Sunday, March 02, 2008
Farheen Hakeem for Minnesota State Legislature
Farheen Hakeem educator, leader, and community organizer, moved to Minneapolis in 1999. After September 11, 2001, Farheen joined the antiwar movement, spurred by the poor decisions that our government was making. At the same time working as a teacher, she saw how resources from the local level for were being drained while corporate interests were being expanded. These two experiences challenged her to examine the ways in which government fails the very communities it was created to serve.
Committed to making sure community voices are engaged in politics, she decided to “walk the talk” in 2005 and run for Mayor of Minneapolis. Farheen was the first Mayoral candidate endorsed by the Green Party and secured 14% of the primary vote.
Although she was not voted into office, the campaign launched her from a political no-name to a viable political leader in a few short months. Securing 14% as a “third-party” candidate also demonstrated the power of her grassroots organizing, as citizens put their support behind the candidate who offered a fresh message of community participation and government accountability.
Following the mayoral campaign, she heard from many supporters who urged her to remain in the political discussion and run again. After assessing her skills and listening to community needs, Farheen announced her candidacy for Hennepin County Commissioner, District 4. After a strong campaign, Farheen earned almost 17,000 votes, which is 33% of the general vote against a long term Democratic Party machine candidate.
After living in the district for 8 years, and learning the current office holder was not returning for another term, Farheen saw the opportunity to have community voices be recognized at State government and was the first to declare her candidacy for Minnesota State Representative for 61B.
Farheen has served as the Lead Community Coordinator for the Muslim Girls Initiative for the Girl Scout Council of Greater Minneapolis and is currently, a Policy Advocate for Grasstops Inc. and a Program Manager for Minnesota Adoption Resources Network.
Farheen was born and raised on the north side of Chicago, with her two brothers from immigrant parents. Farheen’s parents were small business owners. She graduated from a public high school and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from Oberlin College. Farheen is also a foster parent and continues to volunteer as a Girl Scout Leader.
Hakeem is the child of parents who emigrated from India and settled in Chicago, Illinois, where she was born and raised. She grew up in a South Asian working-class community, and unlike many of her peers, she decided to remain active in urban areas even after she left home.
A graduate of Oberlin College in Ohio, she came to the Twin Cities to further her education and to teach. “I thought my activism was in the classroom…teaching math to youth that weren’t supposed to succeed at all… That I thought was my goal, my life,” she said.
Hakeem says this was retribution for the friends she grew up with who were being profiled. “I saw myself as an Asian woman being lifted through the system in math and science, while my friends who were mostly Black and Latino were kept down. I knew I was being promoted because teachers had higher expectations for me, unlike my friends.”
Hakeem never envisioned a career in politics until after September 11. “I really thought that it was a duty for every American citizen to be politically conscious.” On September 11, 2001, Hakeem was teaching at a local charter school. “The history class came into my room and the teacher turned on the television.” Hakeem described watching footage of the Twin Towers falling and, interchangeably, dated footage of Palestinian women dancing.
“My students were looking at the TV, then looking at me…looking at the TV and then looking at me, and finally one [student] said, ‘Farheen, you shouldn’t go home alone. I don’t want anything bad to happen to you,’” she recalled. The students were able to see the propaganda that was being disseminated, and this concerned Hakeem.
“The propaganda was very strong and very thick and it was very clear that I went from being a dorky math teacher to enemy number one,” she said. “I couldn’t live without getting harassed, and I realized that I really needed to do more than just the activism in the classroom… I needed to do some broader activism, so I joined the anti-war movement.”
As Hakeem became more involved in the anti-war movement, she was also learning about the political process and, more specifically, the Green Party.
For Hakeem, the appeal to run for office stems from her own experience while campaigning for former Green Party Congressional candidate Jay Pond. She became attracted to building momentum through campaigning.
“I realized how much of an impact that made, because even when he lost, people began to think about who their Congressperson was, what they’re supposed to be doing for you and why it’s not okay to blindly check names for no reason…that 18,000 votes is nothing to sneeze at,” she said.
Posted by Jason Nabewaniec