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2017 DREL FELLOWS!

We are pleased to announce our 2017 - 2018 Cohort of Deeply Rooted Emerging Leaders (DREL) Fellows! The competition for this inaugural year of the fellowship was particularly rigorous, as our class of 16 was selected from 50 well-qualified applicants. We were impressed by the level of insight, critical thinking and passion evident in the submissions we received. Those selected for this year's program were chosen based on a thorough review of their leadership potential, capacity for personal growth and critical self-reflection and demonstrated commitment to engaging in a collaborative, justice oriented process of community engagement.

The DREL Fellowship centers the challenges, strengths and well-being of Black Muslim Emerging adults (18-25 years old) and is grounded in the belief that building power and sustainable grassroots movements cannot occur without healing and introspection.  The Black Muslim Youth Rising Intensive Leadership Retreat (October 27-29, 2017 | Philadelphia, PA)  is one component of the Fellowship. Organizers, artists, and scholars will lead workshops designed to usher our Fellows on a journey of self-awareness and leadership building through experiential learning and team building exercises. On the first day of the retreat, attendees will participate in group activities designed to establishing trust, cohesion and healthy group dynamics. It will also focus on guided discussions on the psychological impact of oppression, trauma of racism, Islamophobia. The second day of the retreat will focus on emotionally intelligent leadership, including self-awareness, self-regulation, social awareness, networking and relationship building; consciousness of context, self and of others. The final day of the retreat will seek to integrate each fellows understanding of self and leadership capacity with strategies for community engagement.  We hope to nurture a cohort of emotionally intelligent social justice activists and leaders who will more assertively and constructively engage in spiritually grounded, justice oriented advocacy within the Muslim community. 

*Support for the Deeply Rooted Intensive Youth Retreat provided by the Action Seed Learning Fund and Emergent Fund, a collaboration between a collaboration between Women Donors Network, Solitaire Network, and Threshold Foundation.

MEET OUR AMAZING DREL STAFF, FELLOWS & FACILITATORS!

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STAFF

FACILITATORS

FELLOWS

Abdalla Ali, 20

Evanston, IL | Junior, Northwestern University

I'm a Junior at Northwestern University studying Biomedical Engineering. My family and I came to the US early on and we are originally from Sudan. I was raised in Iowa City, IA among a tight knit Sudanese community that has grown over the years. I love sports and athletics as I've always been a runner who always challenges himself. I want to pursue a career in medicine whether through being a doctor or through research. My life goals are mainly to make a lasting impact in the communities that I'm a part of and be of service to the one I'll live in, discover new ways to increase the wellbeing of others through the medical field, find ways to continue improving myself mentally, spiritually, and physically. I'm looking to build on those goals through this wonderful opportunity.

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"Black Muslims in the United States face an uphill battle... It is no debate that the community faces some of the greatest challenges in fighting racism and bigotry... as it is deeply rooted in the system."

Mamfatou Baldeh, 21

Bronx, NY | Senior, Columbia University

Mamfatou T. Baldeh is a New York native and first-generation American with Senegalese and Gambian roots. She is passionate about the mental health and wellness of populations of color and hopes to pursue a higher degree in clinical psychology. Mamfatou is currently a 4th year student at Columbia University in New York studying psychology.  

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"Growing up as a first generation American, Muslim child of West African immigrants... Being a Black Muslim in America [is] to deal with a  society that does not favor me and a system that was not built to benefit me. My activism is mainly in my psychology research."

Ganiyat Balogun, 18

Greenbelt, MD | Sophomore, Howard University

Ganiyat Balogun is a sophomore psychology major with a minor in sociology at Howard University. Originally from Nigeria, she now lives in PG County, Maryland. She is very passionate about working with youth in undeserved communities and mental health within black and Muslim communities. Ganiyat is currently a youth program provider at So What Else and an HR intern at the Heart Rhythm Society. She wants to receive her PHD in clinical psychology and open up a mental health clinic in her home country of Nigeria. In her free time, Ganiyat enjoys reading, working out, cooking and watching documentaries. 

