Friends, my time in Washington, D.C. was wonderful: full of energizing networking and meet-ups! I spent the weekend with Racialicious’ fabulous editrix Latoya Peterson, who is always ten times more awesome in person. Monday night, I met up with lots of my AMCLI fellows for a delicious iftar dinner. Delicious food and conversation with my friends and colleagues is always a great way to spend the weekend!
Tuesday was the big day: Generation Change and the State Department iftar! The Generation Change event was buzzing: I met lots of fabulous old and new colleagues, including the amazing Moniza Khokhar (the woman behind elan magazine), Fatima Monkush and Nyla Hashmi (the dynamic duo behind Eva Khurshid clothing), and Melody Moezzi, author and all-around kick-ass lady (and I’m not just saying that because she’s Iranian).
Farah Pandith, the State Department’s Special Representative to Muslim Communities, hosted the event, which included an impressive array of speakers: Hana Siddiqi Hernandez and Kauthar Umar, the ladies behind New Muslim Cool; Ahmed Ahmed, hilarious comedian; Dr. Naif al-Mutawa, the creator of The 99 comic series; and Herro Mustafa, who is the Vice President’s Mideast Advisor. Pandith posted a synopsis on her blog that includes a video of the speakers’ presentations, which include some poignant experiences and insights. Head over and watch, if you get a chance.
I took the opportunity to chat with Ahmed Ahmed, whose work on the Axis of Evil comedy tour is still some of my favorite—if you haven’t seen this, fix it! Ahmed is working on a new documentary, called Just Like Us, that highlights a multi-cultural comedy tour through the Middle East. It’s premiering at film festivals now, and has some of my favorite comedians (Maz Jobrani, Tom Papa, and Whitney Cummings, to name a few).
After Generation Change, we went upstairs for the iftar with Secretary Hillary Clinton. She highlighted some of the amazing work that the 70 Muslim Americans (yours truly included) are doing—like working as educators and poets, founding non-profits that bring wounded Iraqi children to the U.S. for medical treatment, and advocating for immigrant rights. The 70 of us sat with ambassadors and philanthropists (I was close to the Yemeni and Sri Lankan ambassadors, as well as Alex Kroenemer, a wonderful conversationalist and producer behind the PBS documentary Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet, and DJ Scandales, part of The LO Frequency collaboration). It was humbling and exhilarating to be in the same room with so many remarkable men and women, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.
Today is Eid al Fetr, the celebration that marks the end of Ramazan. And I am in a wonderful mood in part because the State Department dinner renewed my enthusiasm and hope for my generation of Americans, even in the midst of things like Pastor Terry Jones’ threats to burn Qur’ans and the hateful dialogue around Park51. My colleagues, who have so much determination, kindness, and warmth, remind me that humanity can always overcome. Eid mobarak!