Hi, I am Zaimal Azad and I am incredibly excited to be awarded one of the Roosevelt Scholarships this year and to join the Scholarship family. I currently work for Nottingham City Council in the Community Partnerships service, where my job is to work with communities and partners across the city to tackle hate crime. I am passionate about bringing people together across difference and am lucky to be able to do this every day and call it work. My other big interest is in libraries, and I am a Trustee at Bromley House Library – a place that could be out of a book itself!
I moved to Nottingham from Pakistan 10 years, and first explored Nottinghamshire as a stranger and then as home. I had started out as a student here, but really fell in love with the city and surrounding areas when I started to get involved in the community – volunteering at The Renewal Trust and Nottingham Women’s Centre, where I eventually got my first proper job. Seeing the amazing ways people in Nottingham stand with each other is what I love the most about this place and it is this spirit of Nottingham that I will be most proud to represent when I am travelling in the US.
My project is called ‘More in Common’ and will explore the American experience of bridging divides and finding common ground. I will be exploring approaches to this focused on three main themes: i) differences of identity, ii) differences of opinion, and iii) healing after significant events which may have ruptured the sense of community in a place.
I hope to look at how different sectors are dealing with issues of difference and division and how we can bring this learning to Nottingham. I aim to start off in the East Coast, meeting with think tanks, political groups and established organisations primarily in New York and Washington DC. I hope to then move on to places which have been significant in the Civil Rights Movement, such as Mississippi and Alabama. I would also like to travel to Tulsa, Oklahoma and connect with the Justice for Greenwood campaign. Because of the events of last summer, I am specially interested in visiting Minneapolis and finding out what healing looks like for the local community there. Finally, I hope to see education and creative projects in action on college campuses in the West Coast. Where possible, I will be looking to explore these issues from different perspectives and will make a conscious effort to cover a range of states with different demographics and political affiliations.
I hope that bringing this learning back to Nottingham will enable us to build on our own good practice of developing cohesion in new and innovative ways. Along the way, I hope to build my own understanding of American culture and people and challenge myself to think differently too.