Like Dolores Huerta said, I truly believe that “every moment is an organizing opportunity, every person is a potential activist, every minute a chance to change the world.” In my life, I have had 13,055,682 minutes, and I strive to use each of them for good.
I grew up in Metropolitan Detroit, one of the most segregated cities in the United States. Through dialogues, I learned about the racial problems that have plagued Detroit for decades, the many cultures within Detroit, and how my own cultural identity fits into that mosaic. As a first-generation, South Asian woman my understanding of racial, gender, and economic inequity have fundamentally shaped my worldview. In response, I have always been an activist and catalyst for change in my community and in my career.
Finding my own pathway for fighting injustice has been gratifying. I do not believe we lead single-issue or single-identity lives but instead that intersectionality paired up with lived experiences make each of our journeys unique. My personal and professional journey is far from conventional as I stumbled across various opportunities and experiences that led me to the ACLU of Virginia.
Before joining the ACLU, I taught a college curriculum on gender and race and ethnicity at the University of Michigan, advocated for domestic violence victims’ rights on college campuses and protested against gender based violence in South America (#niunamenos), passed a resolution through the Michigan Department of Education for a more equitable education system, mentored at-risk, marginalized youth from entering the school-to-prison pipeline system, and facilitated art workshops in both Michigan prisons and Brazilian prisons for over a year. For my grassroots organizing work, I was awarded the Princeton Prize in Race Relations by Princeton University.
My previous experience at the ACLU of Michigan was both inspirational and foundational to my civil rights advocacy work. I identified patterns of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to challenge unconstitutional practices, helped prevent the deportations of hundreds of Iraqi detainees in a life-or-death case, fought for safe drinking water for the children of Flint, and worked with sheriffs across the state to gather and analyze data to shed light on bail reform.
Now, as the legislative director for the ACLU of Virginia, I oversee Virginia’s legislative and policy program by coordinating and collaborating with staff to plan and implement effective multi-disciplinary and integrated advocacy policy initiatives, involving a combination of policy, legal, communication, public education and organizing strategies. Virginia is at a critical juncture for civil liberties, when groups and individuals on both the left and the right are fighting to defend our fundamental freedoms. As the lead lobbyist, I develop and implement our legislative agenda utilizing strategies and building trusted relationships with lawmakers.
I cannot express enough the deepest gratitude and privilege I have for the opportunity to be a part of the ACLU family. The national ACLU has spent the last 10 decades protecting fairness, equality, and freedom for all by standing up for the disadvantaged and protecting the dispossessed. The ACLU of Virginia has spent the past five decades challenging systems in the courts and legislature in order to protect civil liberties and civil rights for everyone in the Commonwealth. I now have the privilege to be a tiny part of the ACLU’s larger legacy and will do everything I can to live by Huerta’s words and to leverage every minute going forward.
As the ACLU of Virginia’s first legislative director, I hope to continue to create thoughtful and proactive legislative agendas in partnership with marginalized communities to protect and expand civil liberties for everyone. It is a huge priority for me to work alongside community members to identify unconstitutional injustices and push for effective reform.