Sweetland Peer Writing Consultant Zeinab Khalil (BA International Relations & Middle Eastern and North African Studies '14) recently received the Ninth Annual Central Campus Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Spirit Award. The award honors undergraduate students from the schools and colleges on Central Campus who best exemplify the leadership and extraordinary vision of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Zeinab (second from right) has been an active member of the Sweetland Peer Writing Consultant Program since 2012, including presenting at the 2013 National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing. Zeinab promotes social justice on campus in many ways: She is the co-founder of the Michigan Women of Color Collective (M-WoCC); she writes about social justice issues as a Michigan Daily columnist; she sits on the President’s Advisory Commission on Women’s Issues; she is a member of the Students Allied for Freedom and Equality BDS Committee; she is a member of steering committee for March 2014 “Beyond the Quota” conference on the pitfalls of coalition-building in the context of race and class (out of the Office of the Provost); she served as the Muslim Students’ Association President; she acted as a facilitator for Youth Dialogues on Race and Ethnicity in metro-Detroit; she was a Davis Projects for Peace Fellow and Truman Scholarship Finalist; and she participated in the Women Human Rights Defenders Program at Nazra for Feminist Studies.

Zeinab's faculty nominator, Prof. Lila Naydan:

Zeinab deserves this award because of the deep commitment to social justice that she exhibits in all she does as a student at the University of Michigan. As a Sweetland tutor, Zizi sees the immanent value of all those with whom she interacts, and I see her changing writers’ lives in everyday ways by inviting them to question racist and sexist language and assumptions in texts they read and write. She, too, invites tutors to contemplate their own biases.

In Zeinab's words:

Working at Sweetland provides me with many opportunities for rich and critical discussions with other writers. Our writing is stronger when we think and interrogate what assumptions, frameworks and gaps exist in our writings, so I encourage the writers I work with, just as I do with my own writing, to unpack loaded or vague terms and concepts so that their work is more conscious and precise.

My involvement in social justice stems largely from reflecting on my own experiences--reflecting on my family, friends and community and on what struggles we face and what oppressions we enact, between each other and among the broader society. I have also been influenced by professors and mentors who have introduced me to the seminal work of post-colonial feminist scholars and anti-oppression activists. When I learn about their work I try to think about how these theories, ideas and histories can inform my own understanding and practice of transformative change.

I am continuously emboldened and motivated by the student activists I have met (or admired from afar) during my past four years at UM. They are so bold and unapologetic in their anti-oppressive work and elevate conversations that in many other spaces have become mundane and basic. I am grateful to them for being patient with my process and simultaneously encouraging me to move beyond what I know or am comfortable with.

It’s deeply humbling be awarded anything that bears the name of Dr. King. I hope to continue to better understand his profound and just legacy. I also feel immense gratitude to be witnessing so much energetic and brave activism on campus. There are so many students who are teaching us stuff we can’t learn in the classroom.

Zeinab's post-undergrad plans include, "researching and working on violence-prevention projects that address violence against women of color by way of police and state violence, militarism and colonialism as well as intra-community domestic and interpersonal violence." She plans to attend graduate school for public policy.

Congratulations Zeinab!