Peace Seeker Spotlight
Peace Seeker Spotlight Honoree
Montgomery County, Maryland
Mattie said we must ”want peace” and we must ”make peace something that matters to us in all times, and for all people.” Nadirah Moreland has not only been making peace her attitude across the years, but she also seeks to support her child and the students with whom she works in embracing peace as a way of being as well.
Nadirah learned about Mattie’s Foundation in 2011 through two of her high school students, Hilary and Callie Rushton, who grew up with Mattie as their friend. With other classmates, the Rushtons served as volunteers during the 2011 Peace Celebration, then shared Mattie’s message and the mission of the Foundation with other students and faculty at their school. A few months later, Mattie’s mom, Jeni, was invited to the school to offer a presentation on hope and peace. Since then, Nadirah has been a great advocate of peace, encouraging students in the school to participate in events and activities organized by Mattie’s Foundation, and to seek peace in their thoughts, their words, and their actions.
Now, as we celebrate individuals and groups who move from “attitude to action” to spread peace in our world, the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation honors Nadirah Moreland as our Peace Seeker Spotlight Honoree for our May-June post.
Below are Nadirah’s responses
to our interview questions
My name is Nadirah Moreland, and I am an Oakland, California native… but also a military brat so I’ve moved around a bit growing up. My family on the day-to-day includes my almost-2-year-old child and me.
Though I am not local with the vast majority of my family, my five siblings, three godchildren, nine nieces and nephews, and a host of other loved ones are part of what I consider my family. Being with these beautiful people makes me smile! My child makes me smile so, so much!
I love to eat though cooking is not a passion. I love to read though parenthood has put that passion on pause. I love to pause and smell the flowers, check out the moon, listen to the rain, watch the seasons change, and watch how amazing life is through the eyes of my little one!
Tell us a bit about your work.
Since high school, I’ve been really thoughtful about anti-bias work in school/youth settings, and through the years have continued to do my best to make schools welcoming places for all. Currently I work at a faith-based school right outside Washington, DC where a lot of work is focused on raising young women leaders who can focus their lives on social justice. My work involves ensuring the anti-bias and inclusion work follows our mission, and to help celebrate the diversity of the community.
What does peace mean to you?
Well, when I think about peace, I also think about violence.
Prior to moving to the DC metro area, I worked in a public high school in Oakland, California. During my five years living and working there, a number of youth I knew were shot and killed. Three of those killings had a really deep impact on me—my first cousin was murdered just shy of his nineteenth birthday and two of my former students were killed at around the same age—before they were 21.
When Naima (a former student) was killed, I found I wanted and could do something to work with young women in my school to ensure they had safe places to talk, share, be in community with other young women. I founded the Naima Johnson Sista Circle as a way to use Naima’s life to create peace, affirmation, self-love, and community for the young women in that school community.
Of course as a classroom teacher and administrator, I look for ways to bring messages of hope, peace, transformation, and reflection to my students. In many cases, students share years later that those messages stay with them. For instance, I used one of Marianne Williamson’s more famous poems in my class as a disciplinary tool of sorts (if profanity was heard, the offending student would be invited to read the poem posted prominently on the wall) and students remind me through social media of the impact of words like “And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” That heard repeatedly remains part of their psyche.
I also joined Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation a while back, am a past member of Amnesty International, and am working toward “attachment parenting without spanking.” That last part is a bit of struggle.
Today I popped the hand of my toddler when the pile of blueberries I had given were not deemed enough, and they were all swiped on the floor. Later, we spoke at length about our anger. I promised I would work on mine and reminded my child how important I thought it is that she not throw food. We are both working on how to express ourselves peacefully.
Many people live in trying environments. I suppose I try to respect everyone I encounter and know that I have not walked a mile in anyone else’s shoes, so I try to accept everyone where they are and learn with and through them.
Yes, I am a seeker of peace. Staying in the moment. Praying for peace. ‘Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.’
How did you learn about Mattie and his Foundation?
I met Dr. Jeni (Mattie’s mom) after a student leader of the Student Diversity Board relentlessly invited Dr. Jeni to come and share with our community as we focused our year on ability-related dialogue. She is AMAZING! Her story really just gave me so much hope, inspiration, courage to do what God is calling me to do! Everyone who had a chance to hear her was transformed!
At the time of her presentation, I was just beginning my motherhood journey and I was just awestruck by Dr. Jeni’s parenting journey. Through her story, I have learned about Mattie’s Park and Peace Garden, all the peace activities that Mattie’s Foundation does, and I have continued to stay connected.
I have been just so amazed by Mattie’s work, Dr. Jeni’s life and work, and the great work of Mattie’s Foundation! I bought my child a set of Mattie’s books. As time moves on, we’ll read and listen to Mattie’s work together. I look forward to continuing to be a part of this important work through Mattie’s Foundation, and I look forward to identifying others in my world that might benefit and be inspired by all that Mattie’s Foundation is doing.
I was delighted that colleagues in my school participated in the 2012 Peace Tree ornament decorating project! In addition to ornaments created by the upper school students, the Student Diversity Board here also solicited ornaments from students throughout the school. Some of the art work—from the younger students and the art classes—was so impressive!
Some of the ornaments created by the
lower, middle, and upper school students
for the Mattie J.T. Stepanek 2012 Peace Tree activity.
We’ve also had students from my school support the 2011 Peace Celebration held at the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Park, and we continue to weave in Mattie’s voice in to our school’s libraries, formal anti-bias work, and in community spaces. His mom, Dr. Jeni, introduced our entire upper school community to the message of hope and peace Mattie shared through his writings and speeches during her presentation at the school.
Students and other volunteers from the high school where
Nadirah works, serving as volunteers during the
2011 Peace Celebration hosted by Mattie’s Foundation.
Any other thoughts you would like to share?
I am quite humbled by this recognition. So, so humbled. I guess I feel like it enables me to focus on how I am living and to call the best from me.
I appreciate the opportunity to reflect on my life right now and to remind me of being my highest and best self. Mattie’s words really invoke that. I am grateful so much to have that wisdom and guidance as a part of my guide… Thank you so much for this honor!
Thank you, Nadirah,
for being a
Peace Symbol image shared by Nadirah =