Letter from Our
By The Numbers
Like many of you, Pillars started 2020 with a different plan. We kicked off the new year with the first gathering of the Muslim Narrative Change Cohort and announced an incredible new group of grantee partners who were poised to tackle Census outreach, voter mobilization and so much more.
In March, the Pillars team moved into our new office space at the FBRK Impact House, excited to be invited to work alongside some of Chicago’s leaders in philanthropy. A few days later, before we’d even finished setting up our desks, our team shifted to remote work and we started to accept that the world as we knew it was forever changed.
We didn’t really have time to dwell on what could have been. Immediately, we saw our grantees step up, going above and beyond to tackle new challenges presented by the pandemic and the heightened attention to racial injustice. We heard from Muslim artists and activists whose performances and speaking engagements were canceled, and in response, we established a relief fund to cover their personal expenses. We started a digital interview series—Pillars Pop-Up Conversations—connecting artists, activists, and change makers with communities across the country.
Internally, we strengthened our team, welcoming a Communications and Outreach Manager and creating new avenues for deeper engagement with our talented trustees. I am so proud of what Pillars was able to accomplish this year, of the organization we’ve built, and of the talented group of people who make it all possible. Despite countless challenges, our team pulled together to support each other, all while adjusting our plans to make Pillars stronger than ever.
Thank you to the grantees who fight for us, the trustees who believe in us, the funders who put their trust in us, the fellows who help us imagine a better world, and our staff who give it their all to make that vision a reality.
I hope you enjoy reading Pillars’ story of 2020 and what we were able to achieve this year. We are poised to go places in 2021 that would have seemed impossible even just a few years ago. We may not know what the future holds, but we are ready to face it, together.
Co-Founder and Executive Director
Pillars amplifies the leadership, narratives, and talents of Muslims in the United States in order to advance opportunity and justice for all.
We envision a society where Muslims have access to every opportunity, are free to fully embody all of their identities, and are empowered to pursue their greatest aspirations.
We know that dismantling the systems of oppression that impact our communities requires courageous interruption, especially when resistance incurs risk. We consistently strive to uphold justice, even if it is against ourselves.
We honor the unique, multidimensional experiences of our people and communities. We recognize that self-care and collective-care are needed to sustain our work and power our movement.
We recognize the overflowing talent, leadership, and generosity that lives in our communities. We lean on this fullness to confront the painful reality of injustice and transform it so we all have what we need to thrive.
We acknowledge the need to reshape society beyond the bounds of current imagination. We make space for the cultural innovation, creativity, and resourcefulness required to build a more beautiful world.
We understand that relationships are built on trust. We are committed to the practice of accountability with ourselves and with each other.
Pillars Fund is built upon a foundation of people dedicated to creating a better tomorrow. 2020 has presented a set of unique challenges—many of us have been forced to change our plans, but our commitment to the work is as strong as ever. Below are stories from Pillars’ grantees, trustees, and fellows about what this year has meant to them and the communities they serve.
Founder and President, Muslim Wellness Foundation
“Health is more than reducing health stigma. Well-being is about not just asking about the individual vulnerability but understanding historical trauma. Healing is the process of making or becoming sound, or healthy and whole. The crisis of racial violence, the global pandemic, the election—all of these events in such quick succession—just clarified for me that our work, in this moment, is important.
“It’s not enough to explain to someone what symptoms of anxiety look like—that’s not sufficient. It’s intentionally cultivating and nurturing the inner strength of that person and that family and that community, so that they feel empowered to know, despite the circumstances and the challenges of the context, that Allah Subhanahu wa ta'ala has already given us everything we need. How do we mine those treasures? How do we mine that joy in the service of not just surviving, but thriving in our communities?
“As American Muslims, we should understand that who we are doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world—the racial, ethnic, and linguistic diversity only exists here. This is what is so compelling about this very unique crossroads of culture and faith. I want to see American Muslims step into that power, that connection, that richness, so we can stop apologizing. We are already enough. If and when we begin to humbly but confidently become aware of how essential we are, a lot will fall in place.”
