Wisdom of the Elders Project:

Bearing Witness to Our Past, Present and Uncertain Future

Much of the coverage of COVID-19 relief to Black/African-American, including Black Muslim elders and seniors focuses on their risk and needs such as food delivery, supplies, and access.  These efforts, while beneficial, do not address the needs associated with the isolation and despair that is being caused by social distancing, as well as how they uniquely impact the elderly population. A recent report published by National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that “social isolation and loneliness are serious yet underappreciated public health risks for many older adults…associated with an increased likelihood of early death, dementia, heart disease, and more”. Harry Taylor a researcher who studies social isolation in older adults, particularly in the black community, highlighted how devastating social isolation can be, stating: “the mortality effect of social isolation is like smoking 15 cigarettes per day.”

To address the devastating impact of social isolation, loneliness and disconnection from the community, the National Black Muslim COVID Coalition will spearhead an intergenerational  storytelling, and documenting project called the

Wisdom of the Elders.  

Dr. Mohamood Abdi Noor
Photo credit: Rzan Elbaba
Dr. Mohamood Abdi Noor
Photo credit: Rzan Elbaba
"When an elder dies, it is as though an entire library has burned down."
-African Proverb
Dr. Mohamood Abdi Noor
Photo credit: Rzan Elbaba

This intergenerational ethnoautobiography seeks to collapse the space caused by social distancing, and to absorb radical healing through storytelling, connection, ancestral knowledge and resilience. Many elders in our communities have lived through wars, liberation movements, civil rights, forced migration, refugee camps, and more, across time, and space. Given that history, their thoughts on this pandemic would be incredibly enlightening, and enriching. The aim of this project is to disrupt the narratives that view our Elders as disposable burdens, rather than the carriers of our truths, and protectors of our legacies. Our goal is to co-power intergenerationally by regaining what has been lost through oppressive narratives that flatten the role of our elders and their infinite wisdom. 

The Wisdom of the Elders project will train Black Muslim youth (and others) from the Deeply Rooted Emerging Leaders (DREL) fellowship in the principles of ethnography, narrative psychology and cultural-rational theory. This training will equip them to conduct trauma informed, healing centered semi-structured interviews with elders about their past experiences and current reflections on the Coronavirus pandemic.

RECOMMENDED READING:
OLDER ADULTS, SOCIAL ISOLATION & LONELINESS
Dr. Mohamood Abdi Noor
Photo credit: Rzan Elbaba
RESOURCES
*Initiative launched by Muslim Wellness Foundation and Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative
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© 2020 | Collaboration between Muslim Wellness Foundation and Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative