American Center for Outreach
After an internship at the state Capitol while she was a student at Tennessee State University, Remziya Suleyman never thought she’d be back.
She also never thought she’d become a community organizer, much less an advocate and lobbyist at the legislature and across the state. But then two Tennessee lawmakers introduced a bill that essentially would have made it illegal to practice Islam in Tennessee. Whatever their intentions, they got more than they bargained for in response.
“My community needed a wake-up call to organize,” Suleyman says. “So I thank Sen. [Bill] Ketron and Rep. [Judd] Matheny for introducing the bill. As crazy as it may sound.”
In what Suleyman calls “one of the largest mobilizations in the U.S.,” more than 500 Muslims rallied at the Capitol, and eventually the bill was defeated. Realizing that such efforts are borne mostly out of ignorance, Suleyman helped found the American Center for Outreach, where she serves as director of policy and research, to advance understanding of Muslims and Islam.
On June 4, 2013, twenty-two-year-old Drost Kokoye drove from her home in Nashville to Manchester, Tennessee, with three other Muslim activists, Remziya Suleyman, Mohamed Shukri, and Zulfat Suara to attend a community forum organized by the American Muslim Advisory Council (AMAC). Drost and her colleagues were deeply involved with grassroots efforts to address the wave of anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, and anti-Muslim sentiment that had taken hold in parts of Tennessee since 2010. Drost and Remziya worked for an American Muslim grassroots organization called the American Center for Outreach, and Mohamed and Zulfat were affiliated with AMAC.
On their drive, the four activists discussed the distinct possibility of encountering protests at the Manchester community forum. In fact, just a few weeks earlier, Barry West, the commissioner of Coffee County, where Manchester is located, had posted on Facebook a picture of a white man in a cowboy hat pointing a gun. West called the post “How to Wink at a Muslim.” When asked about the picture, West responded: “I’m prejudiced against anyone who’s trying to tear down this country, Muslims, Mexicans, anybody . . . If you come into this country illegally or harm us or take away benefits, I’m against it.” West’s remarks made his opinions on who is the “us” and who is the “other” in Tennessee quite clear.
West’s comments did not occur in a vacuum, however. Over the previous three years, parts of middle Tennessee had become a breeding ground for Islamophobia and anti-immigrant rhetoric. That is why AMAC had organized the community forum in Manchester. The forum, open to all residents, provided an opportunity for Muslim leaders to share basic information about Islam and American Muslims and to hear about civil rights protections from representatives of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
While Drost, Remziya, Mohamed, and Zulfat were prepared to face opposition from anti-Muslim spokespersons and organizations at the forum, they had no idea about the extent of it until they arrived. “We didn’t expect it to be four hundred people,” Drost remembered. “Outside the location, there was a sort of pep rally going on. Pam Geller had been speaking to the crowd, riling people up.” Geller is a prominent figure who promotes Islamophobia in the United States. She is the co-founder of groups such as the American Freedom Defense Initiative and Stop Islamization of America, which have been listed on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s map of hate groups.
Now What? Defying Trump and the Left's Way Forward
Now What? Defying Trump and the Left's Way Forward was a phone in webinar organized by Freedom Road Socialist Organization in the wake of the 2016 election.
- Now what? We’re all asking ourselves that question in the wake of Trump’s victory. We’ve got urgent strategizing and work to do, together. Join Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson of the Movement for Black Lives and Freedom Road, Calvin Cheung-Miaw, Jodeen Olguin-Taylor of Mijente and WFP, Joe Schwartz of the Democratic Socialists of America, and Sendolo Diaminah of Freedom Road for a discussion of what happened, and what we should be doing to build mass defiance. And above all, how do we build the Left in this, which we know is the only solution to the crises we face?
- This event will take place Tuesday November 15, 2016 at 9pm Eastern/8pm Central/6pm Pacific.
Supporting the Kurds
Remziya Suleyman November 5, 2016;
- As much as they may try to divide us, we will remain united. In solidarity with our sisters & brothers in Bakur (northern Kurdistan). Resistance has always been our calling & we will remain steadfast. They may lock up our leaders but they can't oppress our call for freedom. #FreeHDP #FreeDemirtas