History made in New York City Council with Shekar Krishnan and Shahana Hanif

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Civil rights attorney and community activist Shekar Krishnan celebrating his win from Dist. 25, for the New York City Council, becoming the first Indian-American in that body. Photo: courtesy Shekar Krishnan

“Thank you Jackson Heights and Elmhurst for believing in me! I am deeply humbled to be elected to represent our communities in the New York City Council. These two neighborhoods have been a historic part of the immigrant experience in this country,” said Shekar Krishnan, a civil rights attorney and activist, who ran and won the race from District 25, Nov. 2, 2021, to become the first Indian-American on that legislative body come January.

And history was made yet again when Shahana Hanif, a Bangladeshi American, also won her seat from District 39 to represent Brooklyn, becoming the first Muslim woman to be in the City Counci in New York. That despite the fact that NYC houses 769,000 Muslims, noted the New York Times.

In what is probably the most diverse city in the world, the City Council of New York lacked South Asian representation, a surprising phenomenon, since a huge minority of the population hails from that Subcontinent.

“I was born & raised in Brooklyn. I’m the daughter of Bangladeshi Muslim immigrants, a Lupus survivor, & an activist. I’m humbled to be the first Muslim woman elected to the New York City Council and the first woman to represent my district. WE DID IT,” Hanif said on Twitter.

Krishnan said when his parents came to America 38 years ago, they would never have imagined their son would one day run for City Council. “Their sacrifices were on my mind when I voted yesterday — three generations together at this moment. Our South Asian community has never had representation in this city.,” he noted in his email celebrating the victory.

Shahana Hanif meeting constituents during the race for NY City Council from Brooklyn District 39. She won Nov. 2, 2021 to become first Muslim woman in NYC Council Photo Twitter @ShahanafromBK

Hanif, who has been a strong supporter and advocate of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, established by Indian-American activist Bhairavi Desai, also celebrated the victory of NYTWA in achieving some relief for their medallion taxi loans. On Nov. 3, Mayor de Blasio announced that the City has agreed to restructure medallion loans and, most importantly, issue a public guarantee of all debt.

“This win is the result of persistent struggle by the NYTWA drivers, who are simply inspirational. They are essential workers and hunger strikes — they are heroic,” said Krishnan who joined them in celebrations at City Hall.

“Over the last month, drivers told us that they have never seen the inside of City Hall. We let them know that changes after January, when we celebrate their victory there together,” Krishnan promised.

 “It is time that we fight for a city for everyone— for our immigrants and taxi workers, for our public schools, public hospitals, and parks. We will fight for our children, our elders, and for the generations to come. We will fight for our home,” Krishnan pledged.

In one fell swoop, an unprecedented five new Asian Americans have been elected to the NY City Council, including the two first South Asians Krishnan and Hanif.

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