For Reema Ahmad, organizing work started with her family. Her father was an immigrant from Palestine, and those geographic and political roots played a big role in her upbringing in Milwaukee, which she describes as one of the most segregated cities in the United States.
“I learned about voting and movement work and power because of the absence of it,” Ahmad says. “The idea of showing up and taking responsibility for what’s happening in our world around us was something I was exposed to.”
Ahmad began organizing before she knew organizing was an actual thing: “I just thought the way you get things done in a collective and impactful way is to talk to people.”
In 2008, Daniel Pipes, a George W. Bush appointee to the board of the United States Institute of Peace, advisor on the Middle East and a virulent Islamophobe, according to Ahmad, came to Milwaukee. People from her Muslim and Arab community showed up to challenge the hateful messages he was spreading, notably conflating all Muslims with Islamic extremism, calling for increased racial profiling, and proselytizing about unfounded threats of Sharia law in the United States. When Ahmad’s father got up to speak, Pipes became irate and called for his removal.
“I don’t even remember what the question was, I just remember how it struck a chord,” Ahmad says.
When she and her father left the auditorium, they were greeted by their community outside protesting and rallying: “I think about that story a lot because it is a reminder to me to show up even when it is hard, even when you’re alone. My call, my act, my ask of all of us is to channel our anger into action and to hold fiercely onto hope that we need.”
Ahmad’s activism now extends beyond community organizing. She works for the Movement Voter Project, a donor-advising platform that invests in grassroots movements to support work happening on the ground.
Ahmad says: “There are so many different ways that our movements need support and can connect the issue with one another.”