SWO Lecture Series
Sufi Women Organization’s Fall Breakfast with Jessica Jackson Sloan
The Women’s Wisdom: Women in Action series continued with Jessica Jackson Sloan, Esq., Human Rights Attorney, Mill Valley’s Vice-Mayor, and National Director and Co-Founder of #cut50, a bipartisan effort to reduce the U.S. prison population, as the
featured speaker. This breakfast presentation was held on September 17, 2016 in San Rafael, Ca. She discussed her dedication to ending the death penalty and advocating for human rights, and her work leading a bipartisan effort to cut the U.S. prison population in half. A report is available here.
Women Gathering for Change: Envisioning ways to Create a Healthier Future Conference
The conference was held in Egypt in March of 2016, sponsored by Bibliotheca Alexandrina and The Human Foundation, and supported by the International Association of Sufism and Women and Global Change. The video of Dr. Nahid Angha, featured speaker at the opening session is available here. Please visit our conference page here for a full report.
Patricia Holt: The Publishing Revolution
This lecture was presented on Saturday, April 25, 2015 in San Rafael, Ca. In only a few decades, the Internet has created a huge cultural upheaval that is still having disastrous effects on the book and media industries. Internationally known book critic, editor and author Patricia Holt explored what makes all this a “revolution” in our midst. Our report is here.
SWO Luncheon Lecture Series: Susan M. Wyler: A Life of Writing
Susan M. Wyler, Poet, cultural historian and celebrated novelist, spoke on “A Life of Writing”. Susan discussed her journey as a traveler and write at the SWO lecture held on Saturday, April 25, 2015 in San Rafael, Ca. Her latest novel, Solsbury Hill, is both a contemporary story, and one that recalls classic tales of the human search for meaning, strength and identity. Readers and writers alike have been inspired by Susan’s stories. Our report is here.
Belvie Rooks, co‐founder of Growing a Global Heart: From Broken Heartedness to Open Heartedness: A Journey of Transcendence
On September 8, 2012, Belvie Rooks, educator, activist and writer, spoke of her experience visiting the El Mina slave dungeon on the West African coast. Belvie began her talk sharing that she has often found that many men and women who she has been inspired by have often been Sufi practitioners. Not a Sufi practitioner herself, she described how the heart, so emphasized in Sufism, is also what she uses to guide her life. Please read the rest of this wonderful review here.
LaRae Quy, former FBI counterintelligence agent
The Sufi Women Organization luncheon on Saturday, May 12, 2012, featured former FBI counterintelligence agent LaRae Quy. Attendees, which included a diverse community of women and men, a number of whom were new to the luncheon series and initiatives of SWO, enjoyed a meal and conversation, and an opportunity to engage in LaRae’s stories and learnings. This report is continued here.
Art Show with Salma Arastu
On Saturday, November 19, 2011, the Sufi Women Organization sponsored a luncheon featuring world renown artist and author Salma Arastu. Salma was born and educated in India; she was born into the Sindhi and Hindu tradition and later embraced Islam through her marriage. In addition to being a prolific painter for more than 30 years, Salma has also authored several works of free verse poetry and short stories in her native Hindi. Her latest book, published in 2008 in English is titled “The Lyrical Line” and has more than 100 images of her works from the last 10 years. This review is continued here.
Sacred Music of Qawwali with Riffat Sultana
The Sufi Women Organization luncheon on Saturday, October 8, 2011, featured musician and vocalist Riffat Sultana accompanied on 12 string guitar by her husband and producer, Richard Michos. Riffat is the daughter of the legendary classical singer, the late Maestro Ustad Slamat Ali Khan. Riffat is the first woman from her family’s musical lineage to publicly perform in the west. This review is continued here.
At the SWO Luncheon on April 3, 21011 we had an opportunity to hear Robin Pressman, Radio Program Director of KRCB (91 FM), a PBS/NPR station headquartered in Rohnert Park, and enjoy a delicious lunch. Robin talked about the challenges and new opportunities facing public broadcasting, especially focusing on new initiatives to create an active partnership with her listeners with citizen journalism and community involvement. In Robin’s sixteen year tenure, she created the Voice of Youth radio program, worked with the local community to produce classical, literary, creative arts and public affairs programs, and trained hundreds of volunteer programmers in radio arts. She is also the executive producer of several radio programs.
Salman Arastu and Michelle Ritterman
On Sunday November 8th, 2009, SWO members, friends and family joined together in Berkeley, California, to enjoy lunch, artwork, and an inspiring speaker.
