“As a proud Burkinabè - American, Black, Muslim woman, my intersectional identities allow me to see life through multiple lenses. My interlocking identities bind me to a higher standard of social justice. When I look in the mirror, I am constantly reminded of the communities I represent, and the duty I have to assist in the dismantling of various forms of institutional and systemic oppression. I utilize an intersectional lens in my Government Affairs work.”
-Madina P. Ouedraogo, MPA-PNP, Government Affairs Manager, CAIR-NJ
Madina on who she is, what she does, and why she does it…
"My name is Madina P. Ouedraogo, MPA-PNP, and I am a Burkinabè-American from Newark, New Jersey. I’m an alumna of the New York University Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, where I earned my Master of Public Administration in Public and Nonprofit Management & Policy (MPA-PNP)’ 20 with a specialization in Advocacy and Political Action. I’m also a graduate of The College of New Jersey School of Humanities and Social Sciences (TCNJ HSS) ‘18, where I graduated Phi Beta Kappa and earned a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Sociology with a specialization in Non-Profit and Community Development and double minors in Women’s and Gender Studies and African American Studies. I’m currently the inaugural Government Affairs Manager at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, New Jersey Chapter (CAIR-NJ), where I handle CAIR-NJ’s advocacy, legislative, and public policy portfolio. I engage lawmakers, advocate for public policy changes on the local, state, and federal levels, partake in coalition building and educate community members on the importance of civic engagement."
How Madina’s multifaceted identities have allowed her to conjoin academia and her current sphere of advocacy…
"As a proud Burkinabè-American, Black, Muslim woman, my intersectional identities allow me to see life through multiple lenses. My interlocking identities bind me to a higher standard of social justice. When I look in the mirror, I am constantly reminded of the communities I represent, and the duty I have to assist in the dismantling of various forms of institutional and systemic oppression, so I utilize an intersectional lens in my Government Affairs work, as well as my academic and past professional background to advocate for change."
Why it’s important to Madina to achieve policies in New Jersey that welcome and support immigrants to become rooted economically, politically and socially within the state…
"As a person who is first generation American myself, who has parents who are West African immigrants, immigrants are the American story. Without immigrants, there would be no America as we know it. Immigrants have played a tremendous role in the success and advancement of this nation, and it is our duty as fellow New Jerseyans to make them feel welcome and have opportunities and access. Oftentimes, people leave all that they know in search of a better life and more opportunities that are not present in their homeland. We must ensure that those who uplift our communities and our nation also have equal access and equal opportunities."
CAIR-NJ, one year later: At this time last year, NJAIJ interviewed CAIR-NJ about their recent successes. What’s changed since then and how have those successes upheld? What are some of the organization's recent successes or campaigns that the organization is leading on currently?
"Since then, CAIR-NJ has created the Government Affairs Department and has welcomed me as the inaugural Government Affairs Manager. As a staunch advocate for social justice, I’m seeking to foster meaningful change in the advocacy, legislative, and public policy arenas for New Jersey’s diverse and vibrant Muslim community. Currently, CAIR-NJ is advocating for three core legislative priorities which include: the Islamophobia Definition Bill (S2368/A465) which would adopt the first-ever State definition of Islamophobia in New Jersey and in the nation, the Muslim Heritage and Appreciation Month Joint Resolutions (SJR105/AJR194) which designates the month of January of each year as “ Muslim Heritage and Appreciation Month” in the State of New Jersey and would allow the State and its residents to respectfully acknowledge and promote awareness and appreciation of Muslim Americans and recognize the many contributions of our community as well as a Muslim Studies Curriculum. The Muslim Studies Curriculum seeks to prepare students for their world by giving them the knowledge and resources to better understand the billions of Muslims around the world and their history, by teaching them the importance of criticality, and by fostering a more empowered sense of self and community. The curriculum is developed by a diverse team of teachers and professionals with different experiences and expertise. It is intended for public schools (but could be used in any setting, public or private). The tentative curriculum is composed of 17 units. Each unit is composed of 3 levels (for Elementary, Middle, and High School, K-12)."
