Zehra Imam‘s passion for education equality was sparked during the time she attended nine demographically distinct schools between Pakistan and America. She has worked on issues of education, creative arts, and organizing in Detroit, Madison, Chicago, South Bronx, Brooklyn, Pakistan, and India. In December 2012, Zehra piloted Illuminated Cities Project with a team who helped to lay foundations for the organization, and some of whom went on the Illuminated global trip to Mexico. In 2013-14, she implemented Illuminated curriculum, rooted in concepts of hope and resiliency, in a South Bronx high school with a special emphasis on addressing hate crimes towards religious and ethnic minorities. Among the various roles that Zehra has taken on in the field of education, she was a public speaking teacher in Pakistan, an Urdu teacher to State Department funded Critical Language Scholarship fellows in India, a nutrition educator in Wisconsin, a youth organizer in Illinois, and a high school English teacher in New York. For her work with Illuminated Cities Project, Zehra was invited to the White House on two occasions, that included one invitation that she declined and another that she accepted, both on political grounds. She is finishing up her term at an International Baccalaureate school in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and continues to build the movement in collaboration with the Illuminated team while taking into consideration words of wisdom from the advisory board. Zehra is an alumna of the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Currently, she is completing her graduate degree in English Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and is a global journalism fellow through the University of Toronto.
UNITED STATES – PROJECT COORDINATOR
Amrit Kaur is a 3rd grade teacher in the New York City Public Schools system. Prior to teaching, Amrit worked at the Center for Technology and School Change at Teachers College, Columbia University. Amrit has been working with Sikh organizations and camps for the past 12 years– as a teacher, counselor, and most recently as an organizer, designing curriculum on topics of Sikh history and culture. Amrit has a Master’s degree in International and Comparative Education at New York University and she is currently a New York City Teaching Fellow, working toward her certification in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Amrit’s research interests include increasing access to education for marginal populations and low socio-economic communities. Amrit is excited to be part of the ICP team.
UNITED STATES – PROJECT COORDINATOR
Amos Margulies is a teacher, a drummer, a stage combat choreographer, and a computer hacker. He currently teaches 11th grade English in the Bronx and an English language intensive course for recent immigrants at Hostos College. Amos is also proud to work closely with Theater Development Fund, Oscar-winning screenwriter Alex Dinelaris, The Moth, Lincoln Center Education, and a host of other schools and non-profit organizations dedicated to helping youths realize their potentials and dreams. He loves cookies and showtunes to a fault. Amos is working with ICP to facilitate workshops, coordinate programming, and mentor youth.
PROJECT COORDINATOR – INDIA
Emine Sharma is a Detroit native currently working and living in New Delhi, India. While in Detroit she was involved with an activist teacher group called Detroit Future Schools which inspired to further research critical pedagogy practices around the world. She is currently completing ICP’s facilitator training in hopes to implement the curriculum in New Delhi at General Raj’s School.
Namita Azad is a freelance photographer who’s mission is to tell a story with each frame. She believe in holding on to the nothingness, framing the ordinary and making it the extraordinary. She captures everything that catches the eye, tickles the imagination, and makes you smile every time you look back at it. Whether it’s the grandeur of the Colossueum, the intricate details of a bride’s henna, or the joy in the eyes of a new mother; each click has its own story. This is the vision she hopes to bring to the youth of the Illuminated Cities Project. To give them the opportunity to understand that every bit of the world around you is beautiful and it just depends on how you see it. She has done a series of workshops with the youth during the summer of 2014 on ‘Photographic Storytelling” where they walked through what it means to tell stories through moments. The different techniques you can use to freeze the world around you and depict emotion with it. As part of the workshop, the youth did a photo walk as well around the neighborhood where she challenged them to view the space, their comfort zone, something that they see everyday but through a different lens. They will take these skills and lenses with them as they travel through different cities of the world. She eagerly looks forward to learning about their experience through their photographs.