I met Muslim Girls Making Change a few months ago on Twitter when I participated in #MuslimWomenDay. The team is doing amazing work to raise awareness about Muslim women and shatter stereotypes of us through their art and poetry. This is activism. They used their passion to help show the world how to be more compassionate, empathetic, and kind to people who look different than you. I had the pleasure of interviewing them and getting to know them a bit here:
Tell me a little bit about your organization, what prompted it? what are some of your goals and mission?
Muslim Girls Making Change, or MGMC, is a youth based slam poetry group that started over a little more than a year ago. As a group (us being four teens in high school), we often felt that our voices weren’t being heard or that they weren’t important. Prior to the formation of the group we had all been politically and socially involved from leading activist groups to end everything from global poverty to teen drug and alcohol usage. Two of us even led a statewide drive with Governor Peter Shumlin and many businesses to raise items and funds for internally displaced Syrians in Aleppo. However, despite our work and leadership, we weren’t being listened to what we had to say about being Muslim; being a Muslim girl; being black and Muslim; being Pakistani and Muslim; being Arab and Muslim, and what that means in a predominantly white state like Vermont. So, since we didn’t have a platform, we made ourselves one, Muslim Girls Making Change. Initially the group began so we could have a team for the international youth slam competition, Brave New Voices, but now it has evolved into so much more. MGMC now works to continue to educate and start discussions and works with several organizations to do so including the Women’s March, local school districts, Young Writers Project, etc. We want to get people thinking, but even more than that, we want people to act. For far too long Vermont has become complacent about many of these issues arguing that ‘that kind of thing doesn’t happen here’, we want to show people that action is imperative; that silence is violence; and that the time is now.
Why do you believe in this work?
I think one of the main reasons was to show people, youth and adults, that youth voice and action matters. We are the future, and if we aren’t given the tools and resources we need, how can we hope for a better world?
What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
I think the most challenging aspect of our work (outside the typical junior year stress) is staying motivated and using self-care. Getting bombarded with headline after headline; tragedy after tragedy; death after death, can get, frankly, exhausting. It’s hard to feel like you’re making a difference or even matter. It’s hard to remember that 16, 17 year old girls can make change, especially with the apathy and dejection we feel from our fellow students in times like ours.
How do you remain focused and motivated to do this work?
Honestly, each other. Anyone who sees us in person or online can see that we all care for and are close with each other. While our friendship wasn’t instant, we can’t imagine MGMC without any of us. We keep each other grounded; crack a joke when we need to laugh; keep us focused when it’s time for work; and make this work fun. I think what happens to often is that this work, hard and draining as it is, goes unchecked. People don’t take a breath and get worn out. We keep each other loving ourselves and striving for excellence WHILE allowing ourselves to rest. We inspire each other to do better things by what we do and we believe in each other.
What is one advice you have to share with youth who want to get into work of activism in the future?
Number one message would be: anyone can be and should be an activist. The four of us, we’re still four teenagers who by chance stumbled onto slam poetry on YouTube and fell in love. We’re not PhDs or high ranking government officials, we’re four girls who cared enough to speak out and act out. That’s what activism is all about, taking action because it’s the right thing to do. If you’re a youth and you believe in equity and justice for all, and are willing to put in the work, you can be an activist. Ask anyone.
Find an issue you care about, reach out to organizations already doing the good work, provide your talents (because we all have some talent), speak up, bring others in, get a mentor, be a mentor. There’s so much to do and we need everyone. And getting involved is as easy as a google search and an email.