Syed, I’m so excited to have this conversation with you! To get started, can you share with folks a bit about who you are, what you do, and what brought you to your work?
Thanks so much for including me in The Magic Word, Lucy! I absolutely love what you’re doing with Studio Magic Hour. I’ve always found your work and perspective inspiring, so The Magic Word has been a wonderful chance to tap back into your mind.
My name is Syed and I’m allergic to wearing only one hat at a time. I’m trained as an urban planner, work for a philanthropic foundation, and spend nights and weekends on political organizing. Through all of these levers, I’m fundamentally interested in one goal: working towards a future in which where one lives does not determine one’s health and wealth.
I was born and raised in New York City, the child of immigrants from Bangladesh in the Bronx. That shapes everything I do today. The food apartheid whose roots crack through the sidewalks of the city brought me to FoodCorps, where you and I worked together to connect kids to healthy food in school. The segregation of the city and its resources brought me to urban planning, a discipline through which I could unravel how the Bronx became the poster place of planned shrinkage and municipal disinvestment. The rich landscape of community organizations and long tradition of activism across the city helped inspire me to go into philanthropy, through which I could support that work.