Mujtaba Mohammed, the youngest state senator in North Carolina, is encouraging fellow Asian Americans to “write our own narrative” wherever underrepresentation exists.
The 33-year-old, who represents District 38, decided to run for the position in 2018 after Trump’s election, feeling that he “needed to step up.”
Born in Ohio to parents from India, Mohammed was raised in Greenville, South Carolina before moving to Charlotte, North Carolina.
Like many of those who grew up in traditional Asian households, he was urged to pursue careers conventionally deemed successful — such as engineering and medicine — but chose public service following inspiration from his family and community.
“It’s never about you, as opposed to the American individualism that we have,” Mohammed told HuffPost of Asian cultures. “It’s always about a team, it’s always about your family.”
“You oftentimes have to make your own personal sacrifices for the good of the family. And that’s kind of how I’ve always, at least as an adult, tried to live my life. It’s part of the reason why I decided to run for office.”
Mohammed studied biology at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte before shifting to history.
He then pursued law school at North Carolina Central University, seeing lawyers as “social engineers” who “get to use the Constitution to protect some of the most vulnerable communities.”
Before running for office, Mohammed worked as a staff attorney at the Council for Children’s Rights in Charlotte, where he provided legal representation to juvenile clients, negotiated outcomes for children in quasi-civil court proceedings, and represented youth at civil commitment hearings in short-term psychiatric facilities, among other functions.
He also worked as an assistant public defender in Mecklenburg County’s Public Defender’s Office, a board member in various nonprofits and as vice chair of the Mecklenburg County Democratic Party.
Mohammed centered his platform on three key issues: education, economy, and equity.
He vows to fight for competitive pay for educators, increase in per-pupil spending, incentives for small businesses, livable wage for families, investments in green energy, Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, Medicaid expansion, and ending incarceration due to inability to pay court fees and fines, among others.
Asian Americans who want to do more for their community should look at how African Americans fought during the civil rights movement, Mohammed said.
“They never immigrated here. They were forcefully brought to this country, and they had to fight for themselves,” he told HuffPost. “The African American community is a huge example of inspiration for people of color, for immigrants, to stake your claim for this country, that your voice matters.”
As such, he encourages fellow Asian Americans to “to get involved, because nobody else is going to do it, because there’s not that many of us.”
“Don’t expect somebody else to come write your story for you,” he added.