Community Builders Leadership Councils


“The following individuals have been bestowed MALA’s Community Builder Award”

Grassroots Leadership at a National Level

MALA was founded with the guiding belief that strong societies are woven from diverse and cohesive communities.  In pursuit of this principle, MALA has assembled Community Builders Councils in New York, Chicago, New Orleans, and Washington D.C.  Our Community Builders Councils are made up of a diverse array of community leaders, innovators, and philanthropists from the civic, corporate, and grassroots sectors.

Together, our Community Builders help to discuss, scale, and inform MALA’s community impact.  MALA relies on our Community Builders Councils to maximize our impact and to help understand the needs and dynamics of the communities we serve.  Community Builders also have the opportunity to act as collaborators with MALA; from coordinating events, to sharing oral histories, to brainstorming new initiatives and projects, Community Builders are integrally involved in MALA’s mission.

Mariya Taher

Mariya has worked in gender-based violence for over a decade in the areas of teaching, research, policy, program development, and direct service. In 2015, she co-founded Sahiyo, an award-winning, transnational organization with the mission to empower Asian communities to end FGC. Mariya is also an extensive writer in fiction and nonfiction and has contributed articles and stories to NPR’s Code Switch, HuffPost, and more.

Dr. Kannout

Dr. Kannout was an immigrant from Syria, and established Maya Family Dental in Chicago as a dynamic, vibrant practice that served people from all walks of life. A patron of music, Dr. Kannout was passionate about sharing and celebrating his dynamic cultural heritage. He was also a selfless humanitarian, often times lending his voice and leadership to help assist with life-saving disaster relief. Dr. Kannout provided thoughtful and effective leadership as a lifelong champion of arts, cultural, humanitarian, and initiatives. He was also a role model: a person of extraordinary wisdom and an individual of exceedingly high standards who was generous with his talent and time.


Logan has over 10 years of experience in the Financial Services industry. He is dedicated to serving high net worth clients within the startup, entrepreneur, and investor space. Logan is also involved with a number of philanthropic organizations that work to address issues related to inner city poverty, terminally ill children, and economic opportunities for the under-served. He enjoys travel, art, all the great food Chicago has to offer, and most of all being “the fun parent” to his son, Lyoto.

Michael Starc

Michael is an entrepreneur and a community builder who is passionate about connecting with people. He is currently VP of Strategy and Partnership at RestraunTalk and a founding member of Holiday Heroes and the Chicago Leadership Alliance; he is also a fixture in the Chicago startup community and a contributor to social impact and philanthropic initiatives all over the Chicagoland area.

Nari Safavi

Nari Safavi is a Chicago based Iranian-American entrepreneur, a commentator and analyst for the radio program Worldview on WBEZ (Chicago Public Media, an NPR affiliate) and the prospective host of "Seduction & Innovation a tail of the history of creativity in the Persian Empire", a future public TV series . Nari serves at the boards of University of Chicago's Harris School of Public Policy, the DC based Citizens for Global Solutions, a lead NGO for the formation of the International Human Rights Court in Hague, Netherlands ; as well as Chicago Public Media. He regularly appears on Persian, Spanish and English language programs affiliated with media outlets such as NPR, PBS, BBC and Telecinco.

Isra Omar

Isra Omar manages the Polsky Small Business Growth program, which supports small business owners on the south and west side of Chicago to help them grow and scale their businesses through consulting work completed by top student talent. Isra has a strong passion for helping small businesses and the local Chicago community. She is a volunteer for the Muslim American Leadership Alliance (MALA) where she manage the oral recording sessions of its storytellers in partnership with StoryCorps. In recognition of her hard work, Isra was named the first recipient of the Emerging Young Leader Award presented during the 2018 Annual MALA Gala. She previously worked for Studio Gang Architects. Isra is a graduate of DePaul University with a degree in accountancy and a minor in Arabic studies.

Dorri McWhorter

Dorri McWhorter became the CEO of the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago in March 2013. She has embarked upon a journey to transform the 140 year old social service agency to a 21st century social enterprise. Dorri is dedicated to empowering women as a member of the Women in Entrepreneurship Institute at DePaul University and Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University. Dorri’s civic and philanthropic leadership includes the board of directors for the Chicago Center for Arts and Technology, 1871 (Technology Business Accelerator), Civic Consulting Alliance, and the Civic Federation. She is also a member of the Illinois Charitable Trust Board.

Fam Mirza

Fam Mirza is a Serial Entrepreneur, investor, american marketer, and philanthropist. He is best known for creating brands in consumer retail, apparel, tech, biotechnology, and music verticals. In the philanthropic world he is known for being the founder of the 1:Face watch movement which changed the lives of millions. A watch brand that partnered with NGOs to fund greenhouses, water wells, and treatment projects across the globe. Mirza has not only been busy creating his own brands but he has also advised and invested in an array of companies. His core investing beliefs are investing in the team rather than the overall product. He believes in company cultures which focus on be hiring faster, firing faster, scaling faster by failing faster, because these are the lessons learned that provide the growth which leads to success.

Sadia Covert

Sadia G. Covert is a licensed attorney in the State of Illinois and is one of the founding partners at Covert Marrero Covert, LLP. She earned her Juris Doctorate from Western Michigan University in 2008 with a concentration in litigation. She currently counsels clients in Corporate law, various business transactions and business consulting, and acquisition and disposal of commercial and residential property. She also represents her clients in civil litigation matters that arise from corporate disputes. In addition to her legal experience, Sadia Covert currently serves as a County Commissioner for DuPage County Board (District 5, elected 2018). She also serves on Dupage’s Economic Development Committee, Illinois State Association of Counties, National Association of Counties, Development committee, and Greater Oakbrook Chamber of Commerce. Sadia has also passed legislation in Illinois amending the criminal penal code on hate crimes.

Malik Yusef

Malik Yusef, the WordSmyth, is an avant-garde spoken word poet—with timely lyrics that address and bring attention to national and global issues. Born and raised in Chicago’s south side amongst a humble and sometimes troubled beginning, Malik rose out of those surroundings to become a 24x Grammy award-nominee, 6x Grammy award-winner, and 7x ASCAP award-winner for both pop and R&B. Other credits include Emmy, Peabody, and Tony awards. Some of Malik’s early influences include Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, William Shakespeare, Haki Madhubuti, Malcolm X, and Phillis Wheatley.

Naeem Khan

Born in Cumbala Hills of Mumbai, Naeem Khan is a New York based designer whose designs have been donned by people like Eva Longoria, Michelle Obama, Princess Aga Khan, Leighton Meester, Beyonce and Brooke Shields. The designer is currently married to model turned jewelry designer Ranjana Khan. Khan’s designs have also taken over the silver screen by storm with his designs spotted on shows like Sex and the City and Dream Girls. Naeem’s undying love for clothes comes from his grandfather Shamsuddin Khan who was in the embroidery business in the early 1930s making clothes for the member of India’s royal families.

S. Javaid Anwar

An icon of Philanthropy, a successful Oil & Gas businessman, an entrepreneur, a petroleum engineer, and ardent promoter of education for the deserving, S. Javaid Anwar has become an image to admire in the Community as an outstanding business leader. Javaid Anwar, a native of Pakistan, was born in Karachi and was raised by a single mother who worked to put her son into private schools so that he could get the best education available in Pakistan. Mr. Anwar serves as a member of Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, appointed by Governor Greg Abbott of Texas. As a believer in education, Javaid has donated millions to such schools as the University of Texas, George Bush Presidential Library and many other 501 (c) 3 charitable organizations in the United States. He believes in hard work, persistence, honesty, loyalty, and friendship.