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"To be Black and Muslim is to be a minority at all fronts... to face Islamophobia and fear from non-Muslims, [and] racism and discrimination by non Muslims...as well as from your brothers and sisters in Islam. I coppery doing what I can to fight against it, and for me that is activism and service in my communities."

Cesay Camara, 20

Bronx, NY | Sophomore, Barnard College

Cesay Camara is a sophomore at Barnard College hoping to pursue a degree in Urban Studies or Economics. A proud of native of The Bronx with Gambian-Soninke roots, she is most passionate about community development and education equity. She is currently part of Matriculate, a college access program that matches high achieving first generation and or low-income students with college students. In her capacity as a Matriculate Advising Fellow she guides 11th grade high school students through the college application process. She is also the Vice President of Columbia University’s Muslim Students Association. In her role, she oversees the organization’s new committee structure along with the planning of events that facilitate Muslim life and community within and beyond Columbia.

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"To compartmentalize Blackness and Muslimness is to essentially “other” Blackness in relation to Muslimness. This creates a superficial distance between what is deemed a “Muslim”issue [the Middle East, Islamophobia, post-9/11 etc.] and what is deemed a “Black” issue [slavery, racism, state violence, mass incarceration, criminality, etc.]. Isolating black and Muslim issues does a great injustice to Black Muslims who endure a mix of both “Muslim” and “Black” issues and don’t have the luxury of closeting and leaving one identity at home."

Nabintou Doumbia, 20

Detroit, MI | Junior, Wayne State University

Nabintou Doumbia is a pre-law student at Wayne State University, studying Sociology and African American Studies. She is a proud Detroiter and the daughter of two, Ivorian immigrants from Ivory Coast, West Africa. It is her personal experiences that lie at the forefront of her interest in the legal field, specifically in the area of [Black] Immigration. Nabintou wishes to serve her local, national, and international communities by leveling the legal playing field in which minorities, Black immigrants especially, often exist at the margins, resulting in a plethora of systematic disadvantages. She hopes to be a community worker who speaks her own narrative unapologetically and empowers others to do the same in their unique ways. At the core of this work is her prioritization of intersectionality, holding herself and her community to a standard where identities are not required to be compartmentalized in order for people like her to exist, create, and organize in spaces. 

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"I am a youth activist who works to provide spaces of empowerment for Black youth...not being recognized as an expert of my own narrative causes me to feel rage... we have always existed, resided and worked in... deconstructing white supremacy, and smashing patriarchy."

Yaseen Ellison, 20

Jacksonville, Fl | Freshman, Morehouse College

My name is Yaseen Ellison, and I’m a freshman biology major from Saudi Arabia. People are often shocked when I introduce myself. However, I am not Saudi. Nor are my parents. I am a young African American Man of Morehouse. I was born in Vineland, New Jersey. When I was five, my father got a job overseas teaching English at a collegiate level. We then moved outside of the country, becoming the first in our family to do so. We stayed in KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) for 3 years, moved to Kuwait for 2, and back to KSA for the last 10. Upon my return to the United States, I realized my experience had gifted me a unique perspective that set me apart from most my age. At the same time, my lack of exposure to Black culture meant that I was ignorant of my inheritance as an African American. I did not grasp the depth of our history nor the deep-rooted impacts it has on us today. I was simply too far away to genuinely understand. I consider it my life’s purpose to create a positive, tangible, and global impact on human society. I still look at life as full of opportunity, and want to seize it to my best ability and improve upon that ability. I have always been interested in science, and would like to go about fulfilling my life’s objective by becoming a practicing physician.

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"As Black people, and as Muslims... our very existence bears witness to a tragedy so great we have not as a people come to terms with it... coupled with the racial tensions of today, this has tremendous psychological impact upon us... we have to heal."
 

Maram Elnagheeb, 19

Concord, NC | Sophomore, Duke University

My name is Maram, and I am a sophomore at Duke University. I am studying political science and sociology, and I hope to go to business school, law school, or do a PhD in the future (still exploring my options!). My main interests are in advocacy and journalism. I am involved with Duke Student Government as a Senator of Equity and Outreach, Duke’s Center for Race Relations as a Director of Dialogue, and I’m involved in a tutoring program for refugees. I write for two student publications; I’m a columnist for The Chronicle and a content creator and editor for The Bridge. I’m also an active member of Duke Muslim Students Association. My main goal in life is to work on the empowerment of people of color. I have a deep interest in race equity, especially when it comes to people of color who are also members of other marginalized groups

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 "I believe the most pressing issue facing Black Muslims is full inclusivity in each identity space they occupy. In the United States, Muslims have become synonymous with Brown. Brown Muslims are often painted as the face of American Muslims in the media. When it comes to Black spaces... the presence of Black Muslims is not acknowledged... this invisibility can lead to Black Muslims feeling disconnected." 

Anwar Jabari Johnson, 24

Philadelphia, PA | Graduate Student, Howard University

Born and raised in the Germantown section of Philadelphia Pennsylvania, Anwar Johnson's journey has led him to Washington D.C. where he is currently finishing up his Masters degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, but ultimately has its roots in spoken word and poetry. Since the age of 15, Anwar has been touring the East coast garnering international and national rankings as a competitive performance poet and social justice advocate. With no real concrete idea of the deep intersectionality between creative writing and mental health, it was in the summer of 2013 when Anwar simultaneously became the 1st place winner in the category of Health at the annual Ronald E. McNair Research Conference and coach of the semi finalist placing poetry slam team, Atlanta Word Works. Upon graduating from Morehouse College in 2015, Anwar has made it his life mission to continue his studies as an aspiring child and family counseling psychologist with the goal of creating culturally relevant assessment tools for minorities, artists, and the Muslim community at large amidst the staggering bias that currently exists in the mental health profession. 

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"The injustices against Black Americans makes me want to dig deeper into my own toolbox to find coping solutions...to work harder in the classroom and in the job place, to read more veraciously about these issues, their historical contexts and how to stop them, to become more unapologetically Black and Muslim."

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Malaz Mohamad, 24

Houston, Tx | Alumna, Rice University

Hailing from the cultural medley that is the city of Houston, Malaz developed her passion for psychology and human-focused design at Rice University where she graduated with her BA. For the past year, her interest in social advocacy has burgeoned as she worked with communities close to the border and overseas on an initiative to prevent diabetic foot ulcers. Now, she hopes to nurture a spiritually and psychologically conscious approach to addressing mental health issues in Muslim communities. She aims to pursue a doctorate in clinical psychology..

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"We must carve out for ourselves empowering narrative that are inclusive, unapologetic.. we need to do this in Muslim communities brave enough to face their own racist demons... if we continue to ignore it [intraMuslim racism] the fabric of our community will continue to rip and we cannot expect to defend against the assaults of islamophobia with integrity."

Seynabou Niang, 22

Atlanta, GA | Alumna, Spelman College

My name is Seynabou Denise Niang, a recent college graduate of Spelman College from Dakar, Sénégal, West Africa. I obtained my Bachelor’s of Arts in Psychology with a concentration in Public Health. During my matriculation, and post-graduation, I was afforded the opportunity to study and conduct both qualitative and quantitative research under many organizations such as Sexual Health Empowerment Program under the Department of Psychology at Spelman College, AIDS Research Consortium of Atlanta, and the Center of Disease Control and Prevention under the National Center of Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion; specifically under the Division of Community Health. My areas of expertise are health disparities among minority populations, sexual health promotion and prevention, and prevalence of mental illnesses among African American women, including Muslims.

I aspire to become a Public Health practitioner and philanthropist focusing on health promotion in West African countries, primarily my beloved home, Sénégal. I strive to master ingenious ways to implement health care policies that benefit all citizens, regardless of economic standing. With the grace of Allah, I will work to eradicate health care inequities in Sénégal and other West African countries through establishing community- inspired health clinics in rural and suburban neighborhoods, along with implementing laws and policies that protect citizen’s health care rights by minimizing oppressive socioeconomic factors that breeds inequity. I truly believe that the most efficient form of activism and advocacy against oppression must be intersectional, therefore my pursuit of liberation of all forms is deeply rooted in the spiritual pursuit of the freedom Allah has bestowed upon us all.

