When Deepak Bhargava and his family emigrated from India to the Bronx, they landed in a tough neighborhood that didn’t look much like “The American Dream.” Growing up, Deepak watched many of his friends drop out of school and get stuck in low-wage jobs or caught up in the criminal justice system.
“Those experiences,” says Bhargava, “gave me a great deal of insight into what it means to be an outsider in our society, and a great appreciation for the effects of economic deprivation.”
Bhargava’s life trajectory was quite different from that of many of his old school friends. He went to Harvard and graduated summa cum laude. After graduation, he went straight to work for the community organization ACORN, tackling the sort of inequality he’d seen in his old neighborhood.
Today Bhargava, 43, is executive director of the Center for Community Change, an organization with origins in the civil rights movement. He brings considerable know-how to building grassroots campaigns to reform immigration law, housing, retirement security, and employment.
One of the issues closest to Bhargava’s heart is the welfare and civil rights of immigrants—in fact, he was arrested for taking part in an immigration law reform protest in front of the White House.
Selected by activist Pramila Jayapal: “Deepak lifts up real leadership from the grassroots. He is one of those people I am certain will change the world dramatically for the better.”
In March, Promise Arizona, which the Center for Community Change helped create, was instrumental in defeating a string of bills that would have added additional restrictions to the state’s anti-immigrant laws, including prohibiting undocumented immigrants from driving or attending state colleges, and revoking U.S. citizenship from the children of undocumented immigrants.
Bhargava is now putting his progressive, ground-up leadership style to work on a movement to transform the economy—“Take Back the American Dream,” a collaboration between MoveOn.org, the organizer Van Jones, and the Center for Community Change.
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