Fatima for Assembly

Photographed by Nicki Sebastian

Amidst the tumult of our current political circumstance, and the uncertainty and gravity of this year’s presidential election, we have found great inspiration in the power of local politics. After talking to LA City Council candidate Nithya Raman about the importance and profound influence of city and state government (read more on this here), we have set out to learn more about so-called “down ballot” races happening this November – races that, although they receive less press, are in some ways just as important as many of the national-level elections.

Fatima Iqbal-Zubair, who is running for election to California Assembly in the hopes of representing LA’s District 64, is one of the incredibly inspiring candidates we have been following over the past few months – and whose outlook and platform have given us a much-needed dose of hope. Fatima worked as a public school teacher at a historically underserved school in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts, where she taught Science courses, served as the Science department chair, and founded an award-winning robotics team. It was during this time that she developed a deep relationship with the Watts community -- and particularly with her students - that inspired her to represent and fight for her district on a bigger stage in state government.

Fatima is a beacon of promise: Working towards ending systemic racism, re-imagining a public education system wherein teachers are highly valued and funding is ample, establishing opportunities for free public college education, and demanding clean air, clean water, clean food and affordable housing as human rights for all – she is exactly the kind of visionary change-maker that we need at a time like this. We were honored and overjoyed at the chance to meet and feature Fatima on our Journal, and are so thrilled to share a bit of her story. Read more about Fatima’s platform on her site, and see below for some photos of Fatima and three of the incredible students who helped inspire her to run.

Fatima was recently elected to the Executive Board of the California Democratic Party and is gearing up for her 2022 run.

Fatima, wearing the Edessa Dress in Black

"In my experiences before teaching, I had a grasp of the overwhelming income inequality in Los Angeles and California. In the richest state in the nation, no one should be homeless, without a good school, without healthcare, without the ability to thrive. Yet that’s where we were. I wanted to teach in Watts, a community that had such historical significance- from the moment I stepped into this community I felt its power, its resilience and the beauty of the people in this community. Little did I know however, how much it would change me."

Fatima wearing the Jane Blouse in Driftwood and telling us about her love for the communities she is running to represent

"I was the happiest I’ve ever been in my life, and the most at peace in the classroom, when I was with my students. Their intelligence, perseverance and depth of character empowered me and inspired me daily. Despite the obstacles that faced many of my students and the community, they persevered and looked onward and upward. I’m not afraid to say I fell in love with the community and its spirit."

Fatima, wearing the Edessa Dress in Black, and her former students catching up on their experiences attending college remotely, and working through a pandemic

"And with a radical love comes a push to want to be the best and do the best I can for my students and the community. I continued to push for the best instructional methods and resources. I started an award winning Robotics team- the 1st of it’s kind in Watts- that inspired California and the world. My students spoke in Trump’s White House to advocate for more federal funding for education. They impressed and inspired the world with their lived experiences, intelligence and resilience- often not showcased on the news.

It also was not difficult to see that the system didn’t offer my students and this community the same chances to thrive that it offered other students in wealthier communities. There were issues of overpolicing, unclean water, toxic soil and air all around them, subpar resources provided to them, lack of access to clean food, barriers to attending college, and more. My students and I studied and questioned these inequities in the community more and more."

Fatima wearing the Edessa Dress in Black

"As we delved into community organizing, the distrust between elected officials with the community was very apparent. The current AD64 rep (my opponent) had voted against many of the things that the community was fighting for. This angered me to my core. The hardest decision in my life was to leave the classroom to put my all into winning this election for the people and listening to the voices of organizers in this district who have been fighting for decades for basic human rights. I knew I had to step up because of how much we were being let down by representation that values profits over people. We can’t wait any longer to be heard!"

Photo from Fatima's archives. She was born in Dubai and lived there until around age seven, when her family decided to immigrate to Saskatchewan, Canada, hoping to find a safe haven away from the impending Gulf War.

"We all deserve a chance to thrive. A chance at upward mobility. A chance at justice. Our movement is one that wants to bring this to life-- we can’t wait any longer for a California in which we all belong."

– Fatima Iqbal-Zubair


 Click here to support Fatima's campaign!