For Madina as a new leader in the social justice movement in NJ, dedicating January to Muslim Heritage and Appreciation means that…
"As a Muslim American, I think having a month dedicated to us and the achievements and accomplishments of our community would be profound. Growing up as a young Black girl, having Black History Month and Women’s History Month was extremely impactful. Seeing representation and the people that looked like me being honored and acknowledged for their contributions throughout history was extremely empowering. However, there was limited representation for my Muslim identity. Presently, there is still limited Muslim representation and recognition. As a Black Muslim woman, having that representation would help bring attention to the community and make people feel included. There’s a lot of bias and discrimination that Muslim Americans face in this state, and an appreciation month would help combat hate and foster unity."
CAIR-NJ is working on combating Islamophobia through legislation and huge strides in policy. How can we combat Islamophobia from the ground up on a daily basis?
"I think it all starts with education. Oftentimes, a lot of the previously mentioned biases come from myths and a lack of seeing Muslims as humans. Normally, it’s because we’ve been othered for so long, and we’ve been mischaracterized through the media through Islamophobic tropes. Education leads to mutual understanding which results in myth busting. Education will help people understand Muslims, our beliefs, customs and practices. The onus is on us to reclaim the narrative and showcase who we actually are and who we are not."
When CAIR-NJ comes to Trenton, you have huge groups of people ranging from grade school children to elders in the community. What is your approach to making advocacy accessible for everyone, and why is it important to any movement?
"Our approach is that these issues impact the entire community, it’s not just our fight. CAIR-NJ has reached its heights because of the community. CAIR as an organization is here to serve the community, uplift the community, and to defend and protect the community. It’s important that the entire community is involved in this process, because we see incidents that involve community members from various backgrounds and demographics. We ensure that everyone has a stake in the change that CAIR-NJ advocates for, because the issues and policy changes implicate and impact all our community members. CAIR-NJ makes sure that we take an intersectional approach in our work, because Muslims are not a monolith. Our community members come from so many different backgrounds, and we make sure that we’re being as representative as possible, and that everybody is included in the conversation so that the change that we’re seeking is done in a way that benefits everybody positively."
What’s something about you (a fun fact) that not many people know?
"I am a lover of poetry, prose and spoken word. In the words of one of my favorite poets/authors, Nayyirah Waheed, “Poetry alters my DNA. Every poem is a different life. Every poem brings me closer to myself and breaks open a new future inside of me.” Poetry, prose and spoken word really speaks to me."
What’s the last book you read/what book has impacted you the most?
"The last book that I read was From Darkness Into Light by A.Helwa. She’s one of my favorite authors, she’s very rooted in the Islamic tradition. The book that has impacted me the most is Women’s Liberation and the African Freedom Struggle by Thomas Sankara. He was the former president of Burkina-Faso, who was unfortunately assassinated, because he was truly for the people. As a person who is committed to women’s rights and takes pride in my African identity, the book resonates with me."
What is one thing you are really passionate about outside of work?
"I am really passionate about traveling. I started traveling in my early adult years when I studied abroad in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England while in college. I love learning about unique cultures and traditions, experiencing new cuisine, meeting new people, and partaking in exhilarating excursions. I’ve been to 12 different countries thus far and I can’t wait to travel more."
In these turbulent times, what is one thing that brings you joy?
"I’m a foodie. I like learning new recipes through YouTube, TikTok and cookbooks and making them really brings me joy (and obviously satisfaction because I get to eat the food!). My favorite cuisine is West African."
Who inspires you?
"Definitely my mother and father. It may sound cliché, but they are my biggest role models and inspirations. I am the person I am today, because of them. Without my parents there would be no Madina P. Ouedraogo, literally and figuratively!"
To learn more about CAIR-NJ, click here
CAIR-NJ’s Muslim American Heritage Month Press Release
Madina’s Book Recommendations: From Darkness Into Light by A.Helwa, Women’s Liberation and the African Freedom Struggle by Thomas Sankara
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