‘We Know They Would Stand Up For Us.’ How Good Neighbors Are Helping South Seattle Muslims Lose Their Fear in the Trump Era

By Mónica Guzmán

(This article was originally published on The Evergrey and was reprinted with permission. Sign up for their phenomenal newsletter here.)

Yurub Mohamed feels safer in her neighborhood than she has in months. And it all started with a letter.

“If that letter wasn’t sent, we’d be scared our neighborhood would still have a bad image of Muslims, as terrorists and things,” she said from her friend Muhubo Mohamed’s home in Rainier Vista, a community in South Seattle that’s a mix of Seattle Housing Authority subsidized rentals, affordable housing, and market-rate homes.

“After receiving that letter, we’re not so scared. Now we feel safe. Now we know that those words from Donald Trump — they [our neighbors] don’t believe that,” Muhubo said, speaking in Somali through their translator, Muhubo’s daughter Fartun Ahmed.

The letter that Yurub, Muhubo, and hundreds of their neighbors found on their doorsteps last month was a statement of support signed by about 200 of their fellow Rainier Vista residents, most of them homeowners.

“As members of the New Rainier Vista community, we are saddened and outraged by the blatant anti-immigrant, and specifically anti-Muslim, actions coming from the Trump administration,” the letter began.

“Today, we want to say loudly and clearly that if they target Muslim Americans, or any member of our diverse community, they target all of us; for we stand together as one,” the letter continued. “You are us. America is not America without you.”

When Yurub read the letter, she was pretty deeply moved. She wanted to do something to thank everyone who signed it. So she talked to Muhubo, and another friend, Nasro, and the three went to the office of Jeniffer Calleja, the Rainier Vista community builder with the Seattle Housing Authority. They wanted to host a dinner. And they wanted to invite everyone in the neighborhood.

That dinner packed a community room at Rainier Vista on March 18. It was one of the largest events Rainier Vista had ever seen, bringing together groups that almost never mingled. Two-hundred people came — an equal mix of Muslims and non-Muslims, homeowners and residents of subsidized housing. So many families brought dishes that they could barely fit on the table. People took turns sharing words of support at a microphone. And written in red letters on a big white cake, underneath an American flag, was the theme for the evening: “Solidarity Forever for the Union Makes us Strong.”

After the dinner, Yurub and Muhubo saw their non-Muslim neighbors very differently.

“Before… We’d see them around but there was no real interaction,” Muhubo said. “This party let us recognize who they are. If someone else says, ‘No, you cannot wear a hijab,’ or other hateful comments, we know that they [our neighbors] would stand up for us.”

Yurub and Muhubo feel particularly grateful for one of their neighbors — a homeowner named Jared Howe. The letter that inspired the dinner was his idea.

Read the rest of the story — and see a pic of Yurub and Muhubo’s potluck dinner invite — at theevergrey.com, where you can also sign up for their daily newsletter.

Featured image: One of several signs of support for residents of the culturally and socioeconomically diverse Rainier Vista community in South Seattle. (Photo by Mónica Guzmán)