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.

If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today

more from IFYC

The expansion is fueled by concerns over political polarization on college campuses, an infusion of funds from foundations interested in bridge-building, and a merger with IFYC, which has a track record facilitating interfaith engagement.
Ancient rabbis imagined the great chain of tradition, that went from generation to generation, as a ball that is tossed, playfully, from teacher to student. Is there a "Lasso Torah" inside a television show about a fish-out-of-water Midwestern football coach?
Studies show houses of worship have provided solace during the pandemic, but companies across the U.S. are struggling to respond to requests for religious exemptions to vaccine mandates.
Catholics leaders have urged vaccination to "protect the most vulnerable," and studies show this outreach is helping improve vaccination rates among Latino Catholics.
Across the country, people from all political divides, faiths and walks of life are coming together to help resettle Afghan refugees arriving at the borders.
The first episode of “Home Sweet Home,” which DuVernay said prioritizes curiosity over conflict, features the Wixx family — a “super queer” Black couple with three children.
Each week, we share our top 10 religion stories from journals, news sites, podcasts and magazines.
Dr. Abel Gomez: "If we’re talking about interfaith work and we want to expand the ability of communities to practice their religious ceremonies, I ask my students: if we think about the experience of Native people under the occupation of the United States, do they actually have religious freedom?"
The Fisk Jubilee Singers, based at the historically Black university founded by the abolitionist American Missionary Association and later tied to the United Church of Christ, started traveling 150 years ago on Oct. 6, 1871.
The last several months have been catastrophic for Haiti. The Aug. 14 earthquake left more than 2,200 people dead, followed by Tropical Depression Grace two days later. The country’s political sector has been in disarray & over 22,000 people have officially died during the pandemic.
Apache Stronghold will take part in a day of prayer Saturday (Oct. 9) at Oak Flat before meeting with leaders of the Tohono O’odham Nation, who will offer a blessing and prayer for their travels.
It’s not just interactions with friends and families that are getting cut. Routine yet beneficial interactions with people at fitness and child care centers and volunteer organizations are also being eliminated.
Ismaili Jamatkhanas are designed to be both places of worship and community engagement, so when the chance to conduct a vaccine drive became a possibility, volunteers mobilized quickly.
Amid personal and professional crises, the author writes that she finds her Christian faith "one of the most fruitful sources of hope, even in the darkest hours."
Facebook has been a catalyst for religious communities that aren’t defined geographically. For religious leaders who connect with their flocks on the internet, the outage was a reminder to own their information.
The pedestal that propped up the statue of Junipero Serra looks bare at first glance, but once a smartphone camera is aimed toward it, an animated monument honoring the Tongva, the Indigenous people of Los Angeles, comes alive.
A Lutheran church in Wisconsin recently hosted an interfaith dialogue between a pagan and Lutheran pastor. They will continue the conversation this month in an event hosted by the Parliament of the Worlds Religions in Chicago.
The articles and videos are by and about inspiring Latinx/a/o interfaith leaders from diverse religious communities.
Our top 10 religion stories of the week show religious pluralism as an opportunity, not a cause for despair. They're also great reads.
The law, possibly the first of its kind in the nation, is part of a larger effort by women athletes to have more say about what they wear while competing.
"We are American faith leaders from six different faith traditions, including yours," said a letter to President Joe Biden. "We see our nation continuing to spectacularly fail in welcoming the stranger."

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.