We’re excited to announce that EmpowerLA’s Brett Shears is among the inaugural cohort of 25 city, county, and state officials from across the nation to participate in the Public Leaders for Inclusion Council – an initiative and resource-sharing network designed to build capacity to combat anti-Muslim bigotry across the nation. Read about this innovative new program below! 

Press release by Usra Ghazi, Director of Policy & Programs, AmericaIndivisible.org

Los Angeles is building its capacity to combat anti-Muslim bigotry in the city. Brett Shears of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment was recently selected to join the inaugural class of a national council of public servants dedicated to building inclusive communities. The Public Leaders for Inclusion Council, an initiative of America Indivisible, seeks to form a peer-to-peer network, facilitate the exchange of resources and knowledge and build capacity to address ongoing issues of Islamophobia, hate and exclusion on the local level. The Council’s inaugural cohort of 25 city, county and state officials began its program in May.

“As diverse communities across the country feel increasingly targeted by hate, suspicion and misunderstanding, we found a critical need to convene local leaders who share our commitment to building inclusion,” said Usra Ghazi, Director of Policy and Programs at America Indivisible. “We’re pleased with the diversity of perspectives and contexts represented within this year’s cohort, and we look forward to learning a great deal from their experiences.”

Hailing from 18 states and the District of Columbia, the 2019 Public Leaders for Inclusion Council represents a diverse array of religious, ethnic, racial and geographical identities. Eighteen of the Council’s 25 participants identify as women, and 13 identify as women of color. Among the 2019 cohort, notable participants include the Honorable Jeffrey Zane Slavin, mayor of Somerset, Md., and the Honorable Ahmad Alaswad, the first Muslim, Arab American chief of staff to a county official in Fort Bend County, Texas.

Applicants were recruited through a combination of targeted invitations and open application, with the intention to include voices from all major regions of the country, including rural and non-coastal cities, towns and municipalities.

A combination of monthly seminars, grant opportunities and a two-day summit in Washington, D.C. will present new opportunities for participants to collaborate and build networks of support. All 25 members have the opportunity to share experiences and pool knowledge through a series of six virtual seminars led by experts in media messaging, domestic and foreign affairs, Islamophobia and interreligious engagement.

The Council will convene for a summit in Washington, D.C. for an in-person chance to build their networks and consult with America Indivisible and other national organizations about the unique issues facing their communities. Upon the program’s conclusion in October, Council members will be encouraged to apply for America Indivisible grants to fund workshops, roundtables and focus groups around the issue of anti-Muslim bigotry in their communities. The summit is slated to take place July 25-26.

“The work does not end when the program ends,” said Arsalan Suleman, Chair of the Board of Directors at America Indivisible. “We hope to offer members of the Public Leaders for Inclusion Council with ongoing support after the conclusion of this year’s program, through grant opportunities, consultation and direct community engagement.”

The Public Leaders for Inclusion Council is generously funded by the Interfaith Youth
Core Interfaith Innovation Fellowship program. The Council’s D.C. Summit is supported
by the Freedom Forum Institute’s Religious Freedom Center and the Aspen Institute’s
Inclusive America Project.

For more information about the Public Leaders for Inclusion Council and a full list of this
year’s participants, visit AmericaIndivisible.org/PLC


About America Indivisible:

America Indivisible is a 501(c)(3) non-partisan, non-profit
coalition effort to address rising bigotry against members of Muslim communities and
those who appear to be Muslim from Black, Arab, Sikh and South Asian American
communities by reinforcing the American values of equality, inclusion and strength
through diversity.