Madeeha Mehmood gets her energy from other people, getting groups together and ensuring that everyone thrives. Working as a receptionist in a hotel, being a tour guide on the canal boats in Copenhagen, being a social chairperson for Military Spouses of Newport. “Being this social and always loving other people’s company while having a desire to seek harmony and that everyone is doing well, I sometimes feel like I have a 6th sense for other people’s emotions.”
“These people had the entire country, system, laws, and people against them, and still they won. When the opportunity arose to learn from that movement, I had to participate.”
Madeeha knew about the Civil Rights Movement and always thought of it as a huge success in terms of grassroots organizing, community work, outreach, politics, and activism. She finds, “These people had the entire country, system, laws, and people against them, and still they won. When the opportunity arose to learn from that movement, I had to participate.”
The Fellowship in Atlanta was especially impactful for Madeeha. She recalls Dr. Karcheik Sims-Alvarado teaching her how to identify the “blueprint” of a successful social movement and how to apply it to other causes. Madeeha has used this blueprint many times since in her work as an organizer and on political campaigns. Rep. John Lewis spoke to the Fellows about his own life and story and what motivates him to keep fighting.
“And most importantly, John Lewis explained to us what it meant to get in good trouble. I always remember that. ‘Good trouble’. It is probably the one thing from the Fellowship I have repeated the most.”
For her Action Project, Madeeha created “Dragør Democracy Day, 2016.” Dragør Democracy Day was a big simulation, similar to Mock Court or the Model United Nations, where 200 9th grade students from the Danish city of Dragør got together and simulated political processes at the European Parliament. The topic on her agenda was the European refugee reception crisis. They were assigned roles such as MEPs, activists, and journalists. The simulation taught them about democracy, compromise, the power of media and activists in decision making. It allowed them to understand how European democracy worked or didn’t work. Madeeha wanted to give young people a chance to understand how and where decisions are made and what young people can do to participate in and impact decision-making processes beyond the nation-state.
“Once you learn how to see injustice, you can’t unsee it.”
Following the success of the project, Madeeha decided to start a consultancy firm that offered Democracy Day to other schools and has implemented a permanent program in three other schools. The company has been a huge success and after it was successfully off the ground, Madeeha began to seek out other opportunities. Madeeha joined the teams of two political campaigns: Rufus Gifford for Congress and Ged Carbone for Mayor in Warwick, Rhode Island, learning along the way the challenges and joys of grassroots campaigning.
On what inspires her, Madeeha says, “Keeping myself busy, always working to be a better person, learning new things and changing a bad habit. Young people inspire me. Those younger than me, fighting the Climate Change battle or for gun reform in the U.S., They have fire in their eyes. It is amazing to see. I worked on Bernie Sanders’ political campaign in the U.S. in 2015/2016 and I remember him talking about getting young people fired up. He certainly did.”
“I identify a lot with my own generation. I am proud of what we have achieved and will continue to. But it warms my heart to see the next generation taking it to the next level.”