Prime, Executive Director of Barakah, Inc. to explain why she spoke at the Women’s March on Washington.
O ye who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both……4:135
As an African American Muslim woman, I stand in the middle of a nexus of identities, each complicating the next. All of my identities responded with visceral resistance to the appointment of Donald Trump by the Electoral College as the President of the United States of America. As an American woman, I resist the insults to our bodies. As an African American, I resist being reduced to maintaining law and order and irresponsible images of inner city violence. As a Black mother to a Black son, I resist Stop-and-Frisk policing. As a Muslim, I resist my historical contributions and present influence being reduced to Radical Islamic Terrorism and the Muslim Ban. My existence surpasses those one liners.
Often, Muslim women in general and African American Muslim women in particular have been excluded from narrating our own stories. The country and the world must know that we have voices and are taking action to address the trauma, tragedy and horror that have happened and are happening to us. Although as Black Muslim women we may not be fighting for the same things as White and Latina American women, we often have a common enemy; therefore, we are fighting against some of the same things. I would be remiss if I did not stand up and speak out against the culture of violence and epidemic against the vulnerabilities of women in general and Black Muslim women in particular. Black Muslim women are disproportionately affected by the U.S. government’s policies on women’s issues, health care, education, housing and immigration.
Mumblings in our own community made us second guess our participation in the Women’s March. Will we compromise our Islam by joining this march? Are we allowing white feminists to use us for their agenda? Have we betrayed the Black Lives Matter Movement? Are we not standing with our own? Again, after reflection, I resist! I don’t have to be a white feminist to recognize the lack of adequate healthcare and education for People of Color; or the rise in hate crimes from Islamophobes or to fight against the criminalization and mass incarceration of Black men. And I certainly am not waiting for white feminists to address the violence that all women, particularly Muslim women, are susceptible to. Unless we address these matters related to women, Black Lives are dead on arrival. We have to resist the urge in order community espousing that Muslim women are not politically savvy enough or intelligent enough to know when and where to fight. We must resist the evil whispers that tell us to sit down when we should follow mandates in the Quran and Stand up!
Hence, I decided to answer the call by Linda Sarsour to represent Black American Muslim women and participated in the Women’s March on January 21, 2017. To reach that stage that day, my sister friend and I had to endure a personal police blockade that stereotyped us as “suspicious” despite my all-access credential badge. In their authoritarian stance, it was clear they intended to intimidate us and make us leave. I resisted!
Instead, I wrapped my tongue around litanies of prayer needed to protect and facilitate the way. Amazingly, after 10 minutes of prayer, a police officer guided us to a place where we might drive safely through. Another Black female officer let us know that she appreciated us. This beauty continued as I reversed down a one-way street through crowds only to find myself at a military blockade. Two African American men in full army uniform descended from a tank nearby to stop me…..a few more prayers and these gentlemen parted the crowd and we continued along until we reached the stage. My first observation is that prayer changes things, opens hearts and facilitates your way.
From the stage, I had a rush of mixed emotions and spiritual axioms. Had this moment in time not united us, many of the women present would have never been in each other’s company. We were different races, religions and political ideologies and yet there was a deep-rooted connection I could not ignore. And then it hit me, this moment was beyond resistance. African Americans, Muslims and women had already done that and won multiple victories. This moment was more than a march to demonstrate exhaustion with
the status quo. This march was about forming strategic alliances that we will need in the future. We women needed to know who would stand with us. We were not merely marching to show Trump what we thought of him. Instead, we were aligning with others who shared the values on which we were looking to build.
The time for simply marching was over and a movement was just not enough. It became clear that the majority of those present and marching were womb warriors fighting for their right to be. As a Black woman, I know that place. As a Muslim woman, I know that place. As a mother, I know that place. It is the place between heaven and earth that molds the very essence of women; it is the root of our existence; it is the color of our love ; it is the fearlessness in our fight… it is our reason for peace!
In the days since the march, we have seen the same women who held up pictures of Muslim women in the streets, now legally fighting against the Muslim ban. We have seen those who stood side by side on the streets of Washington, DC, now stand arm in arm at airport protests and cry together at vigils for victims of terrorism in Canada. That day, we stood together against the enemies that seek to infringe on our lives, the lives of our children, the vulnerabilities of our bodies, and our right decide what is best for us and ours. In this moment, heaven and earth came together and progress was born!
In the words of El Hajj Malik Shabazz, “I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.”
Ieasha Prime is a traditionally educated Islamic teacher, lecturer and educator. She is the Executive Director of Barakah, Inc. a community based organization providing quality programming that raises the conscious mind, engages the heart and uplifts the spirit.