Celebration of Muslim Women Making History…
By Ayesha K. Mustafaa
(Originally published in Muslim Journal Vol. 46, No. 28, February 26, 2021)
NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. – Earlier this year 2021, ABC News Executive Vice President Derek Medina sent out the following note to the news division announcing that Khadijah Sharif-Drinkard was joining the network as its Senior Vice President for Business Affairs.
His statement to the news division continued, “Reporting to me, Khadijah will negotiate and oversee the planning and negotiation of talent deals for ABC News’ on-air talent and senior editorial staff as well as a growing number of production, digital and content license agreements aimed at growing ABC News’ brand and increasing revenue and audience size.”
Talking about the right person in the right place at the right time, that’s Khadijah. Certainly sounds like huge shoes to fill, however observing her growth from childhood to this day, no one doubts her abilities to “deliver.”
Starting on Feb. 1, 2021, Khadijah joined The Walt Disney Company, also overseeing the Rights and Clearances and VideoSource departments. Mr. Medina closes his welcoming message to Khadijah and to his staff, stating, “Please join me in welcoming Khadijah to ABC News to lead our outstanding team in Business Affairs.”
A smart, savvy, strategic and experienced executive, Khadijah was most recently the Senior Vice President for Business and Legal Affairs at ViacomCBS, serving from 2010 through 2018. There she oversaw deal-making for unscripted programming, music programming, tent poles, specials and news across BET Networks.
Her experiences were paramount in bringing deals to closure for a number of high-profile projects, like “The New Edition Story,” “The Bobby Brown Story” and “Black Girls Rock!.”
Prior to working at BET Networks, she served as Vice President, Senior Counsel at Nickelodeon, where she worked for nine years and helped to launch “Dora the Explorer,” “Diego” and “The Backyardigans” and worked on shows like “Spongebob Squarepants,” along with other hits.
She led a 10-person team advising the network’s leaders on legal matters across the business for unscripted and scripted programs, live events, news, documentaries, music programs and specials.
More recently, she negotiated the partnership between BET and the United Way for a COVID relief special and served as deputy to the Chief Social Engagement Officer for the network’s COVID relief fundraising campaign, which raised nearly $20 million for Black communities during the pandemic.
During her tenure at Viacom and throughout her career, she has been passionately committed to mentorship, personally launching and co-chairing “HERE in NY,” Viacom’s Global Employee Resource Group for women, which promotes diversity, inclusion and professional development.
Plus, she’s created several executive speaker series for company employees and developed innovative diversity employee retention programs in conjunction with senior leaders.
Khadijah is a graduate of Columbia University and currently the President of the Board of Directors for the Columbia College Women.
She graduated from Fordham University School of Law and received the Medal of Honor from the New Jersey Muslim Lawyers Association, the Corporate Counsel of the Year Award from the Muslim Bar Association of New York and the prestigious Luminary Award from the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC).
Now to her “Muslim side” of the equation: Khadijah was among the first young Muslim adults to be selected by the late leader Imam W. Deen Mohammed as the Muslim Female Youth of the Year, with Saafir Rabb II selected as the Muslim Male Youth of the Year – the same year.
Her sister, Asia Sharif-Clark reminisces about the years she and Khadijah perform “rap” sessions. “We loved touring around the country and sharing our message at Islamic Conventions and community events. At 10 and 12 years old, we began sharing our message of ‘Taqwa,’ ‘Community’ and ‘Marriage.’ It gave us a deep sense of joy. Khadijah and I performed until our early 20s,” Asia said.
She added, “Khadijah loved participating in school-wide Islamic Studies Competitions, the Muslim Girl Scouts Troop, and Harlem Events centered around family and community. She also had a love for poetry from the Harlem Renaissance.
“One of the things that makes Khadijah a beautiful influencer is her ability to be a catalyst for youth and community growth! She loves partnerships that move students forward. Towards college, careers, and next steps of greater impact.”
Her mother, Sis. Amidah Sharif Salahuddin spoke of Khadijah with the most admiration and love that a mother can give. Her tribute is an “article” unto itself that must be shared (see next week’s Muslim Journal). Just to express some of what she shared that showed the influences that gave shape to Khadijah, she said: “As Khadijah’s mother, I am humbled and grateful to be honored with the title Mother. Khadijah and her five siblings are witnesses to ALLAH’s (swt) infinite MERCY.
As a single mother for the major part of their upbringing, I was challenged to see our possibilities as a family beyond our current circumstances.
“The Harlem Village was both our source of inspiration and the Harlem Village also provided us with many adversities. Our family was connected to the community known as the Nation of Islam located in central Harlem.
“And Harlem has a long and difficult history in our struggle for human rights known as the civil rights era. As civil unrest gripped America, Harlem was the epic-center of catastrophic loss of family and community life.
“Blockbuster movies, including New Jack City and The American Gangster, mirrored our war-torn communities. ….
“Khadijah was born into a womb surrounding her with family and community. Khadijah 14x
could not attend the University of Islam along with her sister Asia (Ayesha 16x), because she
was not yet 4 years old. She was extremely upset and asked me every day to take her to
…. Sis. Amidah’s narration is absolutely beautifully gripping; join us next week for its continuation. However, just to share a little more, for now, she loses, saying, “We are family first. We are communities of families. Imam Warith ud-Deen Mohammed often reminded us that the Ka’bah symbolizes the family and the community…..”
Khadijah has traveled and served on delegations to South Africa, Rome, Russia, China, the United Kingdom and has worked with the United Nations to assist aspiring businesswomen from Iraq. She contributed to a book titled Living Islam Out Loud: American Muslim Women Speak (Beacon Press) where she chronicles her journey as an activist and a Muslim American.
Fresh out of college, in her travels to Chicago to volunteer in the office of Imam W. Deen Mohammed, Khadijah also began visiting the Muslim Journal offices and became a correspondent journalist for the Muslim newspaper.
She was the first Muslim representative of our community to participate as a panelist in Beijing, China, for the celebration of the International Women’s Day. Khadijah shared her personal experiences with others while providing professionalism and ethics as a cornerstone of her mentorship of our future leaders.
Sis. Amidah reminded us, “Khadijah has commanded the respect of her peers and elders within the Muslim Community as well as the world community. She is gifted with a kind loving heart. Khadijah’s tenacity and fearlessness catapulted her into sharing panel discussions with the late Ruby Dee while she was attending Columbia University.
“During her freshman at Columbia University, she traveled to Russia as a Youth Representative for the United Nations. Khadijah accompanied the Hon. David Dinkins and his staff as a Youth Ambassador to South Africa.
“Khadijah traveled to Italy and Soweto and Johannesburg as the first female and only Youth from the Harlem community on a global platform with the great Winnie Mandela and her then husband President Nelson Mandela.”
Khadijah and her husband Craig Drinkard reside in West Orange, New Jersey, with their two daughters Jalsa and Madinah.