Kameelah Mu’Min Rashad, PsyD, is the founder and director of the Muslim Wellness Foundation (MWF), which is dedicated to promoting healing and well-being, while reducing the stigma associated with mental illness, addiction, and trauma. This spring, MWF partnered with the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (Muslim ARC) to form the National Black Muslim COVID Coalition to address a crucial need for organizing in Black Muslim communities during the pandemic. MWF also launched the Black COVID survey, an interdisciplinary look at the impact of racial and religious identities on coping with nearly 900 participants.
Founder and Executive Director, Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment
“We’re going through this collective trauma and this collective grief, and we’re going to need collective care and collective healing in order to get through it. I think why we continue doing this work is because we’re not done, and there’s so much to undo: helping others along in understanding all these systems of oppression, how they interact, and what our role has been in it.
“We are giving a platform to our next generation of leaders, and they’re Black and brown hijabi girls. Imagine what they will do, they’re incredible! Muslim women are a powerful force. We are an engaged block of constituents, showing up through the entire year, the entire process, and reminding other Muslim women that our power is not just November 3rd.
“Our legislative agenda isn’t just about Muslim women. It’s an agenda for all Minnesotans. We have to really think big about how we’re helping communities, whether that’s statewide, nationwide, or for the ummah.”
Nausheena Hussain is the founder and executive director of RISE, Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment. Based in the Twin Cities, RISE trains and equips women of all ages with the necessary skills to participate in civic life, become part of decision-making and solution-creating processes, and improve society as a whole. Ahead of the 2020 elections, RISE created 22 candidate report cards to ensure their community members knew where candidates stood on critical issues, and they encouraged participation beyond the vote, including seeking office, poll-watching, and serving as an elector. Earlier this year, RISE provided temporary housing for people who were displaced during the pandemic. And in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, RISE hosted online conversations and community prayers to uplift on-the-ground local organizers and all oppressed people.
Rapper & Spoken Word Artist
“At this point, any honest conversation about U.S. history, politics, culture, business, art, music, education, sports, or activism simply can't happen without the input of Muslims in America. Storytelling matters because it is the kind of thing you either actively participate in, or relinquish the responsibility to someone else who may or may not have your community's best interests at heart. Either way, the story is being told.
“I know now that the kind of change I seek doesn't happen overnight. It takes time, commitment, discipline, and a sustained communal effort to realize fully.
“The idea that a diverse group of thoughtful storytellers can share ideas and best practices together with the common goal of bringing about a positive narrative change in popular culture is so inspiring. The Muslim Narrative Change Cohort is the kind of opportunity I could not have imagined as a young Muslim kid growing up in America, but am so grateful to now bear witness to. Every time we convene, I am more and more motivated, and walk away feeling like we are slowly chipping away at something groundbreaking, insha'Allah.”
Omar Offendum is a member of Pillars’ Muslim Narrative Change Cohort. He is a Syrian-American rapper and spoken word artist known for his unique blend of hip-hop and Arabic poetry. He has been featured on prominent world news outlets, lectured at a number of prestigious academic institutions, collaborated with major museums and cultural organizations, and helped raise millions of dollars for various humanitarian relief groups. This year, he released his latest album, “Lost in Translation.”
Founder and President, Pillars of the Community
“The current political climate is frightening because I don’t think we have communities that are prepared to deal with the challenges that are coming our way. We have a responsibility to fight to make our world better. But, I tell you, it’s not that easy. Real change requires real work.
“At the same time, I’m also hopeful because of my faith in Allah and the powerbuilding, coalition, and resistance work we see beginning to happen around the country.
“Although most of our work is done in the larger non-Muslim and Muslim communities, Pillars of the Community is, at the end of the day, a faith-based organization. Pillars came about from me asking the question: What have we done, as Muslims, for the larger communities we’re a part of? I started POTC so that I would be able to answer that question when I stand before Allah.
