Bilal Ansari serves as one of the Assistant Directors of The Davis Center at Williams College. Bilal had previously served as Williams’ Muslim chaplain and Assistant Director in the Center for Learning in Action between 2011 and 2014. Between his current and previous positions at Williams, Bilal also served as Dean of Student Services and Director of Student Life at Zaytuna College, Berkeley California, supporting the fledgling college’s efforts to gain WASC accreditation, which was achieved in 2015, making Zaytuna the first accredited Muslim liberal arts college in the United States. While at Zaytuna, Bilal began doctoral studies at the Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley. His thesis, an auto-ethnographic critical analysis of the literature on his pastoral and social justice work as a community faith leader in prisons, hospitals, and on college campuses, is expected to be completed in 2018.
Bilal has worked in both federal and state prisons for over 16 years challenging the system of racial, gender, and religious inequalities. As a chaplain in some of the most volatile environments, Bilal counseled and managed interventions through intense institutional crises. Bilal has worked as a community organizer and has partnered with the Yale School of Law and the Yale School of Forestry in fighting social and environmental injustices in Connecticut. In 2013, Bilal was awarded the Connecticut Center for a New Economy’s Outstanding Leadership Award for 15 years of community activism and organizing that improved the economic and social well-being of working families in urban centers and rural communities. That work included campaigns to raise wages of the working poor, improving public education and training, securing public health care and preserving affordable housing. In 2016, based on his efforts, achievements, and writing, which includes a number of critical and reflective social commentary articles, Bilal was named to The MPower 100, a list of American Muslim top social justice leaders.
Bilal began his community activism in 1994 in Oakland, California at the height of the Rodney King Uprisings. In those years, Bilal served as an Americorps diversity and inclusion ambassador in the first class of the National Civilian Community Corps. In the last decade, he served as advisor and retention specialist for minority students at various colleges. Bilal was a first generation college student when he earned the Associate of Science in Liberal Arts from Ohlone College, Bachelor of Science in Human Services from Springfield College, and Master of Arts in Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations and Graduate Certificate in Islamic Chaplaincy from Hartford Seminary. Bilal is a legacy staff member: His great-grandfather and great-grandmother worked at Williams for 40 years.