Johnny Martin | Reporter
Clovis Community College launched its new lecture series titled “Social Justice Series: Lifting up our Communities” Feb. 22 in their Academic Center on campus.
Amer F. Ahmed, the director of intercultural teaching and faculty development at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, gave the first presentation of the series. Ahmed titled his presentation “Islam: Beyond the Myths, Breaking down the Barriers.”
“My main goal was to just provide a different perspective that people likely have not been given,” Ahmed said. “I wanted to also humanize the issue with this particular topic because in my own body, but then also my family, my community and this whole world of people that they likely have not interfaced with.”
Ahmed gave a pair of presentations on the same topic, both in front of a packed academic center. He hoped that in the short time he was able to speak to people they were able to see the myths that surround his community and more importantly his family in the Islamic community.
“It is millions of people in this country who are having these experiences of what it means to be Muslim in America right now and kind of being subjected to this kind of demonization that’s happening,” Ahmed said.
Before he began working at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Ahmed worked at the University of Michigan for seven years. He has spent majority of his time being a diversity educator in higher education.
One thing about Ahmed that you do not normally hear about diversity educators in his position is that before he turned his attention to education, he was a hip-hop activist.
“Hip-hop was this one place, this one place that I felt accepted and I just saw how it united people and it brought people from completely different backgrounds together. It was also born out of struggle and it was born out of communities that were marginalized,” Ahmed said. “It gave voice to marginalized people. So for me, the combination of bringing people from all walks of life together, but also being able to lift up the voice of the marginalized and for us to learn and know about each other and then potential address those issues that are marginalizing people.”
Ahmed still tries to this day to link his two “jobs” together because he believes that hip-hop can truly bring more people together and end the hate that surrounds different communities.
“By getting involved in it, I was literally engaging with people through the Internet in different parts of the world and we were talking about how we could use hip-hop to build movements and things like that,” Ahmed said. “So for me, it was what was driving me and motivating me, then later I realized there was this field of diversity where I could basically take my hip-hop work into that even though it wasn’t normal and common.”
Ahmed only gives his presentations a couple times a month, but he says the calls are there because there are not many people with his background and he hopes he can speak more to really break the myths that surround the Islamic community.
The next presentation in CCC’s Social Justice Series will be given Mar. 9. Renee Tajima-Pena will be giving a presentation on the documentary film, “No Más Bebés,” a film about the class action lawsuit Madrigal v. Quilligan.