redefy

By: Ziad A

Human Rights , Activist

Both the blessing and the curse of the United States is that it truly is the world’s melting pot, a coalition of peoples from anywhere and everywhere, each with their own beliefs and culture. While the diversity of this nation is beautiful, it also initiates a need among the inhabitants of the nation to systematically categorize people, in order to make their view of the world more black and white.

This is what stereotyping does; it takes the beautiful hues of different races, ethnicities, religions, and cultures, and converts them to black and white, in which a person is defined entirely by the side that they have been placed on.

Being Muslim, I have to deal with knee-jerk sentiments many Americans have about my faith. Anti-muslim bigotry, discriminatory behavior, and all forms have oppression have driven me to want to initiate a positive change in the world and to fight the ignorance to which I had fallen victim. And I am not alone -- a recent Gallup poll found 43% of Americans nationwide admitted to feeling at least "a little" prejudice against Muslims.

Through this journey, I’ve learned more than I could have ever anticipated. I struggled a lot at first with trying to get people excited about redefy, social justice, and diversity work. It was really hard for me to articulate to my peers that we, as kids, could really make a difference in regards to global issues. A lot of high schoolers just want to be concerned with school, relationships, and parties. A lot of people do not want to have conversations that are uncomfortable. Overwhelmingly, a lot of people do not want to be belittled, yelled at, or attacked. Through my journey with redefy, I have gotten to a place where I understand that change can be made through calm, intelligent, and thoughtful dialogue. People do care. We all want a world that is safe for and accepting of our children, and if we just rally behind that concept this world will be an infinitely better place. I still struggle trying to get teenagers excited about redefy sometimes, but through finding my voice, amplifying it, and engaging in meaningful conversation, I think that I will continue to grow redefy in a way that really benefits this world. 

There is one message I really want to get across to all my peers with ambitions: our age does not limit our activism. 

Every year, Redefy picks a different under-represented or misunderstood population and plans to host campaigns to build bridges of understanding between teenagers from these populations and teens from the broader community. Our yearly missions are decided as a result of discussions between our team members, and are really aimed to focus our energy on issues we find particularly pertinent for us to address in our community. Our yearly rotating missions are on a calendar year basis. 

  • 2013: we were simply focused on our greater mission of defying stereotypes, redefining perspectives positively, embracing acceptance and tolerance, and creating an active community. 
  • 2014: our mission was to promote integration and education about those will special needs or disabilities. 
  • 2015: we aimed to reduce racial prejudices, micro-aggressions, profiling, and hate in general within our communities and media
  • 2016: we are not 100%, but we are leaning towards the direction of a gender-equality related topic.

We have approximately 120 students participating in redefy campaigns. Anyone is eligible to join our team because we believe #everyonematters -- see how you can be a part of our movement!

It is a simple concept – everyone matters – and regardless of the religious, moral, or honor code you practice – respect is a priority. We must respect each other and our pursuit of happiness and life. We must live by the doctrine that everyone matters. Intersectionality is everything and we cannot let injustice define our generation. Injustice is our fight and I look forward to winning. Sometimes I fear my words are redundant, but I realize that my words will only be superfluous when justice is truly achieved.

The general public can help support this project the following ways:

PRIORITY #1: join our team!

be part of our growing movement to rebel against stereotypes and the systematic categorizations of people!


PRIORITY #2: Start a redefy Club / Chapter at your school!

We hope that by giving students the opportunity to start a club/chapter that we can really make a difference all around the world.


PRIORITY #3: contribute your story!

we are looking for reflections about prejudice and stereotyping


PRIORITY #4: 18+ -- become a redefy mentor!

we can all use a mentor!


Team Members

  • Ziad Ahmed

    Founder

    Ziad Ahmed is a sixteen-year-old junior at Princeton Day School. He is American-Muslim, Bangladeshi, and passionate social justice activist. Growing up in Princeton, New Jersey, he frequently reflected on his privilege, surroundings, and the current reality of the whole world. Ziad is committed to working towards a world safe for all and accepting of everyone. Ziad founded a teen organization, redefy (www.redefy.org), committed to defying stereotypes, redefining perspectives positively, embracing acceptance and tolerance, and creating an active community in September of 2013. Redefy has grown immensely with over 100 students internationally on the team, nearly 2,000 likes on facebook, and over 30,000 hits on redefy.org. Ziad oversees all aspects of the organization, and immerses himself deeply into his activism. His work has been commended by President Barack Obama personally, PBS, the Washington Post, the Boris and Nicole Show, and other notable sources. MTV has named him of one of the top nine teens changing the world, and a High School Trailblazer. Overwhelmingly though, Ziad is just your average teenager trying grappling with identity, struggling to balance it all, and pursuing his passions.

