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SF woman works to fight discrimination, build bridges in her community

JA: SF woman works to fight discrimination, build bridges in her community
JA: SF woman works to fight discrimination, build bridges in her community 03:31

SAN FRANCISCO -- A San Francisco woman is working both on the front lines and behind the scenes to fight discrimination and foster unity across a wide spectrum.

Hala Hijazi creates ways to unite people who are different. Last week, she helped organize a Thanksgiving interfaith service at St. Mark's Lutheran Church in San Francisco and walked in the processional to "All Creatures of Our God and King" with other colleagues on the city's Interfaith Council.

"I think every religion - I don't care what religion, how many religions - they all have that common thread of love, of faith, of service and family," Hijazi said.

A Palestinian, born in Amman, Jordan and raised in the Bay Area, her childhood experiences stuck with her.

"I got beat up, I got isolated," she said.

So for the last 16 years, Hijazi has served in various public service roles shining a light on injustice.

"When people say, 'Why do you do this?' I do this for the youth because I don't want them to be bullied in school," said Hijazi. "I don't want them to be bullied on the buses. I don't want them to feel isolated or not loved or protected."

Hijazi started as a special assistant to her mentor, former San Francisco Mayor and California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown. More recently, as a board member of the San Francisco Interfaith Council, and Human Rights Commissioner, Hijazi has helped champion civil, human and religious rights.

Among the highlights: she's helped launch anti-bullying and anti-hate campaigns, and led women's marches. She helped secure half a million dollars in grocery vouchers for people in need and coordinate a large blood drive during COVID. She organized the first city-sponsored Ramadan Iftar dinner in San Francisco.

Hijazi also led the charge in passing the city's law to preempt former President Donald Trump's plan for a Muslim registry.

From former President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Mayor London Breed, government leaders are no strangers to Hijazi's passion.

"She's the person who's like a bridge builder," Breed said. "She brings people together to make it clear that hatred, attacks, violence, will not be tolerated and we stand united against it."

These days, she's focusing on connecting professionals to civic leaders through her Professionals VIP Network. She's also spending more time with the Human Rights Studies program at the University of California, Davis as the inaugural advisor to the program.

In addition, Hijazi continues her work as the San Francisco director of the Truman National Security Project, a nonprofit which explores national security solutions.

Hijazi says her reward is seeing the difference she's making.

"There are so many things that make this so worthwhile, but really is the love, the faith, seeing people really being more selfless, more sacrificing, know that if they pay it forward, they'll get even more in return," she beamed.

So for her leadership in fighting for civil, human and religious rights this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Hala Hijazi.

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