Activists to Watch: Deepak Bhargava

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Deepak Bhargava speaks outside the White House after President Obama announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. (Photo Credit: Michael Saldarriaga)

A few days after Sarah Palin attacked Obama’s experience as a community organizer in her speech at the GOP convention, Deepak Bhargava penned an op-ed column in The New York Times, “Organizing Principles: What do Community Organizers do?” to explain the important work that grass-roots activists do in cities and towns across America.

As executive director of the DC-based Center for Community Change (CCC), Bhargava, now 45, coordinates a large network of local community organizing groups engaged in a wide variety of issues. After working for the community activist group ACORN, Bhargava joined CCC in 1994 and has energized the organization by recruiting a young and diverse staff and by leading campaigns to address America’s poverty crisis and its fraying social safety net. CCC provides support and training to local and state-level groups such as Promise Arizona and the Ohio Organizing Collaborative to bring the often-fragmented progressive groups together around a common vision and strategy.

“Social movements have to be a combination of a big, inspiring national vision, but grounded in local struggles and local fights,” says Bhargava, who immigrated to the United States from India, grew up in New York City and graduated from Harvard University.

Several years ago, he helped bring together local immigrant rights activists to expand the campaign for federal reform, focusing on identifying, training and mobilizing young people, often called “dreamers.” With CCC’s help, they created the Fair Immigration Reform Movement, pushing for changes in the nation’s immigration laws. Along with hundreds of other activists, he was recently arrested as part of a civil disobedience action in Washington, DC, for immigration rights.

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