The meeting began at the art gallery of Salma Arastu, a Muslim artist inspired by Arabic calligraphy, folk art and miniature art. Her paintings and metal sculptures all speak to the relationships among people in community. In her own words, she is creating a body of work through continuous, lyrical line, to express joy in the universal spirit that unites humanity.
The group assembled to hear psychotherapist and teacher Michelle Ritterman, Ph.D., discuss the power of relationship as she presented passages from her most recent book The Tao of a Woman. In this work Dr. Ritterman suggests eight steps of loving. She stresses the importance of women being self-empowered and fully present in relationships, remaining aware of any tendency to change for another or become unhealthy with self-criticism.
After enjoying the artwork and book reading with Ms. Aratsu and Dr. Ritterman, the group walked to a local restaurant to enjoy lunch and converse about the wonderful presentations.
The Nari Uddug Kendra Organization from Bengladesh
Novato, California, 2003: The Nari Uddug Kendra Organization from Bengladesh. We had a very lovely evening at the Garden Court Restaurant in Novato with Shefali last night.. The dinner was well attended and it seemed that all of the women in the room, who came from many backgrounds and faiths, were inspired by what we learned about the lives of women and girls in Bangladesh and by the slides that were shown of the services that are being provided to some of the poor and the abused girls there. We had an introduction by Tabra, who befriended Shefali in Bangladesh several years ago.
Shefali told us about Nari Uddug Kendra, the organization she started in 1991 to work towards gender equality and for women’s rights. It was difficult to hear about some of the abuse that girls and women endure and amazing to see photos of these same women after they had begun to receive services through Nari Uddug. She spoke about rape and the stigma that goes with it, often causing the girls to attempt suicide because there is no longer a place for them in society; their families disown them and they have no chance to marry if it is known that they were raped.
Nari Uddug Kendra brings them out of their rural communities (for their safety), pays for the education and housing for these girls in the city, allowing them to be contact with their families whenever possible, and opens the opportunity for them to either become independent through education and work or to marry in a different local if that is their choice. There are other women who receive loans of $50, with which they are then able to build a business. She gave several examples of women who paid back the loan and then continued to multiply their income over the next few years. $50 is more money than many of them have ever seen.
Shefali spoke about the way that education the opportunities it brings are changing the societal structure in Bangladesh. The rich, the male religious leaders, and the government all have issues with the changes that are coming about as more girls and women are able to rise out of poverty and victimization. Part of the work that Shefali and the people in her organization are doing is to try to build alliances. If I heard her correctly, she said that there are 200 staff members in Nari Uddug Kendra and 90% of their work is in rural areas where women are generally at home under the authority of men.
2002 Report: Sandra Butler, Bay Area Women in Black
The SWO July luncheon opened with prayer and greetings from SWO coordinator, Amineh Pryor, to a radiant group of women sharing enthusiasm and friendship. We met in a new location where the meal was excellent as well as the setting and it was apparent that attendance and SWO membership continues to flourish. Introductions around the tables reflected Sufi Women Organization trust, inspiration, devotion, humor and honesty and dedication to the SWO Code of Ethics.
Guest speaker, Sandra Butler, Bay Area Women in Black, holds silent vigils, walking in silence, wearing black, as women against war. Thank you to Sandra who spent the afternoon with us and gave such an inspiring talk about her work as a seeker and maker of peace and change.
Reflections: Women of action: “If something is wrong, then women step forward and do something about it without having to explain any further. We must keep creating what we need to exist as women of faith.” “Silence, said Dr. Sandra Butler, used to be terrifying.” As she stated: “In the beginning, for me to fall silent was to be without skin though as I became silent and listened, a softer, deeper language began to develop and I realized I had been drowning myself out for decades. Silence has been the most freeing. It is where we can go to find an opening.” In her work with grieving women and grieving incest survivors, she says, “It is a time when we draw out the sounds of women speaking their voices for the very first time. The politics of grief are personal and private. We cannot go into a crisis situation with all of the right answers. We can also choose the goodness and work on that. In the seeds of every moment, in every country, it may be transformative. It is a way to live my life.” She stressed the importance of women coming together in prayer.
Sufi Youth International founder, S. Kianfar reported that a religion based social service group of 200 teens is underway. It is a yearlong endeavor where teens will be meeting in groups on a regular basis, addressing environmental and humanitarian needs in Marin and the Bay Area. Ongoing Sufi Youth programs include Literacy, Art and Tutorial projects and Community Service activities such as storytelling in our communities for children and youth, working in crisis centers that benefit women, children and youth, donating food, clothing, toys and books to shelters, and continuing to partnership with Habitat for Humanity, Afghans for Afghans and various service organizations.