Iman Abid: A Candid Interview

Iman Abid is the Interim Director of the Genesee Valley Office of the New York Civil Liberties Union, working on issues from criminal justice reform to education reform. Before joining the NYCLU, Abid was working in the political field as a campaign manager for several upstate New York representatives. Her love for the public sector led her to serve as a deputy field director, organizing fieldwork for senatorial and congressional campaigns. During that time she became a part of a field program that exceeded the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee standards. In 2015, she was recognized as a “Woman to Watch” by the Democrat and Chronicle, in 2016 she was chosen as a City of Rochester “Rochester 10” Leader, and in 2017 has contributed to articles in CBS news and was chosen as a 2017 City & State Rising Star.

This story is part of “Muslims of America”, a photo series created by Carlos Khalil Guzman, a photographer and activist currently based in NYC. The project is dedicated to capturing the diversity of the Muslim community in the United States.


If I could hold on to one memory forever, what would it be?
I was driving into the middle of a farm with an old friend that I had recently met. The roads were pitch black; there was nothing but the sound of grasshoppers for miles. I didn’t know this person that well but it’s as though Allah just said, “trust them”. For the first time in my life, my shoulders were collapsed, my life seemed to be put into a stop motion, and I went quiet. My friend jumped out of the car and I followed, only to look up at the clearest of night skies. We didn’t talk, we didn’t even turn on any lights, and the night sky was filled with thousands of stars for what seemed endless. To this day, I swear that I was closer to the stars than I had ever been before but I just know that it was a moment I’d never forget. The world seemed smaller, and silence spoke louder to me than any words ever said to me in my life. I guess moments like that don’t need to be left to the movies.

Who has been the most important person in your life?
My mother. The older I get, the more I see parts of her in me. I look in the mirror, and I can see that every crease or small wrinkle forming in my face is exactly like hers. My mother has the eyes of a thousand anxious individuals but the heart of millions of loved ones. She worries and cares more for any other individual than herself. She continues to raise my four sisters and I, and takes such pride in who we are growing to be. She is the reason that we are proud to walk this earth every day we wake up and she is our entire life. There isn’t a moment that passes where I’m not thinking of her. Thank you, mama.

Who has been the kindest to you in your life?
My best friend. We’ve been friends for a little over 14 years. I’ve never met a more forgiving and kinder individual. We’ve always joked around in my family about just adopting her and bringing her in. But we would be competing with more than 10 other families that feel exactly the same way about her. She could be stressing over her entire workweek or her own personal struggles but would be there for me in seconds if I weren’t feeling well or needed her. It’s funny how friends become your chosen family members, the family you get to create. But it’s even funnier when you meet a friend who is rational, loving, and has a love for this life far beyond most do. We met back in elementary school and to this day; find it remarkable that both our names mean “faith and hope” – hers in Greek and mine in Arabic. I’ve never met someone who pushed me more to God than her, always reminding me to push past the struggles and put my trust in Allah. I guess we were just meant to be lifelong friends.

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