Ed. Note: The author is running in the Democratic primary election on June 23 for US representative for Virginia’s 11th Congressional district against incumbent Gerry Connolly. The Blue View is an open platform for all northern Virginia Democratic candidates
By: Zainab Mohsini
I am not rich. I have never held public office. But, like millions of working people in America, I deeply understand the need for structural changes like Medicare for all and tuition-free public colleges.
I’ve always been an advocate. My family and community have spent our lives battling extreme odds. As a 5 year-old shepherd in Afghanistan; as a 10 year-old undocumented refugee in Pakistan; and as a 31 year-old working class Congressional candidate, my survival and successes are born in struggle.
Our community is ready to support a representative who is a fighter and an advocate for structural change. My personal and professional experiences prepare me for this role.
When the United Nations High Commission for Refugees placed my single mother, four siblings, and myself in Beaverton, Ore., without money or experience navigating life in the US, I took a lead role at age 14 in helping my family plant our roots. I volunteered at the library to learn English, practicing every day while reshelving children’s books and finding English-language TV shows and movies to take home.
I needed language skills to help my family compile endless documents and applications while my mother struggled with PTSD as we lived in a small apartment depending on social services. I translated documents to apply for benefits to keep us afloat.
My older siblings went to work and I started contributing as soon as I could. Living without a car, we spent hours walking or on public transit. These experiences taught me that cooperation, hard work, and ingenuity are necessary to survive in the working class.
In 2006, we moved to northern Virginia to be closer to family. The hard times were not over. In high school, educators did not invest in putting me on a path toward college. I was a high-achieving student working multiple jobs and had to navigate the convoluted admissions process independently.
When I graduated, I believed that I was moving toward the “American Dream” that our country sells to us and the world. I realized pursuing this dream came at a cost. I found that $50,000 in student loan debt and no privileged connections made the job hunt a struggle. I couldn’t afford to pursue my dreams, and I didn’t have the access to “chase the money.” Instead, I turned to service to help others out of the hopelessness and helplessness I felt.
Two terms of AmeriCorps service at a non-profit focused on educational equity sounded like a way to support students with similar experiences. However, I came to see that the difficulties we faced couldn’t be solved only by community service. There are structural issues in the U.S. that make it extraordinarily difficult for first-generation, low-income students, and people of color to navigate higher education. I turned toward community activism to make larger changes that could affect millions with stories like mine.
I have worked to elect Democrats, believing that our political system can bring tangible change. I’ve pounded the pavement as a canvasser. In speaking with constituents, I learned that our neighbors were experiencing the same challenges my family faced. People struggle with thousands in student debt, poor health coverage, discrimination, and escaping the cycle of poverty. I heard time and again that these people had never been canvassed before. These experiences made me realize we need more representation for people who work for a living.
The future of the Democratic Party is a bold, progressive platform that engages diverse communities and serves everyone. That’s why I’m putting forth an agenda of immigrant justice, educational equity, and racial and social justice. As someone with deep experience as a working class community activist, I know that I’m ready to lead us to a more equitable future.
Candidate website: https://www.zainabmohsini.com/
Main photo: CD 11 candidate Zainab Mohsini (R) with volunteers (L-R) Billy Bates, Will McLauchlin and Jackson Anderson
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