State of Colorado’s first female Muslim Representative, first-generation American
This summer, CU Denver will unveil a series of murals and canvasses painted by world-renowned artist Detour that shines a spotlight on the achievements of the university's alumni. This article is part of a series that aims to go deeper into the stories of the alumni depicted in the series.
Learning to accept your identity isn’t always easy, even for a State Representative.
Representative Iman Jodeh – the first Muslim and Palestinian-American elected to the Colorado General Assembly – knows how challenging it can be to be yourself. “As a practicing Muslim, it can be tough to find a place where I feel comfortable, where I feel safe, where my lived experiences and my narrative are going to be respected,” says Rep. Jodeh.
It was at CU Denver that Jodeh, the daughter of immigrants and refugees from Palestine, found not only a sense of belonging but a sense of empowerment. “Going to such a diverse campus made me realize that I was in a place that was mine, and I could make it my own.”
It’s this diverse place—CU Denver—that Jodeh credits for her accomplishments. “[This] is where I spent a lot of years of my life becoming who I am, and being nurtured to become the first Muslim state representative in Colorado. I couldn’t have done that without CU Denver,” she says.
Going to such a diverse campus made me realize that I was in a place that was mine, and I could make it my own.
Now, Jodeh finds herself in a much different position than when she first stepped on campus. Her face is about to be portrayed as part of a mural series from the artist (and CU Denver alum) Detour, whom Jodeh sees as a kindred spirit. “I have a lot of respect and admiration for Detour,” Jodeh says. “The art that he chooses to display all around Denver and our hometown is really a reflection of his values, his humanity, and what he wants to put out for Colorado.”
Jodeh hopes that the mural tells future CU Denver students a story about the power of embracing your identity. “Be unapologetic about who you are — your heritage, your religion, how you identify what it is that you bring to the table. Because what you bring means that it is your absolute right to be in these spaces,” she says.
Iman Jodeh being photographed by Detour
She acknowledges that navigating the channels of power also comes with a responsibility that isn’t easy to bear. “Sometimes, you may feel tokenized. You may feel like you have to carry the weight of your identity and the people who share that identity,” she says. “But this is an opportunity for you to be that liaison, to teach, to explain, and dismantle a lot of those stereotypes that you and the people in your community are often burdened with.”
Despite these challenges, for Rep. Jodeh, the outlook is bright — not just for her, but for all residents of Colorado, and especially those from diverse backgrounds. “I know that I'm incredibly blessed to live in Colorado, to be elected, to present women and girls and Muslims and Arabs, other marginalized communities that share that lived experience as I do, as my community does.”
Paving the way for others is very much on her mind. For Jodeh, this starts with being mindful, not only of how she got to where she is today but who helped her along the way.
“[I try] to give gratitude, not only to God but to the people that surround me, who lift me up and have held the door open for me,” Jodeh says. “I want to be the person who holds the door open for the next generation of women and girls.”
[I try] to give gratitude, not only to God but to the people that surround me, who lift me up and have held the door open for me,