Channel 5 WTVF
View at WTVF’s website to watch filmed news coverage of the event
“ANTIOCH, Tenn. – Hundreds of people poured into the Islamic Center of Tennessee for a meal hosted by the center’s leaders.
Organizers said the event Saturday night happened spontaneously following an outpouring of emails, phone calls, and handwritten notes showing love and support for Muslims following a divisive election cycle.
“I want people to know they have an ally no matter what side of the aisle they stand on,” said Sherne-Marie McMillan, who attended the event. “It goes beyond which side of the aisle you’re on and goes toward being a human being – understanding what it’s like to show compassion to others.”
McMillan attended the event alone, with the intention of meeting new people – something event organizers encouraged by asking attendees to sit with strangers during the two-hour event.
“I came here alone but it feels like one big family eating together,” said Liz Bradley, another attendee. “What has stood out to me so far is the friendliness of everyone.”
Friendliness and support was the message many organizers shared with the packed room.
“We are coming together to support each other and send a message that we value Muslims, blacks, immigrants, women, and all minority groups,” said Aisha Lbhalla, founder of the Muslim Women’s Council. “We reaffirm our support for a more diverse, inclusive, welcoming community and society. Today we are going to eat, discuss, and survive.”
Lbhalla said the response for Saturday’s event was so overwhelming, the center has planned to host similar events in the future.”
— Sarah McCarthy, News Channel 5
I was overwhelmed with happiness reading comments left by participants on the facebook event page afterwards; I thought it would be nice to share some of the thoughts following the event:
“The event, hosts and attendees were inspiring and a palpable sign that we are indeed One. Thank you all for being beacons of light, hope and peace.“
“[…] I have never seen more enthusiastic and welcoming children! They greeted all of us strangers as they if we were old friends. They were all smiles and giggles with faces shining with love and hope. You are raising a generation of peacemakers and leaders! Thank you!”
“This was absolutely wonderful. Thank you for graciously welcoming all of us. You provided a safe, respectful context for a diverse group of people to come together, share a delicious meal, talk to each other, listen to each other, and learn from each other. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to be a part of this important discussion. Thank you.”
“Building community within such a beautifully diverse, generous, and activated group of people felt so good. Deeply correct. Life affirming. Thank you.”
“I will never forget that the Islamic Center was the first to call and offer help when my church, Second Presbyterian, burned to the ground. Glad to be part of this effort”
“This was such an uplifting event. I’m glad I brought my two sons to witness it. We even made some new friends. I look forward to more events like this one.”
“This was an extremely lovely event! It is what being an American means to me ‘that all men ( and women) are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’.”
If you are interested in helping or volunteering, here is a copy of the Resource List provided at the event:
Buddy system : Volunteer to buddy up with a Muslim woman for grocery trips or errands.
Islamic Center of Tennessee : Volunteer opportunities in tutoring, ESL classes, citizenship classes, job training or referrals, offer personal development and civic education workshops.
http://theictn.org/ : email@example.com : (615) 731-8895 : 5400 Bell Forge Ln E, Antioch, TN 37013
Islamic Center of Nashville : Contact Kamal Saba (firstname.lastname@example.org) for volunteer opportunities
http://www.icntn.org/ : email@example.com : 2515 12th Ave South, Nashville, TN 37204
The Faith and Culture Center : Our Muslim neighbor initiative counters negative stereotypes about Islam through public education and relationship building. Programs include “A Seat at the Table” (a dinner experience that brings people of different backgrounds and creates a safe space to share about personal experiences that involve struggles with race, faith, culture and ethnic backgrounds), “Our Muslim Neighbor Conference” (which unites community annually to discuss issues related to Islam and the contemporary world), and “Community Iftar” (a free dinner to celebrate the breaking of the fast after the holy month of Ramadan).
https://faithandculturecenter.org/ : firstname.lastname@example.org : (615) 784-8370 : P.O. Box 112045, Nashville, TN 37222
Muslim Women’s Council : If you would like to invite a Muslim speaker to your place of worship or an event or would like to hear from Muslim women, the Muslim Women’s Council can help.
American Muslim Advisory Council : The AMAC to helps combat anti-Muslim legislation and and help subscribers stay informed.
