Ten people making Orlando a better place to be 

People we love 2018

Page 6 of 10

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

Rasha Mubarak

Civil rights activist, organizer

In terms of her activism and involvement in the community, Rasha Mubarak is everything and then some. She serves as the Central Florida regional director for the Council on American Islamic Relations of Florida, the state's largest Muslim civil rights organization. She's the director of public relations for the Muslim Women's Organization of Orlando and president of the local chapter of the Palestine Children's Relief Fund. She's the president of the Young Democrats of Orange County. Prior to that – among a number of other accolades and achievements – she was the program and development director at the Arab American Community Center. And that's just the top of her current résumé.

But as a person, she's even more: In her own words, she's the sentimental type. In Orlando Weekly's words, she's the sentimental type, but with broad strokes of fierceness and compassion, and with a pearly smile as vivid and commanding as a waning moon. She's a self-described spiritual person – a quality she attributes to her mother. And on a similar note, she's along the family-homebody lines of someone who'd prefer to drink mint tea over conservation with her parents rather than do most anything else. In fact, it's her father to whom she owes her natural inclination as an activist.

"So at a very young age, for as long as I can remember, I've had a peace sign in one hand and a Palestinian flag in the other, and I was just out there at these demonstrations that my father and all of them – his generation – would mobilize for Palestine," Mubarak says. For her, as a kid growing up in Central Florida, it was the norm; she figured everyone went out in downtown Orlando to protest to free Palestine. As for her activism, she says, "It was just something embedded in me for a long time."

Over coffee, Mubarak thinks back to a time about a week after the Pulse massacre, in June 2016, when she, like many other Orlandoans, was still trying to wrap her mind around the city's shared grief. She remembers a number of the painful conversations she had to have with others, but most especially she remembers a call from her imam. He called to tell her that God has put her where God wants her, in a place where she can do the most good. Mubarak took that phone call as a sign that she has a purpose to serve in Orlando, even if that purpose might not be the same forever.

"I don't want to leave an opportunity where I feel like I can help create Central Florida to be even more progressive, more welcoming, more intersectional, more inclusive for all people," Mubarak says. "We are a city that has seen pain, but we are able to see that there is power in pain, that there is mercy in adversity and that we can continue to make Orlando even more beautiful than what it is."

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