- September 15, 2016
- 6:30 pm
California Institute of Integral Studies
1453 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
In addition to being a civil rights attorney and executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Zahra Billoo is also a baker in her limited free time. She likes to incorporate the subject of dessert—as a vehicle for connection and relationship building—into her work on challenging Islamophobia. Because after all, who doesn't want to talk about dessert?
Join Zahra as she speaks with Theresa Sparks, Senior Advisor to the Mayor of San Francisco, about the work she does, the day-to-day realities of facing and countering Islamophobia, and how—at least some of the time—justice goes down like a warm cupcake.
As the executive director of CAIR San Francisco Bay Area (CAIR-SFBA), Zahra Billoo strives to promote justice and mutual understanding. Zahra joined CAIR-SFBA in 2009, and immediately embraced her roles as community organizer and civil rights advocate. She frequently provides trainings at mosques and universities as part of CAIR's efforts to empower the community, while building bridges with allies on civil rights issues. Zahra also represents victims of discrimination and advocates for policy changes that uphold civil rights for all.
Zahra's work with CAIR-SFBA has been highlighted in local and national media outlets including KTVU, MSNBC, the Christian Science Monitor, the San Jose Mercury News and NPR. A 2014 recipient of the National Lawyers Guild SF Bay Area Chapter's Unsung Hero Award and a 2013 recipient of the South Asian Bar Association of Northern California's Trailblazer Award, Zahra came to CAIR with a background in employment and labor rights advocacy.
Zahra graduated Cum Laude from CSU Long Beach with degrees in Human Resources Management and Political Science. She earned her J.D. from UC Hastings College of Law, and was admitted to the California Bar in 2009.
Theresa Sparks is the Senior Adviser, Transgender Initiatives, to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. As such, she serves as the senior transgender consultant to City leadership and represents San Francisco Regionally, Nationally and Internationally on TRANS issues and policies. This is the first such position of its kind in a major urban area in the United States.
Her previous positions with the City of San Francisco include Executive Director and Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission and President of the Police Commission. In her role as Director of Human Rights for the City, she was responsible for the implementation and enforcement of all non-discrimination ordinances, developing policy for both the Mayor and Board of Supervisors, mediating inter-group tensions in the City and representing San Francisco in the area of human rights throughout the United States and Internationally. Ms. Sparks has attended numerous White House, Congressional and US Department of Justice briefings and conferences and represented the United States speaking before United Nations on International Human Rights Day in 2014.
As President of the Police Commission, she directed civilian oversight of the San Francisco Police Department including the development of new policies on use of force, community engagement, police misconduct, to name just a few. The Chief of Police reported jointly to the Police Commission well as the Mayor.
Ms. Sparks is known globally as an authority on transgender equality, most notably in the development of public policy to protect transgender individuals from discrimination in health care, law enforcement and working "on-the-ground" with TRANS communities of color. She was a co-founder of the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, San Francisco TRANS March, Transgender Political Caucus and TRANS Thrive. She was the first out transgender to be appointed to both the Human Rights and Police Commissions, elected president of any commission and appointed Department Head of a major City agency, anywhere in the United States. She was the first transgender California Woman of the Year, has been honored by countless human rights community organizations, government agencies and elected officials at the National, State and local levels. She was proud to introduce Hillary Clinton, the first major party female candidate for President of the United States, at a major policy rally in Los Angeles, the first transgender individual ever asked to do so.
One of Ms. Sparks' proudest moments was when it was announced that an academic scholarship had been named in her honor at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco.