Shireen Malekafzali

In 2021, the County of San Mateo named Shireen Malekafzali its first-ever Chief Equity Officer. This is the second newly created County role aimed at bettering the welfare and outcomes of both employees and residents. Malekafzali’s 20-year career includes policy, teaching, research and coalition building work across the nation. She holds a Bachelor of Science in environmental studies and a Master’s in public health. She previously served as health equity officer for County Health where she led the health equity strategy including development of a seven-point approach for equitable vaccine distribution and developed a community-led COVID-testing model.

Watch an equity presentation by Shireen Malekafzali where she reads her poem, “I Am.” (Commission on the Status of Women Special Meeting, 1/11/2022).

Between 2021 and 2022, County Chief Equity Officer Shireen Malekafzali, in partnership with the San Mateo County Libraries, launched the “Equity Through Art Series” where communities of color share their stories and experiences through the lens of art, to culminate in a vision for the future of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) in San Mateo County.

Poem on Belonging

I AM…

I am from the womb of a depressed warrior

From a land of empire, oppression, and poetry
From a climate of black outs, bombs, and instability

I am an immigrant.

A fresh lens on America – an awkward sense of self and belonging
I am from the ingredients of the American Dream –
            from hard work, sacrifice, and loss,
            school lunches, ESL, and luck,
            emergency rooms, student loans, and struggle,
            from strength and hope, and pain and more luck

A reluctant warrior – an introvert, a mom, a learner
I am from the skies of privilege and opportunity
Riding the winds of compassion and gratitude

Flying the spirits of ancestral hope
I am connected to all that is and has been
Guided by the light in my heart

Ever the optimist
Afloat on the waters of anxiety

A unique blend of apple pie – a splash of rosewater, a dash of pomegranate, with a foreign texture
I am the scars and ambitions of my parent’s dreams
I am a shadow of the American landscape

Copyright © 2022 by Shireen Malekafzali. Used with permission of the author.