Shariff’s vision and work are informed by his spiritual awareness, his growing up with racism and generational poverty, and his later inclusivity experiences in over 120 distinct cultures, spanning over 45 countries.
Shariff’s quest for a world for all began in the worst that America has to offer – Camden, New Jersey – a formerly prosperous Industrial Era city, now devastated by poverty, violence and hopelessness. His early life was a study in toxic relationships, including welfare, public housing, violence and pollution. (For more on Camden, see Chris Hedges “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt”.)
Shariff’s activist and empowerment background stretches back to the mid-‘60s, when (in 1962) he helped found the Black People’s Unity Movement (BPUM), an organization dedicated to self-help and development in the inner city of Camden. As a teenager in the BPUM, Shariff participated in the creation of a sewing factory, two day-care centers, over 100 units of affordable housing, a supermarket, gas station and other economic development activities. Shariff’s early activist days included work with the Black Panther Party.
Shariff received a BA in Psychology from Clark University in Massachusetts and went on to earn a juris doctor degree from Boston University. During his practice of law in North Carolina, Shariff’s clients ranged from indigent clients seeking better housing to successful businesspeople seeking new ways to serve their communities. It was during his law practice that Shariff received the first of several national awards for innovative self-help and community-empowerment activities.
Despite these successes, Shariff became increasingly disillusioned with the adversarial process as a means of social change. After six years, Shariff retired from law practice, choosing a path to social change that is positive, inclusive, spiritual and honors the dignity of all beings.
Over the years, Shariff’s focus has widened, from attempting to change society via community and economic development projects, to transforming society by shifting consciousness, while creating sustainable, inclusive, empowered and value-driven individuals and organizations.