Mike Schwartz, chair of the SMYAL Board of Directors, announced the appointment of Sultan Shakir as the organization’s new Executive Director, effective August 4. SMYAL – Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders – supports and empowers lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region.
Shakir has a strong professional background in community organization, most recently as the Youth & Campus Engagement Program director at Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Prior to joining HRC as a regional field director in 2006, he was a project manager with Grassroots Solutions, a consulting firm where he trained young people nationwide to create progressive change. He began his career as a community organizer in Baltimore.
“Sultan Shakir is the right leader for SMYAL at an exciting time of change. With our focus on providing LGBTQ young people with the skills and resources they need to be dynamic leaders of our movement and communities, Sultan has the talent and passion to guide that mission,” says Schwartz. “He has roots deep in the community and professional abilities that will support the strong SMYAL staff and volunteers.”
Shakir noted that SMYAL is an organization ripe for significant new support from a broad swath of the metro D.C. community. “I believe in the SMYAL mission, and I believe reaching new and diverse supporters in the region will be crucial to SMYAL’s success,” says Shakir. “The young people who participate in SMYAL activities and leadership development deserve our investment and care.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Shakir is the son of teachers. He is a graduate of Baltimore’s Peabody Conservatory of The Johns Hopkins University, with an emphasis on double bass performance. His earliest thoughts of community organizing were about sharing his passion for classical music with other young African-American males in Baltimore – at a time when as many black males were dropping out of high school as graduating. “I decided it was more important for me to change the world than to be an entertainer,” says Shakir.
At HRC, Shakir served as a director of the D.C. and Maryland marriage equality campaigns, and in his most recent role led the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Project, working to make campuses safer and more inclusive of LGBTQ students, faculty and staff.
Shakir has been honored with the Community Circle Award by Baltimore Black Gay Pride; named Jewel of the Month by the National Black Justice Coalition, and won the DC Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance Distinguished Service Award.
“For many youth, coming out is still hard, whether it’s at home to family members, at school to classmates and teachers, or whether it’s just walking down the street and feeling safe to express their gender identity, Shakir told Tagg. “SMYAL is an organization that works with youth to navigate those challenges and I’m excited to be a part of that effort.”