Thursday, November 15, 2012

My 2012 Election Journey

It's amazing how much has happened since my last post. I'm down to about a posting once a month due to my hectic schedule but sometimes I feel like so much happens in my life that I actually don't know what to pick to write about! I wonder if other bloggers ever have that problem....

holding up signs and taking pictures takes up a lot of my time
So there's the big recent news of President Obama winning the presidential election. Was I stoked? YES? Was I surprised? NO! People have been thanking me for my support of the president, but to tell the truth, I really don't know if I did as much as so many others. I have many friends who shipped themselves out to Nevada, Colorado even Ohio for a final election push for our President. I am proud that my mother, back in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania (where I went to high school) went out on her phone and phone banked for Obama religiously. My younger sister was also a super volunteer in Philadelphia, setting up phone banks and getting free buttons. I am immensely proud of both of them. My mother is currently on disability after living a tough life that was rife with very real abuses from the "system" and racist entities, but still she puts herself out there for her civic duties, to work hard for a President she believes in. How can I not be inspired by that?

Go mom and little sis!!
This is not just some pro-Obama post (well it sorta is), but this is also my slice of what this election meant for me. I have never been too involved in any presidential election before this one. Outside of my experiences earlier this fall as a delegate (which I outlined in the previous post), I also did a fair amount of blogging leading up to this election. I started blogging for Hyphen magazine's blog only this past April, but it gave me the opportunity to interview some great people and cover topics that I really care about. It also enabled me to share my writings with so many people through the power of the Internet and social media. Earlier this year, I was elected to be on the board of the East Bay Young Democrats (EBYD), a position I really had no experience with, but I did know that I wanted to bring more diversity to the table with this group, and help them reach out more to membership to be involved in political activities. Around the same time that I joined EBYD, I also helped start up the Black Young Democrats of the East Bay (BYDEB) as a founding board member. I was lucky to be part of an amazing team who wanted to see young Black people have a avenue for involvement, information and activism when it came to democratic politics in Oakland. It was so strange that a place like Oakland didn't have a group like this! Well they have one now =)

BYDEB board with Supervisor Keith Carson
I didn't start 2012 with the goal of being more involved involved with the Democratic party or with the elections. Politics is a passion for me, I just find it so interesting, but I didn't expect all of this. I almost feel like it just happened, and I went along for the ride. It's been a good ride, I feel like I've learned so much - the good, the bad and the ugly. I've also made some amazing memories and friends, so I am grateful for it all. I don't really know where any of this will lead. People have asked me if I ever think about running for office. Well yea, I do think about that, but I also think about running a small goat cheese-making farm one day.

one day....
The point is, I don't know maybe? yes? no? maybe so? I may need a magic 8 ball but as of now I just want to go with the flow and keep learning and experiencing as much as I can when it comes to this world. But I can also walk away from it and I am glad that as of now I still have that space.

Yup, ride away from politics like a badass cowboy in the sunset (probably not gonna happen though)
But more than anything I am so DAMN EXCITED. This election cycle saw some really exciting wins for Congress, especially when it comes to adding diversity to congress and the undeniable impact of minority voters on election results. This is the most diverse Congress ever, with a record number of women now serving in the Senate. There was even a line in the Senate women's bathroom for the first time. For the first time, I think that a line to a women's bathroom is awesome.

The country is getting more and more diverse, I keep citing this fact in other writings, but the 2010 census has already shown that over 50% of children under the age of one in the US are non-Caucasion. I spoke about these developments and statistics regarding women and minorities in a radio interview on APEX Express on the local radio station KPFA, if you are interested in learning more (I come on at the 00:12:20 mark). We're taking over, and you're coming with us....whether you like it or not (hopefully you like it!). We still have a long way to go, but I do believe we can look to improve our society together.

So I am really looking forward to these paradigm shifts, I am excited to not just witness it, but be a PART of it, and be involved and get others to be involved in making sure our voices are heard and that communities are not left behind.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

To the DNC and Back

Look ma! I'm at the DNC!
I haven't even written a post during the entire month of September. It's probably because I was too overwhelmed writing for other blogs, like Hyphen and Muslims for Obama (you can click on the links to check out the articles)

But I can sum up the DNC in one word, it would be the word  'surreal'. Where else do you spend a week in a proverbial political bubble with an amazingly diverse group of super excited delegates, random celebrities, politicians and media figures? Just walking around like its no big thing. Plus I had a delegates pass which gave me VIP access through some pretty crazy demilitarized zone -type security.

Seriously...zombie apocalypse status
I am so grateful that I was able to experience it. It's strange, even a year ago, I would never have imagined that I would have gone to something like that. I didn't even know the process of getting into an event like that. My article in Hyphen pretty much outlined my excitement about being a California delegate to the convention, so I don't feel like repeating it. Instead, I will share my DNC experiences with you through a timeline mash up of my tweets, excited Facebook statuses and instragram photos. Yup, I was social media'ing up a storm...seriously, I took over everyones newsfeeds for a week..

And now I present to you Nadia's Official DNC Timeline!!

Day 1- Monday, Sept 3, 2012 

10:00am: Posing with my Delegates pass at the Cal Dems Breakfast!! 
I loved my poof

12:00pm: Then went to API caucus and got to meet some awesome API's running for Congress!

Left to Right: Tulsi Gabbard, the utterly badass Tammi Duckworth and Otto Lee

12:30pm: Ran into the Reverand Jesse Jackson

I didn't say hi though, just stalked him

1:00pm: Decided to stop by the Huffington Post Oasis, where Arianna Huffington showed me around and I did free yoga clothes..that I got to keep...also got free kalamata olives

Arianna Huffington, you da woman

10:00pm: Went to the APIA Vote party where I hung out with Congressman Mike Honda and the actor from Heroes
One of my goals in life is to sing karaoke with him
11:30pm: On my way out of the party I run into a John Legend does anyone run into a John Legend concert? Told you Charlotte was cray...

Such a talented artist! Absolutely amazing live!
12:00am: ended the night hanging out with delegates, when I discovered that my swag bag had a stuffed made my night

and I named him Roberto

Day 2- Tuesday, Sept 4, 2012 

10:00am: Moderated a Persecution of Religious Minorities Panel organized by the American Muslim Alliance with Muslim Congressman Andre Carson, members of the Sikh Community and other civil rights leaders. It was nuts, I didn't even know Congressman Carson would stop by! So glad he did though, he was awesome!

12:00pm: Hung out again at the Huffington Post Oasis with my delegate buddy, Aidan...I just couldn't stay away! They fed me for free and I got to watch Arianna Huffington interview world famous chef, Marcus Samuelsson.

Arianna Huffington is such a G
4:30pm-11pm: Finally got to the convention center to see Newark Mayor Cory Booker TEAR IT UP. Was inspired to name my future son Julian after San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro's speech, and ended the night with FLOTUS Michelle Obama's speech! We LOVED Michelle!


11:30pm: Off to the Planned Parenthood afterparty! Where I ran into Aisha Tyler and Ashley Judd.
I liked the theme of this party, go Planned Parenthood!

Day 3- Wednesday, Sept 4, 2012 

11:00am - It's my press day, but first I ran into Mayor Villaigaroisa at breakfast. The press thought I was his handler.

Should have just pretended to be his handler...VIP BABY!
11:30am- Waiting to board the shuttle when I run into this dude, outside the hotel texting

Yes, that is Kumar...I mean Kal Penn
12:30pm: Headed to the press hangout to be interviewed by Al Hurrah televison and radio. They broadcast me live in Dubai and the rest of the Arab speaking word answering questions about Muslims in America. It was nuts, especially becauseI was talking to an earpiece the whole time. Spent the rest of the day hanging out with journalists untill...

3:00pm: Just lost all of my notes at a Rite Aid somewhere, but it was SHOWTIME. Did my press briefing for the State Departments Foreign Press on Muslim Americans and Politics. Below is the video and here's the transcript.

Then I was all like "come at me bro!"(I think it's funny that I'm frozen in this pose on the State Dept. website)

4:00pm - 11pm: Got to the Convention Center, where I signed my ballot to vote for President Obama as our Presidential nominee!
I really was that proud ::sniff sniff::


oh snap

there I go again....HELL YEA it's our choice!
The night was insane. I got so fired up I actually accidentally tore up my "Fired Up" sign in half. Bill Clinton stole the show though, the energy was so electric and the crowd was so pumped up I thought that stadium would come crashing down!

