Women of Excellence – Fatima Heyward

Woman to Watch – Fatima Heyward

Fatima Heyward was too young to vote for Barack Obama in 2008, but that didn’t stop her from campaigning for him among her high school classmates. “I think that’s what really sparked my political interest,” she says.

At just 25, Heyward is making herself known in New Jersey politics. In 2018, at a meeting of a local political group, she noticed a lack of diversity, and set out to change that. “I’ve always been interested in expanding diversity and inclusion and just making an impact in communities of color,” she says. “That’s why I co-founded the South Jersey Young Democrats Black Caucus in August of 2018.”

When she’s not at work as the communications manager of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund of NJ, Heyward is planning caucus meetings and events, like last September’s voter registration drive and a Black History Month event, which highlighted local black-owned businesses and business leaders.

“It’s extremely important to lift up black leaders so we can start making some change,” Heyward says. “I’ve come across lots of organizations that are white-led, with white volunteers and white supporters, who want to get more people of color involved. They say things like, ‘But they’re just not here.’ Well, we are here, we just need to bridge that gap.”

Heyward is a natural-born leader, a fact that was recognized when she was selected as one of 20 participants statewide for the New Leader Council, an “intensive six-month program where you’re surrounded by likeminded individuals and you work on your goals,” she says.

One of Heyward’s long-term goals, naturally, is to run for office.

“I see myself making a difference that way someday,” she says. “For now, I’m providing resources for communities so they understand the political process, motivating people to get involved. It’s really satisfying to know that every day I’m working on something that impacts a lot of people, and specifically the people in my community.”

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