As a child who faced poverty firsthand, Fatimah Loren Muhammad promised herself that she’d do all that she could to keep children from ever learning this lesson. Toward this end, she’s running for the chance to represent the 188th Legislative district.
By Denise Clay
The common wisdom in Pennsylvania has always been that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is to unseat an incumbent in Pennsylvania.
But over the last few years, that hasn’t necessarily been the case. Several incumbents have found themselves without a chair in the game of musical chairs that politics can sometimes be.
Fatimah Loren Muhammad hopes to be the next such success story. She is running against State Rep. James Roebuck for the right to represent the 188th Legislative District as the Democratic nominee in the April 24th primary.
Muhammad is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and former director of the university’s Greenfield Intercultural Center. She has worked in Ghana and India and has done some work with former President Bill Clinton’s Global Initiative.
In this interview with the SUN, Muhammad talks about the lessons she’s learned in life, how they’ve prepared her for this moment, and the importance of reaching out.
SUN: I guess that my first question for you is what made you decide to run?
FLM: I think that it’s important to know my background because everything emanates from there.
As a child, my family was homeless. We were homeless by the time I was 8-years-old. And it radically changed my perspective on everything. To go hungry…to have to go to school…to have pencils without erasers on them to do my homework…I was confused about, as a child why society would allow children and mothers to go hungry. And I committed myself to doing anything in my power if I ever got out to supporting people, supporting communities, making sure that this doesn’t happen. I’ve devoted my life to that and everything I’ve done has connected to it.
I’ve always been a bridge builder and have tried to bring people together. I’ve organized day care providers, have worked with youth development, and was the former associate director of the Intercultural Center. Public office was the next step because when officials are focused on the community, things can be more effective.
SUN: You’re also running against a man who has held this office for almost as long as you’ve been alive. Can you talk a little bit about that?
FLM: I think that there’s a lot that I bring to the table. People don’t want more of the same. They don’t want more of the same ideas. I bring a lot of energy and passion to this. I’m going to try and get the community onboard and engaged so that we can work as a team.
SUN: You’re also the first woman to run for this office. What has that experience been like?
FLM: I believe that the time is now for women to take on leadership roles. It’s been interesting when talking with our seniors, the women in particular. One day, I met this one woman who lives in the 60th Ward. She looked at me, and when seniors look at you, they look at your spirit. She said to me ‘You know who you are. Don’t let anyone get in your way. As a young person and a woman, what she said opened my heart. It was incredible.”
SUN: What issue would you like to tackle should you get to Harrisburg?
FLM: I would like to tackle education and youth development. Youth development is something that brings people together. Education got me out of my situation. My mom worked 80 hours a week and struggled to support my brother and I. I know how to support young people. Not many kids from this area end up at Penn. We can do better.
But I want to be clear. Anytime that you tackle something like education, you can’t do it using a top-down strategy. It requires pulling people together so that they can all play a role.
SUN: Well, I thank you very much for your time Ms. Muhammad.
FLM: Thank you.
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