In an auditorium of about three dozen Penn students, Philadelphia's District Attorney Larry Krasner and other city activists spoke about how their spiritualities inspired them to work in politics.
Sponsored by Penn Democrats, the Tuesday event, titled "Spiritual Activism in the Age of Trump," was moderated by Penn’s Chaplain Charles Howard. Aside from Krasner, panelists included Gregory Holston, who is the executive director of Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower, and Rebuild, and 2000 College graduate Kameelah Mu’Min Rashad, the founder of the Muslim Wellness Foundation.
This event is the latest in Krasner's appearances at Penn since becoming Philadelphia's DA in 2018. In early September, Krasner personally came to Penn's campus to recruit Penn Law School students. The recruitment effort came after the DA fired 31 staffers during his first week in office in January.
During the event, the panelists discussed a variety of topics surrounding religion and their social activism journeys and views. The panel was followed by a question and answer session for students.
Holston said that when he was growing up, there was no separation between the Gospel, worship, and protest marches in his community.
“Our worship is our service, and our service is our worship,” Holston said. “There is no distinction between what I do for social justice and what I do for my worship.”
Krasner said his family's eclectic religious beliefs have pushed him to love everyone because "you don't have a choice." In the panel, Krasner said that his dad is Jewish, his mom Protestant Christian, and his wife Catholic. Krasner added that he and his wife had a Quaker wedding.
Rashad mentioned that, as converts to Islam, her parents instilled in her the values of self-determination and freedom. She said her mom inspired her social justice activism by taking her to rallies when she was just in first grade.
Penn Dems member and College freshman Ashley Fuchs said these stories were very moving for her.
“It’s weird because there’s absolutely no faith in my life, and I wish there was,” said Fuchs. “The transcendent idea of morality — it’s incredibly valid.”
The conversation also turned to the Brett Kavanaugh hearings.
Krasner criticized both Democratic and Republican senators for their questions during the Kavanaugh Judiciary Committee hearing.
He said that he thinks the senators engaged in "despicable conduct" during the hearing because he believes they used most of their time during the hearing to produce material that could be used for their campaigns.
Penn Dems President and Wharton junior Dylan Milligan said he thought Krasner's perspectives on the senators' questioning during the Kavanaugh hearing was particularly unique.
Moderating the discussion, Howard also asked the panelists what they rely on when faced with struggles and hard decisions.
Holston noted that he depends on the love of God, especially during threats of physical harm. He said he drew from this source of strength and resilience when Nazi sympathizers followed him back to his car during the Charlottesville march in Philadelphia.
"It is really the love you feel for God's people that is greater than [the] fear of what people might do to you," he said.
On the theme of speaking about spiritual activism during President Donald Trump's era, the panelists discussed how they restrain hatred for "enemies." Rashad said that she is grateful for people who disagree with her because they help her clarify what she believes.
“How can I fight against and challenge what you’re presenting to the world if I’m uncertain about my values and my principles?” Rashad asked.
Milligan, who helped organize the event, said that he connected with the event on a personal level because "no matter where you are in the political spectrum, faith can always play a role."
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