Once a week for three hours in the middle of the day, a group calling ourselves Mujeres Unidas en Fe (Women United in Faith) gathers in a church on the other side of the mountain from my home. About a dozen are Spanish-speaking women who are learning English, and an almost equal number of us are English speakers who want to improve our Spanish.
Two weeks ago, we crowded into the kitchen while Carmela gave us a lesson in making mole verde. Beatriz moved among us with a photo album from her daughter Gabriela’s quinceañera, the 15th birthday celebration that is both religious ceremony and party—and a very big event in Mexican culture. Beatriz pointed out every member of her extended family in the many pictures, and we oohed and aahed at the beaming and beautiful young woman in the middle of them, dressed in a shimmering royal-blue gown with cascades of ruffles and lace to the floor. Laughter and animated conversation filled the parish hall when we shared a feast of the mole and heaps of tamales, refried beans, and rice, followed by slices of sweet dulce de leche caramel cake. Continue reading
“My little girl should be with his daddy,” said 30-year-old Basem Alkahlani, his voice cracking with emotion. Like so many Muslims, he was plunged into fear and uncertainty by the recent executive order banning travel to the U.S. from his native Yemen and six other majority-Muslim nations. His hope to reunite with his wife and two-year-old daughter has been put on hold indefinitely. Yesterday, more than 200 people huddled in the cold to hear his heart-breaking story. “You coming here picked me up,” Basem told us, “and I feel I am not alone.”
When my partner, Bill, had asked members of the Asheville Islamic Center how allies could show our support in this frightening and difficult time, they warmly invited the public to yesterday’s mid-day Jum’ah prayer. Grateful for the gift of a headscarf from a friend at Christmas, I rummaged through my closet and located my only long skirt and joined the other women at the back of the prayer room, sitting in a small sea of colorful hijabs, saris, and burqas. So many people showed up from local churches and synagogues to offer solidarity that we had to move the gathering that followed outside. After several more testimonies and heartfelt exchanges of thanks, we gratefully received hospitality in the form of donuts and plates of hot Pakistani curry. Continue reading