The initial intent of my project was to contribute to building a program in which young women from South Los Angeles could come together in the name of sisterhood and empowerment.
As a theology student and practicing Muslim, I have been increasingly interested in the power of faith-based organizing and wanted to develop my own personal contribution to a community that I have spent most of my life in. My vision was to create an unprecedented space that promotes the encouragement of learning, entrepreneurship, and community organizing for women who attend masjid Bilal Ibn Rabah as well as for surrounding community members.
My program outlined the coordination of workshop sessions on issues of education, professional development, community arts and gardening as well as the establishment of a women’s cooperative.
Through working with Five Points Youth Foundation, I hoped to contribute to establishing a burgeoning community network of mosque members and other affiliates working for social change within Los Angeles.
In my proposal, I spoke of how I wanted to contribute to building a sense of trust and confidence within a community network that struggles with issues of distrust and low self-esteem, and I have truly realized how deeply these issues impact the community through working on my project.
I worked with a close knit group of girls who were able to build relationships with one another throughout the project. Most of the participants were from the mosque, however, the group included students from local schools of West Adams High School, ANIMO charter school in Inglewood as well as Cal State University Northridge and Dominguez Hills. Some participants also came from at risk psychological support youth programs.
It was also extremely humbling and inspiring to learn in my personal conversations with participants how they had realized and learned about topics that wouldn’t normally have been exposed to. In hindsight, I do believe it was extremely beneficial and necessary to keep the initial group smaller, not only due to the initiation of the jewelry cooperative, but also in order to build a sense of trust among participants and community members.
The most beneficial and inspiring aspect of the program to me personally is the relationships that were built. As a student organizer, I realize that relationships are at the core of any social and community change and that it is an invaluable asset to this particular community.
Through pursuing an education in law and public policy I hope to use my skills and knowledge to further implement and support community programs that reflect the same mission of the Al-Khadija Women’s Empowerment Program.
In the fall, I will begin pursuing a Master’s degree in theological studies at Harvard Divinity School. Through focusing my career aspirations on community engagement, I will also continue to explore the arts through documentary film-Making about social issues.