Keeping the public informed
By Noreen Mohamed
Painting a Pakistani-American’s future and identity
From painting for her school’s local Art Market to participating in the North Carolina Asian Americans Together “Party in the Park” voter registration event, Daneen Khan has demonstrated her love for engaging with the community as both an American and Pakistani teenager.
“I feel like I’ve been doing art for my entire life,” said Khan, 17. “I realized there were more ways that I could use art to get involved within my community and school environment.”
Khan has managed events within her neighborhood for children to come and explore the world of art. “My neighborhood art event inspired me to keep being involved within my community and tie art into my love for kids,” Khan said.
As a student at Green Level High School in Cary, Khan has found a safe space amongst her peers in organizations like Art Club. As the current president, Khan leads other students in increasing school awareness about the visual arts and the purpose it serves in today’s society. They partake in fundraising events and enhance the school’s building and overall atmosphere.
Outside of the Art Club, Khan helped others learn more about arts opportunities at school by writing about them in The Gator’s Eye, the school’s student newspaper.
“This past school year, one of my friends and I worked as editors for a new Arts section in The Gator’s Eye to promote the arts at our school,” Khan said. “Even though it didn’t work out as its own section, we were able to merge it with student life and promote the arts a lot more than before.”
Khan’s identity as a Pakistani-American has been pivotal in honing her art skills in addition to participating in local North Carolina politics, she said.
“As a Pakistani-American, I’ve lived here my whole life, but I am still very much connected to my Pakistani identity,” Khan said. “However, when it comes to politics, I feel like my community is extremely underrepresented.”
To tackle this issue, Khan has helped minorities, specifically Asian Americans, get ready to vote in upcoming elections.
“I work with organizations to register minority voters and spread awareness about how important local politics really are,” Khan said.
Although representation for Asian Americans is increasing in the U.S., southeast Asians in particular do not make up as much of this demographic as east Asians, Khan said. Her heritage has further propelled her to make voting and U.S. politics a much more open discussion than it currently is for people who share her background.
“My parents have always inspired me and continue to be supportive of my passion for arts and politics, even when they don’t always understand all of it,” she said. “They had a much different upbringing where their culture prioritized very different things in comparison to western society, but they still do their best to understand me.”
While Khan’s experiences growing up in North Carolina are different from what her parents experienced, she said she still feels connected with her heritage.
“I’m extremely lucky that even though there’s a literal ocean between myself, my family and my Pakistani origin, I’m still very much in touch with them and who I am,” Khan said.