• Mosaic Theater

Birth of an Activist


A brief write-up and bios for Mosaic's Public Program following the 3rd preview of Mat Smart's THE AGITATORS, October 26, 2018

"Birth of An Activist" (part of our "Modern Day Activists" series for THE AGITATORS)


(L to R: Shabnam Afsah, Andrea Barron, Sonika Data and DeShola Dawkins)

Moderator and panel curator, Andrea Barron: Many people see problems in our society—domestic violence, anti-Muslim bigotry, white supremacist movements, gun violence, anti-Semitism, sexual assault, Donald Trump, the decline of democracy, intimidation of the press. But only some people take action, they actually decide to DO something about these problems. They are the activists. Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglas were activists par excellence, And today we have three women who are going to tell you why and how they became activists.

DeShola Dawkins is President of the Timothy Dawkins-El Project and Vice President of the Coalition of Concerned Mothers in Washington, DC. She is a Fellow with Everytown for Gun Safety and Survivor Network and a CodePink organizer. Ms. Dawkins is a gun violence survivor and community organizer. She is the mother of Timothy D. Dawkins-El, who lost his life at age 24 in a crossfire shooting in Anacostia, Washington, DC on August 21, 2013.. Due to the loss of her youngest son, Timothy, Ms. Dawkins has become a strong advocate and leader in fighting for common sense gun laws. She was invited to the White House by President Obama on January 5th, 2016. She has been a guest on CNN and a Keynote Speaker for the Wear Orange Campaign and the Unity Rally on Hatred & Gun Violence in Washington DC. Ms. Dawkins was born in Orangeburg, South Carolina and has lived in Washington most of her life. She is the proud mother of seven children and 16 grandchildren She holds a Masters Degree in Social Work.

Shabnam Afsah came to the US in the 1980s as a graduate student at Northwestern University Law School. She became a citizen in 2008 to vote for the first African American president of the US. Prior to the 2016 election she had always voted but never been engaged in politics. After Trump won the election, her life changed. She participated in the Women’s March and was moved to get involved at the grassroots level. She became a member of a local Indivisible chapter in Montgomery County and began coordinating with other grassroots groups. Since 2016 she has been active attending protests, organizing canvasses, hosting phone banks and registering voters in Montgomery County immigrant communities. Shabnam has been involved in Maryland state election campaigns and also in special elections campaigns at the national level held in the past two years.

Sonika Data is a currently a student at Georgetown Law who has been a fierce advocate and ally for those who have faced sexual assault and discrimination. Growing up in a conservative Indian community in South Florida, Sonika’s own experience of sexual assault was met with resistance and opposition. Since then, she has tried to find ways to work with children who have faced similar marginalization. Prior to law school, Sonika was a special education high school teacher in Atlanta Public Schools and worked to improve the school district’s policies around intergenerational poverty and the school-to-prison pipeline. In the wake of recent social movements around sexual assault, she has felt compelled to share her story of sexual assault to provide solidarity with other survivors and make others aware of how this issue permeates our society. After law school, Sonika aspires to be a civil rights attorney in the South.

Andrea Barron is the Advocacy Program Manager at the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC) in Washington DC. She works closely with survivors of torture from all over the world, especially from Africa, educating policymakers and the general public about torture and human rights abuses. She has been an active member of Mosaic’s Community Engagement Committee since its launch in 2015. Andrea has been a leader in Jewish-Muslim collaboration in the Washington DC area for over a dozen years, and a longtime activist for women’s reproductive rights. She was an adjunct professor of history at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia from 1999-2015. Andrea graduated from New York University, holds a Master’s Degree in Middle Eastern and European History from Boston College, and completed doctoral courses in the Government and Politics Department at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is a founding member of Mosaic Theater Company of DC's Public Programming Committee.


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