Not All Sheroes Wear Capes, the Sisterhood’s very first fundraiser, opened with an hour of casual socializing as attendees arrived, sipped piña colada and berry flavored mocktails, and snacked on savory samosas. The reception area at the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation was transformed from a center of logistical chaos to a happy hub of reunions and introductions. For the first time in the organization’s history, our Sheroes, friends, allies, nonprofit partners, donors, and grantmakers gathered to celebrate our Muslim sisters together.
At seven o’clock, attendees filed into the ballroom and found their seats to hear a recitation of the Holy Qur’an by Ikraan Abdurrahman, who compellingly called our attention to the heart of the passage, centered on justice. Advocacy Director Asma Mohammed welcomed us with an overview of the Sisterhood’s work and impact. Over a delicious Indian dinner of chicken tikka barbeque and rice pulao, we were stunned by Ameera Arshad’s vocal prowess as she performed songs about female beauty and resilience.
Then Valerie Shirley took the stage. One of the first Sheroes whose story was showcased by the Sisterhood, Valerie changed her career after her son lost his hearing, becoming an ASL interpreter and starting the Minnesota Deaf Muslim Community. Her keynote began with an acknowledgement to Executive Director Nausheena Hussain, sharing how the Sisterhood’s storytelling project uplifted her. But, she said, her story of empowerment goes back further, to her own mother.
Valerie’s mother protected her children and practiced unflinching optimism amidst the most challenging of circumstances. As Valerie told of how her mother stood up to discriminatory housing policies, unhealthy living conditions, and other effects of systemic racism in the Chicago ghetto, the audience cried. Valerie’s story of resilience showed how she healed from self-hatred and its spiritual damage by drawing from her own mother and a community of other empowered women. The room resounded with a standing ovation for our Shero.
The evening ended with a fundraising ask, led by Jaylani Hussein of CAIR-MN and Jamie Millard of Pollen. As they shared their commitment to Reviving Sisterhood and reminded us of its significance in the lives of so many, our supporters — both Muslim and those of other faiths/non-faiths — stood up. These stewards of our mission left that evening part of the Sisterhood — initiated into an exclusive group of bold supporters, inspired to give for a future in which all Muslim women in Minnesota are uplifted, seen, and celebrated.