South Asians For America (SAFA), a community organization which aims at getting more South Asian candidates elected, held a community forum and panel to discuss unconventional paths to appointed and elected office. The meeting was held June 19, at Thoughtworks on Madison Ave. in New York City.
The panelists included Ahsia Badi the vice chair of Community Board Six in Manhattan; Biju Koshy, district leader for New York State’s 63rd Assembly District; Freeholder for Middlesex County, New Jersey Shanti Narra; and Dr. Neeta Jain, district leader for New York’s 25th Assembly District Part B. The moderator was Rajiv Parikh, general counsel for the New Jersey Democratic State Committee.Approximately 30 attendees listened and participated in the panel discussion, organizers told Desi Talk.
Discussions covered a host of topics including running for office, identity politics, mentorship, similarities that communities of color face in the world of politics, and ways for South Asian Americans to become leaders in their communities, a press release from SAFA, said.
“It’s important to have good mentors and I really believe in empowering women. I like to make sure that I am doing what I can to encourage and mentor women in politics,” Freeholder Shanti Narra is quoted saying in the press release.
Parikh asked panelists about a humbling moment that they wanted to share with the audience. Koshy spoke about an opportunity to go to Albany recently, invited by New York State Senator Kevin Thomas, the first Indian-American to be elected to the legislature of the Empire State.
“He invited me to attend an event in Albany after the Senate passed a resolution that declared May to be Malayalee Heritage Month. Hearing the prayer invocation in Malayalam on the Senate floor was a first and also made me realize the gravity of the moment,” Koshy said.
“Serving in either elected or appointed office is a cornerstone of our representative democracy,” said South Asians For America co-chair Amit Jani. “South Asians For America is proud to host this panel to explain the process on how South Asian community members can get involved, so that we can hopefully help to build a pipeline of qualified candidates across the country to seek public office,” Jani added.