Photos by Kamal Moon

The Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition 2023 Board of Directors, from left to right, Dr. Aishah Aslam, board vice president, Dr. Hana Alqam, Dr. Sahar Kayata, board treasurer, Janan Atta Najeeb, founder and executive director, Soniya Yunus, Dr. Hanadi BuAli, Dr. Fatoumata Ceesay, board president, Nadia Alkhun, Ream Bahhur, board secretary. (not shown: Dr. Dima Adl, Masarat Allaqaband, Amal Jaber)

Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition’s 13th annual gala at the beautiful Marcus Center Bradley Pavilion was attended by over 350 guests and also live streamed. MMWC Executive Director and Founder Janan Najeeb acknowledged that in the midst of so much loss and heartbreak, we would carry on together.

“Many of us are coming here today with heavy hearts, acutely aware of the modern day genocide against predominantly women and children, taking place in real time in front of our eyes, with the shameful support and cover of our current government and most members of Congress. The astonishingly biased and one-sided narrative we are seeing as the indigenous people of Palestine are being ethnically cleansed, is exactly why we need to be in solidarity and in community with each other and exactly why the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition is such an important presence not only in greater Milwaukee but throughout Wisconsin. This year’s theme, ‘Reimagining Our Future’ was decided months ago, but today it has taken on a whole new meaning.”

A musical prelude from Salaam Band, a duo of classically trained Iraqi-American violinist, Dena El Saffer and percussionist, Tim Moore enlivened the hall as guests arrived. Their sound, deeply rooted in maqam and entrancing Middle Eastern rhythms, brought soothing and joyful energy to the event.

The current MMWC Board of Directors emceed the program, with Board President, Dr. Fatoumata Ceesay, giving the opening statement. Ameen Atta performed the Quran recitation and Anthony Smith, director of community partnerships for Marcus Performing Arts Center, warmly welcomed everyone to the Bradley Pavilion.

The guest speakers represented individuals, groups, institutions, and organizations whose partnerships helped MMWC chart their path and create a better future. Among them was Reverend Dr. Lisa Bates-Froiland, Pastor at Redeemer Lutheran Church and co-chair of Wisconsin Churches for Justice in Palestine whose daughter, Maddi is living and working in the West Bank.

Francesca Hong, Wisconsin State Representative from the 76th district, Dr. Munther Barakat, director of Behavioral Health Therapy for Advocate Aurora, Stacey Cicero, domestic abuse coordinator from the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families and Dr. Aisha Aslam, vice president, MMWC board of directors and general cardiologist at Ascension St. Joseph Hospital shared their experiences working with the MMWC in 2023. The most special moments came from the youngest speakers Madina Iqbalzada and Bassel Obeidat.  

Madina Iqbalzada, a sophomore at Pulaski high school and a participant in the MMWC Buddy Program told the audience, “Immigration is not easy – it’s about a new country, new home, new culture and new language. When we came to Milwaukee, we didn’t know if there were other Afghans here. We connected with MMWC through an immigration agency, and found their Buddy program to meet new Afghan refugees, make friends, become familiar with a new culture, and engage in fun activities.”

And Bassel Obeidat, a 7th grade student at Eisenhower high school and participant of the MMWC Public Speaking workshop shared, “Among the noteworthy instances, the story-slam stands out. This exercise served to assist me to eliminate my fear of public speaking…initiatives such as these can prove highly advantageous for the youth in our community. I look forward to joining future programs and bond with new people.”

The Together, We Can award was given to PBS Wisconsin for their Wisconsin Muslim Project collaboration with MMWC, accepting the award were Eric Greiling and Dulce Marin Vlisides, two key members of the project team. Volunteer of the Year award went to Linda Wolk.

The vision and mission of MMWC was expressed throughout the evening by program beneficiaries, community leaders, partner organizations and board members. It was a celebration of support and the evidence of the work of the MMWC team and leadership that is stronger than ever. 

If you were not able to be with us, you can still support the MMWC’s vital and impactful programming here. Thank you!