“There are very few times that we see tangible wins in this work. But when we do see wins, it feels good. I believe, at the end of the day, whatever Allah wants to happen, regardless of what we do, is going to happen. It’s the effort itself that we will be accountable for. What are we doing to make the world a better place? The results are in the hands of Allah.”
Khalid Alexander is the founder and president of Pillars of the Community (POTC), which integrates direct action, research, political education, civic engagement, and asset-based organizing in San Diego. In 2020, POTC remained focused on criminal justice accountability programs, which included leading efforts to sue California’s attorney general for the continued use of a gang database they say unfairly targets people of color who live in lower-income communities. Concurrently, they have been working to ensure that people who are in jail and eligible to vote take advantage of that right.
Trustee, Pillars Fund
“This year made me appreciate both the small moments and the bigger picture like never before. It’s made things very clear to me as I've asked myself, ‘What is important?’ ‘Where can I make an impact?’ The pandemic and its multiple constraints and stressors have forced me to be very intentional about where and how I’m giving my time and my energy.
“My parents have always approached life from the lens that it wasn’t enough to just be excellent in their careers—that they had to give back. Growing up, I would often meet my pediatrician mother after school at community clinics in economically depressed areas of Columbus, Ohio, where she treated uninsured patients. My mom could have worked in a plush private practice office for the duration of her career as many of her colleagues did, but she always believed that if you are given a lot, you have a responsibility to help uplift others. There is a hadith that reminds us that no one is truly a good Muslim unless they want for their brother what they want for themselves. And I feel that my parents have always embodied that, and that's always been the goal.
“Over the past decade I have become deeply involved with a variety of different nonprofits, but I have never found an organization that speaks to me personally in the way that Pillars does. It means so much to me to be able to contribute to an organization that is working hard to enhance the profile, the lives, the reputations, and the service efforts of Muslims in this country. I feel like that’s what my parents, that’s what I, that’s what my husband, what we have all sought to do—make it so that all we interact with know, through our own quiet examples, that Muslims are good people doing important, necessary work in America. And Pillars does this in so many, far-reaching ways.”
Masu Haque-Khan is an experienced employment lawyer, career counselor, writer, and advocate for various civic, political, and philanthropic causes, as well as a Pillars Fund trustee.
Founding Director, Muslim Mental Health Lab
“If the pandemic has made anything more apparent, it’s that COVID-19 will affect the physical health of some but the mental health of all. There is a such a need for custom-tailored mental health services for the Muslim community, more than ever before.”
“The research that we did this year on COVID-19 and Muslims revealed that Islamic coping mechanisms were incredibly important to their healing, more than any other faith group. The Pew Research Center reported that 24% of Americans overall felt their faith had strengthened since the pandemic, whereas our study showed that 70% of Muslims reported having an improved relationship with God. To me, that proves there needs to be an integration or marrying between what is available in the mental health and wellness world with spirituality and Islamic spiritual understanding. That would make it more likely for the Muslim community to actually tap into and access the mental health system in order to get the kind of care and support that they need. And that’s why I feel really privileged to have been trained in both worlds and to serve at the exact juncture of faith and mental health.”
Rania Awaad, MD, is the founding director of the Muslim Mental Health Lab at the Stanford University School of Medicine, where she is also a Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry. Her lab is dedicated to multidimensional mental health research in diverse American Muslim communities nationally and aims to facilitate community-based best practices for Muslim well-being. In addition to her medical studies, Dr. Awaad completed classical Islamic studies in Damascus, Syria. In 2020, the Muslim Mental Health Lab deepened its community-based approach to creating research-backed suicide prevention and postvention trainings for leaders in Muslim communities nationwide. In response to the pandemic, the Lab also focused much of its attention to the impact of COVID-19 on Muslim health professionals.
