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

Thirty-two percent of vaccinated Americans reported in June that a faith-based approach made them more likely to get vaccinated, according to the survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC).   
As the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. echoed Theodore Parker, ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’ Let’s bend it together.
In both my work as an interfaith leader and a dancer, rethinking is all about opening our minds, asking questions, and having conversations.
Some U.S. churches have been reckoning with this activity for years through ceremonies, apologies and archival investigations, while others are just getting started.
A global study of the communication patterns of 1.3 million workers during the global lockdown showed the average workday increased by 8.2% during the pandemic, and the average number of virtual meetings per person expanded by almost 13%.
Across Missouri, hundreds of pastors, priests and other church leaders are reaching out to urge vaccinations in a state under siege from the delta variant. Health experts say the spread is due largely to low vaccination rates — Missouri lags about 10 percentage points behind the national average for people who have initiated shots.
The solution, said Chris Palusky, president and CEO of Bethany Christian Services, is “the loving care of a family, not another orphanage.” He pointed to Scripture passages that say God sets the lonely in families and call on Christians to care for those who have been orphaned.
The following interview features Debra Fraser-Howze, founder and president of Choose Healthy Life, an initiative that fortifies community infrastructure to better address the pandemic in Black communities. The interview was conducted by Shauna Morin for IFYC; it has been edited and condensed for clarity.
The seven monks have been clearing brush from around the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center and running a sprinkler system dubbed “Dharma rain,” which helps keep a layer of moister around the buildings.
Over 800 Muslim Americans are expected to attend the family-focused event at the Green Meadows Petting Farm in Ijamsville, Maryland, making it one of the larger such gatherings around the country in the era of COVID-19.
Besides demanding equitable distribution of vaccines, the Interfaith Vigil for Global COVID-19 Vaccine Access called on the World Trade Organization to waive intellectual property rights for vaccine manufacturing in order to enable more countries to produce COVID-19 vaccines domestically.
Eid al-Adha, or the “Feast of Sacrifice,” is typically marked by communal prayers, large social gatherings, slaughtering of livestock and giving meat to the needy.
Our Lady of La Vang is said to have appeared in a remote rainforest in the late 1700s to a group of Catholics fleeing persecution in Vietnam.
This article is part of a series called Faith in the Field that explores responses to Covid-19—including vaccination efforts—within different faith communities. 
Yet the debate about the vaccine in Tennessee is not solely a debate about science. Rather, I believe the vaccine debate is also a referendum on our public capacity to embrace vulnerability.
The study found that while there are many promising signs that students perceive support for their RSSIs on campus, there is also considerable room for improving welcome, particularly for students whose RSSIs are a minority.
Coronavirus deaths among clergy are not just a Catholic problem, said Andrew Chesnut, chair of Catholic studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, with faith leaders across denominations having elevated exposure rates as “spiritual front-line workers” ministering to the sick and dying in hospitals and nursing homes.
Legislation legalizing human composting has encountered religious resistance from the Catholic Church.
From the 26th of November, 2020, a farmers protest has been in existence on the outskirts of Delhi, India’s capital city. For the past eight months, farmers in the tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands, have been fighting three laws that threaten the future of agriculture in the country.
Sivan and I feel that it is crucial to work for increased vaccination rates, particularly with more transmissible and potentially more deadly variants emerging across the country and throughout the world.
We made calls to friends, disseminated flyers, engaged in social media marketing, partnered with faith-based communities, and engaged the local health department to encourage members of our community to come to our upcoming clinic and get vaccinated.

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.