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.

The students, along with their teacher Marcelo Gallardoand MMWC board member, Tahjood Mohieddin, who decided to accompany the students at her expense,  left Milwaukee on Wednesday, February 6, arriving in Washington D. C. on Thursday. The first day of their arrival, the students had an opportunity to speak to staff members in Senators Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin’s office. The students noted this was a very important opportunity for them because they felt like they were being heard. On Friday the group visited Congress where they had a tour of the Library of Congress, they learned about the history of the United States and the Emancipation Proclamation and how America’s forefathers decided how to govern the country and to represent all the people.

The visit to the office of Warda Khalid of the Immigration and Refugee office was impactful for the students.  Warda spoke to the students about her background, she started off as an accountant and became very passionate about immigration so she got her masters in international relations, her work is meeting with people and helping them use their voice to tell their stories. Warda told the students that it’s important for you to be able to tell your own story because it leaves a bigger impact than someone else telling it for you. She encouraged the students to ask questions to get them to practice using their voice, she said this is a safe place. A lot of the students were very interested, especially when she talked about visiting the southern border and talking to some of the children there and helping them share their stories about being separated from their families and how that impacted them.

The group also went to the office of Congressman Glenn Grothman, they spoke to his legislative Assistant Samantha Baker, students shared their concerns about public education, climate change, immigration and discrimination. Samantha took notes and she suggested that they talk to their local representative who is Congresswoman Gwen Moore.

They were excited head to the office of freshman Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, like many of the students, she came to this country as a Somali refugee. Unfortunately, she was not in the office, so the students wrote some notes to her and left them outside her door, then they walked to the office of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, she also was not in, so they left her notes as well.

On Saturday the group visited the Smithsonian Space Museum and the Museum of Natural History, while they were walking, they saw a protest and the students decided to join the protest. It was Americans in solidarity with the people of Sudan, the march was from the capital to the White House, protesting the world silence towards the violence that is being used against peaceful protesters in Sudan.

Sunday was spent visiting all of the national monuments. They started at the White House then went to the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial and Jefferson Memorial.  All the walking left the students exhausted so they were treated to ice cream.

The students felt very inspired, empowered and they felt that their voices were heard. They appreciated the opportunity to make this trip and there was a lot that they were going to take back to Milwaukee, especially using their voice and speaking up to be heard. A lot of them also expressed that visiting the monuments made them feel that they want to be like those people that made a difference in their country.

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Wisconsin Muslim Journal