DET_2024 Game Changers AAPI Heritage_Showcase-ISLAM

DETROIT -- Rebeka Islam was 5 years old when she and her family moved to the United States from Bangladesh. They eventually settled in Hamtramck, Mich., where Islam said she first remembered feeling inspired to make a difference in her community.

“Growing up in Hamtramck, it was very diverse,” Islam said. “That really opened my eyes to the differences and needs of the community. I saw the language barriers and accessibility issues our community had. Somewhere along the line, I felt that I needed to be a voice for the voiceless.”

Islam said graduating from Cass Tech High School and Wayne State University were also eye-opening experiences that reinforced her belief that she needed to be an advocate for minority populations, especially the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community in Michigan.


“There was so much diversity even within Cass Tech,” Islam said. “Here I am going home to a very close community (in Hamtramck) and then when I go out to Detroit, I see how broad the world is.”

Now as the Executive Director of the Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote Michigan (APIAVote-MI), Islam said dedicating her life to advance justice and equality has been a continuous, rewarding experience.

“When you talk about Asian Americans, you talk about different languages and ethnicities,” Islam said. “Just understanding my community and learning about it, I feel so blessed to be able to do what I do because of the love and support the community has given me.”

Islam is the third Game Changers honoree who the Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Tigers and Comerica Bank are celebrating as part of AAPI Heritage Month.

“Representing the vibrant Bangladeshi American community here in Detroit, Rebeka Islam continues to make a positive influence locally and across Michigan as a leader for AAPI voter education, access and rights,” said Kevin Brown, director of community impact for Ilitch Sports + Entertainment. “We’re thrilled to celebrate Rebeka as a Game Changers honoree as she drives increased interest in civic engagement and advocacy with and for Michigan’s AAPI community.”


Established in 2007, APIAVote-MI is a non-profit organization that educates, strengthens and mobilizes the Asian American community across the state. Islam said APIAVote-MI prioritizes community connectedness, helping every voice be heard.

“Democracy is not as easy as it seems for a lot of folks who come from Asian countries,” Islam said. “They don’t know that you can have a direct conversation with your congressman, congresswoman, state representative or even the President of the United States. That is not a privilege many of our community members have. APIAVote-MI serves as a resource to let the community know what they have and the resources that are out there for them.”

Islam said APIAVote-MI is also committed to ensuring all community members are treated with respect and dignity.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, I started implementing direct services in the form of food pantries,” Islam said. “COVID really taught us how generous our community is, but there was no one at these tables to say the foods weren’t culturally appropriate or sensitive for our community. I was able to partner with local grocery stores and get groceries that were culturally appropriate.”


Islam encouraged everyone to work together to uphold the values of the AAPI community.

“Our job is really to meet the community where it is and to get people to a better place,” Islam said. “I do a lot of fundraising, community-building and networking with community members to find out what they need. You might not always see the need. The needs of the Asian American community are so unique.”

To learn more about APIAVote-MI, click here.