Gathering in Atlanta: Meet Pillars Host Committee
/ August 21, 2023
This September, Pillars Fund will gather in Atlanta with our grantee partners, fellows, partners, and supporters for the Pillars 2023 National Convening. This convening was created to bring together Muslim leaders and artists to feel rooted in a larger movement, equipped to confront the challenges ahead, and energized to work toward a collective future. In the process, we hope to celebrate the vitality of our iconic host city.
For generations, organizers and activists in the South have boldly led our country’s movement for civil and human rights. Atlanta in particular has a special place in that story, past and present. This city’s Black civil rights legends have passed the torch to contemporary organizers and activists who are countering attacks on voting rights, advocating for immigrants in detention, pushing back against policing, and championing climate and reproductive justice.
The Atlanta region is also known as a vibrant center for culture and art. Immigrant communities have transformed Buford Highway into a culinary destination, and in Clarkston east of Atlanta, generations of refugees have resulted in the most ethnically diverse square mile in the country. Not to mention Atlanta’s dynamic, world-renowned Black music scene, integral to the evolution of blues, hip-hop, and Trap.
Most of all, Atlanta is known for its warmth: not just from the sun but from its people, the lifeblood of this place.
Pillars wanted our convening to reflect and honor these histories, qualities, and people; however, we could not create this type of space without our brilliant host committee, local leaders graciously welcoming us to their city and infusing our gathering with rootedness and presence. They have connected us with local artists, facilitators, speakers, session topics, and dining options and provided context about Atlanta’s organizing legacy to ground us in this space.
Meet Pillars’ Atlanta host committee:
Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur moved to Atlanta from New Jersey and deeply values the community she has cultivated in her chosen home. She is a Pillars board member and Director of the Office of the CCO and Chief of Staff at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Before joining the foundation, Saleemah was Associate Director of Corporate Volunteerism at Hands on Atlanta and Founding Director of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance. She has a strong commitment to civic engagement through activism, volunteerism, and advocating for gender equality in Muslim communities in the U.S. and abroad.
Shafina Khabani is the Executive Director of Pillars grantee partner Georgia Muslim Voter Project, an organization that activates Muslim voters in Georgia, challenges efforts to build barriers to the ballot box, and galvanizes their community’s collective power. The daughter of refugee immigrants, Shafina moved to Atlanta from Omaha in 2010, and since then has built strong ties with her faith and social justice communities. She has worked on various voter advocacy teams, organizing individuals for collective action and strategizing to make sure that all voices in Georgia are heard.
Aseelah Rashid is the newly appointed Director of IMAN Atlanta, a Pillars grantee partner, where she works to bring access, education, and revitalization to the southwest community of Atlanta. Aseelah is Co-founder of The Muslim Mix, a social organization cultivating leadership and connection among young adult Muslims. Alongside her mother, Okolo Rashid, and a circle of dynamic Muslim women, Aseelah also co-founded Era of Woman as a convening and call to action for women dedicated to amplifying the voices and leadership of African American Muslim Women for justice and social change.
Born and raised in Atlanta, Latasha Rouseau is the Executive Director of Pillars grantee partner Sapelo Square, a digital media and education collective that provides informed and thought-provoking content on key issues facing Black Muslims and communities of color in the U.S. Latasha has a desire to be of service to others and is deeply passionate about the carceral state. For more than 17 years, she strived to empower and support the most vulnerable groups in our communities by assisting youth and their families within the juvenile justice system.
Azadeh Shahshahani is the Legal and Advocacy Director at Pillars grantee partner Project South, a movement-building organization rooted in the Black Radical Traditions of the U.S. South. Azadeh advances a practice of movement lawyering, focused on confronting state repression and dismantling systems of surveillance, incarceration, and deportation. An internationally renowned human rights attorney and author and speaker for more than 15 years, Azadeh has organized to protect migrants and Muslim communities from lslamophobia, xenophobia, and anti-Black racism. She also provides support to social justice movements in the Global South, from Brazil to Palestine.