On February 9th, the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition, Voces de la Frontera and the Islamic Society of Milwaukee held a fundraising dinner at the Islamic Center to send 18 South Division High School students to Washington D.C. The 18 students were Somali, Rohingya and Latino immigrants. The diverse crowd that attended the fundraiser were moved by the students interest to learn the history of their new country and responded generously.
Below are reflections from the students about their experience.
Rahma Mahammed, 11th grade
I’m glad we met with the senators they are the ones that we can turn to when people have negative thoughts about Muslims because of what the President says. Talking to Muslim women working there made me feel heard, they told us to keep our heads up and to work to help our brothers and sisters in Africa and everywhere. When I saw Ilhan Omar’s office, it was very inspiring because she is the first Muslim congresswoman, it inspired me and I think it’s inspiring to every girl who thinks that she can be what she wants to be, you don’t have to walk around putting your head down and women don’t just have to stay at home.
Amir Khan, 10th grade
I didn’t realize how big Congress was and how many people work there. I learned a lot about the history of the presidents and the world wars. I learned stories about their (presidents) families and how our country started. I saw a lot of diverse people riding the train, I never rode it before in my life. I was happy to see that people in Congress are working for people like us. It was nice to see the Lincoln Memorial and stand where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr gave his speech, “I have a dream.”
Paulina Romo-Ureno, 11th grade
We talked to the Senators staff about public education, immigration and climate change. They listened to us and they advised us to talk to our superintendent about public education issues. I will take that advice and I will talk to our superintendent. I enjoyed visiting the Holocaust Museum, it was very powerful and it was sad what happened at that time, it’s even more sad that it still happens today in some places in the world.
William Vasquez, 12th grade
The most impactful experience was the protest in front of the capitol, it makes me feel like people are strong and they don’t give up even though there is a chance that anything will happen to them. It’s a good way to express what you want, it was peaceful there was no violence, I did participate in protests before and I think it’s a good way to stand up for what you believe. it was a very good trip over all, I enjoyed visiting all the museums, I took some souvenirs to remind me of this trip.
Maryam Isse, 12th grade
Speaking with Warda in the Office for Refugees gave me hope. She said to become what you want, to talk about your concerns, being quiet doesn’t change anything. I also liked visiting Ilhan Omar’s office, I was proud that she was from my country, it made me feel like I can become who I want with my hijab. I’m a human just like others with my hijab, I can stand up for everyone’s right. Rasheeda and Ilhan are both Muslims and it’s a statement that we are not terrorists. It gives me hope as a Muslim girl. Seeing the Holocaust Museum made me sad and emotional seeing how others were treated because of their religion. We have to make change and make sure that no one experiences this no matter what the color of your skin or what your religion is, we are all equal and we are human and we can work towards a common goal.
Noor Aisha Noor Hassan, 11th grade
The most impactful experience was seeing the protest, I felt empowered and proud, I want to be the one to help people make a change. I also liked seeing Ilhan’s office, it is very empowering as a Muslim woman can to know we can be one of them or more if you want.
Nur Alan Bin Mohamad Yusuf, 10th grade
A lot of this trip has been new experiences but my most memorable is being in the Lincoln Memorial. Lincoln is my favorite President because he ended slavery and the civil war. I felt as if I was standing in front of him. I felt very grateful and proud.
Farida Mohamad Sidek, 11th grade
I’m grateful to be here with this group on the trip, my favorite part was the Congress tour, I learned a lot and I enjoyed being with everyone.
Bibi Fatimah Abdul Salam, 10th grade
I’m grateful to be here and to be with this group. As the other students mentioned, I felt that we had a voice and we were able to share the issues that were important to us. Being the nation’s youth, I feel like this is our part to make a change and that makes me feel powerful. Before I thought I wanted to be a lawyer, now I feel like I want to work in Congress and make a change. Public education would be my number one priority. I feel like a lot of changes need to be made and a lot of resources need to be available to public schools.
Naima Isse, 12th grade
Seeing Muslim women in office makes me feel like I want to be like them and I want to make a change. I also learned that people need to hear our story to understand us and not to judge us based on where we came from or our religion. As a young woman I’ve seen many problems that young women and Muslim women face, it’s important that our voices be heard. I learned that my voice matters and that there are people standing up for us, this gives me courage and hope that there will be change. I also enjoyed seeing all the monuments and seeing how people made history and I want to be a part of that.
Fatuma Awil, 11th grade
The most impactful part for me was standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King give his, “I Have a dream” speech. It was a very powerful moment standing there and feeling all the things that he stood for. We wouldn’t be here or have the rice that we have today if it wasn’t for him. I felt a little discouraged talking to Samantha Baker I felt she was just taking notes and didn’t feel that she was going to do anything.
Zamzam Osman, 11th grade
I liked talking to Senator Johnson’s and Baldwin’s staff. They made me feel heard and they made me feel like I have rights, that I can speak up and stand up to make the world an equal place. Warda Khalid was nice and inspirational, meeting her made me want to be in Congress and made me proud of her. It was nice to come to DC and learn about Congress and learn about our freedoms and communicate with Congress.
Toslimah Kahanan, 11th grade
I am thankful and grateful that I was able to come to DC. I wanted to see the Holocaust Museum and was glad we had the opportunity to visit it. It was a very powerful experience. Also joining the Sudanese protests makes me want to be an activist. I’ve learned a lot of new things. I didn’t know what was happening in Sudan and I felt close to those people. I also enjoyed seeing the monuments, visiting the Dr. Martin Luther King and Lincoln Memorial and learning the beautiful history. As a youth, we are the future of the country, we have to make changes and make this world a better place. Visiting the Holocaust Museum and learning about what happened to the children made me cry. Kids were dying of starvation and I put myself in their shoes and got really emotional of all the tragic things they experienced. I want to make a change in this world and do something memorable.
Omari Wilondja, 10th grade
When we arrived on Thursday, we spoke to staff members of Senators Johnson and Baldwin about helping African American and Latino students. They said they can have after school programs to help support African-Americans and Latinos. They want to support public education, it needs more funding because private schools won’t take those kids. We talked about this increasing discrimination and we want to end this because people before us already fought for these rights and we want to see an end to that. Being here made me think about a career in politics to help make a change. Seeing all the monuments and standing where Martin Luther King give his “I Have a Dream” speech was powerful. Also, visiting the Museum of Natural History, we learned about evolution in biology so it was more helpful seeing it explained in more detail. I enjoyed touring the Congress and I learned that there are statues from every states and seeing the 13 representing the original colonies, and there are nine chairs representing each Justice. Overall the trip was great and a good learning experience.
Wisconsin Muslim Journal