Emgage PAC Pennsylvania hosted a meet and greet Saturday connecting community members with elected officials and candidates running for public office.
The event featured remarks from Attorney General Josh Shapiro, labor union leader Ryan Boyer, state Sen. Sharif Street and Delaware state Rep. Wilson-Anton.
Saturday’s event was held at Masjidullah — Center for Human Excellence in Philadelphia’s West Oak Lane section and was sponsored by the Laborers’ District Council of Philadelphia & Vicinity.
Close to 150 people gathered at Masjidullah to meet with elected officials that represent their districts as well as to express concerns and discuss solutions to help improve the city.
“It’s very important that we come here and we engage on a real level,” Boyer said during his opening remarks. “This is real, this is about resources. Politics at its core is about the allocation of scarce resources, and those that vote get those resources and those that don’t (vote), don’t.”
Boyer recently made history as the first African-American to be elected business manager of the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council and he is the business manager of the Laborers District Council of Metropolitan Philadelphia and Vicinity, which represents four locals comprising the only majority Black building trades union in the region. Saturday evening he urged those in attendance to join in supporting the Muslim League of Voters and Emgage.
Emgage PAC is the first and largest Muslim American federal political action committee.
Part of the Emgage PAC of Pennsylvannia’s ongoing mission is to ensure that Muslim American communities have open forums and access to their elected officials and candidates. As the city prepares for a crucial 2022 election cycle, Salima Suswell, Executive Director of the PA Emgage Chapter and Emgage National Senior Organizing Adviser, said she believed it was important to connect political leaders directly to their constituents.
“It’s our first meet and greet affair with the Philadelphia community,’’ Suswell said. “This is an opportunity for Muslims in the Philadelphia region to meet with not only their elected leaders or incumbents, that they want to make decisions about voting for, but also some of the newer candidates that are out there.”
According to Suswell, one-third of the Philadelphia population identifies as being Muslim.
“As an organization, we like to support the candidates that will support and uphold the unique needs and the morals of Muslim Americans and so it’s important for us to have that opportunity to meet with our elected leaders that represent the districts that we live in, and to have that opportunity to discuss the topics that are really important going into these midterm elections,”said Suswell.
Emgage PAC have endorsed and financially supported candidates across the country that espouse such values. In 2018, Emgage PAC helped elect 138 candidates to local, state, and national office. Emgage PAC has national headquarters in Washington, D.C., with five state chapters (Florida, Michigan, Texas, Virginia, Pennsylvania), and affiliate partners in California, Georgia, New Jersey, New York, Illinois, and Ohio.
“This event in Philadelphia is extremely important and timely because this is one of the most crucial elections for us. This year there is a lot at stake and obviously the governor election is here,” said Abdul Mughees Chaudhri.
“Just from the voting perspective, I think the value of the Muslim vote comes from the fact that we engage and that we understand who we are supporting. What are these politicians doing for us? And what is our end objective that we want to talk to them about? Discussing our policies, things that are important to us, whether it’s education, whether it’s the economic condition of the Muslims in Philadelphia, uplifting, the community, the poverty, those kinds of things, all happen by having these kinds of meet and greet events,” said Chaudhri. “When you meet them [elected officials], you talk to them, you talk about what you’re looking for, why will you be voting for these politicians next time so, I think it’s extremely important keeping in view the election cycle for this year. My objective is to create the awareness and create the unity and create a solid Muslim voting bloc.”
Many in attendance said they were focused on developing a plan to improve public education, other top concerns and issues included, gun violence, combating poverty, and further expanding economic development. The event began with a fun ice breaker, there was plenty of time for networking, and dinner was served.
“I want us to come together. Top of my agenda would be education, because in my opinion and I think everybody would agree with me, education is key to success in uplifting the society. So if we as a community want to improve the condition of Philadelphia and the Muslims of Philadelphia, then we have to work on education. So what I would love to get out of this is planting the seed. I say, thoughts lead to actions and actions lead to results,” said Chaudhri.
Special guests ranged from those who hold city and state-wide power like House Democratic leader Joanna McClinton, to Congressman Dwight Evans, Philadelphia Sheriff Rochelle Bilal, and City Councilmember Cherelle Parker.
According to State Senator Sharif Street one of his goals is “being able to speak to members of the community about some of the things that they are concerned about.”
Street is the first Muslim elected to Pennsylvania’s Senate and has represented the 3rd District since 2017.
“We are here to educate each other,” he said. Street said that in order to do that, those in power have to address the issues that they know are affecting the Commonwealth and hear about the issues that they aren’t aware of.
Street also praised Emgage for hosting the event in Philadelphia, and engaging with one of the most prominent African American Muslim communities.
This was in a sense a historical event for both the organization and the city of Philadelphia. Chaudhri gave much credit and thanks to Suswell.
“Salima is the power house for us,” Chaudhri said. “She is the chief, she is the strength for us in Philadelphia. I think she brings quality and knowledge of the Muslim community of Philadelphia like no one else can. I couldn’t be more thankful for her working for us.”
“We hear a lot about working with our neighbors. And so while Emgage has a faith based approach to its organizing, We work with all community stakeholders, and we care a lot about serving humanity as a whole,” Suswell said.