Director, Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) Atlanta
“In an African tradition, in a cultural tradition of acknowledging the elders, I’m reminded through that experience that we are not the only ones who have witnessed tragedy and suffering. And that the elders in the room have perspective of, not survival, but success. And so in these moments in our family unit, we have to bear witness to the status of our elders. Bear witness to their wisdom. Bear witness to their resilience. Bear witness to their suffering.
“We live in a society that chops us up into different segments of society, which religion are you a part of, what race are you a part of, what generation are you a part of. We are falling victim to that same type of thinking and not understanding that everything that the human being does has to be called upon by his inner faith and belief that God has chosen you for this mission, for this purpose, for this idea, and that he’s guiding you every day constantly. Get involved where things matter. And that’s how we have to look at the life of the human being, is that when you get involved with something that matters, you’re going to make a difference, and you should believe in that difference.
“In this day and time, we have to be courageous to do things that aren’t a part of the norm.”
Imam Mansoor Sabree is the director of Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) Atlanta, a community organization that fosters health, wellness, and healing in the inner city by organizing for social change, cultivating the arts, and operating a holistic health center. In 2020, IMAN Atlanta continued its work to build community power in the city’s West End, amid an election season that highlighted the importance of each individual ballot. Their No Taxation Without Representation Campaign aims to change the Georgia law that prohibits 250,000 citizens who are on parole or probation from exercising their right to vote.
Founding Director, CUNY CLEAR
“Consider the case I argued on behalf of three Muslim CLEAR clients this year before the Supreme Court. Federal agents put my clients on the No Fly List, not because they posed any threat to aviation security, but as a way to coerce them to become informants on their own Muslim communities. Because they would not violate Islamic tenets, my clients lost precious years with loved ones, plus jobs and educational opportunities. There are no actions that can be ordered to undo that, so the only thing left is compensation for their injuries and also deterrence through damages. This case takes us one step towards establishing the law, so in the future agents will not overstep boundaries.
“If we’re having a conversation and you say to me ‘well, surveillance makes me safer,’ that’s because you’re not on the receiving end. It’s always easier to sacrifice someone else’s liberties because you have no skin in the game.
“CLEAR’s approach is rooted in our relationships with the communities and movements that we work with, and it stems from an understanding that movements are not lawyer-led, and that they should be led by the people who are the most affected, who understand what the stakes are, who understand what the problems are, and who know what the solutions are.”
Ramzi Kassem is the founding director of the Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility (CLEAR) project at CUNY School of Law. CLEAR provides direct legal representation, movement building and community organizing support, rights-awareness programming, and capacity building aimed at serving Muslims and other clients, communities, and movements who find themselves in the crosshairs of the U.S. security state. In addition to taking a case before the Supreme Court in 2020, CLEAR advised community members who were at increased risk of government surveillance and supported demonstrators who were targeted for questioning by local or federal law enforcement agencies in the aftermath of protests against police brutality. This year, Ramzi was named a Freedom Scholar by the Marguerite Casey Foundation.
Early this year, we assembled a group of brilliant Muslim artists, academics, and thinkers to form our Muslim Narrative Change Cohort in collaboration with the Pop Culture Collaborative and Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. The cohort are using their unique experiences and expertise to develop a roadmap for telling authentic Muslim stories that lead to positive change. Our January gathering brought together fellows from across the country to meet and develop a foundation for their narrative change work. And while the rest of our planned in-person meetings couldn’t happen, every month this year our cohort met virtually to study, discuss, and ultimately produce a path toward an America where Muslim voices are valued.
Senior Fellow, Pillars (2020)
Oral Historian, Educator, and Soros Equality Fellow
“Without Muslims, America loses a critical voice in its song, a brick in its foundation, a thread in its fabric, a soul in its collective conscience. America cannot continue to become its ideal without Muslims—but we, we gon’ be all right.”
Executive Director, South Asia Institute
“When developing strategy, I think people are our best resource and if we can continue to connect the dots and expand the circle, the change we make will be powerful and sustainable.”
