The following is one piece of an ongoing series covering the Lyon County Refugee Resettlement dialogue. It is a speech written by SMSU Student Body President, Muna Mohamed, during a campus-wide informative meeting regarding the refugee situation.
I stand here today as a citizen of the Marshall community. I’m also a student at Southwest Minnesota State University. In fact, I am the first SMSU Student Body President who identifies as an African American Muslim woman who’s also a former Lyon County refugee. Because of my identity and experiences, I am a firm believer in committing to the cause of freedom. For me, this means promoting the success of all members of our Mustang family. That includes the under-represented ones— our immigrants, refugees, international students, and faculty and staff of color—all of whom we are so grateful to have on our campus today.
I was raised to be quiet and polite when it came to incidents that matter to me on our SMSU campus and in our Marshall community—issues regarding race, diversity, and the obvious lack of acceptance towards people of color. Quite frankly, I am getting tired of that. There’s no hiding it— no matter if we avoid talking about it or not, everyone can see that there is truly a problem. I wanted to host an event like this is to get people to talk about the issue at hand.
We can see the problem, but I can see that through our willingness to promote dialogue around it as we are today, we can come together and find a productive solution. I believe that progress starts and ends with our campus leadership. All of us leaders at SMSU need to stay true to our campus’s core values— unswayed by outside or individualistic agendas— so that we can continue to advocate for the success and well-being of ALL members of our educational institution and community.
As I started to get more involved within our campus and community of Marshall, I saw problems that were bigger than you and I, problems that will take longer than a day or merely a week to solve. I recognized those larger issues not to be matters of personality or of moral fiber, but rather of other intangibles, those issues relating to identity, the color of people’s skin, and their countries of origin. As an African American Muslim woman, my identity was a “problem” that was blatantly avoided. It was not like I was treated badly because of my identity, but I was not treated equally, especially when it came to interactions with men in general.
Because of my experiences as an African American Muslim woman, I am more than capable of accomplishing anything I set my mind to with the efforts and passions I have. I live to fight for the underdog and to empower those who make a difference in our lives. Those differences can come from various places, such as in the classroom and outside the classroom. No matter the difference that people make in our world, we are able to impact others because of our differences as individuals. My identity should not be compared to my capabilities and knowledge I have or will continue to obtain. If I am not the student to speak up for the underrepresented students, faculty, staff, and administrators on our campus, then who will?
Regardless of the stance that Lyon County and SMSU members take on the Refugee consent, What matters is our livelihood. Your lives and mine. Let us take a stand tomorrow for all those who are under-represented in our community. Let’s stand together because together we become an unstoppable force. I hope to see you all tomorrow at the Law Basement.
It all starts and ends with each one of us.
Let’s remember Martin Luther King Jr. through these words that I’ll leave you will today:
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”