Our Stories

Click portraits below to follow each individual’s journey.

Malisa Rakanovic: Breaking Social Barriers and Building Community

"My coming to America was actually by chance: I met a guy and then I married him. My husband is an immigrant himself; he survived the war in Bosnia. I think that even within certain nationalities, interracial relationships are not highly regarded."

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Lina Mohamed: Dreaming Big

"I come from an Ethiopian background;both of my parents are from Ethiopia, so growing up, our identity was shaped as Ethiopian Americans. My dad is Orthodox and my mom is Muslim, so I grew up in an ethnic/religious mix as well."

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Dina Soliman: The Importance of Communication and Education

"I grew up in Queens with an Egyptian Muslim family. Growing up, they were not that strict on me learning Arabic, nor did they put me in an Arabic school. My mom actually wanted me to grow up fully in the American culture."

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Asma Mohammed: Pass the Mic

"What most people didn’t know is that I had a ferocity about me that only came out when someone I cared about needed me. I found myself spending many of my days thinking about what I should have said, regretting my silence especially when it affected the people around me."

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Duaah Hammad: On Finding Home

“Growing up as a brown girl, it’s like there are two different wars going on at the same time. As you grow up you’re told you are too conservative for America, but you’re too liberal for the people back home."

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Abdinasir Kahin: Finding Comfort in Chicago As A Somali Refugee

"I came to Chicago simply because as you already know Somalia is a failed state. In its civil war, so many people were displaced, a lot of persecution was occurring, and I actually came to America to seek asylum here, as a refugee."

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Samanta Birto: The Strength to Understand

"But more importantly, and more strongly, I’ve been surrounded by many allies from different ethnic and racial backgrounds who have shown me more love than I have ever experienced before. A kind of love I wasn’t used to."

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Amina Khan: Finding A Muslim Narrative Behind My Artwork

"Actualizing the proud role of a Muslim-American enabled me to assertively represent my identity towards my dream of becoming an acclaimed journalist and artist."

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Farah Harb: The Best of Both Worlds

"What has also been difficult is convincing my conservative parents that I was no longer just an Egyptian, or just a Muslim, but I was now also part of this new world. My parents and I are beginning to learn that we are no longer isolated between two worlds, but we are now truly in the best of both worlds."

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Qasim Rashid: We Need to Re-Establish the Basics of Justice

"We need to remove laws that oppress freedom of conscience, and we need to allow people the right to believe or not believe as they wish--that is a sacred human right that can not be violated."

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Aleem Siddiqui Guiapal: Hearing Beyond Words, Seeing Beyond Visuals

“I have learned that the best way to learn is to embrace and celebrating diversity. Only on this path can we continue to coexist.”

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Sara. A. Ahmed: Dwelling for Humanity to Illuminate

“Hard work is always hard if we visualize it as so, but I perceive hard work as a constructive process to reach the best version of myself as a human being and a Muslim leader.”

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Mohamed Amin Ahmed: Not Just Your Average Mohamed

"A number of our youth left to join Al Shabaab, an Alqaeda affiliate in Somalia. That was bad, but then came ISIS — they too got recruits out our community. Enough was enough. We needed a way to talk to our youth using respect and dignity for our faith and values. "

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Ananda Ambrose: A Myriad of Cultures

"I struggle with my own complex identity, as a daughter of Caribbean immigrants, as first generation American and as a woman of color in America. I’m proud of the many parts of my heritage, but identity is certainly something that is hard to reconcile."

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Jamilah Lasalle: A Lady in White Changed My Life

“I was so ecstatic, happy and full of life until reaching home and wondering what my mother would say? Would she disown me? Would she shun me? Islam was clearly not part of our Latin culture.”

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Abdulrahman Mohamed El-Sayed: Much More Than Just a Name

“[My coach] He said listen: ‘you are going to be Abdul El-Sayed for the rest of your life. You can use it either as an excuse or motivation.’ For me, it’s been a motivation throughout my life.”

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News Updates


MALA Annual Dinner in Chicago – December 4th 2017

On Monday December 4th, 2017 - MALA is holding its second Annual Gala at Gentleman’s Cooperative to raise money for our scholarship program to empower a new generation of leaders, featuring a live performance by artist Yoni Einhorn.

Nov 20, 2017

Whole Foods Manhattan and MALA Present Persian Cooking

On October 26th, MALA partnered with Eat OffBeat and Whole Foods Manhattan to provide a delectable 4 course meal prepared by Chef Nasrin from Iran.

Nov 10, 2017

MALA and Chicago Cultural Alliance Event at National Hellenic Museum

On October 26th, 2017 MALA and Chicago Cultural Alliance presented "Preserving Heritage and Spotlighting Voices" at the National Hellenic Museum. This program was a part of "Inherit Chicago", a city wide festival of art, ideas and performance at neighborhood heritage museums and cultural centers.

Nov 09, 2017
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