City councilwoman & community activist in Lewiston, Maine
I’m excited to invite you to my conversation with Safiya Khalid, a fearless young politician who is inspiring her community and the next generation of civic leaders in Maine and beyond.
Safiya was born in Somalia and fled the country with her mother and siblings at the age of seven. Safiya's family was initially placed in the city of Elizabeth, New Jersey but couldn't find a supportive community to connect with there. At the suggestion of a friend, they found their way to Lewiston, Maine. Lewiston has a large African immigrant population, with 10% of the population from Somali.
Safiya learned how to speak English in Lewiston schools and became an American citizen at age 14.
During high school and college Safiya worked for LLBean making boots. She is the first in her family to own a car and the first to graduate from high school and college. Safiya’s mother instilled a strong desire to help others and this upbringing inspired Safiya to get involved and become a community organizer and activist.
In 2019 she ran for Lewiston city county at age 23. Safiya was singled out by hate groups during her election and received racist messages and threats from all over the country. She didn’t let that deter her and spent her time going door to door connecting with her community. Her grass roots campaigning approach really helped her make inroads with her neighbors and she won her seat by nearly 70 percent of the vote.
Safiya is the youngest and the first Somali-American council member. Since her swearing in, she has been working hard to bring more opportunities to Lewiston and be a voice for her constituents. The pandemic has made the inequities and failures in our country even more obvious and Safiya is hopeful this difficult time will inspire real systemic changes to be made in our social, political and educational systems. Despite having the smallest percentage of BIPOC residents, Maine has had the largest racial disparity in coronavirus cases, with statistics showing Black residents contracting COVID-19 at a rate more than 20 times that of white residents
Throughout the pandemic Safiya has been volunteering her time to distribute food, masks and supplies to vulnerable people in her community. This has helped ground her and remind her why the work she is doing is so important.
I am so inspired by Safiya's passion, courage and drive to continually find ways to show up for her fellow citizens. In addition to serving on the city council, she also works full time for a youth development non-profit.
Safiya is a powerful agent of change and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for this hardworking young woman.
My hope is that Safiya's journey into community activism will inspire you to think about ways you can get more involved in your own community and implement programs and strategies to help people who are struggling. The small actions of many is the only way to make real positive changes for a more equitable and healthy future for all.
Thank you Safiya for sharing your story with us!
You can follow Safiya on Instagram @iamsafiyakhalid