On Sunday 15 January 2017, Kids4Peace, the American Muslim Empowerment Network (links to Muslim Association of Puget Sound, founder of MAPS-AMEN), and volunteers organized an MLK Day youth advocacy workshop at Seattle University that focused on confronting Islamophobia through activism, community engagement, and the willingness to challenge stereotypes. The workshop, which lasted four hours, opened with a video created by University of Washington Bothell students (links to the youtube video) that used the choreography of a mannequin challenge to depict the interaction and tension between the West and followers of Islam. From there, students and volunteers broke into smaller groups to discuss how we perceive the “other”, personal accounts from Muslim youth about how they are perceived in America and the challenges they face in trying to belong, and the concrete steps that citizens can take to peacefully address misperceptions, bias, and unfair treatment.
The organizers and adult volunteers employed a soft touch and acted as guides. The young adults did the heavy lifting as they worked with one another to explore timely, weighty, and deeply personal issues.
After the opening video and some small group ice-breaking sessions, the organizers introduced David Baker, a young man who recently waded into the public forum to confront an attempt in his community to prohibit the construction of a mosque. Mr. Baker got up in front of his peers and eloquently explained how he went from concern to civic action by writing a letter to a newspaper explaining his belief that opposition to the construction of a mosque was misguided and jeopardized diversity. Sarah Stuteville described Mr. Baker’s efforts in a 6 January 2017 article in the Seattle Globalist.