By Kate Mellon-Anibaba
This has been a tough week for everyone as we try to navigate and respond to the sermon given by the Islamic Center of Davis Imam.
In January when a friend told me that her daughter could not attend Sunday Islamic school because the Majid had been attacked and desecrated, my heart broke. I knew exactly how to respond, I wanted to bring communities together to heal and support our Muslim sisters and brothers. From a simple Facebook event inviting a few friends to come out to Friday prayer in solidarity, it grew and drew thousands of interested people.
In four short days I organized a rally and jumah prayer at Central Park that 1000 people attended. On that day I was nervous and frightened, I had support of more seasoned community organizers but I was still on the edge and terrified.
I had never done anything like this before and I needed it to go well for Davis. I had a set agenda of speakers so things would go smoothly.
Before I walked up to the stage to make my speech a man with kind eyes came up to me and said, “I would really like to speak, I was told to talk to you.” I said, “Oh, who are you?” Worried because it was last minute, as he told me that he was Rabbi Seth from the congregation Bet Haverim, I said of course you can speak and I added him into the program.
I didn’t know who he was…and it wasn’t the plan, but I wanted to create a space where people of good intentions in our community could come together in love, unity and understanding and get their message out in front of such a large amount of people.
I arrived at the press conference eager to hear the joint statement from the Jewish community, Muslim community and our elected officials. I had been bombarded with media, questions, concerns from community members and calls for me to act, considering I had rallied for the ICD before. It would be wonderful to see in person the statements made, so that I would be able to continue to work and fight for marginalized communities in Davis and make my judgments from first-hand knowledge.
I greeted my dear friend and respected elder Hamza. As I was asked for my name by the police officer holding a list, he told me that I was not on the list and would not be let in even after I explained who I was and why I was there.
I was concerned but continued conversations with new friends and old. I then saw two women ask to be let in and their names were not found on the list – all they said as I watched closely was that they were with the church. The police officer shrugged and waved them in. I was shocked but thought maybe I would ask again.
I saw Rabbi Seth as he was coming in and asked him if I could please be let in. I mixed up his name and called him Rabbi Wolfe in my nervousness (I am dyslexic and mix up names very easily). I apologized to Rabbi Seth and another man that corrected me in a stern condescending tone.
Rabbi Seth asked, “Who are you?” I told him I am the woman who organized the rally for the ICD in Central Park.” He looked at me with those kind eyes and said, “This is not open to the public,” and moved past me.
Standing there in shock, all I could think of was the same interaction that had taken place a few months back when he was asking to speak at the event I had organized. It was organized quickly, I was flustered and I was dealing with pain and fear for my Muslim community, but I still respected those in my created space. I deserved that respect today and I did not get it.
As a budding activist, leader and organizer in Davis, these are the kind of things that make me want to give up. I take off work; I spend time away from my family and friends because I truly believe that we all need to participate in our community to make it better. I see that the interfaith community has work to do and I wish them well on their path to healing.
I will be focusing my activist energies elsewhere, helping to organize a show of support at the preliminary hearing August 10 for the five black and brown young people who are facing unjust and racist charges for the Picnic Day incident.