Black History Month: Role Models and Activism

Black History Month: Role Models and Activism

Ilhan Omar is a groundbreaking politician - yes. But first and foremost, she is an activist striving to improve people’s lives. 

Born in 1982 in Mogadishu, Somalia, Ilhan's family had to flee when she was only a child to live in a refugee camp in Kenya.  Her family came to the USA when she was 12 years old, settling in Minnesota.

This is where she grew up, and where her love for politics began. She was first introduced to politics when she took her grandpa to Democratic Party caucuses and acted as an interpreter for him. 

Making History

Ilhan graduated in 2011 with a degree in political science. She started working right away on the Vote No Twice campaign in 2012. In 2016, she was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives and had increased voter turnout. 

Ilhan made history in 2018 by being voted into the US House of Representatives as the first Somali-American, first naturalized citizen from Africa and and the first non-white woman ever elected from Minnesota.  She and Rashida Tlaib are the first two Muslim women elected to serve in congress. 

Continued Activism

Ilhan's track record in her short time in office has included many achievements. She has introduced 35 bills, passed 14 amendments, co-founded the Black Maternal Health Causcus and the Emergency Taskforce on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health. 

Ilhan was elected Vice-Chair for the Medicare for All Caucus, and is leading the way on prescription drug reform and reducing the US involvement in Yemen.   She continues to fight for change on behalf of herself and her constituents. 

Be Active as a Family

Black History Month is more than just a time to celebrate important role models like Ilhan Omar.  She would want us to make sure that we are using the month as a starting point for our own activism and change making for racial equity.  Here are some ways that our Muslim families can become activists for equality during and beyond Black History Month. Here are some ways you can advocate for racial, ethnic or religious minorities. 

  • If you see or hear religious, ethnic, or racial groups being negatively targeted, challenge it. Demonstrate your allyship by speaking up against racial or ethnic slurs.     

  • Find and support Black-owned and Black-owned Muslim businesses or restaurants in your area. Try them and recommend them to your family & friends.

  • Seek out different experiences and communities through friendships, cultural outings, art, food, and activism.

  • Find opportunities to be an ally to community groups outside your own. Seek to understand before being understood.

Moving Forward

February comes and goes each year, if nothing more than to remind us that Black History Month must become an everyday act of transformation so that everyone can experience the same opportunities and rights. 

As Muslims, we cannot simply pay lip service to racial equality but instead put our prayers and actions forward as role models for each other and our children.

Join us soon for a behind-the-scenes look at our newest special edition prayer mat as we continue to honour and support our Black community members and highlight role models this February.


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