President Joe Biden has chosen 21 individuals from across the country to be honored on Thursday, Sept. 15, as “Uniters” in a special “United We Stand” Summit ceremony at the White House to “counter the corrosive effects of hate-fueled violence on our democracy and public safety.” One of those 21 will be Madison’s Masood Akhtar, founder and president of We Are Many-United Against Hate Movement (WAM-UAH).
“I was very honored when I heard the news,” Akhtar tells Madison365. “I was surprised, too. It was interesting though that the work that we started here in 2016 is going to be displayed and recognized at the highest level possible and that is very exciting for the movement and very exciting for the team and for the state of Wisconsin.”
Akhtar adds that he is “very thankful” to U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin who nominated him for this prestigious award. The message informing Akhtar that he would be among those honored said: “Your leadership in Madison, Wisconsin, to address the root causes of bigotry and violence and empowering youth to build inclusive communities has inspired our team, and the White House would like to share your story with the American people.”
In 2016, Akhtar started WAM-UAH as a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization of common people — urban and rural, spiritual and secular — seeking equal protection for all, united against hate, bigotry and racism. His goal was to build inclusive classrooms and communities.
Akhtar started the organization after he saw an increasingly hostile environment for Muslims in the United States, and the rise in hate crimes against other minorities. The organization has started several school chapters in Wisconsin and is working to create an international board and launch chapters overseas.
“We started this small organization and the movement has grown internationally — we have chapters outside the United States and I think we are doing something very different, which is a very unique model,” Akhtar says. “We won’t have unity until we bring leaders of different parties, Republicans and Democrats, together … so I propose the idea of creating local, state, and national unity caucus that should be co-chaired by the Republicans and the Democrats. And then we need to have all the stakeholders together to work. United we stand.
“I’m so excited that President Biden is recognizing us and that he will be talking about us on Thursday,” he adds.
During the summit, the President will recognize the “Uniters” for their efforts in combating hate and violence and fostering unity. About 200 people have been invited to the all-day event that, Akhtar says, President Biden himself will keynote. According to a press release from the White House, the summit “will engage in a national conversation about standing together against hate-fueled violence, and put forward a shared, bipartisan vision for a more united America.”
“At the summit, I plan to continue promoting our two focus areas: education and non-partisan policies, including the idea of establishing nonpartisan unity caucuses at local, state and national levels for combating domestic terrorism,” Akhtar says. “I believe in the importance of working across party lines to develop and implement strategies to foster unity in communities and classrooms.”
Summit participants will include bipartisan federal, state, and local officials, civil rights groups, faith and community leaders, technology and business leaders, law enforcement officials, former members of violent extremist groups who now work to prevent violence, gun violence prevention leaders, media representatives, and cultural figures.
“I look forward to connecting with others from around the nation who are engaged in this
vital work,” says Akhtar, who adds that he will be proudly representing the state of Wisconsin at the White House.
“I’ve been to the White House before, but this will be the first time when my movement is going to be recognized at the highest level possible,” Akhtar adds. “It’s a pretty exciting moment that we’ve gotten the White House’s attention. This is really an honor.”