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Anwar Omeish

Growing up in a Libyan- and Muslim-American activist family post-9/11, Anwar became involved in service and activism at a young age. In high school, Anwar pursued various avenues of service, receiving the Girl Scout Gold Award for setting up a children’s library at a local domestic violence shelter and the Fairfax County Student Peace Award for building bridges across communities and fighting for racial equity at her high school. She also had her first taste of community organizing as an Organizing Fellow for the Obama campaign in 2012.

After high school and a gap year spent studying Islamic Studies and working with refugees, Anwar arrived at Harvard interested in studying social activism, liberation theologies, and the Muslim world. She joined the first-Year Urban Program, the Harvard Islamic Society, and PBHA, and took on numerous leadership roles.

As a core member of SLAM during the three-week 2016 Harvard dining services workers’ strike, Anwar planned a campus-wide outreach and coalition-building strategy, coordinated speak-outs and rallies, and worked with workers on a months-long student organizing campaign that culminated in a several-hundred student sit-in at the site of contract negotiations. As a part of this work, Anwar helped build bridges across campus and community groups, bringing labor issues – and the various communities they affect – to the forefront of campus conversation.

In her roles as Advocacy, Health, and Housing Programming Group Officer and then Programming Chair of PBHA, Anwar has consistently pushed the organization to be more critical and community-based in the work that it does. She has spearheaded initiatives to build PBHA’s relationships with activist groups on campus, deepen students’ community ties and political literacy, build accountability structures that ensure inclusivity across identities, and bring critical community issues like the Massachusetts Safe Communities Act to PBHA’s governing body. Throughout this work managing the organization’s 80+ community-based programs, Anwar has grown as both a leader and a community member

Anwar has taken this community focus into her work with the Muslim community as the Harvard Islamic Society’s Director of External Relations, organizing the annual Islam in America event series.  In the wake of the 2016 Presidential election, Anwar led a comprehensive teach-in on institutionalized Islamophobia to a group of students, faculty, and administrators. 

When Trump’s inauguration and travel ban shook the Muslim American community -- and other marginalized communities -- to their core, Anwar decided to launch the Anti-Islamophobia Network, a Muslim-centered student group that partners with Muslim and Muslim-allied community groups to advocate against policies that target Islam and Muslims. The Anti-Islamophobia Network has worked with groups like the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic, the Muslim Justice League, and the Massachusetts chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations; developed curriculum to educate partners and allied groups on and off campus; and conducted local, state, and federal-level advocacy against the bans, registry, and the targeting of Muslim civil society. The Network’s work and relationship-building against policies that hurt Muslim communities – including Anwar’s own family and friends – continues today.

Anwar’s work crosses identity and community lines because she believes that, as indigenous activist Lilla Watson says, “The liberation of each of us is bound up in that of the rest of us.” In between rallies and meetings, Anwar likes to read, write and perform slam poetry, embroider various surfaces, and reflect on her communities’ delicate and inspiring balance between trauma and resilience. As a Benjamin Franklin Legacy Award recipient, she is excited to further explore these issues and think about social change in a vibrant and enriching community of growth.