“It’s the people. The ones that are physically, mentally and emotionally resisting oppression. They inspire me.”
-Abire SabbaghRead more
S. Nadia Hussain (center), with her son (front), speaks at the Excluded Women's March on March 7, 2021.
“If there is access and opportunity, people can and will rise…But it shouldn't take an exceptional individual to be able to rise up from difficult circumstances. Access and opportunity must be made available to everyone so that we can all rise up from difficult circumstances.”
-S. Nadia Hussain
We had the marvelous opportunity to speak with S. Nadia Hussain, co-founder of the BAWDI Bangladeshi American Women’s Development Initiative and member of the New Jersey Alliance For Immigrant Justice, about her work as a leader and Women’s History Month.
The BAWDI Bangladeshi American Women’s Development Initiative (BAWDI) seeks to promote, support, and address the unmet needs of Bangladeshi women and children in the Paterson community and throughout New Jersey through grassroots organizing, connection to services, advocacy, disseminating information, and educating community members on social issues, and cultivating a safe space for sisterhood.
BAWDI has been a member of the New Jersey Alliance For Immigrant Justice (Alliance) since 2018. The organization joined the coalition to uplift the immigrant rights movement in New Jersey and help support Bangladeshi immigrants across the state.
BAWDI is a dynamic organization composed of a volunteer executive board of women from the community dedicated to justice and love for the people. The organization connects community members to resources and information and recently fundraised over $8,000 to help meet the community’s immediate needs during the Covid19 pandemic.
On who she is and what BAWDI stands for...
“I am an activist. I am a long-time activist and organizer. I am a co-founder of the Bangladeshi American Women’s Development initiative, BAWDI for short, an organization that supports, uplifts, organizes, and connects the Bangladeshi-American community to resources. We work to uplift Bangladeshi women and girls in New Jersey. We are based out of Paterson, meaning that much of our work is based in Passaic County, but we do work across the state as well.”
“We have been around for about five years now. What is very impressive about us is that we are a volunteer-run organization. Our board members are from the community. Some of us grew up in Paterson; others have lived in the community at some point. All of us are women who come from or have lived in the Bangladeshi-American community in or around the Paterson area - so we are part of the community we serve. A lot of our work is as grassroots as you can get.”Read more
Charlene Walker, Faith in New Jersey
“The first revolution is internal, where you figure out what is driving you. Everyone needs to understand why they are showing up as individuals first, what is your motivation. I show up because I don’t want anyone else to be hurt and feel the pain that I and my family have felt.”
“It is important to build relationships across differences.”
- Charlene Walker
We were lucky enough to speak to Charlene Walker, Executive Director of Faith in New Jersey (FINJ) and Executive Committee member of New Jersey Alliance For Immigrant Justice, about her work as a social justice leader, movement building across differences, and Black History Month. Even so, that description of this conversation is insufficient in capturing the transformational nature of Charlene’s words that moves the reader across the digital screen.
FINJ is a multi-racial network of faith leaders and faith communities with a mission to develop grassroots community leaders, analyze the policies that shape our communities, and mobilize faith voices and faith voters to effectively act on the prophetic call to build the Beloved Community by working together to advance a social and economic justice.
FINJ is one of the founding members of the New Jersey Alliance For Immigrant Justice (Alliance) who saw the need for a statewide coalition working in lockstep to move immigrant justice forward by achieving key immigrant justice policies.
Charlene began actively participating in the Alliance as a member of FINJ in supporting the driver’s licenses for all and other campaigns. She has brought new energy and insight to organizing and building a racial justice and immigrant justice movement to the work of the Alliance. FINJ serves on all Alliance committees including the Executive Committee, Driver’s Licenses committee, and Fair and Welcoming committee.
FINJ leads on racial, immigrant, and economic justice in New Jersey. Some of their most recent successes include expanding access to driver’s licenses for all in New Jersey, independent prosecutor bill, moving $600 million in the Heroes Act away from policing toward the funding support of DV survivors and slowing the spread of Covid19 in New Jersey prisons, increasing vaccination access, and redistributing over $1.5 million to undocumented immigrants left out of COVID-19 relief efforts, formerly incarcerated loved ones, and families experiencing food insecurity during COVID-19.
On getting involved with Faith in New Jersey...
“I found a political home in Faith in New Jersey as an organizer in Union County with faith communities where my work would often intersect with FINJ. I found my values aligned with Faith in New Jersey and loved that everyday people were building power to address the issues that kept them up at night. Before I knew it I was spending more and more time with Faith in New Jersey leaders and soon ended up in a leadership position on FINJ’s Union County board.”
On her moment of politicization...
“There’s no one moment but really my lived experience that led me to become politicized.
“From the day I was born, I was placed for adoption when I was four days old, my foster mom adopted me in Hillside. She continued foster care until I was in about fifth grade, so I grew up in a household with foster siblings from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. Also, my mother celebrated every holiday that she knew of and that really impacted my point of view about how to honor our diverse world.
Growing up, my mother also ran a child care business in her home, taking care of children in the neighborhood when their parents were at work. I remember one Spanish-speaking mom, that I would later find out was undocumented, asked my English-speaking mother to watch her kids after simply seeing our backyard filled with kids from all backgrounds. She knew she could trust my mom to look after her kids. That was the kind of place I was raised in. A home that believed it takes a village to raise a child and the community has a responsibility for each other.
“In high school, my classmates and I protested to demand our Board of Education offer more AP classes in the curriculum and women’s soccer in the high school.”Read more