Summer 2014 Graduate, Sophie Malki, Shares her Original Work

Summer 2014 graduate, Sophie Malki, shared an original piece inspired by workshops lead by guest speaker Valerie Jeannis and our very own BALI anthem. Malki presented this piece at the BALI summer graduation on August 2, 2014.


I am beautiful

By Sophie Malki

I am beautiful.

I shine with the radiance of the Sun.

I am a diamond with rough edges, but a smooth soul and a kind heart.

And I am human.

I am a young woman.

WE are human.

WE are the young women of today, yesterday, and tomorrow.

We continue the legacy of the suffragettes who fought for the right to vote during a time when for so long women were only valued to cook, clean, and serve their husbands.

We carry the strength of the young Nigerian women taken from their beds by terrorists of Boko Haram. Ignorance casting shadows on bright souls. Putting price tags on human life. They tried to turn the flame of the girls’ existences to smoke because they were afraid of educated women. But still, the girls would not let others define their worth and more than 60 were able to escape. Even so, they live in constant fear and cannot even return to school. My heart breaks 200 more times for my sisters who are still bound to unknown horrors on a daily basis.

We share the resilience of Malala Yousafzai, a sixteen year old young activist who took a bullet to show that women in Pakistan should have the right to go to school. The young woman who will not stop until every girl in the world has access to a safe education.

In our eyes, we keep the spark alive of the little girls who climbed the tallest trees, ran with the wind on their backs, and knew that they were just as capable as all of their peers, regardless of gender.

No girl was aware of any reason why she should slow down. Not afraid of public scrutiny—of being judged by every crease of her skin, the fiery optimism in her eyes, the dirt in her nails, the shade of pink in her cheeks that intensified with every new discovery.

But still I am unsure of myself.

WE are unsure of ourselves—our worth, our dreams, our places in the world.

Why can’t we be like the girls we once were?

Why are we afraid to give the wrong answer in class?

Why do we hesitate before asking questions and confronting others?

Are we afraid of our own voices?

Were they afraid of their own voices?

I used to look in the bathroom mirror and feel tears of frustration build up behind my eyes because I couldn’t make the fat on my body magically disappear.

My brain would scrutinize every inch of my skin as I wondered if this was the way others saw me too.

And often that voice will creep into my subconscious and distort the body that demands to be looked at.

But now I tell that voice that the curve of my hips and the fat on my thighs allows me to bring life into this world.

That the curls in my hair are endless spirals that grow from the beauty inside of me and refuse to stand still.

That our eyes tell women’s stories from the beginning of human history.

That we will be the leaders of today because we need our daughters to be the leaders of tomorrow.

Men oppress us because they are afraid. And they should be. They should be afraid of a woman’s strength and the power we have to change the world.

We are powerful.

We are beautiful.

We are women.

In an email to our President and Founder, Liz Abzug, Malki also wrote:

“Thank you so much for all of the powerful learning experiences of the past two weeks. BALI has helped me to better respect myself and my body, and to further understand how to be a “good” leader. Everyone in the BALI program was so supportive, which really empowered me. I loved hearing from so many different women and about their life journeys. Listening to Kimberly Harris and Claire Reed speak taught me that you are never too young or old to make a difference, which inspires me to show my peers that their voices do matter. I also learned that I enjoy debating, even though it can sometimes be stressful. Because of the strong sisterhood you have helped to create, I know I will keep in touch with all my BALI 2014 “sistahs” and that we will support each other in our future endeavors.”

Social Media Will Not Bring Back Our Girls

June 24, 2014

Dear Fellow Members of Society,

It is with great displeasure that I am writing to you today upon the injustices that men and women still face in this “global community”. We have all heard about the horrific kidnapping of the 276 girls by Boko Haram in Nigeria. These girls were kidnapped on April 14th and are still missing exactly two months and ten days later. Dare I ask why it has taken so long for these girls to be rescued?

The whole #BringOurGirlsBack movement is a great campaign whose intentions have been misconstrued. It is only due to the prowess of social media that people began to shed light onto the situation. However, this situation has been less of a focus onto the girls than it has been on the politics of awareness. A tweet is little more than a status symbol and definitely not equal to action. People are telling others that they are aware of the situation and how horrible it is, but are failing to react to the real consequences for the girls, their families, and the political bodies they are caught between. When children are first kidnapped, within the first several hours of being held in captivity, they are exposed to the horrors that no one should ever have to face at such an innocent age. For a female, these tragedies include forced rape and even worse, their bodies are exposed to a plethora of objects that will be used against them. These horrific situations can onset pregnancies, early menstrual cycles, ruptured uteri, psychological problems, and even lead to sexual dysfunction in the future. We continue to accept tragedies like these because they happen in Africa, the wild land of post-colonial turmoil. If it was 219 white European or American girls who were to have gone missing, all of the governments of the world would have acted swiftly and moved mountains to have brought them back.

