Missouri Senator Jamilah Nasheed: “I Was a Girl Breaking Laws, Now I’m a Woman Making Laws”
Nasheed is no stranger to the streets she serves and without hesitation, is willing to share her experiences of struggle and achievement in hopes of inspiring others. Born Jenise Williams, Sen. Nasheed was raised with her three brothers by their grandmother in the Darst-Webbe Housing Projects. Nasheed says she later changed her name for religious reasons. Unexpected tragedy disrupted her early life, by the age of three she had already lost her father and mother. “I hope my experiences will encourage others. You can’t control the hand you’re dealt but you can control where you end up. It’s not about how you start, it’s how you finish.”
Since 2012, Nasheed has represented the 5th District in the Missouri State Senate and is actively campaigning for her final term in office. During her time in the upper chamber, she passed several pieces of legislation including a bill to protect students from ineffective teachers and the “In It 2 Win” Coalition identifying students who have dropped out or were pushed out, assisting them with returning to the classroom. Her Fresh Start Program is a non-traditional program that encourages and empowers youth between the ages of 17 and 21 to receive their high school diplomas. Prior to politics, for over a decade, Sen. Nasheed was the owner and operator of the first female African-American independent bookstore in the city of St. Louis, Sankofa Books and Gifts; an inner-city bookstore. The bookstore’s mission was to promote the importance of reading.
Senator Nasheed’s approach to the various issues affecting local communities is unapologetically direct. She has stood arm-in-arm with protestors and reached out to area youth following the unrest in Ferguson. Senator Nasheed is recognized nationwide as a civil rights leader and has made appearances on countless nationally syndicated programs to discuss the state of civil rights in the St. Louis area. She continues to be a strong proponent of reform in the justice system. In this exclusive interview with The St. Louis Spotlight, no topic is off limits.