SISTER AMEENAH PASHA STARKS
“My life had to be hard.”
Sister Ameenah Starks’ leadership is influenced by the difficult situations she has had to confront in her life and is directed by her guiding thought “from nothing but God.” Through her leadership, she coaches and helps others to succeed and become leaders themselves.
As a child Sister Ameenah, a Muslim, always knew she was “different” from her classmates. She credits the many wonderful women who became teachers in her life with helping her to succeed and grow. These women pushed her to do more than what she thought possible such as speaking to her teenage peers about destructive decisions and asking for donations from businesses in her first professional position.
In her work at Helping Our People Excel, she worked with high-risk children from impoverished backgrounds to help prevent them from entering into the system. Her goal was to “stop the toll of those babies from winding up dead, getting on drugs, or getting locked up.” She worked her way from being a site coordinator to a Certified Prevention Professional and spent several years helping youth of all ages succeed.
During this time, she came to realize that “people can start out well, have crappy things happen to them, and end up different,” including herself. At the age of 31, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. While Sister Ameenah was still in the midst of recovering from surgery, she lost her job, but remained undeterred and developed and wrote a business plan in one night for her consulting business.
Sister Ameenah began her work at the Islamic Society of Michiana after visiting Imam Mohammad. After this first visit, she “never left.” At the Islamic Society, she formulated the Outreach committee and implemented many new programs to help introduce the Michiana community to the Muslim community. Her goal was to help educate the community at large that “we’re not the Muslims you see on TV.” One of her most successful programs was an open house that brought over 700 members of the Michiana Community to the Islamic Society for a casual meet and greet.
She is currently studying to be a Ustadah, a female teacher and leader, which would enable her to fulfill her goal of changing people and organizations one person at a time. As she says, “I understand the power that we have as people. I understand the power I have as a person. I understand that I can’t save everybody but I can just place seeds into people’s lives in hopes they will take that and grow.”
Information compiled from oral history collected by the Michiana Women Leaders Project
Sister Ameenah was a 2017 CMWL honoree.