Inaugural Social Justice Ambassador Fellowship
The Social Justice Ambassadors (SJAs)program is a leadership development fellowship offered through the Center for Diversity, Inclusion & Multicultural Affairs (CDIMA). It was seeded by PepsiCo and is now fiscally supported by the UDC Foundation. Selected students will learn the knowledge and skills needed to advocate for issues that impact historically marginalized people. Students will get the opportunity to deepen their leadership skills, develop programs, and participate in a combination of workshops, retreats, and volunteer opportunities that are intended to make a difference on campus and in their local communities. SJAs will also be challenged to develop a greater understanding of social (in)justice issues and to learn strategies that address social inequalities for historically marginalized people and communities.
The CDIMA is currently in the second phase of the cohort cycle with two additional cohort members, composed of a total of 4 students.
Zahra Wardrick: (they/them) is a sophomore Liberal Studies major born and raised in Northwest DC. They are a queer, nonbinary, first-generation Sierra Leonean Black American poet interested in mental health advocacy centered on BIPOC communities. Having transitioned from a PWI to an HBCU, they are interested in comparing the impact of modern academia’s colonialism-based roots on education. In their free time, Zahra enjoys reading modern poetry and learning about sustainability as an avenue of Black self-care and restorative justice. They launched the How we Heal: A Creative Wellness Series, a series of conversational workshops about ways to heal ourselves and our communities from the inside out with creative skills and technologies from local DMV facilitators & organizers.
This series was built to lessen the social isolation faced by students due to Covid-19 by engaging in activities that students share passions for, they can bridge gaps of misunderstanding and inexperience with issues that they normally would gain from a campus environment.
Litzi Valdivia-Cazzol (she/her) is a senior majoring in Political Science at the University of the District of Columbia. Litzi works with a number of organizations such as the Supporting Hopeful Youth, Youth Action Board, Raise DC, and the Black Swan Academy, being a youth advocate. Litzi enjoys volunteering and engaging (virtually as well) with her community to create and propose solutions surrounding social justice issues. Litzi enjoys binge watching shows instead of waiting for weekly released shows in her free time and her project will focus on developing a resource guide for historically marginalized students to have access to resources and support to ensure they thrive both on- and off-campus.
Shabre West (she/her) is a Black lesbian woman. She is currently attending the University of the District of Columbia pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. Shabre serves as the President of The Alliance Group (T.A.G). She is committed to changing the culture at UDC and creating a safe, culturally competent, and inclusive UDC for everyone, regardless of race, gender, identity, or sexual orientation. She serves as The Alliance Group (T.A.G) representative for the CDIMA Cultural Organization Council, as well as an Advocate for Youth’s Board of Directors Development Committee. Shabre is looking forward to continuing the shift in ensuring that UDC is an inclusive campus through developing LGBTQ+inclusive policy recommendations and organizing students of all backgrounds. Her project is focusing on launching the LGBTQ+ Advisory Board in an effort to improve the climate for LGBTQ+ students, staff, and faculty through education and advocacy for LGBTQ+ inclusive policies; to carry out activities and events designed to raise awareness about The Alliance Group (TAG) programs, and to generate support for the Center for Diversity, Inclusion, and Multicultural Affairs and in the community.
Ira Abubaker: (She/They) is a native Washingtonian, a life-long resident of Ward 4, a graduate of DC public schools, a community organizer, and pursuing a degree in political science at the University of the District of Columbia. For the last five years, I-Ra worked with Critical Exposure as their Outreach and Engagement Associate, and Senior Program Coordinator. There, they collaboratively shaped the social and political leadership development of Black and Brown’s young people working for educational justice in Washington, DC. I-Ra is passionate about the role of the arts in social movements, making sure under-represented communities are a part of the decision that will ultimately impact them, and fighting for the liberation of all marginalized communities. In reflecting on how she got to where she is today, the common threads in her life are community, education, and resilience. Coming from a Black immigrant and low-income family, her exposure to injustice showed up very early in her childhood. The constant struggle for survival and safety has led her to choose a career path, civil rights law. It is important to I-Ra that she is in a career that aligns with her principles, being that everyone deserves and should have access to fundamental human rights. She credits the people who loved, encouraged, challenged, and poured into her along the way for her resilience and commitment to social justice. I-Ra’s approach to social justice is shaped by her deep belief that we have the tools we need, and through community-driven solutions, we can ensure our communities have what they need to thrive.
Kaniya Washington: (She/Her) is a Sophomore Biology major at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC). She is a native Washingtonian, born and raised in South-East Washington DC. She is a first-generation college student and she is passionate about health and educational issues that affect historically marginalized people. As an LGBTQ+ Ally, she is a member of The Alliance Group (T.A.G) and is proud to use her voice for those who are not able to. In the realm of Social Justice, she is committed to advocating for a program she’s creating –called D.C Neighborhood Ally (DNA), where she will support low-income communities in DC, by providing assistance to those in need of preventative healthcare, housing, and education. While matriculating as a Biology major, she is studying to also be able to provide nutritional support for people of all ages in her neighborhood, and tutoring programs for all age groups (Daycare, Elementary school, Middle School, High School, College Students, and GED students). She believes that doing the work to support and sustain her community by serving as a conduit to resources available in the city.