An 18-year-old Muslim teen received the Young Leader award last week from Thunder Bay mayor in recognition of her work promoting multiculturalism in the region.
“I’m very happy, for sure. A lot of responsibility has been put on me right now, which is great. I love the fact that the work I was doing got recognition,” Yamaan Alsumadi told TVO.org.
“I’m very humbled by it, but the award is not about Yamaan Alsumadi. I want people to ask what Yamaan Alsumadi is working for — and let’s talk about that.”
Alsumadi was born in Jordan and has lived in England, Quebec, and Ottawa before coming to Thunder Bay in northwestern Ontario in 2015.
Last week, Thunder Bay mayor Bill Mauro presented Alsumadi with the Young Leader award, one of six Mayor’s Community Safety Awards.
In a press release, the municipality says that she “helped youth build resiliency skills, positive identity, and self-esteem to motivate change in their lives and the lives of others.”
Since 2016 and until today, Alsumadi has served as the co-president of the Regional Multicultural Youth Council, helped launch its Thunder Bay We Want initiative, which facilitates conversations on race, reconciliation, and safe schools and neighborhoods.
She also hosted a 200-student conference called Coming Together to Talk, based on a locally produced film about the challenges facing Indigenous youth.
“I really liked the work I did with the Regional Multicultural Youth Council, working with youth to stay in school and be safe in Thunder Bay,” Alsumadi said.
“We would usually talk to students that come from different reserves to DFC [the all-Indigenous Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School], and we’d help integrate them into a new city. People don’t realize if you come from Canada to Canada there’s a culture shock.”
A student in Lakehead University’s nursing program, she also hosts open houses at Thunder Bay’s only mosque and coordinates film screenings that feature discussions of such issues as colonialism and race.
“Open House at the Mosque is a way to integrate with the kind of people we really are, not the kinds of people the media represents. People can come who don’t usually interact with Muslims and don’t have the ability to ask,” she said.
Several Muslims across the world have received national awards for their efforts.
Significantly, Rami Nashashibi, founder of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) received the prestigious 2017 MacArthur Foundation Genius Award in recognition of his long-term advocacy efforts and accomplishments to help the community by employing the recently incarcerated not to return to jail.
Earlier in 2019, Zeinab Ahmed won the youth service award at Windsor Islamic Council awards ceremony.
Moreover, the Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), Harun Khan, was awarded the ‘Outstanding Contributions to Communities’ Award at the Investing in Ethnicity Awards in 2018.