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Oral History Interview with Faiza Ocasio

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Faiza Ocasio discusses growing up in a Catholic Puerto Rican family in the Lower East Side neighborhood of Manhattan. She speaks extensively about her Muslim faith, including her initial exploration of Islam, Latin Americans' ancestral roots in the religion through the Muslim conquest of Spain in the Middle Ages, and the relationship between her Muslim faith and Latinx heritage. She also remembers organizations that she has been involved with, with particular emphasis on the Islamic Party of North America in Washington, D.C.; teaching at Al-Madrasa Al-Islamiya in Staten Island and Brooklyn; and serving as Chief Fiscal Officer with Brooklyn-based Islamic Family Services prior to the agency's closure over its Chief Executive Officer's financial mismanagement. In addition, she talks about her relationship with her husband and buying a farm in Westminster, Maryland. Interview conducted by Zaheer Ali.

Biographical / Historical

Faiza Ocasio was born in 1953 in New York City. She was raised in a Catholic Puerto Rican family in the Lower East Side neighborhood of Manhattan. She married her husband and reverted to Islam while studying at Fordham University in the Bronx. After receiving their degrees, they moved to Washington, D.C. to work with the Islamic Party of North America. They returned to New York two years later, settling in the Cypress Hills neighborhood of Brooklyn. She became active in several Islam-centered organizations, including Alianza Islámica, a Latinx activist organization co-founded by her husband; Islamic Family Services in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, which offered support services for Muslim children in foster care in Brooklyn; and Al-Madrassa Al-Islamiya, a school in Staten Island and Brooklyn. She retired in 2015 and moved to Westminster, Maryland in 2016 to live on the family's farm.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at the Center for Brooklyn History's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Center for Brooklyn History
128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201