Beenish Ahmed | Michigan Radio

Beenish Ahmed

Reporter, Detroit

Beenish Ahmed is one of Michigan Radio's Detroit-based reporters. Since 2016, she has been a reporter for WNYC Public Radio in New York and also a freelance journalist. Her stories have appeared on NPR, as well as in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Atlantic, VICE and The Daily Beast. Additionally, Beenish spent two years in Islamabad, Pakistan, working with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, covering the country’s first democratic transition of power as well as Pakistan's education system.

Much of her reporting has focused on covering under-reported stories and adding nuance to major headlines. That included covering stories related to DACA and the #MeToo movement as well as reporting on the personal challenges Muslims in metro Detroit faced in taking a public stand against President Trump’s so-called “Muslim ban.”

She is a graduate of the University of Michigan and has a master’s degree from the University of Cambridge. She was also a Spencer Fellow at the Columbia School of Journalism in New York, and an NPR Kroc Fellow.

Beenish Ahmed / Michigan Radio

The Dearborn primary ballot is unusually crowded this year, with seven candidates vying to be the city’s next mayor. 

Mayors in Dearborn have historically been long-tenured; the city has had just seven since 1929. The current Mayor, John O'Reilly Jr, announced that he would not seek re-election earlier this year. 

Courtesy of Nada El-Hatooni

Updated at 1:00 p.m. on July 29, 2021

The City of Dearborn will offer sample ballots in Arabic at all polling sites for the primary election next week, following appeals from local and national advocacy organizations.

“We pushed hard,” said Nada Al-Hanooti of Emgage Michigan, a Muslim-American advocacy organization who said she met with Dearborn City Clerk last week to discuss the need for Arabic-language election materials in the city where nearly half of residents are of Arab origin.

Superintendent Nikolai Vitti at a Detroit school.
Erin Einhorn / Chalkbeat

Public schools in Detroit will re-open for in-person learning in the fall, following an agreement with the city’s teachers’ union.   

Detroit Public Schools Community District announced on Monday that it had established terms with the Detroit Federation of Teachers which “recognizes the need to return” to the classroom for all school staff, including teachers. 

“This agreement signals that we are all on the same page to restart our reform efforts that had great momentum before the pandemic,” Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said in a statement. 

Gary North / Detroit Historical Museum

The Detroit Historical Museum is set to host an exhibit called “Exiled to Motown” that showcases the Japanese-American Experience in Detroit from World War II to the present day. 

The title refers to the factors that led Japanese-Americans to settle in Detroit and other Midwestern cities. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued an executive order in 1942 that authorized the military to forcibly relocate people for the “protection against espionage and against sabotage to national-defense material.”

Beenish Ahmed / Michigan Radio

The Belle Isle Aquarium will reopen on Friday, relieving the ennui that has set in among fish, eels, and frogs since the building closed to visitors last March as a response to the onset of the pandemic. 

"The fish actually react to people so there's a lot of enrichment with people coming by and seeing them and then when no one was around, they just kind of become lethargic,” said Dr. Paul Shuert, a curator at the Aquarium. “There's no excitement for them."

Courtesy of Adrena Sasser

The water from heavy rainfall that filled the workshop where Nikki’s Ginger Tea brews and bottles its signature drinks has receded, but not without causing long term damage to the bottled beverage company. 

“The water was waist high,” said Adrena Sasser, CEO of the beverage company that operates out of the basement of Church of the Messiah in Detroit’s Islandview neighborhood. “We lost everything. All of our equipment, our stoves, refrigerators, freezer boxes, everything.” 

Flooding in metro Detroit this weekend.
Courtesy of Dan Austin

Update: June 30, 2021 - 7:15 a.m.

Tens of thousands of Michiganders are without power Wednesday morning. That’s after storms Tuesday afternoon knocked more homes offline while crews were still working to repair earlier outages.

DTE Energy is reporting more than 56,000 customers without power. The outages are widespread in metro Detroit. There is also a pocket of outages in the lower part of the Thumb.

a flooded interstate 94 with a submerged vehicle
Russ McNamara / WDET

The flood waters that filled basements and streets in Detroit on Saturday are being characterized as a 500-year event in preliminary findings by the city, meaning there’s only a half percent chance it will occur in any given year.

