Sidewalk chalk messages raise Muslims' post-election spirits

NASHVILLE — April Benson-Scearce felt heartbroken by the message Donald Trump's presidential win may be sending to Muslims, so the Tennessee mother decided to channel her sadness into a message of kindness.

On Thursday morning, she grabbed a pack of sidewalk chalk and her 3-year-old son, Hudson, and headed to the Islamic Center of Nashville. Benson-Scearce, who is a Christian, wanted to let its members know that despite the president-elect's anti-Muslim campaign rhetoric, they were cared about and an important part of Nashville's community.

"To my Muslim friends and community members: I stand with you now, and if things do get worse, I will stand with you then too," said Benson-Scearce, in a Facebook post she wrote Thursday.

As she and her son began drawing cheerful images and words on the sidewalk, Benson-Scearce urged passers-by to share their own messages on the strip of concrete outside the mosque. About 30 people stopped to contribute to the chalk mural while the mother and son worked.

"It was really kind of healing for me," Benson-Scearce said in an interview.

The end result was a patchwork of warm sentiments written in big block letters, and accented by colorful hearts, flowers, sunbursts and more.

"We see you and we want you here," one read.

"We love you," another said.

The act of kindness calmed some of Tamanna Qureshi's post-election anxiety.

"It really made my whole day," said Qureshi, the secretary of the Islamic Center's board. "It really makes you understand and remember how good our community is down to it’s core."

She had left an election night watch party feeling nauseous and worried about having to tell her 8-year-old child about Trump's victory. She isn't alone. Many Muslims and other minority groups are feeling fear and unease about what a Trump presidency will mean for them because of some of the ugliness from his campaign, Qureshi said.

"I think there was a grieving process," Qureshi said. "I think it’s necessary. People need to feel what they're feeling."

Qureshi said she's found that people are hurting on both sides of the political aisle, and she's received messages of support from both Trump and Hillary Clinton voters. She's optimistic about the future president and has appreciated his post-election message of unity, but Qureshi knows that many activist groups who protect marginalized groups are waiting to step in if necessary.

"We’re standing strong and we're hopeful for the future," Qureshi said. "We’re keeping an eye out."

Follow Holly Meyer on Twitter: @HollyAMeyer


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