The American Center for Outreach : The ACO promotes religious freedom and faith-based social justice. Subscribing to their email list is a great way to stay informed.
http://acotn.org/ : email@example.com : (615) 669-2261 : 2195 Nolensville Pike, Nashville, TN 37211
World Relief : World relief helps resettle refugees and has a variety of volunteer positions helping those new to our country.
http://worldreliefnashville.org/ : (615) 833-7735 : 411 West Thompson Lane, Nashville, TN 37211
Welcoming Tennessee : Welcoming Tennessee seeks to continue the tradition of Tennessee as a welcoming state through a variety of means including education, outreach, and community building.
http://www.welcomingtn.org/ : 615.833.0384 : 446 Metroplex Dr. Building A, Suite 224 Nashville, TN 37211
Worker’s Dignity : Worker’s dignity fights wage theft and advocates for the rights of immigrant workers.
Espanol 615-601-2820 / English 615-669-6679 : Casa Abierta Mensual / Monthly Open House, Cada Tercer Jueves a 6:30 / Every Third Thursday at 6:30PM at 335 Whitsett Rd, Nashville TN 37210 (Allies also invited)
Catholic Charities : Catholic charities have an impressive range of volunteer positions to help new immigrants and refugees in their daily lives with resettlement, English tutoring, and vocational assistance among many other opportunities.
http://www.cctenn.org/volunteer.cfm : (615) 352-3087 : 2806 McGavock Pike, Nashville, TN 37214
Nashville International Center for Empowerment : Empower Nashville offers a wide array of volunteer opportunities including childcare assistance, ESL teaching and tutoring, after school and professional mentoring, administrative help, community development and event volunteer positions.
http://www.empowernashville.org/volunteer/ : (615) 315-9681 : 417 Welshwood Drive, Ste. 100, Nashville, TN 37211
Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) : The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition is an immigrant and refugee-led organization whose mission is to empower immigrants and refugees throughout Tennessee.
http://www.tnimmigrant.org/ : 615.833.0384 : 2195 Nolensville Road, Nashville, TN 37211
Casa Azafrán : Make a donation or participate in an event. Casa Azafrán is a hub of lots of great events, organizations and activities.
http://www.casaazafran.org/ : firstname.lastname@example.org : (615) 320-5152 / en Español, (615) 269-6900 : 2195 Nolensville Pike, Nashville, TN 37211
Bread-breaking: Supporting Our Muslim and Immigrant Communities
visual summaries and sketchnotes
After the 2016 election and in the wake of reports of violence, bigotry, and racial tension, The Islamic Center of Tennessee held an open invitation to join their members in a dinner dialogue and bread-breaking ceremony. Designed as a way for non-Muslims to get to know the faces and hearts of their Islamic and New American neighbors, the Bread-breaking brought together people from all backgrounds, races, political affiliations, and creeds. Many of the participants brought food to add to the buffet, and local businesses donated freshly baked breads and teas, among other items.
The dinner was split into tables hosting eight to ten participants, though the room exceeded capacity with standing room only in the main room, and groups meeting out in the Center’s lobby. As we passed bread around the table, we were encouraged to express how current events made us feel – our hopes and worries, our concerns and emotions – and to share our strategies for building community, bridging communication gaps, and practicing self-care. At the end, tables were encouraged to share summaries of their suggestions with the group as a whole. It was an amazing evening with many new friendships being built, and a safe space for people with many different viewpoints to find common ground.
Non-Muslims were also generously invited to view the Salah (prayer) for Isha (night). The Imam performed the call to prayer in the main dining room, allowing visitors who may have never experienced it have a unique look into the beauty of Muslim traditions. As many people wanted to know how to help with future events and actions, participants were also given a resource list of ways they could direct service and volunteerism towards helping minority, New American, and refugee communities.
Bread-breaking was coordinated and hosted by the Islamic Center of Tennessee, the Muslim Women’s Council, the Faith & Culture Center, the Nashville Feminist Collective, and The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition. It was my honor to volunteer as notetaker for our table and to capture the thoughts of my table-friends and of the group as a whole during the main sharing service.