Inspire, is a series which will run through the end of December 2013. We will feature youth, Board members, organizational partners, donors and others, who have contributed to SAALT’s work on the ground and nationally. We invite you to share your stories of how SAALT has shaped (and perhaps transformed) your local activism and your commitment to the larger movement for democracy and justice. This week, we feature board member Maheen Qureshi.
I am a Muslim American who has lived in the U.S. for half my life. I spent my childhood and adolescence between Pakistan, Burma, the Philippines and Indonesia. My path to citizenship has been as a student (twice) and H‑1B worker (twice) and then the Green Card. I have lived in the DC area longer than I’ve lived anywhere. I am a mom/ single mom, a daughter, a wife, a sister, an aunt. I am also a professional who has worked at the intersection of social and environmental responsibility and the financial sector. I have a big extended family in Pakistan and I live in an intergenerational household in the U.S. I consider myself to be an international person who calls America home.
Among my multiple identities, I’m passionate about humanitarian causes and social justice. I got involved with SAALT through my work doing corporate social responsibility outreach to communities of color. I was later invited to join SAALT’s board.
I connect with SAALT in many ways.
Since 9/11, I feel the effects of racial profiling in a subtle, but constant way. I think twice before speaking colloquially, out of concern that someone may misinterpret what I mean and profile me even if I have done nothing wrong. I am happy that my family and I can worship. But I don’t take this freedom for granted, as I know that places of worship in our communities are often vandalized or under attack. SAALT’s work to oppose racial profiling in all of its forms is of importance to me.
Since becoming a single mom at age 29, I have experienced some of the challenges that women face, especially South Asian and immigrant women. I am blessed to have a very supportive family and can link this to the fortunate opportunities the U.S. immigration system has afforded my parents and siblings on their individual paths to citizenship. Having a life partner in another country, however, and not having a visa option to bring him to the U.S. for even a day (until he receives a visa through the standard family process that is expected to take 3+ years) has been difficult. This personal experience has underscored the importance of finding immigration solutions for families - the work SAALT has been doing for many years. My personal experiences reaffirm my commitment to helping other women who have even more challenges and may not have the family or financial support system available to them. There is a lot more work to be done to reform our current systems.
Raising an American child, I want to know that he will be just as safe, respected and welcome as any other child — regardless of his faith, family or appearance. SAALT's work on anti-bullying education and bringing students together through the Young Leaders Institute inspire me.
Last but not least, I care about issues of justice and equality that impact all people. SAALT links the challenges faced by our community to larger struggles and movements. If you identify with any of the issues or if you have a hope and a vision for a more democratic and a safer nation and world, I hope you will support SAALT today and beyond.
SAALT Board member