Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • Four years ago, something profound happened in my life.

  • I saw the fear and mental effects of racism, hate crimes and Islamaphobia

  • was having on my community.

  • I'm an American Muslim of Nigerian descent,

  • and growing up,

  • my parents instilled in me the importance of community

  • and serving others.

  • My mom is fond of an African proverb from my Yoruba tribe which states,

  • (In Yoruba) “Ènìyàn kan lon bímọ, gbogbo ayé lon tọ́ ọmọ,”

  • which translated means, "a single person gives birth to a child,

  • but every other person looks after the child."

  • Now, the essence of this proverb is:

  • even though a woman gives physical birth to each particular child,

  • the whole community plays an important role

  • in looking after all children.

  • Growing up, it was not uncommon for me to come home

  • and see my mom preparing a meal

  • for what felt like the entire neighborhood.

  • She routinely shared food with people struggling.

  • And I recall one day being angry as a teenager.

  • It was a hot day.

  • I'd just completed doing errands.

  • I was looking forward to a nice home-cooked meal.

  • But when I came home, there was little food left,

  • because it had gone to the neighborhood kids again.

  • I was not happy.

  • I just wanted to come home,

  • eat my fill.

  • My mom consoled me,

  • and I settled for smaller portions while she prepared another meal.

  • Now, I certainly did not appreciate her that day

  • but later realized my mom was providing a safe space

  • and food for people in the community that needed it.

  • (In Yoruba) “Ènìyàn kan lon bímọ, gbogbo ayé lon tọ́ ọmọ.”

  • She was looking after all the children.

  • I came to the United States in 1999

  • and attended the University of Wisconsin in the city of La Crosse,

  • a beautiful city located along the Mississippi River.

  • And La Crosse was lovely.

  • I mean, despite the frigid, subzero temperature

  • and lack of diversity,

  • people were generally warm and caring.

  • My biggest culture shock,

  • despite the fact that I came during the summer,

  • was seeing people sunbathing and laying out on lawns.

  • It just didn't make any sense to me.

  • Why would anyone choose to sunbathe and bake your bodies in the hot sun?

  • In Nigeria, in Africa, when the sun comes out,

  • you stay in the shade.

  • But here it was just the opposite.

  • When I was five years old, something regrettable happened in Nigeria,

  • when the country's first democratically elected president

  • required millions of undocumented immigrants to leave the country.

  • And this response was because of religious riots

  • that occurred in parts of Northern Nigeria in the 1980s.

  • The sentiment shared by some

  • was that it was caused by undocumented immigrants,

  • but official sources later disputed that.

  • Nevertheless, the army was activated

  • and over 200 million people, including children,

  • were sent packing.

  • The United States government strongly decried this action at that time.

  • I felt echoes of that history the morning of September 11, 2001.

  • I knew immediately there was going to be a strong backlash against Muslims,

  • despite reports that over 80 percent of global terror-attack victims

  • are Muslims,

  • and also because I had seen before how when something incredibly bad happens,

  • the easiest thing to do is to find easy targets to blame.

  • I felt deeply sad for everyone that lost their life in the Twin Towers.

  • It was wrong.

  • I also felt intensely angry

  • that terrorists hadn't just hijacked a plane full of innocent people

  • but also hijacked my religion.

  • They turned my beautiful, peaceful faith, Islam,

  • into something twisted and nasty that I could not recognize.

  • And in turn, my adopted country started to turn against one another.

  • The country felt like a powder keg waiting to explode.

  • And indeed within days,

  • there were increased hate crimes against Muslims

  • or people that looked like Muslims.

  • Hate crimes continued to rise in the country many years after.

  • In 2012, for example,

  • a Sikh temple in Wisconsin was attacked,

  • and people were killed because of their faith.

  • And the years later didn't get any better.

  • Between 2015 and 2016,

  • the increased number of hate crime incidents against Muslims

  • actually surpassed the figures reported during the year of the 9/11 attacks.

  • In my own household,

  • the run-up to the 2016 presidential election

  • was when we felt the effects of increased hateful racist and Islamophobic rhetoric

  • reaching closer to home.

  • My wife and I tried to shield our kids from the news,

  • but like noxious tear gas ready all around us,

  • the ugly reality was closing in,

  • and our kids were choking on the fear and hate.

  • My 12-year-old son routinely came home panicked

  • that his dad was going to be killed

  • and that our family was going to be deported

  • or put in internment camps.

  • He thought being identified as a Muslim

  • was a bad thing.

  • My 13-year-old daughter simply disconnected

  • and shut up completely.

  • My wife also felt the heightened sense of fear.

  • She focused her energy on securing American passports

  • for the entire family.

  • She didn't want her family to go to mosque to pray

  • and also explored if it would be safer for our family to go to Nigeria.

  • Our family was traumatized,

  • and our fight-or-flight instincts were in full effect.

  • For my part, I was pissed off

  • that instead of being our brother and sister's keeper,

  • my adopted country was being divided by race and religion.

  • I wanted our local Muslim community to do something to quell that hate,

  • but we were all dealing with trauma.

  • The Yoruba proverb called to me:

  • (In Yoruba) “Ènìyàn kan lon bímọ, gbogbo ayé lon tọ́ ọmọ.”

