AMP: Grassroots²


Raphael Mina Eisa of Deep Center

What do you do? I’m a community engagement coordinator. As with a lot of places in the Deep South, communities are fragmented so I try to bring them together by engaging young people.

What is your why? My experiences as a Coptic Christian Egyptian in Diaspora who grew up in the Deep South has made me acutely aware of both my identity and the horrors of state violence. Although part of me has always recognized such things, I’ve become even more politicized as a result of my unique upbringing. I did not grow up surrounded by my own community, so even when compared to the general experiences of most Copts in America, even in diaspora, the necessity of this work became even more important to me because I was unable to insulate myself from other struggles. It’s amplified my desire to change the world. I’ve always been an emotional person. I see persecution and struggle and I get pissed and want to do something about it, even when it means challenging my own people. Anti-Blackness, for example, plagues Coptic communities and congregations. When our own people experience state (and societal) violence, as they often do in Egypt as the Christian minority, we are outraged, but when they are inflicted against Black people, we’re silent. Why?

For that reason, I try to serve as a group catalyst in my community to get those difficult conversations going by speaking truth. I am not willing to throw away my community and refuse to engage them, but I will commit to challenging their anti-Blackness. Today, I continue to bear witness to the intricate ties that bind struggles around the world, whether it be religious persecution in Egypt, Black liberation, Palestinian liberation, or queer liberation. I am imbued with righteous rage when I remember that the tanks that crushed the bodies of my people in Egypt during the Maspero Massacre of 2011 and the tanks that loomed over black and brown folx rising up in Ferguson were one in the same, funded by the same Amerikkka and used for the same purpose. But with my rage comes joy, because I know that this is how we will build collective power. I truly love people, and at its core, this work is about loving one another–for the sake of all our people. In this current moment, it’s important to understand that none of this is new. It’s our role as organizers to understand this and to build community. I want to continue to cultivate and participate in spaces where I can learn more from others and their unique struggles while also being given the opportunity to speak about my own.

How has your work been different over the past year?Since Trump, I’ve had to challenge myself by engaging with folx who are not as left as maybe I’d want. I’ve had to rein myself in–these are people I have to cultivate relationships with. At the end of the day, this work is about building collective power. We have to challenge democrats because they’re not all for us. Sometimes we have to work with people that are complicit, without sacrificing accountability. In that sense, I’ve had to tame my fire to be able to navigate the many different communities and political lines around me. We also have to be able to be challenged and be willing to grow. We need to know how to initiate these conversations.