- The 30-year-old daughter of Indian and Pakistani immigrants made history in 2020 when she became the first Muslim woman ever elected to public office in the state.
Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam was sworn in yesterday (Dec. 4) as chair of the Board of Commissioners, making her the youngest county chair in North Carolina. “Amid a rise in bigotry & hate this Board looked at this Muslim woman who has grown up in a post 9/11 America being called a terrorist, told to go back to where I came from… & they chose to call me Chair,” the 30-year-old daughter of Indian and Pakistani immigrants posted on X.
She made history in 2020 when she became the first Muslim woman ever elected to public office in North Carolina. In the years since, “she has become a leading advocate for affordable housing, universal healthcare, a fair living wage, a Green New Deal, abortion rights, and labor rights across the state,” according to her website. In addition to serving as commissioner, she also served in senior leadership in the NC Democratic Party and as chair of the Durham Mayor’s Council for Women.
In a Q&A posted on the North Carolina Department of Administration website, Allam said she chose to run for Durham County Commissioners because they “play a vital role in funding our schools as well as building a relationship with the school board to continually improve on the lives of kids across Durham.”
Last year, she ran to represent North Carolina’s 4th Congressional District— coming up just nine points short of victory in the most expensive primary in state history.
She grew up in Wake County and attended North Carolina public schools and then NC State University. There she led a campaign to partner with local healthcare workers to provide free healthcare to low-income community members.
An event in 2015 changed her trajectory. Her friends Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha were murdered in their Chapel Hill home in an anti-Muslim hate crime. Deeply affected by the incident and determined to carry on their legacy, she threw herself into organizing to amplify underheard voices and increase community safety through solidarity.
Before her run for local office, she worked as a political director for Senator Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign in 2016 and was elected as third vice chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party, becoming the first Muslim American to serve on the party’s executive council. She also served as chair of Durham Mayor’s Council for Women, serving as liaison between women and the city government officials to improve the quality of life of women in Durham.
She lives in Durham with her husband and two dogs, Otis and Nala.
(Top photo, Nida Allam/Facebook).