Sumaiya Zama

Youth Advocate and Human Rights Activist

Sumaiya Zama is a youth advocate and human rights activist from the Boston area, holding a degree in Political Science with minors in Human Rights and African Studies from the University of Massachusetts in Boston. Prior to joining CAIR as the Youth Empowerment Coordinator, Sumaiya was a youth worker for the City of Cambridge, working primarily with children of color from immigrant and refugee communities. Currently, Sumaiya serves as a  committee member for the Human Rights Committee of Easton, MA her hometown, as well as the Programming Director for WISE Boston. She is also a writer and poet, and believes in the healing and transformative power of storytelling and art.


Identity Politics Podcast

Brief Intro:

I believe that representation truly matters in conversations about identity and so I found it especially important to elevate the voices of the hosts, Ikhlas Saleem and Makkah Ali, two Black Muslim women that draw from personal experiences when framing conversations around the intersections of race, gender, faith, and the digital world. The podcast invites it’s listeners to unravel the many layers of anti-Blackness, Islamophobia, and gender-based discrimination that exist not only in the broader global sphere, but also in smaller pockets of activist communities. Through Ikhlas and Makkah’s conversations with prominent Black Muslim women activists Yasmin Yonis and Margari Aziza, we see a glimpse of what it is like navigating activist spaces with identities that are often marginalized by a number of people and in a myriad of ways.



Sumaiya’s Discussion Questions (PDF For Print)

1. (27:00) Yasmin Yonis talks about the concept of struggle, her childhood in a refugee community with parents who “made something out of nothing”. She dives into the impact that that has had on how she personally defines success and the development of unhealthy habits around working hard in relation to her mental health.

a. What role has generational trauma played in your life, family, and community? What are ways of mitigating and healing from that trauma collectively?

b. How do you define success and self-care on a personal level and how does that definition differ from the elders in your community?

2. (34:00) Margari Aziza discusses the ways in which certain speakers and scholars in the community draw crowds based on their race and ethnicity and how often Black speakers and scholars, specifically Black women speakers and scholars are left off panels and are often underpaid or unpaid for their labor.

a. In what ways is the labor of certain people undervalued based on identity? Are there people that we (as a community, society, country, organization) expect more from but compensate very little? How is that culture and standard created, upheld, and perpetuated? What is your role, if any, in breaking that?

b. When Margari says that the reasoning that is often given to address a difference in compensation is that Black speakers don’t draw the same crowd in numbers, what does that say about the kinds of crowds venues and organizations often desire? What ‘crowds’ are often the ones that are prioritized?

3. (46:00) Margari Aziza reflects on the experience of being the only Black Muslim woman in a space and how exhausting it can be to be the “well, actually…” person.

a. In the (activist or otherwise) spaces you are a part of, what ways do you ensure that marginalized voices are uplifted, centered and validated? In what ways are marginalized voices both desired and rejected simultaneously? What is your personal experience in either being the “well, actually…” person or the person that’s ‘of the majority’?


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