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"Black Muslims living in the US are battling many forms of oppression all at once yet still have to choose which battle will be fought... When we are not allowed to be our whole selves, we are denied a complete, radical liberation."

Aisha Oshilaja, 19

Ewing, NJ | Sophmore, University of Pennsylvania

Aisha Oshilaja is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania from Ewing, New Jersey.  Aisha plans to major in Psychology with a minor in Africana studies.  In the future, she hopes to pursue a degree in dentistry.  Aisha is particularly interested in bringing activism into her daily life. On campus, she is involved with Students Organizing for Unity and Liberation (S.O.U.L) and Peer advisors.  She also, helped found Penn Sapelo, a group that works to create an open space for Black Muslims at Penn.  In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her friends, reading, and writing poetry. 

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"The lack of awareness about the structural racism within many American institutions causes non-Blacks and Blacks alike to believe that the problem is really Black people themselves... instead of recognizing the institutional impediments that prevent Black people from succeeding in America."

Vanessa Taylor, 22

Minneapolis, MN | co-Founder, Black Liberation Project

Vanessa Taylor is a co-founder of the seminal youth-led organization, Black Liberation Project (BLP), based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She is interested in using a multi-disciplinary approach to social justice from on-the-ground activism to finding accessible ways to educate community with writing as a way to make sense of it all. Her work with BLP has included the development of a #No2SROs campaign to remove police from schools, facilitation, promoting healing spaces, community outreach, and etc. She is an experienced presenter, having designed and conducted workshops for organizations such as The Center For Prophetic Imagination, Facilitating Racial Equity Collaborative, and Showing Up For Racial Justice MN. She is also a free-lance writer and poet whose work focuses on exploring Black womanhood and Muslim identity. Her activism and writing has been featured in AJ+, Elle, Nylon, Racked, among many others. .

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"Addressing and articulating anti-Black Islamophobia is going to be vital moving forward, because picturing Islamophobia as a recent -ism is ignoring history and past manifestations. This leaves Black Muslim communities vulnerable to attacks."

Mohamed Tall, 20

Windsor, MD | Sophomore, Morgan State University

Mohamed Tall is Baltimore City's current Youth Poet Laureate and the 2016 Grand Slam champion. He is a former Baltimore City Poet Ambassador, as well as the 2 time Muslim Interscholastic Tournament spoken word champion. Mohamed has opened up for various entertainers such as Native Deen, the former National Poet Laureate Natasha Tretheway and Congressman Elijah Cummings. Traveling around the country on a Social Justice Poetry tour is one of the many feats he has achieved, as well as performing at various venues throughout the country such as the John's Hopkins Health Symposium on the Prison Industrial Complex, and the annual ICNA convention that takes place at the Baltimore City Convention Center. In the fall of 2015 Mohamed began working for a nonprofit organization known as "Dewmore Baltimore" which aims to tackle social justice issues as well as civic engagement through poetry. In the fall he acts as a teaching artist in Baltimore city middle schools. A current Political Science major at Morgan State University, Mohamed now plans to utilize the abilities he's mastered along with the education he is receiving to help establish poetry workshops in different masajid across the country to help further the level of consciousness in his community. Mohamed believes that art is at the forefront of every revolution. 

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"The hardest task for Black Muslims in America today is balancing on the tightrope that is anger and patience. The example of the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) is our foundation and that is constantly being tried from both a societal and religious point. How do we create space for ourselves in this narrative that is the American dream?"

Ousainoue Touray, 21

Detroit, MI | Sophomore, Wayne County Community College District

Ousainoue Touray is a community organizer in Detroit. His main focus has been directed towards youth coordinating. He is currenty president of the Youth Group in his community, and also acts as advisor for some organizations raging from non-profits to local businesses. He's also in school studying Busi ness and Economics. Ousainoue believes in doing as much as he can to simply make things easier for others in all aspects of life.

