P.D. Soros Fellowship for New Americans


Salmah Y Rizvi, 2014

Executive Director, ACLU of Hawai'i

Salmah Y Rizvi is an immigrant from Indonesia

Fellowship awarded to support work towards a JD in Law at New York University (NYU)

Born in Indonesia, Salmah Yasmeen Rizvi is the daughter of immigrants—a Pakistani father and Guyanese mother. Growing up as a Shia Muslim, Rizvi has fought for justice her whole life.

At age 16, she was her district's youngest ever Human Rights Commissioner, politically engaging the County Council and Board of Education on issues of racial injustice and educational inequality. While completing her B.A. in Anthropology at the Johns Hopkins University, Rizvi founded and led the humanitarian relief organization Vision XChange which produced competitive fundraising events to creatively tackle issues, such as child soldier recruitment and human trafficking, in the global grassroots.

Combining her interests in local, national, and international public service, Salmah worked for the U.S. Department of State and Defense during and after college. She mastered multiple foreign languages and impacted missions that countered terrorist financing and nuclear proliferation, often informing the U.S. President’s Daily Briefs. While working full-time, she also completed an M.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University. 

As a leader in government, Rizvi was appointed the first Chairwoman to the Defense Department's Islamic Cultural Employee Resource Group. She elevated the profile of Muslims as assets to U.S. national security and led ninety-two analysts in demanding accountable intelligence reporting on the Muslim world, while also protecting the civil rights of Muslims within the workplace. Numerous politicians and executive branch leaders, ranging from members of Congress to the President's office applauded Rizvi for her public service.

After serving for nearly ten years, Rizvi left the government to earn a J.D. from the New York University School of Law. As an attorney, Rizvi has litigated complex, impactful cases, progressing and advancing U.S. law in a strategic and forceful manner. She served as an Associate in Ropes & Gray LLP’s Washington D.C. office and clerked for the Honorable Judge Theodore A. McKee of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and the Honorable Judge J. Michael Seabright of the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii.

Rizvi is currently a community leader and civil rights activist in Hawaii. She sits on the Board of Directors to the American Muslim Bar Association which works to infuse spiritual consciousness into legal activism, speaking truth to power across the nation and engaging in legal scholarship. She is also an Organizer for the Zawiyah Foundation of Hawaii, hosting initiatives that aim to heal residents of Hawaii. Rizvi hopes to combine her government, corporate, and nonprofit experiences to enrich civic leadership through innovative advocacy and reform.

  • JD Law | New York University (NYU) 2016
  • MS Foreign Service | Georgetown University 2010
  • BA Anthropology | Johns Hopkins University 2008
Work History
  • ACLU of Hawai'i, Executive Director
  • Ropes & Gray, Attorney
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