Author Sayu Bhojwani was joined by New York City Council Member Carlos Menchaca, Jessie Ulibarri, a former Colorado State Senator; Isela Blanc and Athena Salman, both Arizona State Representatives, Washington State Representative Vandana Slatter, Detroit City Council Member Raquel Castaneda and Georgia State Representative Sam Park at the launch of her new book, PEOPLE LIKE US: The New Wave of Candidates Knocking at Democracy’s Door (The New Press; 10/16/18)
The government officials were all trained through New American Leaders, the organization Bhojwani is the founder and president of, and the only national organization focused on preparing immigrant leaders to run for public office. They have all been profiled in Bhojwani’s new book.
The event was held at the Tenement Museum on Orchard Street and featured inspiring speeches from Detroit Council Member Castaneda, NYC Council Member Menchaca and the author herself, who spoke about the need for diversity in government.
“Although many of us lack formal power, we have tremendous political power. DREAMers pushed the Obama Administration and helped secure the protections of DACA. Community members who built the Black Lives Matter movement did so organically and created a powerful nationwide conversation,” Bhojwani said. “We need to acknowledge that we have power, and continue to organize, center ourselves in conversations about us and run for office to shape the policy agenda for our communities. No one will vacate their seat at the table and offer it to us.”
White men currently make up only 31 percent of the population but hold 65 percent of the elected positions in state and local governments. Latinx and Asian Americans are the fastest growing immigrant groups but hold only 2 percent of the five hundred thousand local and state elected offices. This representation gap—between who Americans are and who our leaders are—is not coincidental. PEOPLE LIKE US reveals how political newcomers can and do create better government. Of immigrants who pursue elected office, Bhojwani writes that their “positive outlook is rooted in possibility, the possibility of serving in public office in a city where you were undocumented as a child, the possibility of defeating an incumbent who was elected to office before you were born, the possibility of getting elected without having to raise thousands of dollars.”
The book has been critically acclaimed and has garner fans such as actor and activist Diane Guerrero, who said, “People Like Us pushes us . . . to reject the perception of new Americans as outsiders by running for office and being seated at policy tables where our futures are decided. . . Sayu Bhojwani brilliantly offers solid guidance on how to course correct our democracy.”