As-Salāmu ‘Alaykum (May peace and blessings be upon you).
I grew up with an appreciation for storytelling as a way to connect with others. My nana (maternal grandfather) was born in Agra, India and my nani (maternal grandmother) was born in Lahore, Pakistan (then India) during British colonialism. I heard stories of the difficulties my nana's family faced when he was a boy, when the turmoil of the partition of India forced them to leave their home and build a new life in Pakistan. Years later, in 1974, my nana migrated once again, this time to America with my nani, their 11-year-old daughter (my mom), and her siblings.
My mom's stories included ditching school to try the popular Big Mac from McDonald's, excitedly watching the latest episode of "Happy Days," to bullying taunts of "Gandhi!" towards her family. Later, I too went to Chicago Public Schools where I wore my fancy shalwar kameez for Picture Day, I sang Christmas songs in the school assemblies, and people mistook my festive Eid henna for a skin disease.
By examining my own experiences and listening to others, I came to notice social ills. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) taught: "Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart...." As a part of Lookingglass Theater Company's Teen Ensemble, I was immersed in writing and performing original plays exploring race, violence, globalization, and poverty. While studying Political Science at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, I learned about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and joined efforts to promote justice and peace. For years I volunteered for YOUR DIL Chicago to raise funds to build and maintain quality schools in Pakistan to promote literacy. My Master's degree in Education from Quincy University led me to teach on the West Side of Chicago, which instilled in me a desire to stand up for the rights of Black communities to prosper.
As a sister and caregiver of a young man who has cerebral palsy, one of my greatest passions is advocating for people with special needs, who are too often stigmatized or ignored by the larger community. As a volunteer for MUHSEN, I taught students with special needs on weekends and currently co-facilitate educational interactive workshops for institutions on ableism and inclusion.
When I started my SEED journey at New Leaders Week in 2015, I was grateful for the opportunity to be with a diverse group of people, reminded of the Noble Quran that "O mankind! Lo! We have created you … and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another... (49:13)." Coming to SEED was as if I came home to a family that I belonged to, a family that saw the importance of uplifting voices from all corners of the earth. Since then, I continued my journey with ReSEED 5 and co-facilitate year-long SEED and ReSEED sessions for District 99. SEED pedagogy has empowered me to use the work that others have done in social justice, along with the discoveries from my own experiences, to interrupt cycles of oppression through action, words, and amending my own personal biases and mentality to support justice and truth. I was blessed to join the National SEED staff in 2017 to facilitate New Leaders Weeks and that continues to be the highlight of my summers. I look forward to many more New Leaders Weeks, hearing your stories, sharing my own, and witnessing the magic of the SEED process.