MPAC Partners with ICSC for 2-day Civic Summit

August 30, 2012

Last weekend, about 25 Muslim high school and college students attended a two-day civic summit organized by the Muslim Youth Group of the Islamic Center of Southern California (ICSC) and MPAC.

The summit provided participants with an opportunity to access leaders in key institutions that influence public opinion and public policy. On Thursday, participants visited the Los Angeles Times, City Hall, the Japanese American National Museum and Cornerstone Theater Company.

On Friday, the group toured the broadcast newsroom of ABC 7 and received training on civic engagement and effective communication by MPAC’s Director of Policy and Programming Edina Lekovic and President Salam al-Marayati.

Among the many highlights, summit participants met with LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa who fielded questions for almost an hour. When asked to respond to cynics who believe that getting involved with government will not make a real difference, the mayor said such cynicism is “a self-defeating cancer.” He pointed out that communities need to help the government “take a stand for inclusion” by not remaining “insular.” In addition, he encouraged young people to engage and participate, because not doing so will render them and their concerns invisible to lawmakers.

Niranjan Singh Khalsa, with the LA City’s Human Relations Commission, echoed the mayor’s comments saying that “if enough people get behind an issue it will happen.” He described the HRC as “the voice of conscience of the city” by helping to “intervene in and resolve conflicts,” ranging from discrimination to hate crimes.

This theme of participation extended to the tour of the Japanese American National Museum. Summit delegates learned how Japanese Americans responded to their internment experience by becoming politically active in the attempt to educate the broader public about the importance of civil rights during national security crises.

Paula Donnelly, Director of Engagement for the Cornerstone Theater Company, educated participants about the vital role of the arts in addressing social justice issues. Cornerstone does this by incorporating communities into the artistic process (script development, acting and audience participation) in order to facilitate “staying engaged in the conversation.”

By the end of the summit delegates said they were eager to chart their next steps in becoming engaged citizens. Some are planning on applying for internships in nonprofit organizations, media outlets and government sectors; some conveyed an interest in writing op-eds on a crucial issue; while said they aspire to become more involved in student groups and governance.

If you are interested in applying for the MYG Civic Summit, please contact ICSC Youth Coordinator Soha Yassine at

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