Director of Research, Institute for Policy Understanding (ISPU)
“Stories define our view of the world and how others view us. We need to write our own stories or this task will be left to those who at best don't understand us and at worst aim to harm us.”
Rapper and Poet
“The idea that a diverse group of thoughtful storytellers can share ideas and best practices together with the common goal of bringing about a positive narrative change in popular culture is so inspiring. It is the kind of opportunity I could not have imagined as a young Muslim kid growing up in America, but am so grateful to now bear witness to.”
“Our tradition is full of stories. It’s a powerful way to learn and situate ourselves in the world. It’s how we learn from our elders as to who they are, and what they’ve learned. To be a Muslim is breathe the stories of the prophets, the Prophet, the Ahl ul-Bayt, and so many of our role models. If all of creation is full of signs/ayats, and ayats are verses, then we are always living with the poetry of the Divine. That is a story we can never escape.”
Without Muslims, America loses a critical voice in its song, a brick in its foundation, a thread in its fabric, a soul in its collective conscience. America cannot continue to become its ideal without Muslims—but we, we gon’ be all right.
When developing strategy, I think people are our best resource and if we can continue to connect the dots and expand the circle, the change we make will be powerful and sustainable.
Stories define our view of the world and how others view us. We need to write our own stories or this task will be left to those who at best don't understand us and at worst aim to harm us.
The idea that a diverse group of thoughtful storytellers can share ideas and best practices together with the common goal of bringing about a positive narrative change in popular culture is so inspiring. It is the kind of opportunity I could not have imagined as a young Muslim kid growing up in America, but am so grateful to now bear witness to.
Our tradition is full of stories. It’s a powerful way to learn and situate ourselves in the world. It’s how we learn from our elders as to who they are, and what they’ve learned. To be a Muslim is breathe the stories of the prophets, the Prophet, the Ahl ul-Bayt, and so many of our role models. If all of creation is full of signs/ayats, and ayats are verses, then we are always living with the poetry of the Divine. That is a story we can never escape.
Artistic Director/Playwright, Progress Theatre
Associate Professor, Northwestern University
“The dream is to explore the most compelling, honest, unflinching ways of approaching questions of humanity, inclusive of race, class, gender, and spiritual identity—in the service of unity through diversity, cross-community healing and understanding.”
Chief Marketing and Storytelling Officer, Color of Change
“The underlying preconditions of systemic racism are forcing us to gasp for air, in many different ways.... Our only solace is our creativity and ability to always find hope in moments of great loss and despair.” (source)
Founding Director and Senior Editor, Sapelo Square
Associate Professor, University of Michigan
“‘Do for self’ is an old Black Muslim proverb that promotes the practice of claiming your agency and telling your own story... who better to represent us to the world than us?” (source)
Senior Fellow, Pop Culture Collaborative
“Storytelling is a powerful tool to mobilize communities, for good and for bad. What could it mean to invest in shifting the story, the dominant narrative about us?... We can be vulnerable in our storytelling and own that. What we want to do is produce a whole different cultural landscape for how our stories can emerge.”
The dream is to explore the most compelling, honest, unflinching ways of approaching questions of humanity, inclusive of race, class, gender, and spiritual identity—in the service of unity through diversity, cross-community healing and understanding.
The underlying preconditions of systemic racism are forcing us to gasp for air, in many different ways.... Our only solace is our creativity and ability to always find hope in moments of great loss and despair. (source)
‘Do for self’ is an old Black Muslim proverb that promotes the practice of claiming your agency and telling your own story... who better to represent us to the world than us? (source)
Storytelling is a powerful tool to mobilize communities, for good and for bad. What could it mean to invest in shifting the story, the dominant narrative about us?... We can be vulnerable in our storytelling and own that. What we want to do is produce a whole different cultural landscape for how our stories can emerge.
On January 7, Pillars kicked off the new year in Los Angeles with the first gathering of the Muslim Narrative Change Cohort. This event would act as a springboard for our monthly virtual meetings throughout the rest of the year.