11:30pm: California Delegation Afterparty at the Nascar Hall of Fame, where I hung out with some cool Muslim dudes

And broke it down Bhangra style with Sikh delegates

I'm sure there are some youtube videos out there somewhere
Then I went back to my hotel room and passed out with my DNC donkey stuffed animal

Day 4- Thursday, Sept 5, 2012

11:00am It was the last day, I was heartbroken, but there was still cool stuff to

The American Muslim Democratic Caucus with Congressman Keith Ellison, great group of inspirational Muslim leaders and delegates. Over 100 in all, up from just 24 in 2008!

This lady is related to Bill Clinton, and she had a sparkly hijab
3:00pm Then back to the convention center! Where Marc Anthony sang the National Anthem and I got very giddy.
Who needs J Lo?

Then I swayed to some James Taylor

(I wasn't even sure who James Taylor was...)

Then got interviewed by Voice of America, you can read the article and see the video here!

Please interview me more! I love attention! ;-)

Then I almost started crying because the FOO FIGHTERS PERFORMED! I've been wanting to see these dudes play live since High School! ::swoon::

I stifled every urge to scream at Dave Grohl to have my babies
The night was of course topped off by our very on POTUS. We went nuts, we went crazy! I don't have pictures of him talking because I was actually LISTENING instead of TWEETING..for once

So here's a stock picture of President Obama at the DNC =)
11:30 Alright speeches are done, now it was time to party GOOGLE style!

There were a ton of celebrities, here I am with Jared Leto. Olivia Wilde and Don Cheadle were also nearby

Jared Leto was sorta cold, probably cos I wasn't a skinny blonde haha!
And the photo of the night, me with Asif Mandvi and Kal Penn!! I wish I could pay them to hang out with day
We're best my head

And that was that folks, although the next morning I did end up talking to famed labor activist Dolores Huerta and ended up hanging out with her in a line for a soul food restaurant

This lady is active and kick butt!
It turns out a bunch of celebrities were staying in the California Delegation hotel, so I saw Zach Braff grab coffee and waved hello to Rosario Dawson in an elevator..but I decided to not stalk them for pictures

I was in a daze, part of me still doesn't believe all of this happened, and that so many of you made sure that I even got there, with your votes, your donations and your time. I had friends from across town,  across the country and across the world help me prepare me for my press briefing, The lovely ladies of Retrofit Republic helped me to put together the fly outfits you see me rocking in the pictures. 

When I was in Charlotte,  I couldn't believe the hundreds of likes, excited comments and encouraging words I received through Facebook, Twitter and texts. It was overwhelming and amazing, I really felt that in some way, I was able to take my friends with me on this journey. The positive feedback, pure love and pride that my friends showed me from all over just makes me breathless...and yes even speechless.

but you know that won't last,  I'll never shut up ;-)

So on to the next adventure!! Can't wait to take you all with me!


Friday, August 31, 2012

Onward to Charlotte!!

I'm there!!!
I've been so busy blogging for other sites that I've hardly had the time to write on my own. You can read the recent articles below that I posted as the South Asian Political Blogger for Hyphen magazine:
But what I LOVE about blogging here is I can just be me, writing about what I want, when I want. My writing may be sappy, unfocused, repetitive and include too many exclamation points, but hey that's me!

And me, myself and I will be headed to Charlotte, North Carolina this Sunday for the Superbowl of Democratic politics, the 2012 Democratic National Convention. As the day grows nearer I just get more and more excited, so excited in fact that I actually went shopping just for the convention. Hey a lady's got some swag to maintain...

The heels compliment my Napoleon complex
All kidding aside, I can't wait for this experience. I know that when I will be on the convention floor, watching President Obama present his big speech, I will recall how 4 years ago at that exact moment, I was sitting in an African American hair salon with a group of strangers and my dear friend Chris Haines to watch Obama's speech as he accepted the  official nomination for President. That was an awesome DNC watch party filled with cupcakes and new friends, who didn't hesitate to give up their salon chairs for me.

And before that, I recall my father watching the conventions. He was always into politics though he wasn't really an activist. I remember watching Bill Clinton being on stage with confetti everywhere, and people screaming with crazy hats, all in red white and blue. I remember thinking "wow, what a party and how does someone get invited to that".

