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About Na'ilah

About Na'ilah

Overview

My mission is to change everyday people’s understanding of power and show them, through grassroots advocacy, how they can directly impact the laws that govern their lives. It’s an honor to use my platform to empower underserved communities and shift traditional channels of power towards a more inclusive system of government of, by, and for the people.

Professional Profile

Grassroots Focus, National Impact

Na’ilah Amaru is a nationally recognized political strategist and campaign advisor with a proven track record of influencing public policy at every level of government. She has worked on the front lines as a grassroots organizer, a direct-service non-profit manager, a public interest lobbyist, a government executive, and a number of other positions across the political spectrum. For each role, she has spearheaded crafting public policy, political agendas, campaign strategies, and messaging at the local, state, and federal levels.

Working in Democratic politics spanning two decades over five states, Na’ilah has long been a fierce advocate for building grassroots governing power among women, BIPoC, and underserved communities. She has spearheaded transformational issue campaigns and commanded highly visible leadership roles in government and nonprofits, including as executive director of the New York City Council’s Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus.

As the national director of The Democracy Project, she built a new national initiative designed to grow state legislators’ capacity to advocate for progressive democracy reforms. Tapping into her network, she recruited more than 250 legislators from all 50 states, and cultivated critical grassroots partnerships. Significantly, she expanded the mainstream framing of democracy reforms beyond voting access to more broadly include civic participation, policy influence, and co-governance.

In Washington DC, Na’ilah led the Youth Justice campaign to expand support for juvenile justice reforms, with a focus on increasing community-based alternatives to incarceration. She was successful in building a diverse coalition that secured budget and legislative victories – by reframing narratives regarding youth, crime, and government investment.

As a key member of the #LetNY Vote campaign, Na’ilah trained and mobilized 200+ grassroots advocates across the state in support of early voting access and key electoral reforms in New York. She shaped campaign strategy and coalition partnerships, and facilitated meetings between constituents and State Senate, Assembly, and Governor’s Offices. This campaign win led to easier ballot access for 13.1 million registered voters statewide.

As the chief strategist and driving force behind the #JustPay campaign, Na’ilah Amaru led a transformative effort to end poverty-level wages for government-contracted human services workers. As campaign director, she prioritized the voices of directly impacted workers, built a comprehensive organizing infrastructure across the sector, and secured a $741 million cost-of-living adjustment for city-contracted human services workers after five years of stagnant wages. Additionally, she successfully advocated for over $1 billion for state-contracted human services workers in the state budget, ending 12 years of stagnant wages.

Na’ilah developed and launched the Organizing Academy to empower non-profit workers, equipping them with advocacy skills to amplify their voices and be the leading voices calling for change.

She is a founding member of New York’s first BIPOC Democracy Table, a collaborative network of organizations and leaders focused on advancing the political and civic engagement of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) in New York. The table works to influence legislation that better represents the interests and needs of BIPOC communities and center racial equity in democracy reforms by advocating for policies that promote racial equity, social justice, and economic opportunity. The table provides education on voting rights, election processes, and the importance of civic engagement to encourage BIPOC voter turnout and political participation.

A Tireless Tactician

From her early local experience as a tenant organizer in Atlanta, and a leadership role as policy advisor to former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, then to the State House and on to Capitol Hill as a legislative aide to the late U.S. Congressman John Lewis, Na’ilah is a disciplined tactician who works tirelessly to transform ideas into policy and amplify diverse voices in legislative conversations. With her interdisciplinary background Na’ilah is a sought-after speaker, media commentator, and advisor to community-based organizations and advocacy campaigns, building coalitions and empowering grassroots mobilizations that boldly move social justice issues forward.

Trainer and Educator

An active proponent of civic engagement and grassroots governance, Amaru works to help everyday constituents harness their individual and collective power towards driving meaningful change. Amaru develops and facilitates workshops to support individuals to take on leadership roles in their communities. She delivers training materials designed to cultivate effective community leaders with the expertise to address community as well as societal issues, so that they are empowered to make a positive impact within their communities.

She has traveled across the country as lead national trainer for Vote Run Lead, changing the face of political leadership by training women of color on the mechanics and politics of running for public office. Na’ilah has taught courses addressing topics such as race, gender and public policy, and is a frequent guest lecturer to undergraduate students studying community organizing, political communications, and elections and campaigns.

With her PhD studies completed, Na’ilah’s goal is to educate and cultivate the next generation of political activists, organizers, and policymakers.

Advisor and Thought Leader

Na’ilah is an ongoing contributor to the award-winning Brown Girls Guide to Politics podcast where she shares hard-earned lessons from her own journey with young women of color who are interested in entering politics with a purpose.

She sits on the Democratic National Committee’s Young Professionals Leadership Council and Women Leaders Network for the Association for a Better New York. She was a founding member of Emerge America’s New York chapter and previously served on the board of directors for Citizen Action New York, and the NYC Chapter for the National Women’s Political Caucus.

Awards and Recognition

Na’ilah has earned recognition for her impact at the intersections of policy, campaigns, and government relations.

Women Serving Women Honor

Women Serving Women honor, Women in Government Relations | Na'ilah Amaru

Nonprofit
Trailblazer

Nonprofit Trailblazer from City and State New York, and New York Nonprofit Media | Na'ilah Amaru

Top 100 Lobbyist
in the Nation

Top 100 Lobbyist in the Nation from the National Institute for Lobbying Ethics | Na'ilah Amaru

Champion
of Change

Champion of Change | The City University of New York | Na'ilah Amaru

Top 20 Advocates Award

Top 20 Advocates award from The Advocacy Association, and Roll Call | Na'ilah Amaru

40 Under 40
Rising Stars

40 Under 40 Rising Stars from City and State New York | Na'ilah Amaru

Female Thought Leader of the Year

Female Thought Leader of the Year, by WOMELLE | Na'ilah Amaru

40 Under 40

40 Under 40, Georgia State University | Na'ilah Amaru

Public Servant Award

Public Servant Award from Café Mocha Radio | Na'ilah Amaru

Special distinction: Selected to deliver the presidential nomination speech for Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention on behalf of the Democratic Party | 2016

Education

Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a focus on Race, Ethnic, and Gender politics

Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, with a focus on Juvenile Corrections
University of Texas at San Antonio

Master of Public Administration, with a focus on Policy Analysis
University of Texas at San Antonio

Master of Public Policy, with a focus on Nonprofit Advocacy
Georgia State University

Master of Urban Affairs, with a focus on Urban Planning
Hunter College, New York City

PhD. in Political Science | CUNY Graduate Center in New York (in progress)
Academic research interests are political participation, governing coalitions, and agenda-setting.

Military Service

Na’ilah served in the United States Army as an ammunition specialist where she made history as the first woman to win a battalion-level competition and received the Army Commendation Medal for exemplary service during her tour in Iraq.

Na'ilah Amaru | MPA, MPP, MS
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