Skip to main content Skip to main navigation

Oral History Interview with Fatima Shama, September 17, 2018

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Fatima Shama discusses her upbringing in the Parkchester neighborhood of the Bronx, especially regarding the emphasis her Catholic Brazilian mother and Muslim Palestinian father put on embracing her multicultural and interfaith roots. She expands on performing the traditional Palestinian 'dabke' folk dance with dance groups as a teenager, her religious and secular education, and her exploration of Islam through women scholars in college. She speaks about her commitment to activism to promote the rights of Muslim Americans, especially regarding her work with the Arab American Family Support Center and Muslims Against Terrorism. She also talks about her marriage and three children. Fatima Shama was also interviewed on October 2, 2018 for this collection. Interview conducted by Liz H. Strong.

Biographical / Historical

Fatima Shama was born in 1973 in the Parkchester neighborhood of the Bronx. She earned a bachelor of the arts degree from the State University of New York at Binghamton and a master of public administration from Baruch College's School of Public Affairs Executive Program in New York City. After college, she worked with the Arab American Family Support Center and the Greater Brooklyn Health Coalition to improve New Yorkers' access to services like healthcare and education. She served in New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration from 2006-2014, first as Senior Education Policy Advisor and then as Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs. During her tenure, she worked to build stronger ties between Muslim communities and the city government. After leaving the administration, she became Executive Director of the Fresh Air Fund, a nonprofit organization focused on providing low-income children in New York City with access to nature.

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