Major: Education and Social Policy
School: New York University
Sponsor: Aziz Emara Memorial Fund
Bio: Ayisha Irfan is the Education, Justice and Policing Policy Analyst at the Office of the Manhattan Borough President. Having studied biology at CUNY Brooklyn College during undergrad, her life took an unexpected turn in 2011 when she was moved to action following the revelation of the New York Police Department’s broad Muslim surveillance program. Recognizing that the Muslim community badly needed to build power, and having never heard the words “community organizer” before, she hit the ground running at the Arab American Association of New York, where she was tasked with organizing youth people in Brooklyn around a legislative campaign to curtail the NYPD’s unconstitutional practices, while teaching herself how to organize.
It was from there that her interest in narratives, youth empowerment, and legislative change took hold. Over the past 5 years, Ayisha has helped develop leaders, train advocates, and build and lead successful legislative advocacy campaigns, both inside and outside government addressing issues at the intersection of discriminatory policing practice and education inequity.
Ayisha is committed to both creating social change on both the individual and systemic level, and in addition to her policy work, she is the co-founder of the Muslim Writers Collective, a grassroots national initiative dedicated to reclaiming the Muslim narrative through story telling. MWC has active chapters in eight cities across the country, and has been credited with providing “a space for young Muslims to honor their humanity” by Vice.
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