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Deepak Bhargava: A Voice for the Grassroots Inside the Beltway

The YES! Breakthrough 15: Expanding the American Dream to include people left behind by economic inequality.
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Deepak Bhargava by Our Future

“Throughout history, social change—abolition,
suffrage, civil rights, and worker rights—has
depended on the work of millions of people. We are
called today to build another such movement for a
just society—and each and every person can make a
unique and powerful contribution.”
Deepak Bhargava

Photo courtesy of

15 logoMeet 15 extraordinary people transforming the way we live.

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.

Pramila JayapalSelected 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, the organizer Van Jones, and the Center for Community Change.

With ideas collected from 130,000 people, and informed by 1,500 house parties all over the country, they’ve put together a 10-point plan to promote green jobs, education funding, and Medicare for all Americans.

Lynsi Burton wrote this article for The YES! Breakthrough 15, the Winter 2012 issue of YES! Magazine. Lynsi is a freelance writer based in Bremerton, Wash.


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