Food and Community

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Sarah Jacobus, traci ishigo, Audrey Kuo, Tanzila Ahmed, Naazneen Diwan, Sean Miura and traci kato-kiriyama recite a collective poem.

The third annual Bridging Communities Iftar — the evening meal that breaks each day’s fast during Ramadan — was held on May 24 at Centenary United Methodist Church in Little Tokyo.

It was presented by Vigilant Love, which officially came together in December 2015 within days of the San Bernardino shootings as a rapid response to a wave of Islamophobic backlash in Southern California and nationwide. VL was founded upon the long-standing relationships of Los Angeles-based Muslim American and Japanese American leaders, programs and solidarity since 9/11.

Welcoming remarks were made by Kathy Masaoka of Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress and Shakeel Syed, executive director of Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development (OCCORD).

Attendees at each table worked together to create haiku.

Sahar Pirzada and traci ishigo gave an update on the city’s potential involvement with the federal government’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program, which, according to VL, operates under the guise of “community-led” efforts to prevent violent extremism, but ends up targeting and criminalizing Muslims specifically.

The evening ended with the breaking of the fast.

A collective poetry activity was led by poet and storyteller Naazneen Diwan and activist/storyteller Tanzila Ahmed. Attendees at each table worked together to create haiku about reflection, connection and resistance from words provided in an origami envelope.

Pirzada, ishigo, Masaoka, Diwan and Ahmed were joined on stage by Sarah Jacobus, Audrey Kuo, Sean Miura and traci kato-kiryama to recite a collective poem. Diwan then provided background information on Ramadan for non-Muslim attendees. Community announcements were made by Gaurav Cedric Bhatnagar and Ross Tierney.

The program included the Adhan (call to prayer) and the Maghrib prayer, which is done just after sunset, followed by the breaking of the fast with informal conversations over dinner.

Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo

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