Ismahan is a fierce advocate, community organizer, motivational public speaker and an unapologetic Black Muslim Somali refugee woman who is passionate and relentless in working for justice and equity. In 1992, Ismahan Abdullahi and her family escaped war-torn Somalia to have a life of hope and opportunity in America. This experience has shaped her to advocate for and work on building and strengthening Muslim and refugee communities in San Diego for over a decade where she served as a board member for multiple local community-based organizations and institutions, including the Islamic School of San Diego, Islamic Center of San Diego, Huda Community Center and countless others. Ismahan has worked to train and develop a leadership pipeline for youth and community leaders, foster a strong sense of Muslim identity and build a vibrant and active community that is at the forefront of social justice.
In her past role as Director of Movement and Campaign Strategies at PANA, she helped to build a newly founded organization as she built grassroots community power through organizing, advocacy, alliance building, designing and implementing a civic engagement infrastructure in refugee communities, developing leaders, addressing hate crimes and using an integrated voter engagement strategy to build a visible refugee electorate. She continues to be engaged in and work on issues that address racial disparities, social injustices, equity and inclusion for marginalized communities. She is a former co-host on Flip the Script: The Future is Female podcast which lifts up women game changers and leaders in San Diego county. She also served as a member of the Strategic Council for statewide tables Mobilizing the Immigrant Vote and Steering Committee member for Power California as well as a representative on California Calls’ African-American Civic Engagement Program.
Ismahan received her Bachelor’s in Human Biology from UCSD and a MA in Education with Concentration in Counseling from SDSU. She currently serves as the National Deputy Director for the Muslim American Society’s Public Affairs and Civic Engagement Department and also serves as the Executive Director at MAS PACE San Diego. Ismahan has received numerous recognitions and awards for her work including Assemblywoman Gonzalez-Fletcher’s 2018 Woman of the Year recognition, Power-Builder Award, recognized by NAACP for her service in the community, Moxie Theatre’s Women with Grit and Determination award, Youth Adult Ally 2019 and more. . As a frequent speaker in local and national platforms, Ismahan is passionate about working for justice and building an inclusive society.