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As a Muslim-American woman of mixed ethnicity, Rutgers student Zahra Bukhari said she has always been categorized as the “other” and embraced activism by bringing people together through art. For her social justice work, Bukhari has been named the “Nick Yovnello Social Justice Scholarship” winner by the American Federation of Teachers New Jersey, according to political education chair Kay Schechter.

Zahra Bukhari (left) with Kay Schechter (right)
Zahra Bukhari (left) with Kay Schechter (right)

“I am often confronted with the question ‘What are you?’ and became interested in how cultures and people become the “others” of society,” Bukhari said.

After taking Women and Gender Studies classes at Rutgers, Bukhari said she realized what it meant to be a feminist. She said she co-founded Muslim Feminists for the Arts to highlight the fact that feminism is a part of the Islamic narrative and “represent the different faces, identities and beliefs of women within the Muslim community.”

Bukhari has completed internships with the National Institute for Reproductive Health, Women Make Movies, the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality and several departments at Rutgers. She said, “Real activism comes from those who do not invoke it but from those who embody it.”

The Nick Yovnello Social Justice Scholarship is awarded by the AFTNJ each year to a student who demonstrates a commitment to the fight for social and economic justice, according to Schechter. Nick Yovnello led AFT’s College Council for many years, advocating for a stronger higher education system in New Jersey and better opportunities for New Jersey students.

Schechter presented Bukhari with the recognition June 26 at a union meeting. “We are extremely proud to recognize Zahra and support her continued work in bringing communities together around shared principles,” said Schechter. “She embodies the qualities that our youth are bringing into the real world and gives us hope for a much better future.”

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