Inside 16th & L is our bi-weekly blog series showcasing the Independent Sector team here at the corner of 16th and L Streets in Washington, DC. Find out who we are, where we’re from, what we do, and what drives us. This week, Inside 16th & L introduces Mareeha Niaz.
Mareeha’s role in a nutshell
I support a broad portfolio of different programmatic work. I’m involved in a lot of different working groups, including our Ethics and Accountability work. I focus on awareness and partnerships pieces to that. I work a lot on our racial equity work and our leadership development programs—the main flagship one being our American Express NGen Fellows program. I also have been lucky to be drawn into some of our Upswell design work. We’ve recently started a Lean Impact testing subgroup. I also work on our sales squad, which we call our “relationship and client management team.” And recently, I’ve also been lucky to get engaged with some of our policy advocacy on the Hill. The programmatic needs vary a little every year, so last year, one of the big things that I got to work on was our Fetzer collaboration, which was a series of conversations about the notion of shared democracy through dinner dialogues, which took place in communities across Michigan.
Mareeha is a…
• People person
• Momo (Nepalese dumpling) lover
• ENTP-T personality type (“The Debater”)
I have two hometowns. I was born in Pakistan—my hometown there is Faisalabad. My other hometown—where I really grew up and did all my school—is Woodbridge, Virginia.
What’s on your desk or in your workspace?
I have a bunch of stuff on my desk—file folders and stuff. But I will highlight the cutest thing I have on my desk, which is Babu Bhatt the brontosaurus. He’s a dinosaur, but he also has a little succulent. He’s named after the Pakistani character from Seinfeld.
What’s your favorite animal and why?
My favorite animal is a giraffe—an elephant is a close second though. I love giraffes because when I was growing up, people always commented on how tall I was all the way through middle school. So physically, I always felt like the odd one out because I felt awkward and skinny and brown—but giraffes are also like that. They look funny, but they’re endearing and unique. So I always identified with them. I also focused on them for projects whenever possible. I made a really cool science project in third grade that was a three-foot tall giraffe with fabric—it was one of my greatest accomplishments in life.
Books: What’s the last you started, the last you finished, and the most memorable you’ve ever read?
The last one I finished was The Book of Joan. I don’t know if it was a bestseller last year, but it was a recently a really successful sci-fi book that I found on somebody’s selected reads. It’s a really cool science fiction, dystopian take on female leadership and dissent. That’s by Lidia Yuknavitch. The last book I started is a book of selected poems by Anne Sexton. I’m working through that gradually by reading a few poems at a time. Insofar as most memorable books, Siddharta is a book that stood out to me when I was in school just because of the very interesting cultural take. But favorite-favorite is probably that Harry Potter series. I have a lot of formative memories associated with the years I was reading Harry Potter books. It engaged me in reading a lot—after I was exposed to it, I really loved reading and read a lot more fantasy and fiction because of it. One of my favorite series that I read after that was Tamara Pierce’s fantasy books, and really got into those.
Movies: What’s the last you saw at home and the last one you saw in a theater?
The last movie I watched at home was Do the Right Thing from Spike Lee. I hadn’t seen it before. I was watching that new series by Spike Lee on Netflix—She’s Gotta Have It, which I thought was really cool and interesting, and when I was discussing with somebody, they mentioned the earlier movie. Also in that biopic about how the Obama’s met, they go and see Do the Right Thing together. Those two experiences inspired me to seek it out and watch it at home, and it was great. The last movie I saw in a theater—I was thinking it was Black Panther, but it was actually Annihilation. I liked it a lot, but it was a little intense. In terms of an old favorite, I don’t do well picking favorites but I really loved any Bollywood film with Shah Rukh Khan in it.
In the Harry Potter series, there is that patronus charm a person uses to conjure positive feelings from their happiest memories as a protection against evil beings that prey on human souls. What is your patronus?
My patronus would be a phoenix—especially one that’s continually going up in flames and resurrecting. I think the symbolism there speaks to me, because such is life. I try to look at every year, or every few months of life as a kind of an up and down cycle that makes you stronger and better.