Congresswoman-elect Ilhan Omar is an experienced policy analyst, organizer, public speaker and advocate. In 2016, she was elected as the Minnesota House Representative for District 60B, making her the highest-elected Somali-American public official in the United States and the first Somali-American State Legislator. More recently, in November of 2018, she was elected as the first Somali-American to serve in the United States Congress in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District. In addition to serving in the legislature, Ilhan is a mother of three and the Director of Policy Initiatives at Women Organizing Women, where she empowers East African women to take civic leadership roles in their community. Born in Somalia, Ilhan and her family fled the country’s civil war when she was eight. The family spent four years in a refugee camp in Kenya before coming to the United States in 1990s.
Deepa is a South Asian American writer, lawyer, and racial justice advocate. Iyer’s areas of expertise include the post 9/11 America experiences of South Asian, Muslim, Arab and Sikh immigrants, national security and immigration policies, and racial equity and solidarity practices. Iyer is a Senior Fellow at Race Forward, a non-profit organization, and a member of the Open Society Foundation 2017 Equality Fellows cohort. Previously, Iyer served for a decade as the Executive Director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) where she helped to shape SAALT’s work on civil and immigrant rights issues. Her experiences at SAALT form the basis for her first book, We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future (The New Press 2015). We Too Sing America has received a 2016 American Book Award and was selected as a top 10 multicultural non-fiction books of 2015 by Booklist.
Sayu is the Founder and President of New American Leaders, which works across the country to build the power and potential of first-and second-generation Americans. She served as New York City’s first Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs and is the founder of South Asian Youth Action, a community-based organization in Queens. Sayu earned a PhD in Politics and Education from Columbia University, where her research focused on immigrant political participation. Her TED talk focuses on the importance of immigrants to American democracy, and her work to build a more inclusive democracy has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and in The New York Times . Her first book, People Like Us: Knocking at Democracy’s Door, was published by The New Press in October 2018. An immigrant of Indian descent, she grew up in Belize and now lives in New York City with her husband and child.
Selina is a web developer and infosec practitioner that is inspired daily by speculative fiction, music, and her people’s ability to survive and thrive. She has dedicated 15 years to community development work in Washington, DC through media justice organizing and community-led research, as well as radio and event production. Selina has collaborated with a number of social justice and capacity-building organizations like Wellstone Action and the Center for Media Justice. As a Ford-Mozilla Fellow, she will support the ongoing privacy and security work of Consumer Reports.
Local Leaders in Baltimore
Caryn York is Executive Director of the Job Opportunities Task Force (JOTF), an independent, statewide nonprofit organization based in Maryland that promotes policies and programs to help low-wage workers advance to high-wage jobs. Caryn is also the first African American woman to lead the twenty-two-year organization. More on Caryn here.
Charly Carter has been an effective force for change in Maryland politics for over a decade. As founding Executive Director of Step Up Maryland and the Progressive Pipeline Project, Charly centers her work in building leaders who champion and understand the struggle of black communities. More on Charly here.
Councilman Kristerfer Burnett is a lifelong Baltimorean. He lives in the Edmondson Village with his wife; they are proud third-generation homeowners. Kristerfer went through Baltimore’s public school system. He graduated from the University of Maryland-College Park where he earned his Bachelor’s Degree in African-American Studies. He earned his Master’s Degree in Public Policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. More on Councilman Kristerfer Burnett here.