These Stories Needed to Be Told

A Muslim storyteller who lifts up COVID-19 struck communities through spoken word art, an interfaith group that provides direct relief through matchmaking, and leaders of different faith groups coming together to make sure no one in their neighborhood goes hungry during lockdown -- these are just some of the uplifting stories of human resilience that are featured in Crisis and Compassion, a video series produced by Kendal Mobley, Associate Professor of Religion and Coordinator of Spiritual Life at Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU), for Bridge Builders Charlotte.  

Led by Queens University’s Belk Chapel and Interfaith Youth Core, and funded by the Gambrell Foundation, Bridge Builders Charlotte promotes interfaith education, cooperation, and community service through a network of seven college and university campuses and more than 20 faith communities and nonprofits across the Charlotte region. Highlighting the role of faith and community in providing relief to communities during the pandemic, the project documents how diverse religious communities in the Charlotte area are responding to the pandemic by working with local service providers, local government, and other faith communities. 

“I had no idea how to make a documentary,” says Mobley, “but I’ve never been afraid to try something new, and these stories needed to be told.” 

The series was produced with a team including LeDayne McLeese Polaski, Executive Director of Mecklenburg Metropolitan Interfaith Network (MeckMIN), and JCSU students Exodus Moon and Iyanla Parsanlal, who interviewed more than 40 people. Four episodes of 18 to 20 minutes have been released, with at least two more in the pipeline, and is intended for other faculty members to use it in their classroom to initiate conversations on religious diversity.  

“Leading the “Crisis and Compassion” project has been one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of my academic career,” Mobley adds. “I’ve been honored to bear witness to the courage and devotion of people and organizations from diverse religious perspectives and to offer them the chance to tell their own stories. In a very dark time, they offer an example that is enlightening, empowering, and hopeful. They show us the virtues and values that will carry us through this crisis: compassion, respect for human dignity, sacrificial love, humility, unity, and cooperation.” 

Below is a list of the episodes that are available and can be watched on YouTube:  

Episode 1, “Making a Shidduch,” highlights the key role of MeckMIN in swiftly bringing diverse faith communities and nonprofits together to meet needs and adapt to the new realities of the pandemic. 

In Episode 2, “The Muslim in the Room: A Conversation with Hannah Hasan,” LeDayne McLeese Polaski talks with storyteller and spoken word artist Hannah Hasan about how prayer and faith guided through the unexpected changes in her career caused by the pandemic, how the pandemic opened her eyes to a fear she needed to confront, and how it feels to be “the Muslim in the room.” 

In Episode 3, “Doing the Work,” leaders of Bahá’í, Buddhist, Christian, Sikh, and Unitarian Universalist communities share the values that guide them and describe how their organizations have responded to the pandemic. 

Episode 4, “That They All May Be One,” documents how the Chapel of Christ the King Episcopal Church is transforming the church’s underutilized property into an edible landscape that will address food insecurity and provide an outdoor space where longtime residents and new arrivals can come together in Charlotte’s Optimist Park neighborhood. The episode also explores the church’s role in organizing an emergency property tax relief fund to help longtime residents hold on to their homes as the neighborhood experiences rapid gentrification. 

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The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.