My Journey from CLDP to the Ballot

How this MPAC Alum continues to push the envelope for pluralism

August 24, 2018


Guest column by CLDP Alum Aisha Yaqoob 

 

My name is Aisha Yaqoob, I’m one of the first alums of MPAC’s Congressional Leadership Development Program (CLDP) and I’m running for state office in Georgia this November. Policy advocacy, especially on the state and local level, has always been important to me. I knew that I wanted to work in DC but I didn’t know where to go and how to get started and get plugged in, that’s where MPAC came in.

My CLDP Experience

CLDP has been instrumental in my professional development. The mentorship and connections provided by the program as well as the exposure I had received to the policy-making world have helped tremendously to propel me forward in my career.

I had the good fortune of hearing of CLDP when it was still in the works, so when the application was made available in that first year, I applied right away. I think the most important thing about CLDP is networking and making connections, not only professional connections but also connections with other Muslim groups and Young Leaders with similar goals. Building a network from MPAC, a Muslim organization that mentors you and guides your professional development has been really valuable. I don't know how else I would have gotten here if I hadn't been able to meet so many people, network and have these connections.

New Beginnings After CLDP

My journey from CLDP fellow to where I am now, running for office, has been a busy one. In the course of three years, I became very involved in the community, started my own organization, and began actively lobbying my local government.

When I went back to Atlanta, a big thing for me was getting my community involved in the local political scene, because that was something I didn’t have growing up. That was my mission.

I thought “how can I get the ‘aunty/uncle’ crowd involved in the civil process?” and “how can I teach them about the political process and really engage them before the 2016 elections?”

Two months after CLDP had ended, I took my idea and ran with it and started the Georgia Muslim Voter Project, an organization that still exists today under a new executive director. It was my pet project, something that I conceptualized, created, and developed until it became sustainable. Now they do voter engagement for all election cycles.

I’ve also focused on lobbying the State Capital over the last few years, mostly on issues impacting life for immigrants. This has allowed me to keep my finger on the pulse as to what’s happening politically in the city and the state. That’s been really important because I’m not only plugged in with the Democratic Party, but also with representatives on both sides of the aisle, to get work done on meaningful legislation.

These experiences and my time at CLDP made me feel prepared when I decided it was finally time to run.

Running for Office!

Deciding to run for Georgia’s House of Representatives was something that I’d always wanted to do but last year when it actually happened, it was as if all the right pieces fell into place. People had always asked me when I was planning on running and I didn’t think it was going to happen this year, I would just tell them that I would do it when my representative retired. He ended up retiring right before the qualifying period; so I went ahead, put my name in, ran and then won the primary. It all went from there. The race is obviously not over, the election is just around the corner and my team is working very hard with me for a victory this coming November.

Growing up in suburban Atlanta, I didn’t know anyone in the policy world and the organizations I was involved with were not politically active. MPAC helped me realize my potential by showing me that careers in government are within my reach and by connecting me to leaders in the policy-making world. Thanks to MPAC’s CLDP, I’m making progress. They continue to inspire hope for future leaders with their programs.

Please consider making a gift to MPAC so youth like me can be empowered to pursue their dreams of working in careers that promote American pluralism. Your donation is zakat-eligible, tax-deductible, and deeply appreciated.

 

 




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