  • I felt that our larger community had an important role to play

  • in that if we connected with people, and people got to really know who we were,

  • they would see that we were part of the fabric of America

  • just like they were.

  • I got word from a friend

  • that a local interfaith group was looking to build bridges with Muslims,

  • but they first needed Muslims to be part of the group.

  • And I remember the first day of our meeting:

  • Wednesday, February 24, 2016 at 7pm.

  • There were 12 of us in attendance

  • and consisted of eight Christians and four Muslims,

  • including myself.

  • We shared why were there,

  • and we were all proud to be citizens of this great country.

  • An American Muslim who immigrated 39 years ago

  • shared that he was afraid for his grandchildren's future.

  • Another Muslim who escaped violent persecution from his home country

  • shared that we was afraid for the first time in a long time,

  • afraid of what the future held for Muslims and children.

  • I was afraid for my kids, too.

  • I wanted to make sure our community was a safe and thriving place for my kids

  • and everyone else.

  • And I felt that most of my negative experiences up until that point

  • were more about me being Black than Muslim.

  • But I also felt negative microaggressions.

  • I recall several years after 9/11,

  • a colleague of mine mentioned

  • that I could potentially be a terrorist spy.

  • And whether this statement was made in jest, conjecture

  • or just plain ignorance,

  • the statement really hurt.

  • It was also a side reminder that some people are going to judge me

  • and see me as dangerous without even knowing me.

  • Christians around the table shared they were there to protect

  • and support us.

  • And I've got to say, it was such a relief

  • to be in the company of people that cared and wanted to help.

  • We committed that day to stand shoulder to shoulder with one another.

  • Our next meeting saw our group expand,

  • and four others joined us,

  • including members of the Jewish and Buddhist faiths, and a student.

  • Our group was diverse and strong.

  • We had people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 70s

  • and a local social justice advocate who was 95 years old

  • and not interested in sitting on the sidelines.

  • A former missionary,

  • this 95-year-old woman also experienced injustice under apartheid South Africa,

  • and that experience made her an activist and a feminist.

  • The La Crosse Interfaith Shoulder to Shoulder Network was born,

  • and our focus was clear:

  • ending anti-Muslim sentiment and hatred towards any targeted group

  • as we stood shoulder to shoulder.

  • In May 2016, the local Muslim community issued a statement rejecting hate.

  • In January 2017,

  • a presidential order banning immigrants from seven mostly Muslim countries

  • was declared.

  • This Muslim ban,

  • which went into effect on January 27, 2017,

  • created tremendous anger in our community that needed an outlet.

  • A small group of us planned and organized a community rally

  • and started to get the word out.

  • We were regular folks,

  • not community organizers.

  • We'd never done anything like this before.

  • We shared information on Facebook with our neighbors and friends

  • and had no idea who would come,

  • but also knew that it was important to share

  • the powerful, simple idea behind this action.

  • (In Yoruba) “Ènìyàn kan lon bímọ, gbogbo ayé lon tọ́ ọmọ.”

  • We were standing up for each other and each other's children.

  • And people showed up,

  • young and old.

  • It was extremely cold and below freezing,

  • but that didn't stop people from coming.

  • The community was responding to our call for help.

  • Over 700 allies came to the event that day.

  • A Jewish woman whose family escaped religious persecution

  • in the Holocaust in Slovakia

  • came to support us.

  • We sparked something beautiful in La Crosse that day.

  • We made compassion, equality and justice everyone's business

  • and made it everyone's business to stand shoulder to shoulder together

  • fighting fear and hate.

  • For little La Crosse, this was a very big crowd.

  • But perhaps even more importantly,

  • it gave my family and others an unending sense of support and comfort

  • that we were not alone

  • and that more of our neighbors and communities stood with us

  • than against us.

  • The lessons I've learned from these experiences are:

  • there are good people in every community,

  • and your community will stand shoulder to shoulder with you

  • if you make it your business.

  • (In Yoruba) “Ènìyàn kan lon bímọ, gbogbo ayé lon tọ́ ọmọ.”

  • When you really connect with a community

  • and are vulnerable in your quest for support and communion,

  • good people will come forth.

  • And sometimes, all it takes is one spark to set things in motion.

  • This year, hate crimes remain high,

  • with latest FBI reports showing 70 percent of those crimes being motivated by race,

  • ethnicity, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

  • And persistent discrimination, including the death of George Floyd,

  • shows that we have a lot of work to do in society.

  • I mean, this is not one person's, group's or organization's problem

  • but all of our problems.

  • We all have goodness in our hearts,

  • so let's not sit on the sidelines.

  • (In Yoruba) “Ènìyàn kan lon bímọ, gbogbo ayé lon tọ́ ọmọ.”

  • All of our children deserve protection and help.

  • And staying silent does not make things better.

  • So let's make our community and world a better place

  • by making standing up to discrimination and hate

  • everyone's business.

Four years ago, something profound happened in my life.

Subtitles and vocabulary

Operation of videos Adjust the video here to display the subtitles

B1 TED lon muslim shoulder kan felt

It takes a community to eradicate hate | Wale Elegbede

  • 1 0
    林宜悉 posted on 2021/01/02
Video vocabulary