Bilal Qizilbash: Inventive Philanthropist

photo by Imani Khayyam/ originally published June 2017

Bilal Qizilbash, 30, says he “can’t sit still.” When he is not helping to feed the underprivileged through the R U Hungry? initiative, he is working on his next invention. The scientist, philanthropist and innovator from Queens, N.Y., says he constantly looks for ways to improve the world around him.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in biology from Stony Brook University in 2010, Qizilbash went to Mississippi College to get his master’s degree in medical sciences in 2015. He is currently working on a master’s degree in business administration at MC, as well.

Several years ago, Qizilbash and other students began feeding the homeless in downtown Jackson. He says that the only question they asked was, “Are you hungry?” Now, the R U Hungry? program feeds around 200 people every Friday at Smith Park. Through his nonprofit, Draw a Smile Foundation, Qizilbash also started R U Fed?, which partners with local restaurants to provide meals for those in need.

“Poverty isn’t always what you think it looks like,” Qizilbash says. “We are in it to try and solve the problem.”

He says his goal is to stabilize Jackson homelessness and create a model that can be used throughout the country. Qizilbash is also working on the Happy Homes Initiative, which would create low-cost housing and help end the homeless epidemic.

“I want to establish equity, justice and peace,” Qizilbash says. “I want to help people thrive, instead of just survive.”

He says that one of his reasons for working so hard is that he has a heart for Jackson. “I fell in love with Mississippi,” he says. “The people are beautiful.”

Some also know Qizilbash as the “Mississippi Kale Guy” for his research on whether kale can kill cancerous cells. In 2014, he presented his findings at the Global Health Innovation Conference at Yale University, discussing the numerous health benefits of kale and how he believes the vegetable “superfood” has the potential to fight cancer.

He created his own company, Qizilbash Holdings, to continue his research and share his discoveries on a larger scale. He even has a “Kale Yea” license plate.

“I have a weird sense of humor, but I think most scientists do,” Qizilbash says with a laugh.

—Abigail Walker

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A freelance writer from the Deep South with a love of reading, writing, dramatic storytelling, indie music, and her corgi pup.

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