Philadelphia-based entrepreneur Salima Suswell was selected as one of the Please Touch Museum’s five new board members, beginning their term this month. The appointment could make Suswell the first identifying Muslim woman of color to fill the role.
“I have a strong voice as it relates to the needs of the communities I represent and love – communities of color, communities of women and girls, and communities of faith. A lot of my work is centered around supporting the unique needs of those communities,” said Suswell.
“To be a person who is a triple minority, who has lived in this city since I was a child, I recognize the strides we have made as it relates to bridging the gap and cultural awareness. A children’s museum is a wonderful place to start the important conversation around the acceptance of different faiths and cultures. Now, as a trustee, I am dedicated to continuing the conversation through real partnership and open dialogue around educating and empowering children and families.”
Suswell’s appointment follows the September close of the Museum’s exhibit, “America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far,” for which she served as Project Manager and Lead Community Advisor.
That exhibition, according to a 2019 review by the Tribune, “is the first project under the museum’s initiative to address relevant social issues and open the door for families to engage in diversity, understanding and acceptance.”
“We believe Salima is the first Muslim woman to be selected as a Trustee in the Museum's 43-year history,” said Meg Kane, Please Touch Communications Rep.
“However, we cannot absolutely confirm this as it is the Museum's long-standing practice not to ask Board candidates to identify religious affiliation, gender and/or sexual orientation. The goal of vetting and selecting Trustees to the Museum’s board is to identify business and community leaders who bring needed competencies to our Board in support of our mission of changing children's lives as they discover the power of learning through play. The Museum and the Board are dedicated to assuring that there is broad diversity representation on the Board and throughout the organization. ”
City Councilman Curtis Jones (d-8), whose district includes the Please Touch Museum, has worked with Suswell on several policy initiatives, including the historic recognition of the two Islamic (Eid) Holidays on the School District of Philadelphia academic calendar. He said he is confident that her input on the Please Touch board will benefit the museum.
“The Please Touch Museum is a regional treasure for Philadelphia, but so is Salima,” said Jones. “Not only is she diverse, she is a businesswoman. Say what you want, but Please Touch has to pay the rent and the utilities. [Salima] adds that business perspective as well. Please Touch got the best trade since T.O.”