Gerald Hankerson, CAIR-Chicago’s Outreach Coordinator, spoke about civil rights and social justice at the 9/11 Primer, a civic engagement event created by HumanThread, held at the Meridian Stage in Pilsen. The event’s focus was the promotion of multi-ethnic relations and community dialogue in the aftermath of 9/11.
At the event, Hankerson recited poetry by Rumi, a 13th century Sufi philosopher and ascetic who preached non-violence and universality. Rumi’s message resonates with millions of Americans today who view Sufism as the most modern shade of Islam.
Hankerson also read an excerpt of a speech by the late Senator Robert Kennedy, a noted civil rights activist who promoted brotherhood and mutual understanding between people of different faiths.
Hankerson also delivered a speech about how 9/11 impacted his life as a Black Muslim youth in Chicago. He expressed his horror at witnessing the calamity on television and his sympathy for the victims and those who lost loved ones. The fear gave way to doubt, as he explained his insecurity about being targeted as a Muslim. As a solution to the problem, he emphasized learning and opportunity for all as ways to persevere and grow in a multi-ethnic society.
“Moving forward, we must believe that each of us can articulate the importance of self-definition, civic engagement, and community empowerment,” Hankerson concluded.