The Wisdom America Needs: The Best of IFYC Racial Equity Fellows

In June 2020 after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Rayshard Brooks, and a host of others who have died because of police brutality and entrenched racism, IFYC articulated a public commitment to racial equity and the truth that Black Lives Matter.  Concurrently, the nation was experiencing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which disproportionately impacts Black, indigenous, and LatinX communities.

Since that time, the U.S. has been in a period of social upheaval in which racial equity has, perhaps for the first time in American history, become a central focus in civic debates of how to fashion public life. Ideas that were once considered radical- such as reparations for descendants of enslaved Africans and demands to defund police departments- became normalized. The demonstrations on the streets, and the long years of organizing, have inspired wider spheres across social sectors, including organizations like IFYC, to take action to combat racism.

As a part of its commitment to racial equity, IFYC launched the inaugural Interfaith America Racial Equity Media Fellowship. The Fellowship brought together media creators and interfaith leaders who engage racial equity work within American public life and/or higher education to offer reflections and report on the intersection of civic religious pluralism and the movement for Black lives. In addition to compensation for their work, the Fellowship also created space for Fellows to engage and learn from public media experts including Jelani Cobb, Melissa Harris-Perry, Damon Young, and Janna Zinzi.

The Fellows are activists, artists, and thought leaders who created compelling media pieces that are published on Interfaith America. They include a mix of emerging and experienced media creators from different racial, ethnic, and religious/philosophical backgrounds. To celebrate and amplify their work, Interfaith America’s editorial team has chosen one piece from each Fellow to be featured here. You can find each piece from the Fellows in the racial equity section of Interfaith America.

Aaron Talley

In Tarot, A Faith that Has Room for You, Aaron opens up about how he discovered tarot and what it has meant to him as a Black gay male who was raised Christian.

Amina Mohamed

Elementary schoolteacher Amina writes about her relationship with education as an immigrant, teacher, and Black woman in Teaching with Community and Liberation. She writes, “...In this journey, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the state of education, what it means to be a classroom teacher, and more importantly: what radicalized me as a teacher?..."

Anna Del Castillo

In her piece Farmworkers, The Unsung Heroes of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Anna sits with Antonio De Loera-Brust, Mexican-American farmworker advocate, to talk about the impact of COVID-19 on the farmworker community, the failure of the U.S. government to protect them, and his vision for the future of farmworker rights.

Ibrahim Abdul-Matin

Ibrahim responds to the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol in America Finds Itself at the End of its Myth. He writes, “… America turned in on itself. Sure, we’ve fought internally before – many times in fact, in the streets, on reservations, on slavery plantations and famously in an epic Civil War – but this time it’s different. This time the Capitol was breached, and elected officials were trapped inside barricaded offices afraid for their lives.”

J.T. Snipes

In Bodies Out of Place: Considering Race and Religion on Campus, J.T. engages race and religion (and its intersection) as he writes about the experiences of Black people on college and university campuses, using his alma mater, Baylor University, as an example of how “white Christian supremacy inherently marks Black and Brown bodies out of place…”

Kanika Magee

Howard University Assistant Dean responds to the 2020 presidential election in Our Divided States, writing “Today we want to proclaim unity and forge ahead as a United States, when around half of us voted on opposites sides of the polls: 71.5 million of us voted for one and 76 million for another. This is my struggle. I want to believe that I am open to and accepting of diversity of belief and expression at its fullness – yet in our expression and opening of inclusive space, we have closed a door and ensured there is little to no room left for them.”

Kenji Kuramitsu

In Our Interfaith Arkansas Pilgrimage: Settler Colonialism and Strange Fruit, Kenji uses lyrics from Billie Holiday’s famous song “Strange Fruit” to tell the story of an interfaith pilgrimage he led to Arkansas where his group encountered numerous megachurches, prisons, and police stations.

Musa Al-Gharbi

In Black Americans Crave Deeper Integration of Religion and Politics, Musa writes an insightful analysis of data at the intersection of race and religion. He writes: "non-Black Americans seem to be fleeing religion because it’s become too political. Blacks seem to be leaving because it’s not political enough."

Nathan Stanton

In his piece Resurrection Someday, Pastor Stanton uses Easter/Resurrection Sunday, which fell on the anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as the occasion to reflect on the “inevitability of freedom” even when America responds to Black pain by justifying the cause.

