Editor Note: Black Sheep Bride is a platform to uplift, empower and share stories of amazing people, with selfless love, and huge impact, actively involved in changing the world around them, in a variety of ways. The following engagement session is both breathtaking, as it is, highly inspirational and thought provoking. BSB encourages you to put yourself in this couple’s ‘wedding planning shoes’ and imagine the challenges they must face, when planning a multi-cultural wedding of international proportions. The present time in which we live has become a historic season of great action, great community and great love, that is why BSB is honored to share the story of how this couple, both first-generation Americans, has chosen to use their rights, passions, skills, and personal understandings to serve the least of these. Arwa is an talented Muslim Indian immigration lawyer, as is her partner, Zohaile, an Iranian-American, their love story began in NYC, but has continued onto the other side of the country, in southern California. Read their story, from Arwa’s words below. (Photography by Laura Goldenberger Photography)
My fiancé Zohaile and I (Arwa) met in 2011 when we were both working together at a class action administration firm. He came from Southern California to New York for law school and stayed, and I was a New York native, who had taken a slight geographical detour to Paris, France to pursue a fellowship with an NGO in women’s rights in Africa and the Middle East. I was greeted, upon my return, by a failing job market and started working at this firm, because, even though the market was hard on the private practice of law, it was even harder on those who wanted to work at underfunded non profit organizations. I continued taking cases pro bono in humanitarian immigration (asylum protection for the LGBTQ community and deferred action for our country’s young and undocumented “dreamers”) and vowed to one day make this my “real job.”
The firm was good to me, most especially, because it brought Zohaile together. After sitting near each other in an open workspace and learning we lived in the same Astoria neighborhood, we began seeing each other outside of work. We’d spend our weekends going on road trips, adventures, and camping – falling in love with each other and nature.
A couple of years into our relationship, we decided to move to southern California. We quit our jobs, packed up our respective cars, and drove across the country over 21 magical days, camping and exploring along the way. I had always dreamed of living in California and now I was finally here. I promised myself that I would keep my word – to only work for a cause that I’m passionate about. I put it out there in the universe (and did a lot of hard work), and suddenly things started to fall into place. I was hired as the Asylum Director of a nonprofit organization in San Diego, moved into an amazing place located 5 minutes from work, and soon after found myself engaged to the love of my life.
After certain executive orders (were signed) at the end of January, I find my work becoming more challenging, crucial, and relevant. I begin my workdays a lot earlier and leave a lot later. I spend my weekends protesting, writing letters to my representatives, or finding ways to engage the non-legal community in advocacy or volunteer efforts, and thinking about every single one of my clients – potential or actual. After a bout of tears and hopelessness, I decided I was going to put my actions where my mouth was, that I was a voice for my clients and the people I serve – not just inside the immigration courts and offices, but everywhere their rights were being violated. The ban on travel from 7 Muslim countries hits home for me personally as well. Members of my fiancé’s family from Iran, who were planning to come to the United States especially for our wedding, are no longer allowed to enter the country. While I have been talked out of making my entire wedding playlist resistance and revolution songs, my spirit of dissent is ever present and will be on my wedding day. ||||
Here are a few ways to help Arwa and Z continue to serve others:
Donate to Casa Cornelia Law Center
Photography by Laura Goldenberger Photography
Special thanks to our BSB Vendor, ‘Cause We Can Events, for sharing this story with us!