  • We have close to 120 representatives in schools and around the world advocating for redefy's various campaigns. At the helm is our leadership team: CIERRA MOORE is the Vice President and VP of Film and Photography; NICK JAIN is the VP of Event Planning and Campaigns; ZIYAD KHAN is the VP of Advocacy; MICHAEL ZHAO is the VP of Journalism; JULIA MARSHALL is theVP of Social Media; LARA STRASSBERG is the VP of Outreach

Impact

#TheGenerationOfNow

Dec. 13, 2015

Redefy Retreat 2015

Aug. 24, 2015

We held our first annual redefy retreat! We spent our time doing icebreakers, going out on the lake, playing games, eating, working very hard in our specific groups, and having intellectual discussions related to social justice. Each group made huge progress in regards to their respective projects. Everyone really got to know one another, and I am already excited for next year’s retreat. I left the retreat knowing that we really can achieve so much together, and truly make a profound difference in this world.

Check out our video to get a feeling for what we accomplished:

And see some of the photos we posted on our Facebook page!

Made it to the White House!

June 22, 2015

President Obama hosted a Ramadan Iftar dinner at the White House and invited me! If you watch the video, at 3:45 the president mentions my name and the redefy movement!

What was so important about this dinner was the reminder of the inherent freedoms that bind us together -- including freedom of religion.  

MTV Press Pick-Up!

March 2, 2015

Rae Paoletta, the self-proclaimed "dreamer, news junkie, knowledge sponge" and writer for MTV did this increble article on my work while highlighting their Look Different campaign! You can read the article here.

Check out MTV's "gender equality" campaign: http://www.lookdifferent.org/  

Also check out their report which found: The majority of young people ages 14-24 see bias as a serious problem in every sphere of their lives with gender equality occupying more mindshare versus other hot issues:

  • 89 percent of young people see bias as a serious problem
  • 85 percent see examples of bias online, 81 percent in public, 72 percent at school and 67 percent in pop culture
  • 52 percent of young people rank gender equality higher in mindshare than other hot issues such as 43 percent for income inequality and 42 percent for racism

#PrincetonAgainstRacism

Feb. 7, 2015

Redefy was fortunate to work with Not In Our Town and CHOOSE (the Princeton High school gropu formed to fight racism) on a campaign to promote tolerance. 

We took more than 100 portraits as part of this initiative, which demonstratesa Princeton citizens' commitment to equality. 

Not In Our Town is a project of The Working Group, a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization. As a movement, it aims to stop hate, address bullying, and build safe, inclusive communities for all. Not In Our Town films, new media, and organizing tools help local leaders build vibrant, diverse cities and towns, where everyone can participate.

VOICES

Dec. 20, 2014

In partnership with the Princeton Public Library, we launched a conversation series entitled VOICES.  This program allowa teens to come together to further their activism and really attempt through conversation and making powerful connections to intiate a change within our community.

In our first session, we discussed racial profiling – with a focus on Ferguson and other recent current events such as the cases of Eric Garner and Tamir Rice. The conversation was moderated by two TAB/redefy members and certain news articles, cartoons, and etc. was provided to further conversation.

It was a powerful and provocative discussion, with a turn out of 24 youth!

VOICES is currently held in the second-floor Conference Room at the Princeton Public Library. Snacks are providided and ALL teens are welcome. The first meeting was on Saturday, January 17th, 2015 from 3:00 to 4:00 pm.

I encourage ALL teens to come out and voice their opinion and look forward to the amazing conversations I know will be had in this group! Redefy will be working in many capacities to stamp out injustices around us, an idea that fulfills my dream of a future where nonconforming is truly accepted. I encourage everyone in the greater Princeton community to join our organization in our commitment to social justice, and to get involved in redefy’s work towards social justice in whatever capacity you may be able to.

Princeton Public Library Partnership

May 18, 2014

We worked with the  Princeton Public Library's Teen Advisory Board (TAB) to present a discussion of R.J. Palacio's book “Wonder,” which is a story of a 10-year-old boy with facial deformities who wants to be treated normally.

We had really engaging discussions, which were aimed at facing deeply ingraned prejudices and working on overcoming them. 

See our press pick-u:


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