I asked some of the organizers (past and present) to share their favorite insight and/or memory of Townhall. Here’s a snippet of those answers. Very candid, very casual and straight from the heart - favorite memories from the past year of busting our arses to make the Townhall Dialogue Series what it is today, and to keep making it better as a reflection of the community and the community’s needs.
"I would say mine was the night when we all met at the Coupe (which one, am I right?) to discuss some feedback from an event. This particular evening, however, would turn to a dialogue on holding one another accountable for our commitments and the feelings that stem from broken trust. Not the happiest of moments for some of us, and perhaps awkward for others given we rarely have those direct conversations elsewhere in our lives, but I think the experience is a microcosm of what we as a community stand-for: honesty in the open, pushing ourselves to be better communicators, and a family that expects the best from each other."
"Narratives. Every person in the Muslim community has a unique narrative - a story to learn from, a story to grow from, or a story that can truly touch the heart. Townhall has brought these stories together and provided a space for us to have a dialogue, which is essential for growth within ourselves and our community. That's what attracted me to this dynamic group of folks who sought a new space to nourish our community. As 2015 unfolds, I'm excited to see the Townhall Dialogue Series bring a new breadth of topics to light that will continue to foster this growth within the Ummah!"
"Maybe this is a silly thing, but I always think of the very, very beginning of the Townhall idea, which for me was more like two and a half years ago instead of one. I remember back when the idea of a Townhall series---bringing the disparate members of our community into an open, safe space to talk about issues that are deeply relevant to our community but rarely talked about in public---was just a harebrained idea that a few people on the Yaro Collective board wanted to try out. We scraped together a Townhall on critically examining the role that the hijab, as an idea, a symbol, a piece of cloth, whatever, plays in our community's narratives. That first event was a moderate success, but nothing would have come of it if Aqsa Mahmud hadn't been there that night and decided to get involved and eventually took the initiative to get the rest of you all involved, alhamdulillah, and reincarnate our original idea as the living, breathing effort it is today. I guess I just feel grateful that such humble beginnings have led to something that continues on so vibrantly. "
"What I will always remember from the 2014 Dialogues is one afternoon, when I met with a model speaker to prep her a few days before the event. We sat by the window of a relatively empty coffee shop--laughed some, checked in and shared ourselves. We built a bubble of comfort and vulnerability, because I was going to ask her to form the words to describe a struggling experience of her American Muslim identity.
What do you want to tell people? I asked her. What do you want to say?
And she began. Her words built an image of childhood, relayed the anxiety and tension of her experiences, and bloomed into a story of personal growth, strength and realization of herself as a Muslim. I was awestruck at the woman before me.
Afterwards, we sat in a saturated silence broken only by an elderly woman who slipped a note onto our table as she walked out the door. We were both startled until we read the note and began to understand:This stranger had overheard my friend's story and scribbled a note of compassion.
You're young, she wrote. You're loved. The lesson of her age is to be strong. Yes, we have our stories and experiences. But there is a strength to life. So be strong.
I'll always remember this: A stranger in a coffee shop overheard our story and recognized the core elements of our community: We're a strength and support to each other. We love, hurt, experience and support each other in the continuation of our journey."