At the Union des militants, a cause for celebration
Emily Ann Frank Mayer was wearing a red cardigan with a prominent armpit hole when she caught the eye of Waleed Shahid while reciting a poem at an open mic night at Haverford College in September 2010.
“It was a bold decision,” he said, referring to his sweater choice.
After the event, in a bold move of his own, sophomore Mr. Shahid approached freshman Ms. Mayer and invited her to a party his friends were throwing that evening. .
But Ms. Mayer had other plans, she told him. It wasn’t long before their paths crossed again in Haverford, which is about 10 miles from Philadelphia and had fewer than 1,200 students at the time.
Both realized after meeting that they were taking the same science class and took the opportunity to get to know each other better. Originally from Berkeley, California, Ms. Mayer is Jewish, while Mr. Shahid was raised in Arlington, Virginia by Muslim Punjabi parents who immigrated from Lahore, Pakistan.
They met on campus that fall, including when Ms. Mayer saw Mr. Shahid promoting a concert featuring bands from taqwacore, a form of Islamic-influenced punk, which he had organized to raise public awareness after the 2010 floods in Pakistan. Although Ms. Mayer soon began seeing someone else, she and Mr. Shahid, whose social circles overlapped, continued to develop a friendship.
The following year, in the summer of 2011, Ms. Mayer broke up with her boyfriend. By the time she and Mr. Shahid were back on campus that fall, their bond was “so real and so intense,” as classmate and mutual friend Ian Gavigan put it, that it was obvious for Mr. Gavigan and others, some of them who asked Mr. Shahid why they weren’t dating.
Mr. Shahid soon began to wonder why too and quickly told Ms. Mayer that he had feelings for her. But following her recent breakup, she told him “it just wasn’t the right time” for another relationship.
The following January, Mr. Shahid left for a semester abroad in London. He intended to study in Cairo, but had to change his plans following the Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt. Unenthusiastic about living in London, where the money he had saved for Cairo was not going far, Mr Shahid became “lonely and isolated”, he said, and spent much of his free time corresponding with Ms. Mayer via Skype and e-mail.
Their conversations touched on topics including art, politics, movies, and the writing of gender theorist Judith Butler. But no matter the subject, Ms Mayer noticed a new side to Mr Shahid sneaking through.
“His loneliness made him more honest and inclined to share his raw feelings in a way I had never seen before,” she said.
“For the majority of our friendship, I didn’t have a deep understanding of what was going on for him,” she added, “But when he was away he became more vulnerable.”
When he returned to campus in August 2012, Mr. Shahid had mostly forgotten about a romantic future with Ms. Mayer, who had taken on a new role in his life: that of best friend. After the two ran a social justice program for freshmen, he also saw her as something of a mentor.
“I thought she could really teach me a lot about how to do social justice education in an accessible way,” he said.
Ms. Mayer, however, soon began to develop more than platonic feelings for him. In November, she shyly asked Mr Shahid if they could be “friends who kissed”. By the time he graduated from Haverford with honors in the spring of 2013, the two were a committed couple.
“Waleed is one of the most versatile people I’ve ever met,” Ms. Mayer said.
“He’s incredibly thoughtful and smart and political,” she added, “and also really silly and loves animals and punk rock. I love how he talks about hagiographies all the time. I’m learning constantly new things when I’m with him.
That summer, he worked in the kitchen at Habonim Dror Camp Gilboa, a Jewish camp in Big Bear Lake, Calif., where Ms. Mayer served as director of education. Habonim Dror, a progressive Zionist movement, had been part of his life since childhood. Having Mr Shahid spend his summer at the camp, she said, “showed that he wanted to get to know all the parts of me”.
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Later, as he considered the next steps in his career, Mr. Shahid began to consider community organizing in part because of Ms. Mayer’s interest in the field.
“As a child of immigrants, I was really taught to keep my head down and follow the rules,” he said, describing Ms Mayer as someone who “takes risks and feels every feeling, whether it’s things that make her happy or things that are hard.”
“She really taught me what it means to live a full life,” he added, “and be okay with pushing your weight against the world and having it push you away, instead of just keeping your head up. lowered.”
Mr. Shahid spent the next two years getting his career off the ground in Philadelphia, eventually landing a job during Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. Ms. Mayer spent some of that time finishing her college education. After graduating magna cum laude in 2014, she co-founded If not nowan organization that works to end American Jewish support for Israeli policies in the occupied Gaza Strip and West Bank.