This January—before the country shut down and Pillars suspended work travel—our staff was honored to speak at the Sundance Film Festival for the second year in a row. Sundance is the largest independent film festival in the U.S. and provides a unique opportunity to engage directly with Hollywood gatekeepers about Muslim stories. This year, Pillars Managing Director Arij Mikati spoke on a panel with the Female Quotient called “Righting and Rewriting History: Sharing Historically Misrepresented Stories.” She shared the stage with entertainment executives, creatives, and advocates for equity in film to talk about amplifying previously silenced and misrepresented voices.
“I would say to all creators in this room, what is so important is to bring… [a diversity of] people in early,” Arij said. “We need to be able to get multiple points of view, multiple perspectives on the story ongoing, and not just at the end.”More...
This year, Pillars partnered with United States Artists (USA) to fund a fellowship for Hanif Abdurraqib, a critic, writer, and poet from the east side of Columbus, OH. USA provides unrestricted awards that recognize artists for their contributions to the field and allow them to decide how to best support their lives. Hanif is the author of two books of poems, The Crown Ain’t Worth Much and A Fortune For Your Disaster. He is also the author of Go Ahead In The Rain: Notes To A Tribe Called Quest, and the essay collection They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us. Watch Kashif Shaikh’s Pillars Pop-Up Conversation with Hanif for their discussion on the role of art in social change.
Pillars Fund is a national organization with grantees from across the country, but our home base is Chicago. In March, we became one of the first tenants of FBRK Impact House, the nation’s first innovation hub dedicated to serving and supporting foundations, grantmakers, and impact investors committed to social change. We moved in just a few days before the pandemic forced us to begin working from home, but we’ve continued to build virtually and co-create with our FBRK partners. We look forward to the day we can continue this work in person and welcome the Pillars community to our new home base.
When most of the country shut down this spring, artists and activists were immediately affected. They lost income from canceled in-person talks, performances, and commissioned work, and many were at risk of losing their housing, in need of life-saving medication, and without funds for groceries. Artists and activists do so much to help us envision the world we want for ourselves, and their labor often goes unrecognized. Pillars has long been committed to supporting artists and activists, so when these individuals reached out to us for support, we knew we had to respond.
In March and April, Pillars accepted applications for the Muslim Artist and Activist Relief Fund to support the personal expenses of artists and activists. In two rounds of funding, we received more than 280 applications over just six days and distributed $41,000 to 82 individuals.
One applicant’s remarks are representative of many similar comments: “I’d just like to thank you all for consideration and even caring enough about creatives, who will struggle to sustain themselves in this time of great crisis. Stay safe and well, all of you!”More...
In the midst of a global pandemic, Muslims across the country and world fasted, prayed, and celebrated in relative isolation for the month of Ramadan. For many Pillars grantee partners, this shift had a huge impact on their ability to connect with their communities. In addition to nurturing spiritual growth, Ramadan is typically an opportunity to host in-person gatherings, inform and activate communities, reach fundraising goals, and serve people in need. We were all forced to rethink how we connected and reflected during this important month. Pillars Managing Director Kalia Abiade spoke to WBEZ Chicago in this segment about how COVID-19 was going to affect Ramadan for Muslims across the country.
“It’s a good time to remember that a lot of folks were feeling isolated before lockdown started and to keep them in mind, and be purposeful and intentional about the ways we connect,” Kalia said.More...
Because of COVID-19, we had to cancel our plans for in-person gatherings, including our annual Pillars community convening. Virtual events, however, allowed us to highlight the work of Muslims to anyone with an Internet connection. Our Pillars Pop-Up Conversations used Facebook Live to feature a diverse group of storytellers, including authors, political strategists, musicians, poets, visual artists, and Golden Globe winners. We talked about the power of music, protest, and film in the face of injustice and unrecognized grief. We showcased an abundance of Muslim talent while encouraging communities across the country to engage with art by Muslims and for Muslims. And we received more than 43,000 total views on these video conversations!
