Week 39: Altruistic Stories from the BSU Peace Center

February 20, 2021

For the 39th consecutive week, the Center for Peace & Conflict Studies has compiled a list of acts of kindness and peace. The initiative began as a response to COVID-19 and the racism pandemic but has broadened to include any act of compassion or service to others. Please share these stories. If you have stories of positive acts people/organizations are taking and you would like to share them, please email them to Brandon Miller at peacecenter@bsu.edu. All the stories starting from week 1 are available online. Additionally, you can follow the Peace Center on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) at bsu4peace.

14-year-old Girl Pushes for Change After Being Told She Could Not Play Volleyball in Her Hijab

This week, we are spotlighting individuals and families who fight for greater representation of marginalized communities in less than diverse fields. The spark that lit 14-year-old Najah Aqeel’s passion occurred last year at a junior varsity volleyball game in her home state of Tennessee. Aqeel came expecting to play, but a referee told her that she couldn’t compete unless she removed her hijab. “I was crying. I was sad and upset and angry,” Aqeel recalled. The referee cited a rule requiring that athletes secure prior approval before wearing a “hair device” greater than three inches in width. “I have friends that play basketball who are hijabis, and they knew nothing about the [rule],” Aqeel said. “I wanted to make sure that no other person has to go through this because it did not feel good.” With the help of her mother, Aqeel began working with the American Muslim Advisory Council, whose executive director, Sabina Mohyuddin, had refrained from participating in sports when she was in school during the 80s: “I thought about joining basketball,” Mohyuddin said. “…but with those barriers of the kind of uniforms girls wear, and then me wearing a hijab…. I didn’t really think much to pursue it.” That experience inspired Mohyuddin to advocate for Aqeel, so her organization partnered with the American Civil Liberties Union to draft a letter to the state athletic association. In December, the association responded to the proposal and issued a statewide rule change. Then in January, a federation responsible for developing volleyball rules across the country voted to adopt the same change. Although the federation’s decisions are not binding, the federation’s leadership believe that Aqeel’s example will lead to nationwide adoption of the change. Other hijabis across the country in different sports have had similar experiences. Noor Alexandra Abukaram, 16, of Ohio was disqualified from a cross-country race because she had not obtained prior approval; Amaiya Zafar, a 16-year-old boxer, was disqualified from a national boxing championship for wearing her hijab. The experience of each of these young women led to changes in their field. Ohio is in the process of passing legislation to protect freedom of expression for athletes and both USA Boxing and the International Boxing Association changed their rules to allow hijabis in competition. The advocacy of these young athletes across the country have led to a more inclusive world for all those who follow in their footsteps.

Source: The Lily - https://www.thelily.com/a-14-year-old-was-told-she-couldnt-play-volleyball-because-of-her-hijab-she-fought-back/?utm_campaign=wp_the_optimist&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_optimist

Dad and Daughter Start a Swimwear Line for Gender Nonconforming Kids

When Jamie Alexander’s transgender daughter, Ruby, wanted to begin wearing bikinis like her friends, he and his wife were initially concerned about their daughter’s security in a suit designed for cisgender girls. As Mere Adams, an education and social worker whose work focuses on gender and transgender health, explains, “If [swimwear] doesn’t fit one’s body and body parts effectively, it can expose someone in a way that feels very, very uncomfortable and distressing.” The feeling prevents people from being able to engage fully in those activities, she said. Moreover, swimwear designed without the specific needs and anatomy of trans girls in mind can even lead to unintentional outing. One parent explained that her daughter always feared that her breast inserts would fall out while in the pool. Alexander, who is a tech entrepreneur, wanted to create a line of bikinis with his daughter that would address these issues. Together, they launched Rubies. The products offer a secure compression fit for other girls like Ruby, whether transgender, nonbinary, or otherwise “gender creative” (per the Rubies website).

Source: The Lily - https://www.thelily.com/this-dad-started-a-swimwear-line-with-his-transgender-daughter-its-giving-other-families-hope/?utm_campaign=wp_the_optimist&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_optimist

Mom Writes a Book to Combat a Lack of Representation of Black Characters in Children’s Literature

From the driver’s seat of their family minivan, Tierra Haynes, mother of three boys, used to hear the same DVDs on repeat as she shuttled her kids to and fro. One of the kids’ favorites followed a boy and his dog as they traveled through time visiting historical figures. Haynes began to wonder why the characters never met any Black historical figures. She also learned that her older son, DeAndre, was beginning to realize that he was one of few Black kids in his class. During Black History, other students would turn their eyes to DeAndre. These experiences gave Haynes the idea to write a children’s book exploring the contributions of Black figures to U.S. history. For a time, this notion remained unrealized due to the various demands of her time; but after the killings of George Floyd and many other Black men and women, she decided the need for her project was urgent. When the pandemic hit, Haynes began writing about Guion Bluford, Jr., the first Black American astronaut, and she continued writing for months. Eventually, she finished a manuscript detailing a journey that her sons take to space, where they meet Bluford and learn of his accomplishments. Within the last few weeks, the book has begun selling in hardcover through Amazon. Haynes, whose husband is a university basketball coach and whose sons love basketball, said it “became very important to me for my boys to not only have the news or the NBA to see images of other Black men.” She hopes “The Adventures of Us: Getting to Know Guion Bluford Jr.” will be the first in a series of books. Her oldest son thinks that the next book should be about a Black woman “so that it could be equal” – and so that young Black girls see more of themselves in the books they read.

Source: The Washington Post - https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2021/02/12/maryland-basketball-childrens-book/?utm_campaign=wp_the_optimist&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_optimist

Note. The Ball State University Center for Peace & Conflict Studies will host the Benjamin V. Cohen Peace Conference: Building a Beloved Community. This virtual conference will be held on April 9 and 10!

Share article to: