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Muslims of Michiana

     Hey, all! Happy Weekly Wednesday! We're actually off in Chicago today for some work with a side of fun, but we wanted to make sure to share with you some of the photos we were able to capture a few mornings ago! We'll share the photos and words first, and then you can read a bit more throughout about our motivation for holding the event. Huge shout outs to the Charles at the Century Center for being absolutely AMAZING throughout this entire process and to imam Mohammad Sirajuddin at the Islamic Society of Michiana here in South Bend for meeting with us and helping us organize the event! (We wouldn't have been able to do this without the help from both of you!) Let's hop into it and introduce ya to some amazing people here in South Bend!

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     Above is the family comprised of Hounia, Khalid, Nafis, and Jinane. Though we'd never met them prior to Sunday, this family was so warm, friendly, and clearly liked to make each other laugh! We had a blast with the kids and you can see the kindness in all of their eyes. It's rare that we haven't already met a family that we're photographing (if even just at a consultation), but it felt like we'd known them forever probably due to their laid back attitudes. We asked if they wanted to share anything, and they shared this beautiful piece of writing: "We are Muslims and justice, honesty, family, generosity, kindness, friendship, etcetera are among the values and principles we fight for. We also try to improve our way of life by always questioning our way of consuming for example, or of interacting with others. Topics such as Montesorri Pedagogy (from Maria Montessori) or Non-Violent Communication (from Marshall Rosenberg) have also become a part of our daily life. We are starving for learning, and mostly learning from others- people who are "different" from us." 

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     The family of Mohammad, Aitya, Aisha, Azra, Salah, & Sami are pictured above! They have an amazingly cute family and we had a great time getting to know them just a week and a half after we met Mohammad (who is the imam at the mosque). The family was sweet and humble and we knew we'd get along after one of the first questions from one of the boys was "Can I dab?!" (A funny move that all kids these days love to do- and of course we said "YES!") They all have their own unique personalities, but they were all funny and respectful during their Portrait Sessions. Hobbies in their family include soccer, art, swimming, enjoying family movies, and playing on the trampoline. When asked if they wanted to share anything, they also wrote that they believe in "human dignity, equality, and freedom." 

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     Above is the wonderful Awa. She trekked over to our event and was amazingly sweet and humble as we ran around her photographing. She has an innate kindness and humility while also projecting a calming feeling of serenity to those around her. It's clear that she enjoys life and has a great sense of humor. Plus, she gives the best hugs! We asked if she wanted to share anything here on the blog and she wrote, "I'm Awa and I love walking, watching Animes, and reading. I love South Bend which is an extraordinary and inclusive community!" 

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          Last, but definitely not least is Sonya and her daughters Rana, Nadene, Miriam, and Danya. (Not pictured: Sonya's husband Wael who she's been married to for almost 14 years-!) Sonya is one of the most kind, grateful, and justice-oriented women. She was one of the first people we talked to about this project and has always been amazingly supportive and giving. Jenny met Sonya at Yesmeen's (Jenny's friend from high school) wedding that Jenny photographed about 6 years ago. When in Indiana on a trip from California over a few years ago Sonya even hired Jenny to photograph her daughters (only 3 at the time) and since then they've chatted online and shared news, thoughts, and articles. Sonya definitely stays educated on social issues and is an amazing mother. The girls have many times when they're being photographed during Portrait Sessions gone to grab their mom to make her be part of their portrait! It's clear that their family has a lot of love, but also a great sense of humor, inclusiveness, and humility. (We were all joking because we were at different levels of getting over being sick.) We're so thankful you all came out and thank you for braving illness to make it over to the Century Center to hop in front of the camera!

          Every year we do one event of free photos for something we love/ deeply care about in order to to bring positivity to the community! Last year we volunteered to photograph for 3 full days to capture images of every animal at the St. Joe County Humane Society which ended up being 115 animals (and only one "accident" on our backdrop- lol). After sharing those photos of the animals Online with the community and the Humane Society's facebook page, most of the dogs were adopted and many more other animals got "forever homes" for the winter holidays which we were very happy about! We've both had rescue animals our entire lives and have 2 furry local rescues ourselves, so we always urge people to adopt and not "shop" (*for mistreated animals at breeder's homes). 

     This year, though, we decided to turn our attention toward our fellow humans who we care about deeply and equally. We've been wanting to work with the Muslim community on photos for over a year, but had never gotten around to it due to 2 moves into new homes and a huge amount of work. Over a year ago when we started talking with Muslim and non-Muslim friends about the project in November of 2015, Islamophobia was present, but not as bad as the past and we truly believed that it was fading away slowly through education. It seems, though, that with the new politicians in office that the fires are being fanned again and that miseducation and Islamophobia are being encouraged. We do not stand for this. Our Muslim friends and clients (some of whom have been clients for 6 years, mind you) are absolutely wonderful, moral, regular people who don't deserve hatred or regulations that hold them back. Our community, country, and world is diverse. To judge someone based on religion, color, or gender is to hold others back and try to put yourself on a pedestal above others... but in reality we're ALL made equal. No one is created better than anyone else.  

     We truly believe that many problems of the world could be avoided and eliminated if people learn about and invest themselves in their community as well as people and things that they previously didn't know. We hope you've enjoyed meeting some more of our local community because we certainly did! We were told that anyone is invited to come to the Islamic Society of Michiana's weekly Friday prayer which starts at 1:45 p.m. (their day to pray together- much like Sunday for Christians) here in South Bend, so you should check it out! We've been in the mosque, but haven't attended prayer yet and plan on doing so.

     We'll be sharing more photos from these Portrait Sessions sometime most likely this weekend and will be getting the beautiful 8x10 prints out to everyone in the next couple weeks! We hope that you have had a good week thus far!

     Next week we can't wait to share some photos of a great Chicago wedding/ event venue and some fellow Chicago wedding vendors, but in the meantime have a fantastic end to your week, weekEND, and end of February! (Can you believe next Wednesday is the first day of March already?!) Peace!