Partaaaay! Can't wait to make DNC confetti angels
So here I am, not just invited, but an elected district level delegate. I want to thank my friend and fellow CA District 13 delegate, Igor Tregub for personally calling me and pushing me to run. I would never had done it if it weren't for his call!

Yet being elected as delegate was just the first step, I still needed to raise over $1500 dollars so that I could go. No money, no Charlotte. Amazingly, I was able to raise that amount in under two months. And it was all because of my friends and loved ones, they gave without hesitation. I think I am still in awe of it all. Thank to all of them! I got invited to the game, but they were the ones who made sure that I showed up.

Speaking of support, some of my biggest supporters were the family members of my friend Travis, whom I've mentioned on this blog many times. He was in the military and was killed in Afghanistan only 3 months ago. He was excited when I told him that I would be a delegate, and here I am, finally on my way there and I cannot share it with him as I had planned to do.

But I am sharing it with his wonderful family. His parents covered my plane ticket and his relatives further supported me by giving even more money...just amazing.

I will never forget
I will be wearing these dog tags in honor of Travis for the entire time at convention. I do hope people ask me about him, I want to share his story and his impact on my life. Thanks again to his family for sending me the tags. Travis may not be there in person, but he's there, I'm bringing him with me! This is one of many reasons why this convention means so much to me. it may be a big political prep rally and yes Obama is a shoe-in for the democratic nomination, but it is an opportunity and experience of a lifetime.

I will be attending a ton of cool meetings, and will be moderating a panel for the American Muslim Alliance, whose leader Dr. Agha Saeed has already given me a wealth of information on political organizing and Muslim Civic engagement history. The AMA hospitality suite will address the problems plaguing Muslim and Muslim perceived communities in the US, in particular addressing the troubling implications of the civil rights defying National Defense and Authorization Act.

got civil rights?
Outside of the many meetings, I was also invited by the State Dept to present a briefing to foreign journalists regarding my journey as a delegate and to discuss and answer questions regarding Muslim American participation in the United States. They read my article on Hyphen and asked me to speak. I am so honored and excited to this, I have never done a press conference, especially as the only one speaking! To top it off the State Dept will be recording the session to send to all of their foreign embassies. Talk about pressure, but you know I love it because they want me to talk after all!

I hope to blog from Charlotte, if not I will be tweeting my thumbs off ...and taking photos (of course).

But before I go I want to say another thanks. I want to thank my parents for instilling a deep love for my fellow human beings - my political involvement and interest came from that. They are currently in the middle of Pennsylvania, in a tucked away little city, but I am so glad that they can watch the convention on TV and know that their daughter, the daughter of Bangladeshi Muslim immigrant parents, is out there representing.

Abbu and Mamoni, your baby's going to the DNC!
And you all made it possible, so thank you and I can't wait to tweet you all a picture of me giving the President a bear hug, before I am promptly tackled by the secret service (calm down Homeland Security, that was a joke).

See you in Charlotte!


Monday, July 16, 2012

28 Years on this Planet

Woohoo, I'm 28!!
Last weekend was a celebration of just that, my 28th birthday. I intended on writing much sooner, but a few things came up. One, how do I follow up two emotional posts about a friend's passing, I mean really it's not so easy and it did take a lot out of me. Second, I was in Vegas for 4 days with spotty Internet service and um, party side-effects. Both are not conducive to blog writing, and to top it off, another party side effect was spending 2 days sick after coming back from Vegas. All in all, totally worth it though.

Soooo worth it!
I'm not sure about most people, but there are two big reflection points for me every year: New Years and my Birthday (and everyday, but you probably already knew that). When I think of my birthday last year (which was covered in a previous blog posting), I was surrounded with Bay Area friends, great food at a packed get together in my own backyard. It always amazes me to see how much life I lived in that year, from 27 to now. To sum up how I felt at 27, I include this picture...

I tend to use this picture a lot...
And my piece of advice at 27 was "I don't know shit. And when I think I do, I'm just fooling myself." Sage advice, funny how it'll most likely be relevant no matter how old I get.

