Amena has had a deep commitment to youth, social justice, advocacy and education for the entirety of her career. The promotion of social justice is something she has been passionate about since she was a child.
When Amena was six years old she rode with her grandfather to pick up people who could not get themselves to the polls to vote on Election Day. In between picking up voters and dropping them off her grandfather spoke about when it was illegal for African Americans to vote and stressed that they must vote in order to get issues that are important to them addressed by the government. Although he passed away shortly after that car ride her grandfather did not leave this earth without teaching Amena valuable lessons about social justice and leadership.
Amena’s grandfather was a retired coal miner and the people he took to the polls were elderly and/or disabled. They were all African Americans from Appomattox, a small rural town in central Virginia, where Amena was born and raised. People that looked like them were not the leaders she was learning about in school. That Election Day with my grandfather solidified her leadership philosophy that everyone is a leader. It also sparked a passion for social justice that continues today.
In her positions at George Mason and at SMYAL Amena has worked with young people that faced tremendous challenges such as homelessness and immigration issues. She has helped young people face these challenges by empowering them with tools and resources that will meet their basic needs as well as help promote self-advocacy and leadership. Amena has a keen understanding that the issues faced by these youth are systematic. These problems won’t be solved simply by providing shelter to a homeless youth or finding a scholarship for a needy student. She attempts to combat the systematic nature of these issues by facilitating trainings and teaching courses about diversity, inclusion and equity. She develops curriculum that offer participants an in-depth and interactive examination of social issues as well as strategies for making systematic change. Over the course of her career Amena has instructed over 1700 educators, social service providers and youth about these topics.
In her personal life Amena enjoys gardening, cooking, and board games. She considers herself an amateur genealogist. Recently she was about to trace her roots back to her 3rd great grandfather who was born in 1796. She is currently volunteering on a project researching the life of Hannah Reynolds, a slave who was the only civilian casualty in the, battle of Appomattox Court House, the final battle of the Civil War.
Amena lives in the Washington, DC area with her wife Nikki and their cats Isis, Tux and Skittles.