2018 KCET Local Heroes Reception

local heroes nalleli cobo and jihad saafir
Local Heroes Nalleli Cobo and Jihad Saafir

The KCET Community Advisory Board held a reception honoring Local Heroes Jihad Saafir and Nalleli Cobo at KCETLink Studios in Burbank, CA on January 11, 2018. Both recipients are featured in the "SoCal Connected" series with anchor Val Zavala. After an advanced screening of both segments, the reception continued with an award ceremony and speeches from the two honorees.

Imam Jihad Saafir is the founder of Islah Academy, a school for Muslim students in L.A.’s inner city. Committed to producing young leaders and transforming a community, Saafir became the resident Imam of Masjid Ibaadillah in 2008, succeeding his father, Imam Saadiq Saafir. He is also the former Imam of Masjid At-Taqwa in Altadena, the former youth director of the Islamic Center of Glendale and the former Muslim Chaplin at the California Institution for Women (CIW).

Saafir also is the director of Islah L.A., a non-profit dedicated to conducting social services in South Los Angeles. His work as a young prison chaplain instilled a desire in him “to disrupt the ‘school-to-prison’ pipeline” and he founded the Islah Academy — a small, independent private school which for the past four years has taught children from pre-K through 8th grade with the goal of inspiring a new generation to invest in their community. The school serves as a hub to reach out to the children’s families and the neighborhood at large, with such programs as the Saturday Free Food Giveaway, annual Senior Breakfast and Next Step Fellowship. Imam Saafir is also currently overseeing the construction of a new building to house the Islah L.A. Campus. The new building will have a mosque, offices and a basketball court on the roof. Saafir says, like any religious community, all they want is for the world to be a better place for everyone.

Imam Saafir received his BA in Arabic studies and his Master's in Islamic Leadership in 2013 and currently is pursuing his PhD in Practical Theology with a concentration in Religious Education at Claremont School of Theology.

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Local Hero Award Recipient Nalleli Cobo, although only 16 years old, has been at the forefront of the environmental justice movement. Initially she became involved when she fell ill in 2010. What began with nose bleeds turned into intense stomach aches and headaches. Soon Cobo developed heart palpitations and such severe body spasms that she was unable to walk. Her mother took her to several specialists looking for a diagnosis. After a toxicologist explained to community members the health consequences of the toxic emissions emanating from the extraction of oil, Cobo and her mother turned from victims to activists.

They took up the fight for the health of the people in their neighborhood on West 23rd street near USC. Along with their neighbors, they began to share information and ultimately formed a neighborhood group called “People Not Pozos” (“People Not Oil Wells”) after struggling to get regulatory agencies to be more responsive. In 2013 with the help of Senator Barbara Boxer’s office, the well was temporarily shut down.

Cobo’s efforts also led Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feurer to file a lawsuit the following January to prevent AllenCo from restarting its oil well drilling until it complied with health and safety regulations. She has since become a leader in a youth coalition working to end drilling across L.A.  — where thousands of low-income residents live among urban oil fields. Cobo is now accustomed to speaking to city officials, journalists, and celebrities — even sending a video message to the Pope — regarding the fight for clean air for all.


View photos of the event below.

2018 KCET Local Heroes Reception

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