But things have changed of course! I'm a year older! and wiser (perhaps?). What's funny is that a year ago I felt very immature and this year, I just feel old. Does that make any sense? I feel like my older friends are wanting to toss their laptops out the window when I make that statement. But I mean it, this past year of my life has been overwhelming and brimming with lesson after lesson. To the point where I feel like lessons are right-hooking me to oblivion. At this point last year I was hopelessly contemplating a career direction (while consulting at one part time gig only) and hoping to combine my love for art/poetry/photography into something that made sense.

Now I do have a full time job! Just recently I started working full time for a health and wellness organization in the East Bay that works with marginalized API communities called Community Health for Asian Americans (CHAA). I will be working as a Community Wellness Advocate for Youth, but this was after working as a part-time social media coordinator for the organization (you can check out the blog I started here). So I was using photography and writing to cover the work CHAA was doing, and also documenting the issues, lives and cultures of the communities we worked with. I am also now the South Asian Political Blogger for Hyphen Magazine, a super hip and super connected magazine that recently had George Takei on the cover.

George Takei is my internet God
It only took me 2 years to find a full time job again. It was a tough two years, one year on unemployment and another working two part time jobs with no benefits, and a constant splitting apart of the little focus I do have.  Man, that was tough (say "first world problems" and I will e-punch you in the face). The economy took a toll on so many people, including myself, and being in California was hard as well since I had left my entire network on the East Coast.

But here I am, not only with a social network, but a political network as well. I am serving on the boards of two Democratic organizations, on the East Bay Young Democrats and the Black Young Democrats of the East Bay. It's crazy, it's a lot of work, but I am learning so much about the political process. It's a good thing to know, who can figure where any of this will lead me one day (running for office? maybe? maaaaybe?), but regardless it's all  part of my 'process' right now.

See: My Process

Speaking of process, the next big (see: Huge) event in my life is Charlotte, NC. I was recently elected to be a delegate representing California's 13th Congressional district at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina this September 3rd. I actually came in as the third highest vote getter amongst 19 women who ran! It's nuts, I still can't believe I was elected, and as the event gets closer I find myself getting more and more excited and nervous. Will this be a life changing event? Will I do something embarrassing on National TV? Will I high-five Pres. Obama? Will I be tackled by the Secret Service? I DON'T KNOW, but I do think it'll be an amazing experience for sure. I am fundraising $1,200 to go to the convention ( hey broke homegirl is still working for the non profit world!). So if you want to help a brown, progressive, South Asian, Muslim, API, young, kick ass sista make it to convention, please click here to support. I will be forever grateful to you, and steal you an Obama sticker. Or you can just think of it as helping someone get further in the political field who actually has the interests of marginalized communities and human rights in the forefront of her efforts. Anything helps, even 10 bucks adds up!

Yay, help get Nadia to Convention!
So here goes another year. Another huge event (convention), more fundraising (see above), and having more life changing, heart wrenching and mind expanding experiences. In the past year I attended so many political and human rights events as I looked to empower myself and my community. I went to Vietnam and had one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I was able to advocate on Capital Hill both in DC and Sacramento with NAPAWF. I did another year of the South Asian Vagina Monologues, and the wonderful experiences just never stopped unfolding.

And this was the year that I met Travis, a person who's passing still weighs upon my mind and heart. A year ago I didn't even know he existed, and in such a short time he came and went through my life. I also lost my friend Yvette, who attended my birthday last year and was the last person I dropped off that night. I lost my Barbara Nanu (great aunt), who took care of me and my sister when we were babies.

My dear Barbara Nanu, R.I.P

My 27th year was so bittersweet and beautiful- full of hope, new experiences and heartbreak. I am grateful for those experiences, though I do feel a but overwhelmed by it all.

But 28 will only bring more life trials and joys. I gotta stand proud and take it all in. Bring it on 28, I'm ready. And even if I'm not, I'm gonna give it one hell of a try.

My 'Bring It" pose

Friday, June 8, 2012

Saying Goodbye

Travis sitting outside at night under the streetlights during basic training
Ever since I found out about Travis's passing in Afghanistan, I have teetered back and forth, from celebrating our friendship and re-reading his emails, to utter despair and disbelief at his loss. This past Monday offered some solace to me, as I was able to join his loved ones to finally put Travis to rest.

I have never attended a military funeral. I have only seen them on the news, or in Time magazine, the pictures of families sobbing, the grand procession, the flag folding ceremony. It all seemed so heart wrenching, but also detached from my own experiences. After this week, I will never feel that way again.

folding the flags to give to his parents
At the funeral cemetery, when soldiers marched and folded the flag, I felt like I was in a hazy dream. That perhaps none of this was really happening. That Travis couldn't really be gone, that I couldn't be really standing at his funeral watching soldiers folding a flag for HIM. He was supposed to come back safe, like so many people I knew who had been deployed and had returned.

But there it was, right in front of my eyes. When the soldiers handed the flags to his parents, my heart just shattered for them and their unbearable loss. The soldiers took Travis's ashes and respectfully placed them in their final resting place, inside a granite wall with his name tagged on it. And that was it, Travis had finally come home. Right then, an army helicopter swooped above us, circling around the funeral party while waving an American flag. My eyes blurred as tears ran down my face when I saw this. It was all so much, so much emotion, so much trauma, and so much grief.

I spent the time after the funeral hanging out with his family and attending a gathering at his grandfathers beautiful home. His family and friends told me stories about his life, about how he told them about me and our friendship, which touched me deeply. I also learned so much about him. Strangely, it was as if I got to know him better after his death. The friendship Travis and I had had an instant connection, but was brief. I only knew him in the present, as he shared his thoughts and uncertainties about Afghanistan, about his life as a ranger. Now, I learned that he was a huge broncos fan, that he grew up in Washington, but spent summer in San Jose, how he loved football and basketball, and hated taking pictures, but above all else he much he loved his family and always kept everyone together. I looked through his baby pictures and marveled at the man that he had become, and the man that we had all lost.

I want to thank his wonderful family for opening their hearts to me during one of the most difficult times in their lives. They loved the blog post I wrote about Travis so much that they printed it out along with his photos to show everyone, and shared it far and wide. It gave me some comfort to know that somehow, I could be there for them. His mother, father, stepfather, stepmother, and myriad of aunts and uncles warmed my heart with their close bonds. I was inspired to meet them and get to know them. I only hope that one day, I can help cultivate a family unit with as much love and connection as I saw within them.

Thirteen of Travis's friends also flew down from Washington to attend his funeral. I have never seen young men show so much dedication to a friend, to shell out that kind of money to make sure that they would not miss this final goodbye.

with Joe Morgado, Travis's father
I also spoke to his father, Joe, for awhile. He recalled how small Travis had been as a baby and how he wouldn't give up one second of his life with Travis for anything, that every second was cherished. I found out how even at the very end, how brave Travis was, and how he put his military unit first. I remember Travis once mentioned to me that he was more afraid of having someone under his command get hurt, rather than himself. That was him, selfless till the end.

And that is what I carry with me now. All of these memories, all of the love I felt from his family. I am still grappling with sadness and loss. I know that I will never get another email from him, or get to send him another book. But now I am emailing some of his friends and families, it's amazing the impact that one persons life can have. It's amazing what experiences one can go through by just saying hi to someone on a plane.

Travis's father told me that Travis always wanted to do something that would be remembered. I will do my part to make sure that this happens, that people know about Travis and what his life meant. How in such a short time, he has inspired me forever. But it doesn't end there. One thing Travis and I really connected on was our desire to do something meaningful with our lives, to make the world a better place. Travis may be gone, but he always encouraged me. He was so excited for my trip to Vietnam, for me to be involved in politics, for all of the social justice work I am involved in. I feel a renewed passion to go out there and never give up. To live my life to the fullest and make the biggest impact I can make. To be fearless and steadfast in my efforts.  And I will do it, with Travis in my heart, inspiring me all the way through.

Travis, when I close my eyes, I see your kind eyes, your slight smile as we talked excitedly on and on and on while you sat right next to me. Now you are so far away, and I can't get to where you are. But I cherish that memory so dearly. We all cherish your memory in every way possible. Befriending you, losing you, and connecting with your loved ones over your early loss has given me one of the most profound experiences of my life.

So thank you Travis! Thank you for being my friend. Thank you for letting me share your world for a little while before you left.

For that, I am forever grateful.

Love always,

To see more photos, you can go to my Facebook Album: