Zahra Chowdhury is a senior at Pleasant View School in Memphis, Tennessee. Her identity as a Muslim American and daughter of immigrants has encouraged her to work towards increasing equity and eliminating discrimination. As part of her social justice fellowship at BRIDGES USA, she created and organized the Counselors not Cops (CNC) campaign in Memphis with the intention of deconstructing the school-to-prison pipeline by replacing unnecessary law enforcement presences in schools with greater access to essential mental health professionals and resources. Through the CNC campaign, Zahra has helped mobilize students, parents and teachers across Memphis to ensure their voices and opinions are reflected in decisions that directly affect them. Her efforts have led to the removal of law enforcement in Frayser Community Schools and the implementation of restorative justice practices, including the abolition of suspensions and expulsions. The campaign secured major amendments to the Shelby County Schools' Memorandum of Understanding with the Shelby County Sheriff's Office, which ensured the safety and freedom of students during their interactions with law enforcement on and off campus. Her work has been uplifted by several prominent individuals and organizations, including the National Civil Rights Museum, which presented her with the Keeper of the Dream Award. Zahra is also passionate about racial justice, especially in the Muslim American community. As the youngest board member of 901 Ummah, a local nonprofit catered to young Muslim Americans, she helped launch "Towards Sacred Togetherness,:" an effort that aims to eradicate anti-Blackness in the Memphis Muslim community through healthy spiritual dialogue. Zahra has organized events including discussions about the historic significance of Black Muslims in America, a book club about Islam and activism and panels about allyship to encourage acceptance and understanding within the Muslim community. Beyond these efforts, Zahra strives to promote justice and equity through other avenues, such as advising White House officials on policy recommendations regarding Asian American and Pacific Islander women and girls and fighting food insecurity in Memphis. Zahra hopes to continue her social justice work by pursuing a career in law with the intention of reforming the justice system into one that is truly restorative and rehabilitative.
2022 - TENNESSEE (MEMPHIS REGION)