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N.Y. Assembly Member Jenifer Rajkumar Among City&State Magazine’s List of Trailblazing Women

N.Y. Assembly Member Jenifer Rajkumar Among City&State Magazine’s List of Trailblazing Women

  • Joining her is Neela Mukherjee Lockel, president and CEO of EAC Network, a nonprofit human services organization.

City&State magazine has named New York Assembly Member Jenifer Rajkumar among its “Above & Beyond: Women,” list of trailblazers who are transforming the state.” The “amazing group of leading women” featured are “taking center stage in New York,” and includes “Manhattan natives, Midwestern transplants, lifelong upstaters and immigrants,” the magazine said. Apart from being “role models for the next generation of politicians, nonprofit leaders, attorneys and cultural influencer,” they are also “breaking old boundaries in the C-suite and racking up myriad firsts.”

Rajkumar, who is this year’s featured honoree, is the first South Asian woman elected to state office in New York, has served in the Assembly since 2021. Her elections was “a victory not only for Rajkumar, but for her parents and New York’s burgeoning Asian community,” City&State said. “I represent the district in south Queens where my family started in America, the launching pad for so many South Asian immigrant families like mine,” she told the magazine. 

She led a successful effort to make Diwali a state school holiday and to establish New York’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Commission. She also sponsored a measure incorporating domestic workers — overwhelmingly immigrants of color – into the state’s human rights law.

She got her start leading a voting rights campaign to enfranchise fifth-graders. When she got her driver’s license at 17, she drove straight to Hillary Clinton’s U.S. Senate campaign office to volunteer.  Later, as a student at the University of Pennsylvania, Rajkumar led a campus women’s group and tutored low-income Philadelphia women. She earned a degree from Stanford Law School. She won her first case as an attorney, a workplace discrimination suit on behalf of 5,000 women. “I realized that to really make a difference, you need power,” Rajkumar said. “So I went into politics.”

Her first role was as a lower Manhattan district leader. After three terms, Rajkumar expanded her sphere of influence as then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s state director of immigrant affairs, spearheading a first-in-the-nation, $31 million public-private partnership to provide immigrants with legal defense.

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Joining Rajkumar is Neela Mukherjee Lockel, president and CEO, of EAC Network, a nonprofit human services organization reaching 60,000 people across New York City, Rockland County, and Long Island. She has “dramatically increased diversity on the organization’s board.” Previously, as head of Girls Inc. of Long Island, she boosted outreach sevenfold by increasing the fledgling organization’s budget from $20,000 to $250,000 in five years and spearheaded myriad school and summer camp partnerships.

She realized she wanted to be a social worker while working at a homeless shelter during college. “I realized that was the kind of work I’d always been attracted to – working with vulnerable individuals.” While her Indian immigrant parents took more convincing, she eventually persisted in advocacy that was “hyperlocal and rooted in communities.” 

She told City&State that she “counts her experiences on the ground during major disasters as among her proudest moments as a social worker.” As CEO of the American Red Cross of Greater New York’s Long Island chapter, she assisted after devastating hurricanes and floods in the Carolinas and wildfires in California. “I’m in a community of people who love this work and share a vision,” she said. “I have seen and felt the impact of what we’re able to do as part of these systems that move people forward.”

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The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of American Kahani.
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