Courtesy of Bryan Fenster

A journalist from metro-Detroit who has been detained at a prison in Myanmar for more than a month remains unharmed, according to a call with staff of the U.S. Embassy in Yangon who spoke to 37-year-old Danny Fenster by phone at the Insein Prison.

This news was relayed to his family by the Embassy. Fenster, a Huntington Woods native, has been held at the high security prison since he was detained at the airport on May 24, while waiting to board a flight that was to bring him back to Detroit after more than three years in Southeast Asia. 

Wednesday, June 23, marks 39 years since a young Chinese-American named Vincent Chin died after being beaten by two white autoworkers in metro-Detroit. His death came at a time of heightened anti-Asian bias. Many in the region blamed a decline in the local auto industry at the time on Japanese auto-manufacturers.

Chin was Chinese-American, not Japanese. His killing led Asian Americans activists to think of themselves as part of a single racial group.

The following remembrance was originally published on April 5, 2021. We are re-sharing it to commemorate the anniversary of his death.

Former slaves celebrate in Austin on June 19, 1900.
Austin History Center, Austin Public Library

A series of parades, concerts, and other celebrations will take place this weekend to honor Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating freedom for enslaved people following the Civil War. 

The local commemorations coincide with national recognition of the holiday, which marks the day Union troops freed people who were kept in bondage in Texas two years after the end of the Civil War. President Biden signed a bill making Juneteenth the most recent federal holiday on Thursday. 

Child reading
User Melanie / Flickr -

The head of Detroit Public Schools said that the district will circumvent a law requiring third graders who fail the reading portion of the end-of-year standardized test to repeat the academic year.

Detroit schools Superintendent Nickolai Vitti took issue with the “Read by Grade Three” law in which schools are to recommend that third graders who struggle to show reading proficiency should repeat a grade, saying that retention decisions should be made by parents and teachers.

Children in a classroom
Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

This story was updated on June 8, at 1:00 p.m.  

The Detroit public school system will begin taking stock of the diverse perspectives included in high school English curricula this fall as part of a broader effort by the district for a community-driven reassessment of the perspectives presented through literature. 

“Representation matters,” said Naomi Khalil, who serves as the Deputy Executive Director of the Equity, Advocacy, and Civil Rights Division of the Detroit Public Schools Community District. 

jocelyn benson at podium

Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation on Tuesday aimed at addressing the backlog for appointments at Secretary of State offices. 

"We've never been in a situation where the Secretary of State's office has been forced to process a 13 month backlog on top of their normal business,” said State Rep. Julie Brixie of East Lansing, who spoke at a virtual press conference alongside Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. 

Courtesy of Bryan Fenster

Updated Wednesday, June 2, 2021 at 6:00 p.m. 

The Associated Press | A U.S. State Department official is calling for the immediate release of two American journalists who were arrested by Myanmar's military junta.

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman called the arrests of Danny Fenster and Nathan Maung and other journalists an "unacceptable attack on the freedom of expression" in Myanmar.

Beenish Ahmed / Michigan Radio

Faith leaders stood alongside Detroit public school officials in calling for more teachers to get vaccinated and return to classrooms. 

“We have a superintendent, we have a board that are working together to make sure that our school system is ready to receive children,” said Bishop Charles Ellis of Greater Grace Temple. “But we must not just have good buildings, sanitized buildings. We need the workforce.” 

Only about 600 teachers have returned to classrooms out of about 3,000, according to Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti. An agreement with the district’s teachers union made teaching in-person voluntary.

Beenish Ahmed / Michigan Radio

Members of the Dearborn City Council declined to address concerns about policing from a local Black Lives Matter organization at a meeting that coincided with the one-year anniversary of the killing of George Floyd on Tuesday.

City Council members did raise their concern for another timely issue, however. After going through the slate of resolutions, President Susan Dabaja, a candidate for mayor of Dearborn who has been endorsed by the city's police union, voiced her concern over the Israeli military action in Gaza. 

