Linda Sarsour — activist, public speaker and author
By Amani Salahudeen
Brooklyn-born Linda Sarsour is a Muslima Palestinian American social justice activist who, in 2017, co-chaired the Women’s March on Washington and March2Justice. She is well-known in diverse communities for her social justice work.
The former executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, Sarsour co-founded MPOWER Change, the first Muslim online organizing platform, as well as Until Freedom, a national racial justice organization that helps Black and Brown communities nationwide.
According to the synopsis of “We’re All in This Together,” Sarsour states, “On January 17, 2017, Linda Sarsour stood in the National Mall to deliver a speech that would go down in history. A crowd of over 470,000 people gathered in Washington, D.C., to advocate for legislation, policy, and the protection of women’s rights — with Linda, leading the charge, unapologetic and unafraid. From the Brooklyn bodega that her father owned to the streets of the nation’s capital, Sarsour’s story as a daughter of Palestinian immigrants is a moving portrayal of what it means to find your voice in your youth and use it for the good of others as an adult. Her uplifting journey of growing up in a working-class family Brooklyn and becoming one of the most influential leaders of the Women’s Movement shows that anyone and everyone is capable of changing the world, and that it’s up to a determined few to be a voice for the many.”
Her new book, a modified version of her “We Are Not Here to Be Bystanders: A Memoir of Love & Resistance,” is directed toward young readers.
A public speaker who often speaks at Islamic conferences, Sarsour studied journalism at Brooklyn College and Kingsborough Community College. She actively posts about social injustice on her social media accounts as @lsarsour. Sarsour discusses an upcoming book-related project and gives her advice to young Muslims. “We’re in This Together” asks readers to think about what their purpose in this universe is. It has a strong emphasis on courage, community and how even one person can make a big difference.
In this exclusive interview, she talks about writing for a younger audience and tangible acts Muslims can do to become good activists.
Amani: Hi, Linda! Can you please tell us a bit about your upcoming book “We’re in This Together”?
Linda: “We’re In This Together” is my young reader adaptation of my memoir “We Are Not Here to Be Bystanders: A Memoir of Love & Resistance.” It’s an intentional opportunity to reach young people in an inspiring and engaging way in the hope of making them realize their power and impact. “We’re In this Together” shares stories from my earlier childhood that will resonate deeply with many readers. These stories helped shape who I am today.
Amani: What is one thing you wish everyone would do as a small act of activism?
Linda: We live in a very cruel world plagued by injustice. It seems the task is too great for any one of us to alleviate the pain and suffering. And we would be right [to think so]. I believe that it would be a great start if we were kinder to one another, gave a small donation to an organization doing work we cared about and showed up for a rally or protest in our communities.
Amani: What is your writing process like?
Linda: Recalling stories from my childhood felt nostalgic, but also emotional and sometimes traumatic. I wanted to give young people a rounded story, even if that meant sharing pain and loss. The process was fulfilling and intentional. I hope it will move young people to action and to be unapologetic about who they are.
Amani: Would you consider writing for other age groups in the future?
Linda: Yes, I have a picture book [in mind] soon for an even younger audience. My passion is to write for young readers, because I believe they deserve to learn about and discuss important issues that impact them and their families. I also believe they deserve content that may be difficult but helps them contextualize their own lives and connect their triumphs and struggles to others who may not look like them or come from where they come from.
Amani: Do you have any upcoming projects/book-related activities that you’re able to tease?
Linda: A picture book about a Muslim girl activist!
Amani: What’s your best piece of advice for other young (especially Muslim) activists?
Linda: Be unapologetic about who you are. Never dim your light for anyone. Focus on those who love you, encourage you and motivate you. Everything else is just a distraction from your own greatness.
Amani: How much time (months/years) did you spend writing We’re in This Together?
Linda: It took about two years in between the racial justice uprisings of 2020, then the continued fight for voting rights and so much more. I’m a full-time organizer, so working on a book takes me longer.
Amani: What or who inspired you to write?
Linda: I was inspired to write because I felt voices like mine weren’t represented in mainstream books. As a Palestinian, Muslima and American activist, I wanted to inject a different set of identities that are often marginalized and vilified in our society and provide my own perspectives in the hope that it would resonate.
Amani: How do you balance work and personal life?
Linda: After over 20 years in the movement, I still have a hard time with this. I work nonstop through the nights and weekends, and it’s something I’m trying to remedy because I know it’s not healthy.
Amani Salahudeen (BA, The College of New Jersey, ’20) is pursuing a master’s degree in education from Western Governor’s University.