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Voices for global peace and tolerance speak out in troubled times

On the International Day of Peace, activists from Nigeria to Louisiana urge peace and tolerance in Washington, DC.
22 Sep 2016 – 12:16 AM EDT
Blair Imani (derecha) es activista a favor de la paz en la capital estadounidense. Esta mujer negra, blanca e hispana que adoptó la religión musulmana lucha por los derechos civiles en EEUU. Crédito: Milli Legrain

Blair Imani is a black, Muslim, queer and Hispanic woman. At just 22-years-old, she has become a leading activist and spokesperson on issues as far ranging as police brutality, islamophobia, LGBTQ discrimination and racism. And in 2014 she founded Equality for HER, an organization that focuses on social justice for women of color.

“We need to stop having separate conversations about oppression," she told Univision in Washington, D.C., during an event to celebrate International Day of Peace. "We all exist at different intersections. We can’t keep being divisive."

In Washington, D.C, Imani and dozens of other activists spoke to inner city youth gathered at American University’s School of International Studies.

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Voices for global peace and tolerance speak out in troubled times

Born in Los Angeles, with family roots in Puerto Rico, Imani is now based in Washington D.C. In July, she was arrested in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, while peacefully protesting the death of Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man who died at the hands of police.

“I was arrested with my partner. I was dragged, pepper sprayed and strip searched in jail. I was so hurt and felt that these people who were dehumanizing black and brown bodies had somehow in their lives missed the opportunity to learn that we are all human.”

A week later, when three police officers were shot dead in Baton Rouge, Imani was one of the key organizers of a vigil for the slain law enforcement agents.

"I was reading the Quran when I realized I needed to organize a healing space for the police, the same way we had created one for the victims," she says. "Because we need to value the humanity of all people.”

Beyond Boko Haram

Imrana Alhaji Buba, an activist from Nigeria, narrowly escaped death at the hands of Boko Haram, Nigeria's militant Islamist group. Now he has a fellowship at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C.

“Men fully dressed in military uniform boarded the bus shouting and holding AK47s and asked for our ID cards,” he remembers. Members of Boko Haram dressed as military.

“They started beating people. At one point they asked me to stand up and remove my shirt. At that moment I thought they would kill me. I was so scared. So terrified.”

He narrowly survived.

He has lost two family members to violence, as well as a neighbor.

Buba since founded the Youth Coalition Against Terrorism (YOCAT), a volunteer organization that aims to unite young people against violent extremism in northern Nigeria, promoting a culture of peace in a war-torn region.

Turning to an audience of teenagers and young children in Washington D.C., he says: “I encourage you to take action, to promote peace."

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