In 2016, partly to further their careers, they moved to Brooklyn.
After Mr. Sanders lost the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton in July, Mr. Shahid went on to serve as a campaign strategist and adviser to New York Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman, both Democrats. Ms. Mayer raised the profile of IfNotNow by helping organize protests against the occupation, including a protest at a convention organized by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, in 2019.
Ms Mayer, 30, who is currently completing a master’s program at the City University of New York’s School of Labor and Urban Studies, now works as director of the New York City Council’s Progressive Caucus. Mr. Shahid, 31, is a Democratic strategist and the spokesperson for Justice Democrats, an organization that works to replace more centrist Democrats with liberal candidates.
In the summer of 2019, Mr. Shahid introduced Ms. Mayer to his father, Shahid Bashir, a parking lot manager, and his mother, Kauser Shahid, a retired special education assistant. Her mother was quick to voice her hopes for the couple, introducing Ms Mayer to a Pakistani bridal magazine and “dropping many clues”, she said.
But for Ms Mayer – whose mother, Evelyn Frank, a lawyer, died when she was 1 – marriage had not been a priority. “Because of my youth when my mother died, I had a lot of fears about what it meant to commit,” she said.
The following year, after her stepmother Randy Milden, a psychologist and writer, was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in January 2020, Ms Mayer traveled to Berkeley to be with Ms Milden and her father , Steven Mayer, who is also a lawyer. . Mr. Shahid came to visit him several times. Her unwavering support, Ms. Mayer said, changed her mind about a marriage. “Let’s do it, let’s get married,” she remembers telling him. By the time Ms Milden died in March she was aware of their intention to marry.
Mrs. Mayer was convinced that she should be the only one to propose. “Waleed was always the chaser, and I knew I wanted to kick off this stage,” she said. She did so the following year, in April 2021, at Mr. Gavigan’s house in Philadelphia, where they had come to visit him and other college friends.
Ms Mayer arrived at Mr Gavigan’s house first that day and hid notes throughout the house, each stating a different reason why she wanted to marry Mr Shahid. Upon arrival, he began a note hunt, which led him to the backyard.
There Mr Shahid found Ms Mayer in a Spiderman mask, a nod to his love for Marvel Comics, with a sign asking him to marry him in Urdu, the national language of Pakistan.
On May 14, the two were married at Gather Greene, an event space and retreat center in Coxsackie, NY. New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, a friend of the couple who was ordained by Universal Life Church for the occasion, officiated in front of 205 vaccinated guests, who were all invited to take Covid tests before attending. Among them was Mr. Bowman, who pronounced a benediction.
For the ceremony, the two wore South Asian styles of formal wear. The bride, whose hands and feet were adorned with henna, wore a brown and gold lehenga, and the groom a cream and white sherwani.
Their marriage incorporated both Muslim and Jewish traditions, including an unveiling of their faces before the ceremony and the signing of a marriage contract; theirs, by calligrapher Josh Berer, was written in Hebrew, Urdu and English.
Beneath a chuppah draped in garlands of flowers in shades of red, pink, white and yellow, Mr. Lander recited verses from the Quran in Arabic and pronounced blessings in Hebrew. In his remarks, he noted that the bride and groom were exemplary role models in presenting themselves, both for each other and for their communities.
“You do it across lines of difference that are so often hard to cross,” he said, describing their union as a testament to “the beauty of change and openness.”
Mr Bowman echoed that sentiment in his benediction, saying: “May you both continue to be shining lights for the rest of us to follow, towards truth, justice and the evolution of humanity.”
When May 14, 2022
Where Gather Greene in Coxsackie, NY
Hobbes The couple’s guests also included actress Cynthia Nixon, known for playing Miranda Hobbes in ‘Sex and The City’ and her ‘And Just Like That’ reboot, including the campaign for New York governor the groom had worked on .
party time At a reception after the ceremony, Red Baraat, a Brooklyn band that performs bhangra, a Punjabi style of music, performed “Hava Nagila.” Later, after the newlyweds changed into white dresses and tuxedos, guests danced to a set by DJ Rekha, who once hosted Basement Bhangra parties at SOB’s, a club in Lower Manhattan. As part of the festivities, Mr. Bowman also rapped Wu-Tang Clan’s “Triumph.”