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Detroit Native, Rashida Tlaib, is Running for Congress

posted on: Jun 27, 2018

By: Udochi Esomonu/Arab America Contributing Writer

In February 2018, Rashida Tlaib, a native of Southwest Detroit, announced that she is running to be a Representative in the House for Michigan’s 13th District for this upcoming election. If successful in her run, she would become the first Muslim woman to serve in the United States Congress.

Tlaib was born to Palestinian immigrants in Detroit, Michigan. Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. Tlaib is a longtime lover and supporter of Detroit.  As a product of the city of Detroit and Detroit’s public school system, she has developed a lifetime commitment to the city, as she has spent the the many years of her political career tirelessly advocating for, catering to the needs of, and serving the citizens of Detroit.

As the oldest of 14 children, Tlaib played a prominent role in the raising of her siblings while her parents worked to provide for the family. While assuming the role of a caretaker for her siblings throughout her life, Tlaib cultivated leadership skills and qualities that have aided in her responsible, caring, and compassionate character and demeanor.

From her experience, while growing up, she has learned from her parents the importance of hard work, progress, and commitment to the community. These three values continue to drive Tlaib’s political career today as she continues to pave the way towards progress within the state of Michigan. These are values, that to Tlaib, have come from years of dedication to serving not just herself, but others who are in most need of support.

Tlaib’s grandmother, in an open letter to constituents, expressed her support for her granddaughter’s devotion to serving others as she said: “Rashida―like her sity (grandmother)―was born with a passion for justice. Binty never backs down from a fight, whether it’s defending our family or communities across Michigan and the country. She lifts us with her as she shows the world how people deserve to be served by their member of Congress. You won’t find anyone who works as hard as my daughter.”  

Whether it is fighting for environmental justice, dismantling the barriers that prevent access to education and building the road towards accessible education, promoting and providing for better city services, or working to improve the overall quality of residents’ experience and lives, Tlaib has and is prepared to continue to devote herself to serving the many families present in Michigan’s 13th District.

Tlaib made history in 2008 by winning her race for State Legislature, representing the 12th District–Detroit–and becoming the first Muslim woman to ever serve in the Michigan legislature, and only the second in the country.  Throughout her time as a member of the State Legislature, while serving three terms, she was appointed to the House Appropriations Committee and served as the Minority Vice Chair of Judiciary and Department of Community Health Subcommittees.

While a member of such committees, she worked on a variety of bills which fought for the increasing of access to the city’s human services–health clinics, proper education funding, and access to nutritious meals, promoting public safety, combating poverty, and protecting the public health systems and the environment, which are issues that continue to remain at the center of Tlaib’s political agenda.

It is through experiencing her family’s struggle to create and maintain a new life in the United States that has inspired and has shaped Tlaib’s current commitment to public service, advocacy, and giving back to her community. Tlaib’s current political agenda is centered around advocacy– being an advocate for the people’s needs– through her desire to meet the dire needs of her constituents.

Tlaib attributes her ability to serve others and advocate for others to the values instilled in her through her experiences while growing up with her family as she explained in her letter to constituents: “That’s why I’m running for U.S. Congress to serve you, your family, and your neighbors like only I know how guided by unwavering principles of justice and fairness.  Being the eldest of 14 children, growing up in Detroit during tough times, and working as a public interest lawyer have made me the strong, hard-working woman I am today.”

Rashida Tlaib’s commitment to serving others is a value that she has cultivated throughout her years as a public servant in her fights towards creating a better experience for her constituents. Her successful work thus far as a public service advocate, a district representative, a government worker, and as a leader continue to guide the work that she is fighting for today as she is running for a seat in the United States House of Representatives.

Arab America caught up with Rashida Tlaib on the campaign trail and asked her a few questions:

1. Where did you grow up? 
I grew up in Southwest Detroit,  in a working-class Palestinian family in a very working-class neighborhood.
2. What is your ethnic background? 
I am a proud Palestinian.  My mom is from Beit Ur El Foka in the West Bank, and my father is from Beit Hanina, near Jerusalem.
3. What aspects of your background have influenced the values that you hold today?
I was and continue to be shaped by my family. Growing up the oldest of 14 children, I had a lot of responsibility to take care of my siblings, and I got my work ethic from helping my family get through problems.  My empathy comes from my family.  I learned so much from my grandmother, Shama, who taught me to fight for what I believe in, and who gave me some of the humor and wit that helps me connect with people.
4. How has your Palestinian upbringing played a role in the person who you are today?
My grandfather was shot 11 times for refusing to leave his land in Palestine, and I get so much of my strength from our family history of perseverance and standing up for what’s right.
5. What/Who has contributed to your success thus far? 
Believing in what I work on and staying rooted in my community have allowed me to serve my neighbors as a legislator and activist and attorney.  I don’t waver on my commitment to helping working families, and I don’t get distracted by big corporations that try to buy off politicians.  Because I believe so fully in the social justice advocacy I’m doing, I work really hard and dig in and fight when challenges are thrown my way. In addition, my willingness to take on the bullies hurting our communities has allowed me to be an effective advocate for people.  I work hard for people in the community, in the courts, and I’ll work hard for them in Congress.  We need as much support as we can to help my grassroots campaign defeat the establishment candidates we’re up against, and we have still so much more work ahead of us.

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