Raja G. Bhattar

Higher education leader Raja, who hails from a long lineage of Hindu spiritual leaders, reflects on what Deepavali- the Hindu festival of lights- means to him during COVID, and the significance of traditions during the global pandemic in Queering Deepavali: Traditions in the Time of COVID. He writes, ”As an adult, I’ve been lucky enough to move to cities with large queer Desi communities or other diverse religious identities. While I’m a proud practicing Hindu and Buddhist, Deepavali for me is about building an interfaith table that celebrates the diversity of our communities.”

Shaunesse’ Jacobs

In The Atlanta Attack and the Power of Naming, Shaunesse’ responds to the March 2021 anti-Asian attack in Atlanta to highlight how, without naming, there is no healing, reconciliation, or justice. She writes, “Naming is also a liberative act of justice. Naming oppressive acts, conditions, and systems brings to light the existing communal suffering. This naming makes the unseen seen and demands restorative responses from the majority because “the other” can no longer be ignored.”

Simran Jeet Singh

In Election is Chance to Fight Bigotry Against Muslims, Sikhs, Simran reflects on how a Biden/Harris White House presents the opportunity to address and combat religious and racial bigotry, which is in stark contrast to the Trump era.

Teresa Mateus

Author and Trauma Specialist Teresa Mateus writes about the “paradoxical nature” of “actual democracy” and how courageous frontline workers have been during the COVID-19 pandemic in The Unforeseen Courage of 2020: The Existential Dilemma of Actual Democracy.

#Interfaith is a self-paced, online learning opportunity designed to equip a new generation of leaders with the awareness and skills to promote interfaith cooperation online. The curriculum is free to Interfaith America readers; please use the scholarship code #Interfaith100. #Interfaith is presented by IFYC in collaboration with


more from IFYC

Lessons from Thich Nhat Hanh, the person who nominated Martin Luther King Jr. for the Nobel Peace Prize and encouraged King to speak out against the war in Vietnam.
What Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk and activist Thich Nhat Hanh taught me about the power of mindful breathing through art.
A scholar of democratic virtues explains why Dominican monk Thomas Aquinas’ thoughts on hope are relevant today.
From covering spirituality in Silicon Valley to writing an online newsletter about her own journey to Judaism, reporter Nellie Bowles keeps finding innovative ways to reflect on religion and technology.
Six ways religious and spiritual leaders can help the internet serve their communities right now.
At the request of his editors at Religion News Service, Omar Suleiman writes about waiting with hostages’ families.
Regardless of what happens on Capitol Hill, the PNBC leaders said they plan to lobby Congress in March and register voters weekly in their congregations and communities.
King’s exasperation at self-satisfied white Christians holds up a mirror that is still painfully accurate today.
A day before the U.S. Senate was expected to take up significant legislation on voting rights that is looking likely to fail, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s eldest son condemned federal lawmakers over their inaction.
The congregation’s rabbi, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, is particularly well connected to the larger interfaith community and on good terms with many Muslim leaders.
For Martin Luther King Day, an interfaith panel reflects on the sacredness of the vote and the legacy of Reverend King.
In his new book, Princeton historian Julian E. Zelizer reexamines the life of Abraham Joshua Heschel and finds lessons for interfaith political activism today.
King drew criticism from Billy Graham, who told journalists that he thought King was wrong to link anti-war efforts with the civil rights movement.
Some are calling out historical injustices the church has carried out against Native Americans, even as others find their faith empowering.
IFYC’s Vote is Sacred campaign launched on January 13. Faith leaders, public intellectuals, activists, and organizers are joining to advocate for an inclusive, nonpartisan interfaith approach to restoring and protecting our democracy.
One out of five Muslims is in an interfaith relationship, surveys suggest. But few imams are willing to conform the traditional Muslim wedding ceremony to their needs, couples say.
In her popular podcast series, Corrigan invites guests to wonder about 'the elephant in America's living room': belief and religion. 'I hope I have a hundred more conversations like these in 2022 and beyond,' she says.
In his annual address to the Vatican's diplomatic corps, the pope stressed the individual's responsibility 'to care for ourself and our health, and this translates into respect for the health of those around us.'
The very people who have been subject to the worst of the United States have embodied its best.
The Jan. 6 insurrection of the U.S. Capitol drew recent attention to the phenomenon of Christian nationalism, but religious and spiritual leaders acknowledge its existence long before that.
A new interfaith curriculum designed for Christian universities and seminaries recently got a test run. One professor who tried it says it's opened hearts and minds: "The desire is very much there."

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.