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Fourteen people making Orlando a better place 

People we love

Page 5 of 13

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ROB BARTLETT
  • Photo by Rob Bartlett

Anna Eskamani, Ida Eskamani

Organizers

One of the last lessons Anna and Ida Vishkaee Eskamani learned from their mother before they lost her to cancer as children was the power to turn grief into action. It's a skill the 26-year-old first-generation Iranian-American twins have used to confront challenges to reproductive rights, racial inequalities, discrimination and now, President Donald Trump. In less than one day last month, they helped organize a protest against Trump's executive order targeting refugees and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries – a protest that mobilized almost 1,000 people at Orlando International Airport.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ROB BARTLETT
  • Photo by Rob Bartlett

"When this executive order came out and Iran reciprocated by saying it would ban U.S. citizens, I felt unwanted. I felt defeated," Ida says. "But the rally was a moment of healing for me. I grieve through advocacy and action because when you have a mission, you can focus on serving this community and blocking everything out."

Born and raised in Orlando, Anna and Ida learned from their immigrant parents the value of not only hard work, but also political engagement. At 10 years old, they volunteered with the Al Gore campaign and started a career of organizing that continued while they earned their degrees at the University of Central Florida. Since then, the duo has been known as a progressive powerhouse. Anna teaches at UCF as well as working as senior director of public affairs and communications at Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida. Ida is a legislative aide in Tallahassee for state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith and previously worked for Equality Florida, where she started a GoFundMe for the Pulse victims' families and survivors that raised millions.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ROB BARTLETT
  • Photo by Rob Bartlett

Both women say they recharge by talking to each other, going out into nature or listening to music, though Anna prefers the Beatles and Ida is more of a political punk-and-mosh pits type of girl. At the end of the day, Anna says a lot of their work is about honoring their mom and continuing her legacy.

"She was one of the most courageous, strongest and selfless people you will ever meet," she says. "Standing next to her during her battle with cancer taught us how to be resilient. ... Finding power in pain motivates us to work more and do more, because you know the only way to honor their lives is through action."

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