Aqsa Sukhera: Keeping Heritage Alive

Aqsa Sukhera is a member of the 2018-19 MALA Young Leaders Fellowship. Fellows participate in digital seminars, dinner discussions, and other MALA events. As part of the program, Fellows reflect on their multiple layers of identities – as daughters, sons, professionals, athletes, and so much more – and share those reflections into the MALA story collection. Personal stories can be a powerful catalyst for change – challenging stereotypes, building bridges, and inspiring action. In a country as diverse and complex as the United States, the identities of Muslim Americans remain layered and contested. We all have stories to tell: stories that deserve to be collected, conserved, and celebrated. We are honored to share the stories of our Fellows here.

I was born and raised in Chicago. My parents immigrated to the U.S. from Pakistan back in the late ’80s.

I’ve never set foot in Pakistan but my parents did all that they could to keep our heritage and religious identity alive. From Islamic schools, to after-school programs, Sunday schools, and summer classes. Stories of the motherland, keeping up to date on the trendiest clothes from back home, and installing the latest device that broadcasted those terrible Pakistani soap operas. Being able to keep such traditions alive and create new ones in a land thousands of miles away is definitely a blessing.

There are ups and downs of growing up in a tight knit community. You learn the strengths and weaknesses of people and you also learn that we have a long way to go in order to bring positive change.

Luckily I’ve met wonderful people, especially through MALA, who brought back my faith in humanity and I’m very happy and excited to be a part of this Leadership Program.

I spent most of my life in various non-profits, in various roles. One of the roles I most cherish was when I worked with Glen Ellyn Children’s Resource Center, where I planned and implemented a program catered to recent refugee children from different parts of the world. I was also recently given the opportunity to organize an Islamic Art Class with MALA. It was my first time organizing such an event and I’m so proud of the result of that class, it’s definitely something I boast about whenever I get the chance.

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