Hannah Arendt Center Conferences
[Rana Abdelhamid: Courage to Be College Seminar Dinner and Lecture Series]

Hannah Arendt Center presents:

Rana Abdelhamid: Courage to Be College Seminar Dinner and Lecture Series

Monday, February 25, 2019 Blithewood, Levy Institute
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Lecture: “Building a Grassroots Movement”

This event occurred on:  Mon. February 25, 6 pm – 8 pm

  Building a Grassroots Movement: According to human rights organizer Rana Abdelhamid, there are three ingredients to creating an international movement: Start with what you know, start with who you know and, most important, start with joy. After a stranger aggressively tried to remove her hijab, the 16-year-old Abdelhamid (who happens to be a first-degree black belt) began teaching self-defense to women and girls in a community center basement. But she  realized that she didn’t want the class to focus on fear — instead, she wanted her students to experience the class as an exercise in mental and physical well-being. That one class has evolved into Malikah, a grassroots organization spanning 17 cities in 12 countries that offers security and self-defense training that’s specific to wherever a person may live and how they walk through the world. During this session Rana will be sharing her experience in building a grassroots movement and why you should start one too.


Rana Abdelhamid is an internationally acclaimed human rights organizer, first-degree black belt, public speaker, and social entrepreneur focused on the empowerment of marginalized communities. Abdelhamid established Malikah at 16 after being attacked by a stranger who tried to rip the hijab from her head. Malikah is a global collective of women committed to building safety and power for women through healing, self-defense, economic empowerment, and leadership training. Over the past eight years, Abdelhamid and her volunteer team of women conducted healing spaces and trained over 3,000 women in 17 cities across the globe. For the past three years, Malikah has held the National Muslim Women’s Summit at Harvard University, training 50 Muslim American women in leadership and community organizing. Abdelhamid has personally conducted trainings and facilitated healing spaces in the United States, Spain, Scotland, Ireland, Jordan, Tunisia, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. Her work as founder of Malikah has led to coverage in AJ+ with 1M views, a L’Oreal award that got thousands of votes, an online self-defense kit with 1 million hits, and features in Teen Vogue, on the BBC, and in the Huffington Post.

Abdelhamid is also a seasoned organizer, with a focus on mass mobilization and international solidarity. She received her training both through grassroots practice and through academic settings, having studied public narrative and organizing at the Harvard Kennedy School. During the Arab Spring, she was involved in mobilizing diaspora communities in solidarity with grassroots activists. After the Muslim ban was passed, Abdelhamid supported organizing thousands of people across Boston for the 20,000-person Copley Square protest and spoke alongside the likes of Senator Elizabeth Warren. After the death of Nabra Hassanen, she and her team worked to mobilize tens of thousands of people across 10 cities in under 24 hours for vigils in her remembrance and prayer. In addition to English fluency, Abdelhamid speaks Arabic and Spanish and travels to connect with communities to strengthen a global organizing community. She is committed to mobilizing impacted communities around migrant, gender, and racial justice.

In 2013, Abdelhamid started Hijabis of New York, an online platform that highlights the stories of hijabi women. In 2017, she also coedited and published Muslim Women’s Stories, a collection of narratives from young Muslim women across the United States. She is highly committed to the global human rights movement and is one of youngest serving board members of Amnesty International USA. Abdelhamid holds a BA in international politics and economics from Middlebury and a master’s degree in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School. At Middlebury, she conducted extensive political science and economics research on the political inclusion and mobilization of minority communities in urban contexts and on media representation of minority communities. At Harvard University, her research was focused on policy interventions to mitigate the prevalence of domestic violence in Queens, N.Y., and on refugee integration policy in the United States. For her work, Abdelhamid has been named a Truman Scholar and a Running Start Rising Political Star, and has received a NYC Council Proclamation and an International Youth Advocate award from the UNAUSA Foundation.

Date: February 25
Time: 6 pm
Location: Blithewood, Levy Institute



*Students enrolled in the Courage to Be College Seminar are required to attend. The Courage to Be Dinner and Lecture Series brings students, scholars, and experts in diverse fields together to attend to the question of the foundation of moral and spiritual courage in an age when the traditional religious grounds of such courage are said to be weak. These lectures are coordinated with the curricular initiative for students enrolled in the course The Practice of Courage. Learn more about the Courage to Be program and the College Seminar here.