- The event has been described as a testament to the growth and influence of the Indian American community.
Influential lawmakers at the federal and state level, activists, and supporters of the Indian American Impact Project attended a Diwali reception hosted in Washington, D.C., Nov. 3.
Notables who attended the gala included Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, Neera Tanden, Senior Advisor and Staff Secretary to President Joe Biden, and Reps. Ro Khanna and Ami Bear of California and Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois.
Other attendees included Suhas Subramanyam, who was recently re-elected to the Virginia House of Delegates; Sri Preston Kulkarni, chief of external affairs of AmeriCorps; Nina Ahmad, former Deputy Mayor of Philadelphia ; Judge Juli Mathew of Fort Bend County, Texas; Attorney General of Wisconsin Josh Kaul, Arizona State Rep. Amish Shah; Harini Krishnan, national organizer for South Asians for America (SAFA); Shivanthi Sathanandan, vice-chair of Democratic Party for Minnesota; and Arvinder Chawla, AD Delegate for 68th District for the California Democratic Party and vice-chair of Transportation Commission, City of Irvine, California.
“What a wonderful night w/ Desi elected officials from across the country,” IMPACT executive director Neil Makhija tweeted. “We have so many shining lights in our community. Special thank you to @SpeakerPelosi + @ChuckSchumer for celebrating with us & supporting the Dreamers, who inspire us everyday.”
“It was a great evening,” Subramanyam told American Kahani. Those present at the event were a testament to the growth and influence of the Indian American community as well as the work IMPACT has done to elevate the voices of those running for public office, he said. Citing some statistics about Indian American representation in federal and local politics, as told by Makhija at the Diwali event, Subramanyam noted that the desi representation in the Congress has “tripled or quadrupled the last five to six years,” so have the state legislators, “several of whom were supported by IMPACT. “
Subramanyam made history in 2019 when he won his bid for the House in the Nov. 5 election, along with Ghazala Hashmi, who won her State Senate seat. Both Subramanyam and Hashmi, along with dozens of other Democratic candidates were catalytic in turning the southern state totally blue as the Democrats took full control of the state legislature.
Speakers at the evening gala included Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Schumer, Reps. Khanna and Krishnamoorthi, Tanden, Raj Goyle, co-founder of IMPACT, and members of other partner organizations. Goyle spoke about the journey and the rise of IMPACT from a small organization to a movement.
Subramanyam expressed the joy he felt of participating in a Diwali event with so many Indian Americans active in politics. “I think people are seeing how important Indian Americans are in the political arena and influence. IMPACT is a great organization that has helped us have an impact and a seat at table in many areas of the government.” He added that “culturally it makes sense for Indian Americans to be active in politics and civic engagement because of the importance of service to others.” He added that it’s encouraging to see more and more South Asian Americans run for elected office and win.
Actress and activist Sheetal Sheth echoed Subramanyam’s sentiment, but wished the event was bipartisan. She was quick to point out though that “it felt extra special being together,’ with so many trailblazers. She lauded IMPACT for “bringing the community together.” Although she believes that Indian Americans as a community have always been there,” it is becoming clearer that we are influential and a powerful voting bloc.”
Many of the attendees took to social media to share photos and their thoughts about the event. “Happy #Deepavali from Hindus for Human Rights,” the group wrote on its Facebook page, and shared a photo of their Advocacy Director Nikhil Mandalaparthy at the event. Mandalaparthy thanked Rep. Khanna “for fearlessly speaking out for pluralism and human rights in India. May this coming year bring more light and justice for all,” the post said.
Mathews also posted on her Facebook page. “Last night, I had the privilege to celebrate Diwali in DC with many of our Nation’s leaders,” she wrote. “Happy Diwali(Deepawali), to all of my Hindu friends around the world.”
Ahmad thanked organizers for the evening and expressed gratitude for catching up with so many friends. “Thank you @IA_Impact & @NeilMakhija for a fun #Diwali celebration,” she tweeted. “Grateful to Impact for all their support. Met up with PA friends @NikilSaval @JoeKhanEsq and others for the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance.