It's pretty clear that Habiba Boru isn't intimidated by Donald Trump (or his administration's steady stream of punitive travel bans and xenophobic rhetoric). An Ethiopian former refugee who settled in Syracuse, NY, and is now an American citizen, Boru watched the election results with the same surreal dread shared by many immigrant families, especially those from Muslim-majority nations. Yet after the devastating shock of Trump's upset, Boru didn't surrender to hopelessness — she went to work. A leader at Syracuse's RICE organization, or Refugee Immigrant Self-Empowerment, which aids newcomers to the United States with everything from finding a job to navigating its increasingly complicated court processes, Boru is channeling her heartbreak into action.
And she isn't alone. Surrounded by a community of fellow former refugees, she and her colleagues are striving to preserve America's once-pivotal legacy of empathy and openness, even in the current White House's imposing shadow. In addition to her role at RICE, Boru also teaches English to recent émigrés and studies International Relations at Syracuse University. She hopes to one day work at the United Nations.
In the meantime, she's dedicated to blunting the anti-immigration sentiment that so consumed the 2016 election. "I don't think Donald Trump won," she reflects. "I think the hatred, the racism within our country won." But there's no time to be afraid, even when neighbors question her right to dress as she chooses or even to remain in the country (a nation to which she belongs as a full legal citizen). "I believe that if I have to take off my headscarf for my safety, that's a sign of weakness, and I'm not weak," she says defiantly.
Watch the video above, which is a part of the "America Heard" series documenting the impact of the 2016 election, to learn more about Boru's inspiring work.