Posted by on February 20, 2015 in Blog

By Maha Elsamahi
Winter Intern, 2015

Arab American Tarik Mohamed is an incredibly positive individual, one who charges ahead despite obstacles and difficulties in his path. His sources of resilience and inspiration, he says, are his large and dynamic family. One of ten children, the courage of his mother and brother in the face of cancer inspired him to forge on and fight to live his life to the fullest. His ability to create positive change in spite of trying times led him to establish the “We Can’t Breathe” PAC (formerly known as “I Can’t Breathe”). A response to the events in Ferguson, MO and New York City, the We Can’t Breathe PAC is a tribute to the last words of Eric Garner, whose death as a result of NYPD officers’ chokehold last summer was captured on video and helped to ignite a nationwide debate about police brutality directed against the African American community.

Tarik, a visual communications strategist, envisions the PAC as a force for good and one that will empower younger generations to engage the political system, which is all too often tied to money, through untraditional mediums like art, film, and music. We Can’t Breathe PAC will not only support candidates who advocate for criminal justice and community reforms, but also be used to fund music and film festivals that support discussions on social justice and police brutality. Having assembled a team of volunteers with various professional and cultural backgrounds, the PAC is now reaching out to fundraisers and public figures who have spoken out about the events of this past year. Tarik is aiming to reach across cultural and ethnic lines and to speak with one loud and clear voice on these social justice issues that affect many communities.

Tarik’s believes the world needs more love, more unity and, above all, our role is to lift one another up. According to him, technological advances to break down barriers between people have not been completely successful, and the disconnect between people of different backgrounds and in different geographic regions still exists. The We Can’t Breathe PAC is an extension of his desire to build those connections and unite communities, in spite of whatever differences may keep us apart. His aim is to build coalitions and alliances across communities, creating messages that reach and help empower youth, especially young people of color who have to surmount greater hurdles. Using the energy and momentum generated in response to the tragedies past of the few months, he hopes to use this as an opportunity to get the younger generation engaged in reforming the justice system and its broken mechanisms. 

Tarik sees Eric Garner’s final words as representative of a greater oppression, one that stifles the growth of communities and their youth. It’s representative of a larger force of institutionalized racism that leads to the deaths of youth like Michael Brown who are on the cusp of life and time and time again denied the opportunity to flourish.  For Tarik, the PAC is an opportunity to help hold up the mirror that forces us to reexamine ourselves and reverse the trend of mass incarceration and structural violence that has damaged so many communities. 

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