ziad and obama

Ziad Ahmed, 16, the founder of an anti-bias organization and a youth member of the board of Not in Our Town Princeton, was invited to the White House for dinner with the president (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson).  Reason: he had transformed the negative experience of being targeted, as a child, for the “do not fly” list by founding  ReDefy, to “defy stereotypes and redefine our perspectives positively.” The dinner was on the occasion of Iftar, the  breaking of the fast at sunset observed by Muslims during the month of Ramadan.

The President’s words: “As a Bangladeshi-American growing up in New Jersey, he saw early on that there was not enough understanding in the world. So two years ago, he founded Redefy, a website to push back against harmful stereotypes by encouraging teens like him. In Ziad’s words, ‘ignorance can be defeated through education.’ He wants to do his part to make sure that ‘Muslims can be equal members of society and still hold onto their faith and identity.’ So we’re very proud of you, Ziad.”

In an  interview with MTV,  Ziad said,

“Now I’m just so motivated and optimistic about Redefy and about the work that I’m doing, my future. Oftentimes I’m scared of saying something too controversial or that teens won’t want to hear but I want teens to be included in these conversations. I want to really inspire. I think that if nothing else the fact that I’ve met the president will inspire teens, because if they see that they can be inspired in the conversation and so much so that the president wants to hear from them, you know? 
We can be effective in our activism. Our age does not limit our activism. So many teens today are just about individualism and being themselves and being happy, but we can be ourselves while still doing something that’s meaningful.”

In two years ReDefy and its message has gone global, and Ziad has made many valuable contributions to the NIOTPrinceton organization as well. He regularly attends board meetings, contributing a youthful perspective and suggesting social media possibilities.  Looking to the model of NIOT Princeton’s Continuing Conversations on Race and White Privilege (a partnership with the Princeton Public Library), ReDefy began a teen conversation series, Voices at the library.  In April ReDefy joined NIOT Princeton’s Communiversity booth. Using the hashtag #PrincetonAgainstRacism, ReDefy took more than 100 portraits that demonstrated commitment to equality. Countless positive conversations could be heard about social justice. People of all ages were engaging in meaningful discussions.

Not in Our Town Princeton is grateful for his important contributions.

Here is the link to Nicole Mulvaney’s coverage in the Times of Trenton. Here is the link to the article on Princeton Patch. Here is the link to the national organization of Not in Our Town, which has valuable films and tools for use in communities.

“Since the event, a lot of people have messaged me and mentioned that my future is going to be bright,” Ziad said in a blog post. “My hope is not that my future is going to be bright. It is now that our future is going to be bright.”

ziad photo