My sisters, brother, and I grew up in Virginia where my family had settled in the Roanoke Valley after leaving war-torn Palestine in the late 1960s to find a better life. I grew up in a corner store in the Hurt Park and Blue Stone neighborhoods, where we learned the value of community and taking life one challenge at a time.
As a religious and ethnic minority in Southwest Virginia, I learned the value of building bridges wherever I could find them. Our neighborhood friends might need some groceries until payday, and our family business stepped up to help them out however we could because we believed in the value of serving our community.
With the loving support of my life partner, Layaly, I was drawn to a life of public service. I was eager to find ways to elevate the voices of everyday Virginians while forging lasting coalitions. In 2008 I ran for Congress as the youngest candidate in America. An idealist with much to learn, my core philosophy stayed simple: Treat people as I would want to be treated. Layaly and I have been blessed with three awesome kids: Jennah, Amirah, and Issa. The innocence and wisdom of my children keep me grounded and hopeful. They are a big part of the reason I'm working to help build a better, brighter future for all Virginians.
Throughout my life, I have been guided by the values of respect, fairness, and liberty that I was raised with. Roanoke College pushed me to understand the world on a deeper level, and a master’s degree in Hawaii introduced me to cultures I had known nothing about.
I worked in health care to build more compassionate ways to care for our seniors and improve maternal and child health in East Africa. Ushering in new programs with my teams, we faced endless problems but focused on helping and empowering people, one life at a time.
In 2014, the beautiful people of Roanoke entrusted me with the opportunity to represent our community in the Virginia House of Delegates. I immediately got to work rejecting special interest PAC donations, starting the Impact Center initiative which helps empower new age leaders, and modeling a new approach to politics in our Democratic Promise initiative which builds goodwill by investing in our neighbors.
Some of our work is outlined below, but no matter what we’ve accomplished, I am left with the same feeling: It’s not enough. We have more work to do, and that's what I intend to keep doing in 2023 and beyond.