Courtesy of Alexandria Hughes

Ayyub Ama was 14 years old when he was stopped by a police officer for the first time. The officer asked him for identification, and Ama gave him the only one he had: his middle school ID card.

Beenish Ahmed / Michigan Radio

inside a prison
Adobe Stock

A Dearborn man accused of joining and supporting ISIS was denied bond by a federal court judge on Monday. 

Ibraheem Musaibli is charged with supporting the Islamic State and taking part in its military training. The 30-year-old could face up to 50 years in prison if convicted. 

Musaibli has denied membership in the terrorist organization despite his name appearing on one of its rosters. Musaibli told the FBI that he was forced to feign the role of an ISIS supporter because the terrorist organization was monitoring communications of those within its territory.

Michigan State Police

An event for local police chiefs featuring a controversial law enforcement trainer scheduled to take place in Novi next month has been canceled, following a series of complaints to the church where it was to be held, as well as the organization that planned it. 

Beenish Ahmed / Michigan Radio

Marion King said her hesitancy about the vaccine turned into urgency only after she lost both her mother and aunt to COVID-19 last month. 

“When I found out my mom was positive, I know my aunt had to be because whatever air my mother breathed, you breathed it too,” King said, noting that the sisters had what she described as an “inseparable bond.” 

Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit
Paulette Parker / Michigan Radio

Nurses in the Henry Ford Health System say they're feeling the strain of the latest COVID-19 surge.

When Lauren Varley saw her first COVID-19 case in the ICU last year, she told her parents she couldn't see them for a month. That month stretched into six as she worried about exposing her parents to the virus that claimed the lives of so many of the patients she risked her own life to treat.

"It made me feel extremely hopeless and very helpless as a nurse because I knew that any patient that I saw with COVID, I knew there was a very high possibility that they just were not going to survive," Varley said.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Members of the Michigan-based protest movements that formed in the wake of George Floyd’s killing say Derek Chauvin’s murder conviction is a vindication of their cause.

Leaders from the protest movement called Detroit Will Breathe gathered with supporters in the snow in front of Detroit Police Headquarters just after the Chauvin verdict on Tuesday evening. They said the verdict shows the power of their movement, but it’s hardly the end point.

“Today is certainly a victory for the movement and defense of Black and brown lives. Unfortunately, it falls short of freedom,” said Nakia Wallace, a co-founder of Detroit Will Breathe.

A group of students wearing masks look at a book on a desk together
JR-50 / Adobe Stock

Update: 8:55 p.m.

At a meeting on Thursday evening, Detroit public school board members adopted a plan to maintain a pause on in-person instruction through May 11. The district will open schools for learning labs where students receive staff oversight on virtual learning on April 26. Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said the district would consider suspending all in-person instruction through the end of the school year if the current COVID-19 surge continues. Positivity rates on COVID tests in Detroit are 20%.

A healthcare worker process a COVID-19 test at Beaumont.
Beaumont Health

The federal government won't be sending additional vaccines to Michigan. That's despite Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s efforts to secure more shots as cases and hospitalizations continue to increase.

Many area Muslims are preparing for their second Ramadan of the pandemic, with hope that the month of dawn-to-dusk fasting will be filled with the communal prayers and family gatherings they went without last year, as COVID-19 began to sweep the state.

testing swab
Shutterstock image

The Henry Ford Health System will contribute to an ongoing national studying the efficacy of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in children, in a study similar to the one it conducted with adults last year. 

Dr. Adnan Munkarah, Chief Clinical Officer, said that the hospital system will begin looking for parents to volunteer children between the ages of 6 months and 12 years old to take part in the study in the coming weeks.

Empty classroom
Kevin Wong / Flickr -

Many Detroit public school students would go back to their classrooms in-person, if their teachers would do the same. 


A survey conducted earlier this month by the Detroit Public Schools Community District found that 40% of students would prefer in-person instruction to virtual learning.


When schools re-opened on March 8, about 9,000 students in the district returned to classrooms or “learning labs” where they are supervised by educators during virtual lessons, according to the district.