Spotlight: Linda Sarsour, a leader and an inspiration

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Spotlight: Linda Sarsour, a leader and an inspiration

By Tiffany Wang, Digital Communications Coordinator, YWCA USA

Organized by MuslimGirl, a website made for and by Muslim women, and in partnership with dozens of media organizations, today is the first-ever Muslim Women’s Day, a day that is all about centering Muslim women’s stories and voices, and elevating their narratives online.

As Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, MuslimGirl’s Editor-in-Chief, said to the Huffington Post: “There are so many conversations unfolding around us right now about the women’s movement and the Muslim ban, and Muslim women are rarely given the space to be heard above the noise. This also comes at a time when Muslim women have become the most visible targets of anti-Muslim bigotry.” In this moment and against this increasingly hostile climate of hate and Islamophobia, it is especially important to fight misrepresentation and underrepresentation, and to counter false narratives of oppression and fear. As Al-Khatahtbeh wrote in a post about the campaign, “It’s time to hear from a community that’s often talked about but rarely given the chance to speak.”

On this inaugural Muslim Women’s Day, we want to take a moment to highlight Linda Sarsour, a fierce, inspiring Muslim woman, who—like countless other Muslim women—remains unapologetically herself. She is resilient, strong, and unwavering in her commitment to fighting racial, gender, and economic inequity.

While many people have come to recognize Linda Sarsour as one of the national co-chairs of the Women’s March on Washington, she is a long-time activist and community organizer. She is the former executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, co-founder of  the first Muslim online organizer platform, MPOWER Change, and has been at the forefront of major civil rights campaigns, including calling for an end to police policies like stop and frisk and unwarranted surveillance of New York’s Muslim communities. In 2013, she co-founded the Muslim Democratic Club of New York, the first of its kind in New York City, and she also co-founded Muslims for Ferguson to build solidarity amongst civil rights advocates and encourage work against police brutality. She is a member of the Justice League NYC, a leading NYC force of activists, formerly incarcerated individuals, and artists working to reform the New York Police Department and the criminal justice system.

Linda has received numerous awards and honors including “Champion of Change” by the White House, the Hala Maksoud Leadership Award from the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), and, in 2015, our very own YWCA USA Women of Distinction Award for Advocacy and Civic Engagement. In reflecting on the award from YWCA USA, she explained: “I do this work because I have the audacity to believe that I can make this world a better place, I have the audacity to speak truth to power, always.”

As this New York Times piece noted, the voice Linda brings is “loud, strident and inflected with both street smarts and [intersectionality].” Linda doesn’t just speak for herself and those like her —  she fights for all people who are facing discrimination, barriers, inequity, and hate. The scope of her work speaks for itself. She has written work discussing the impact of domestic policies that target Arab and Muslim American communities, criminal justice issues and Middle East affairs, as well as the impact of this current environment of growing hostility and Islamophobia.

Linda’s service, her passion, and her dedication to eliminating racism, empowering women and young people, and combating hate, bigotry, and misogyny are evident in all of the work that she does. Her ability to build bridges add coalitions across communities, and across different issues, is a skill we should all aim to practice and hone. She is an inspiration. She is a leader in the struggle for racial and gender justice and civil rights.

This April marks YWCA’s 10th annual Stand Against Racism, and this year, we are focused on a very important theme: Women of Color Leading Change. Why? Because women of color lead change and have been leading change since the very beginning, but are far too often overlooked or silenced. We know that when women of color lead, positive change happens and everyone is lifted up.

Join us as we celebrate and honor women of color leaders and talk about the barriers that create racial and gender disparities to leadership. Together, let’s highlight and lift up stories of determined, fierce women of color leaders and trailblazers in our communities and throughout history!