Given everyone’s perception of Blacks due to colonization, it seems as though the major governments pass an apathetic glance over the crisis in Nigeria due to the fact that these are 219 black girls that have gone missing. It appears as though because these girls are black, it is only natural for them to have been sold into slavery. After all, it is what Post-Colonial Africa is known for. We all know the stereotypes- poor, dirty, lacking any form of government, constantly in a civil war, and most importantly, the innumerable accounts of human rights laws being violated. Due to colonial European influences, Africa is chaotic because it was never allotted the necessary resources to self-govern.

What fascinates me the most is that the American government and the other “superpowers” meddles in everyone’s affairs but their own. When it comes to the lives of civilians caught in the crossfire, their troubles are forever ignored. My favorite part of this whole situation is that only after the #BringOurGirlsBack Movement began, a photo of our first lady, Michelle Obama, posing with the slogan sign appeared everywhere. Shortly after, we learned that President Barack Obama was being briefed on the situation.

It took our government three weeks to react to the situation. In three weeks, a child could have been raped to death, brutally beaten, or tortured.  We send drones to kill “terrorist” organizations and surrounding civilians, but we can’t send drones to kill child rapists. It is tragic to consider the fact that these girls may never be returned to their parents because they are either dead, in which case they are lucky, or are already sex slaves in one of the neighboring countries.

If democracy is meant to be synonymous with ignorance, then I must bid democracy adieu. One only hears of “liberty and justice for all” when the interests of big American corporations are at stake. The fate of our future generations is in our hands, and if we continuously allow those of different races to be subjected to such unjustifiable horrors, then where do we stand? I understand that it is not America’s job or any of the other “superpowers’” jobs to police the world. However, when we are responsible for the disadvantaged state that a country or its people are in, wherever they are in the world, it is everyone’s duty to aid in the process of reversing the effects of colonization and prolonged racism by underscoring the ideals of a global community and togetherness. It may not be an immediate solution to the problem, however it’s a start. Racial and social problems still affect us and we will never be able to surmount them if we knowingly turn a blind eye to them.


Christiana Signature

Bella Abzug Leadership Institute partners with New York Commercial Real Estate Women (NYCREW)


BALI would like to thank the New York Commercial Real Estate Women (NYCREW) foundation network for their very generous support and partnership. NYCREW is an organization that focuses on bringing women of power and influence into positions of leadership in the field of commercial real estate. Through their charitable foundation, “The CREW Network Foundation,” they have committed to support BALI this summer and in future.


NYCREW Network (New York Commercial Real Estate Women Network, Inc) is the first New York area chapter of CREW, founded to advance the success of women in commercial real estate through opportunity, influence and power.  NYCREW encourages doing business together in collaboration rather than competition, providing its members with the skills and opportunities to achieve success in commercial real estate.

About CREW Network and CREW Network Foundation

The mission of CREW Network ( is to influence the success of the commercial real estate industry by advancing the achievements of women. CREW Network does this by looking outward to bring more women into the industry, showcasing member successes and serving as a key resource to its members and the industry. CREW Network members represent all disciplines of commercial real estate – every type of expert required to “do the deal.” Members comprise of nearly 9,000 commercial real estate professionals in over 70 chapters across North America.

CREW Network Foundation, incorporated in 1998 as the 501(c)(3), philanthropic arm of CREW Network, continues to stand as the sole foundation dedicating its resources to support the mission of CREW Network while building opportunities for women and girls in commercial real estate.

BALI President and Founder, Liz Abzug wishes to extend a heartfelt thanks to our BALI Board members Theresa Garelli (NYCREW  Board Member) and Beth Lafonte (Director of  Partnerships for the Crew Network Foubdation) for making this terrific new partnership with the  NYCREW Network Foundation happen!

We very much look forward to the 2014 BALI summer trainees having the opportunity to meet, learn from and be mentored by NYCREW members.

(Left to Right)

Beth Zafonte (Director of Partnerships for the Crew Network Foundation and BALI Board Member), Theresa Garelli, Esq. (NYCREW Board Member and BALI Board Member), Liz Abzug (President and Founder of BALI), and a NYCREW member after their generous donation for the Summer 2014 Training Program.

Liz Abzug (President and Founder of BALI).


Left to Right

Isabelle Pullis (Fidelity National Title), Liz Abzug (President and Founder of BALI), and Erica Forman (BALI Board of Directors Chair)


The esteemed Douglas Elliman (SVP of Commercial Real Estate), Liz Abzug (President and Founder of BALI) and Faith Hope Consolo (NYCREW Board of Directors member).












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