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Interest in politics leads woman to key role at ACLU.

Byline: Nicole Sheldon

Iman Abid is confident that anyone can spark change in their community. You don't have to be in politics or an attorney to make a difference.

"You can make an impact in any sort of profession; it all intersects with one another," says Abid. "It's so important to recognize what we were put here to do on this Earth. I think as long as we understand that, even if we're struggling, we can still try to find our way toward making change."

Abid, 26, began her career in politics after studying political science and public policy at Rochester Institute of Technology. She graduated in 2014 and went on to work for a number of different state Senate campaigns. But she realized working directly in the political sphere wasn't her calling.

Now, Abid is the chapter director for the American Civil Liberties Union of New York.

"We advocate for any issues in regard to the violation of people's civil liberties and civil rights," she says. "If we're noticing that there are trends and violations of people's rights in the Genesee Valley region, which is Monroe County and the eight neighboring counties, we'll try to speak to different institutions about implementing policies and procedures to make sure that the violations don't continue happening. We develop relationships and make sure we're keeping people in check."

Having a background in politics from both a school and work perspective has helped Abid in her public policy work because she has a clearer grasp on who has power and who are the influential bodies in society.

One policy that Abid has been working on involves a hot topic: police brutality, an issue locally as well as nationwide.

"We've been working with a lot of local law enforcement agencies to try to implement better policy through their use of technology, like body-worn cameras that are being used by (the Rochester Police Department) or the use of drones," she says. "And we've been working on helping people understand what the role of law enforcement is," namely, to protect people.

Abid hopes to one day be able to create programs that are transferrable to other areas that lack clear public policies.

"A lot of these tools and institutions are not built in so many other parts of the world, and I'd really like to take whatever it is I'm doing here and build it in a place which I know could definitely use it a lot more than we can," says Abid. "I'm definitely interested in developing some sort of a program or implementing some sort of campaign and making sure this sort of advocacy can happen in the Middle East."

Born and raised in Henrietta, Abid has an American father and a Palestinian mother. Watching her parents work to assimilate into American culture fostered her interest in civil rights activism.

"I'm Palestinian, I'm Muslim, so I've gotten the opportunity to see firsthand what it's like to be a minority," says Abid. "As I watched my mom try to become an American citizen, I learned the significance of understanding American values. That, to me, meant to understand the political way of life and what we were founded upon."

Abid says she has come to realize that so many people are unaware of the amount of power they have to make change within political institutions. She spends much of her time educating others on their rights and how the political structure works.

"I think educating others helps them navigate what's going on, how we can take what's happening and help people understand locally what this means for us and what sort of a change we can make both locally and nationally," she says. "It's always been the change that you can make that has driven me to politics and policy in the first place."

In addition to her work with the ACLU, Abid is on the board of directors for the Center of Youth and for Barakah Muslim Charity.

The Center for Youth provides a range of services for at-risk kids including counseling, shelter and education.

As for Barakah, "it started out primarily working with the Muslim community and trying to provide services like offering food through a food bank," says Abid. "They just opened a new center off of Jefferson Avenue, and it's at the heart of one of the most impoverished neighborhoods in the city. It's been great working with them and helping them develop their own organization in a way that I think is really life-changing for that community."

Just as she did, Abid encourages others to trust their gut and seek a career that brings them the most joy and gratitude.

"Follow your heart. I know it's a clich, but if your heart is telling you that you're not happy to go to work every morning, you have the ability to change your job or go into another field to find what makes you happy. Let go and go off," she says. "We live this one life and it's so important to do what we love." / (585) 363-7031

#Team PXY with Whitney Young and Corey James on 98PXY is a partner with Fast Start. Listen on Monday from 5:30 to 10 a.m. for their interview with Iman Abid.

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Author:Sheldon, Nicole
Publication:Rochester Business Journal
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Oct 29, 2018
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