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"Being Black, and being Muslim in the U.S makes you a representative of at least two oppressed groups. Our people have been and are demeaned on many level because of our skin color; now, for our religion... [but] we have a lot of people who are ready to make the difference."

Maab Yasin, 24

Reston, VA | Alum, College of William & Mary

Maab Yasin is a Sudanese-American born and raised in Northern Viriginia. She is a recent graduate of the College of William and Mary where she earned BAs in Sociology and Psychology and took on leadership roles within the MSA and Student Assembly, engaged in criminal justice based service and academic study, and facilitated workshops and dialogues centered on diversity education and social justice issues. Her belief in the importance of consciousness balanced with community engagement led her to humanitarian non- profit, Islamic Relief USA, where she currently serves as US Programs Coordinator. She is passionate about the pursuit of social justice through accountability, introspection, emotional liberation and authenticity and is excited to continue learning and striving for it with the DREL community!

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 "Black Muslims live in intersectional worlds but separately as Black and as Muslim people experience disadvantage, looming and immediate threats, being misunderstood and seen as less than. These identities combined create a dangerously heightened reality of vulnerability that society uses to its advantage to prove the importance of its agenda and keep us down." 

Tesay Yusuf, 21

Arlington, VA | Senior, Stanford University

Tesay Yusuf is a senior at Stanford University majoring in International Relations and minoring in African and African American Studies. She is from Arlington, VA and loves to travel. On campus, Tesay has held various leadership roles in the Black Student Union, Muslim Student Union, a number of event planning committees and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Omicron Chi Chapter. She is dedicated to engaging with and serving the communities that are so central to her identity, and ensuring that marginalized voices are uplifted in all spaces that she enters. She is passionate about human rights and hopes to pursue a career in the non-profit sector. Tesay loves photography, the beach, planning future trips, and all kinds of dessert. 

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"Anti-Blackness and lack of knowledge about the roots of Islam in America... impacts the larger community of Black Muslims in the US in many ways. we should help our communities understand why it is important to advocate for racial justice. Even the small steps that Muslims have taken to be accepted into American society were forged by Black Muslim communities."

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BLACK MUSLIM YOUTH RISING - INTENSIVE LEADERSHIP RETREAT

Pendle Hill Retreat Center | 338 Plush Mill Road, Wallingford, PA 19086

October 27 - 29, 2017

This unique intensive leadership retreat: Black Muslim Youth Rising is one component of the Fellowship and will center the developmental needs of millennials through experiential learning and team building exercises designed to create a space and consciousness from which to question, and deconstruct, internalized voicelessness, devaluation and trauma.  On the first day of the retreat, attendees will participate in group activities designed to establishing trust, cohesion and healthy group dynamics. It will also focus on guided discussions on the psychological impact of oppression, trauma of racism, Islamophobia. The second day of the retreat will focus on emotionally intelligent leadership, including self-awareness, self-regulation, social awareness, networking and relationship building; consciousness of context, self and of others. The final day of the retreat will seek to integrate each fellows understanding of self and leadership capacity with strategies for community engagement and advocacy.

Retreat Topics:

• Cycle of Socialization & Cycle of Liberation

• Stress & Struggle - Managing Vicarious Trauma

• Compassion Fatigue & Self-Care

• Hurting Leaders’ - Resolving Interpersonal & Historical Trauma

• Race-related Trauma Wounds and Traumatic Stress

• Internalized Devaluation, Voicelessness, Assault of self

• Emotional Intelligence & Self-Awareness

• Role of Spirituality in Leadership Development

• Healing Justice and Community Engagement/Organizing

• Social Change Model of Leadership

We are excited to welcome our Fellows to this beautiful retreat center located on 24 acres, with walking trails, library and art studio and wholesome meals made from fruits and vegetables grown in the garden. We are looking forward to a weekend of learning and growth!