This summer, the callous killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd by police and the continued persecution of Black people at the hands of law enforcement led to a wave of protests across the country. In this moment, Pillars grantees showed leadership as they sought to fight anti-Black racism, transform the justice system, and build community. They bailed out demonstrators, organized protests, facilitated healing, provided temporary housing for displaced people in the Twin Cities, facilitated conversations for immigrant store owners on doing business in Black communities, offered legal services to people targeted by law enforcement, and so much more.
“It is important that we seek to amply our voices with shared analysis on how white supremacy harms all of us,” says Margari Aziza Hill, executive director at MuslimARC.More...
The Pillars community worked tirelessly throughout the year to ensure that Muslims in the U.S. were fully counted in the 2020 Census, despite a myriad of unexpected disruptions. While there is no Census category that counts religion, Muslims are represented in several historically hard-to-count segments of the population, including immigrants, young people, people of color, people with limited Internet access, and people who do not speak English as a first language, to name a few.
Several Pillars grantees led outreach efforts in their local communities, ensuring that people knew what to expect when completing the Census and why it matters. And over a three-year process, Pillars joined 20 Illinois grantmaking organizations to create a joint fund to support Census outreach across the state. Together, we designed a call for proposals, reviewed submissions, and distributed $1.75 million to 42 nonprofits, with a heavy focus on hard-to-count communities. Illinois was one of only two states to have a statewide philanthropy-supported pooled fund to complement government funding.
The decennial Census will determine congressional representation, inform the allocation of hundreds of billions in federal funding, and provide data that affects communities for the next decade. This was not the Census that any of us expected, but the tremendous effort to organize our communities and build infrastructure over the last several years positions us well to advocate for our communities in the decade to come.More...
At the heart of Pillars is a community of American Muslim philanthropists who inspire us each day to give of our resources. This practice of giving connects us to each other and to a tradition that dates back more than 1400 years. To harness our collective power, we have focused on cultivating space for Pillars trustees to learn together and co-create a shared vision. In 2020, we launched our trustee briefing series, providing exclusive opportunities to hear directly from Pillars grantees. We also launched an advisory panel that tapped into our trustees’ expertise, insights, and experiences to strengthen Pillars’ grantmaking.
Our giving community also extends beyond Pillars. In April, Pillars Director of Development Randa Kuziez hosted a virtual Pop-Up Conversation about how faith and giving can build community and fuel justice. Then this fall, we partnered with the Proteus RISE Together Fund to kick off a three-part briefing series for funders focused on generating strategic support for Black Muslim leaders.More...
This year played host to arguably one of the most critical election seasons of our lifetimes. The research shows that Muslim communities have increased their political participation through candidate forums and town halls, volunteering, and financial contributions. And Muslims are showing up to the polls at higher rates than previously recorded.
Many of Pillars grantees worked hard to mobilize voters and hold our elected leaders accountable to us. They made millions of phone calls and texts to encourage Muslim voter participation, provided instructions on how to cast a ballot in person or by mail, created voting plan videos in 10 languages (from Farsi and Urdu to Hausa and Mandinka), and paid incarcerated organizers in San Diego an hourly wage to activate voters in pretrial detention. In addition to get-out-the-vote efforts, they created candidate report cards and hosted online candidate forums, built guides for election wellness, trained immigrant Americans to start political organizing careers, and encouraged Muslims to run for office, poll watch, and serve as electors.More...
Pillars Fund would not exist without our trustees, who are dedicated to helping our communities thrive. Our trustees are part of a non-governing group that funds Pillars’ grantmaking. These families and individuals are active, engaged community members committed to using their expertise to improve our grantmaking.
We are immensely grateful for your partnership, commitment, and support, all of which allow Pillars to be a nimble, responsive grantmaker. We could not do what we do without you, and we are honored that you chose to put your trust in us. Thank you!