Parisa is the Executive Director of Empower DC. She understands that the development boom in the nation’s capital that is led by powerful interests means the displacement and fragmentation of long established communities, but decisions are made without opportunity for real input and influence from those affected. She succeeds in leading communities to organize themselves to respond to threats through her innovative strategies to inspire people who for years have felt helpless in the face of those with power and money.
Her organization galvanized the community of Ivy City to successfully oppose a plan to use a local school parking lot for tourist buses, despite significant air quality problems already affecting the health of local residents. Parisa had worked with the Ivy City community since 2001 to document neighborhood history, win affordable housing, and pursue a recreation center at the closed school. When the city moved forward with its parking plan, she led a successful lawsuit which garnered press attention and convinced the judge to tour the site, and rule in favor of the community. Never one to shy away from tough political battles, Parisa and Empower DC are also organizing to stop school closings in low-income Black neighborhoods and the demolition of public housing communities. As they do, people are transformed from soft spoken to outspoken, what Parisa calls “the building block of social change.” They have seen that they themselves can Empower DC.