Muslim Woman Selected for Philadelphia Museum Board

Muslims across the US engage in levels of civic and social duties to enrich their areas. Their involvement also promotes diversity and inclusion as well as allay misconceptions about Muslims in society.

Salima Suswell was recently elected to the Please Touch Children’s Museum’s board of trustees. The Philadelphia, PA museum provides a space for learning through play. According to their website, their facility is “where lifelong learning begins, curiosity is encouraged and every child is always welcome.

Suswell, an entrepreneur, will be the first Muslim woman to be on the board in the museum’s entire history.

Suswell shared her perspective about joining the museum board and the importance of educational spaces to Islamic education.

What do you anticipate accomplishing as a board member?

Image Art commissioned for America to Zanzibar Exhibit, by Philadelphia Muslim Artist, Bariq Cobbs
Image Art commissioned for America to Zanzibar Exhibit, by Philadelphia Muslim Artist, Bariq Cobbs

As a trustee on the board of the Please Touch Museum, I look forward to continuing our great partnership initiated in my capacity as a community engagement consultant and project manager for the highly acclaimed exhibition, America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far.

I worked to shape and curate this exhibit (which originated at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan) by highlighting Philadelphia’s rich Muslim community and engaging with the community in an effort to promote diversity, inclusion, and acceptance of different cultures, traditions, and faith through education and play.

How important are children’s museums in our society?

Children’s museums are very important in society, I believe. Our children are growing up in an interconnected world, and education through arts and culture is very important as understanding different cultures promotes acceptance.

Through my research, I have learned that children between the ages of 3-6 already understand cultural differences, as well as stereotypes and bias. They are sensitive to those cultural differences based upon their own identities.

So, I believe a children’s museum is a wonderful place for education, recreation, and play, but also for meaningful conversation on faith, tradition, and cultures. 

As a trustee on the board of the Please Touch Museum, it is my priority to continue that conversation.

Salima Suswell left

I think it’s pretty significant but also feel it is a testament to the great work of so many phenomenal Black Muslims who preceded me. Black Muslims have been major contributors to American society since the inception of this Nation.

It is a historical fact that many of our ancestors were practicing Islam in Africa prior to being enslaved and brought here during the Atlantic Slave Trade. Our ancestors brought their faith here with them. So, it is quite appropriate for Black Muslims to be a leading voice as it relates to the advancement of community life.

Also the empowerment of youth and families, not only in their local municipalities but across this country. I am honored to contribute to that.

In what ways can museums like Please Touch contribute to an Islamic education?

I believe that we can measure the outcome of the Please Touch Museum’s contribution to Islamic education as well as education and programming pertaining to a different faith and cultural traditions based upon its continued commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Upon adding five new trustees, the Please Touch Museum has further strengthened its commitment to diversity, with 39 percent of its Board now reflecting diverse cultures and communities (per its recent press release announcing the Museum’s Trustee Class of 2020). 

I believe this continued commitment to diversity and inclusion not only contributes to faith education but also instills validation and power in our youth in a manner that will ready them for their travels through all walks of life.