Thomaira Babbit attended the University of Central Oklahoma, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in History-Museum Studies and minors in Humanities and Religious Studies, and a Master of Arts in History-Museum Studies with a concentration in Middle Eastern Culture and Politics and international cultural patrimony laws. In the fall of 2011, Babbit successfully and unanimously defended her thesis, “Silent History: Reclaiming Palestinian Cultural Patrimony and History and Using NAGPRA as a Paradigm” with High Distinction. In the fall of 2011, Babbit also interned with CAIR-Oklahoma and developed the Art in the Heartland outreach initiative aimed at increasing cultural and inter-religious dialogue within the greater Oklahoma community and coordinated the inaugural exhibition.
Tell us a little about your involvement with CAIR Oklahoma prior to coming on board as a staff member.
I first interned with CAIR Oklahoma in the Fall of 2011, and I developed the Art in the Heartland outreach initiative, which aimed at increasing cultural and inter-religious dialogue within the greater Oklahoma community; I also coordinated the inaugural exhibition.
What are some of the things you hope that CAIR Oklahoma will be able to achieve in the coming months and years?
I really hope and I am confident that we will expand and create new outreach programs and initiatives that will further our organizational mission, inform and promote the true, peaceful nature of Islam and its adherents, and show the broader Oklahoma community CAIR Oklahoma represents the same freedoms, rights, and privileges that all citizens of our country enjoy. It’s my hope to develop broader programs that are also inclusive all Oklahomans, such as a healthy lifestyles initiative that includes a 5k race and fun run, a peace march to our State Capitol, movie screenings, Music in the Heartland series, etc. We need to educate as well as de-stigmatize the Muslim community, and I believe we can do that through cross-cultural engagement.
What inspired you to dedicate your time and efforts to civil rights advocacy and outreach organization?
Well, honestly and frankly, I’m an unabashed idealist! I was raised with the mindset, if you see something is wrong or someone in need, you step in and you help. For me, some things are just black and white—regardless of race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, or orientation, we all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and you either treat all people with those guiding principles or you don’t. I choose to, and because I believe that’s the right thing to do, I am going to do whatever I can, directly or indirectly, to help but also try to persuade or influence others that treating people with respect and understanding is just the right thing to do. And, if you’re not sold on the sheer altruistic notion being a good person, it’s self-fulfilling, so…yeah!
Who are some of the influential individuals in your life that have motivated you to make Oklahoma a better place for all to love?
That’s an easy question…my family, of course! I have a huge family, so I won’t name them individually, but they’ve always supported my idealistic notions for trying to make the world a better place, and since I live in Oklahoma, why not start here?! But, as far as individuals, I had amazing professors and advisors at the University of Central Oklahoma whom I will always credit for encouraging me to pursue what’s right and hold my ground in the face of adversity when standing up for principles of fairness, justice, and tolerance.
What are some unique things about yourself that you would like the community to know?
Hmmm…I’m a proud nerd! I was going to pursue my PhD in History and concentrate on US-Iranian diplomatic relations during the Cold War, or expand on my master’s thesis which dealt with Palestinian cultural patrimony—which would’ve been the easiest way to go (see, nerd!)! Um, I play the violin and piano, I love authentic Persian, Indian, and Mexican foods, I enjoy running, and I will always have a special place in my heart for Mortal Kombat (Mythologies included!), Street Fighter, and Tekken on SNES and PS1, anime (long live DBZ, Cowboy Bebop, and Gundam Wing!), and Teen Titans!