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Interview with Akshadha Lagisetti

Kate Anderson-Song Head Interviewer

Introduce yourself! 

My name is Akshadha Lagisetti. I’m Indian American, 17-years-old, and a high school senior. I’m from Atlanta, Georgia and am really passionate about political organizing. A lot of my advocacy work so far has been within electoral politics, but I also work within gun violence prevention and have forayed into policy advocacy. I’m really passionate about Asian American issues, combating gun violence, and advocating for women’s rights. In my free time, I love to make digital art, dance, spend time on Twitter, and read books and webtoons. 

You are the Co-Director of Civic & Creative Engagement for Asian Youth for Civic Engagementwhat is this organization and what is your involvement? 

AYCE (Asian Youth for Civic Engagement) was established in the summer of 2019 and we’re almost done with our 501c4 certification. We are an organization of mostly Asian youth primarily in America with the goal of not only spreading political awareness among our communities, but working on-ground to push civic engagement and advocate for policies beyond voting.

I am a high school senior and a Co-Director of Civic and Creative Engagement for Asian Youth for Civic Engagement (AYCE). 

So far, we’ve created voting murals across the country, run phone banking and text banking events by partnering with prominent AAPI politicians and organizations; advocated for policy change in our communities; published articles; interviewed activists, politicians, and young Asian creatives; and more! We also recently announced a scholarship contest with a $1000+ prize pool for young Asian creatives (we haven’t announced his involvement yet – but Harry Shum Jr. is one of our judges!) and are working on restructuring our team to focus more on civic engagement, chapter impact, and policy.

 I also lead the Atlanta Chapter, and we’ve done a lot of work for the 2020 general election cycle and runoffs with murals, text banking, phone banking, and letter writing and recently joined the Georgia Immigration Rights Alliance to discuss and advocate for and against bills that affect Immigrant Georgians. 

More info about AYCE’s mural project that I spearheaded! (this has photos of most of our locations and more details about the general project)

What do you think are the biggest issues facing young people right now?    

I think that Gen Z is the most socially progressive generation and has a lot of capacity to be at the forefront of advancing change, but at times, we tend to fall into a “Gen-Z Savior Complex.” I think it’s important for Gen Z to not dismiss the opinions of and take advice from adults, and always make sure that we are following the leads of BIPOC organizers who have worked tirelessly for years when social justice was not as much of a trend. Furthermore, I think that young people also tend to fall in the trap of social media activism (creating and reposting infographics, etc). Awareness is always great, but I think that more young people should branch out from social media and raising awareness to look within their communities to see what they can do – whether with advocating legislation, campaigning for local officials, mutual aid, or even having more meaningful discussions with people who might not always agree with us. I think that there is a lot more potential for meaningful change when we start within the communities closest to us. 

You are “passionate about civic engagement from the local to the national level”—what do you recommend for young people who want to be more civically engaged?  Who wants to speak out on important issues or politics?

I think I addressed parts of this question in my answer to the previous question, but for young people who want to be more civically engaged on a local level I recommend checking out mutual aid groups within your community, looking to start chapters of orgs like Sunrise or MFOL that still focus on local impact, and working with a local official – like your state rep or members of your school board. This definitely applies to the state and national levels as well, and one of the easiest ways to get involved is to volunteer for or join a campaign, donate!, or even hop on events like phone banking, text banking, webinars, and panels for broader, national issues. I think that as more Gen Z become politically aware and even delve deeper into history (personally I hadn’t really known much about Asian American history (like immigration restrictions, the changing definition of race in America) and what it really means to be Asian American with context from social justice/activist history).

Do you have any role models?  

I first started delving deeper into political organizing when I had the opportunity to intern on Stacey Abrams’ 2018 Georgia Gubernatorial Campaign as a sophomore. Working on her campaign showed me that there was a lot of potential to flip Georgia Blue, and she’s definitely been one of my inspirations for continuing within this field of work.

When I interned at the Gwinnett County Democratic Party, one of my mentors, Bianca Keaton (now former chair of the Party) really emphasized having grit and drive when organizing. As a Black woman who in a low-income household without much support, she has faced many hurdles – whether in her position as chair or working on the Hill–and within her narration of her experiences to me she always emphasized believing in yourself and your accomplishments. 

I also had the opportunity to work with Georgia State Representative Sam Park, who is the first openly gay Asian to be elected to the Georgia State Legislature and also recently gave a keynote speech at the 2020 DNC Convention. He has always emphasized service leadership beyond the “political game” and actually listening to constituents and community members on issues and how to help them.

How has this time of COVID-19 affected you and your work?  How have you been coping? 

The transition from in-person to online, especially with campaigns, has both pros and cons. It’s definitely harder to reach out to voters and make meaningful connections, but I’ve somehow been able to put in more hours than I could’ve in a normal year. When working as a fellow under Rep Sam Park, I helped reach out to seniors in my community in May/June and definitely realized how severe of an impact COVID-19 has on our most vulnerable community members. I’ve been lucky to not face any financial/physical hardships due to COVID-19, but I have sometimes had somewhat of a tough time with school and my mental health and am really grateful to having close friends that make it easier to cope with everything that’s been happening.

What does self care mean to you?  How do you take care of yourself? 

Definitely feeling content with where I am and what I’m looking forward to. Whenever I try to take care of myself, I spend time on skin care, try to work out, and sleep a lot.

Here are some rapid-fire questions: 

Your go-to coffee shop order? 

Iced Matcha Green Tea Latte

Favorite color? 

Blue, but purple is a close second

Any good films/tv shows you’re watching right now? 

What We Do In The Shadows, Thor: Ragnarok, and True Beauty

Ultimate comfort food?

Instant Ramen! It’s so easy to make and so tasty.

What has been the highlight of your day today? 

I was notified that I’m a finalist for a scholarship program that I applied for!

What is next for you? 

I’ve become really passionate about increasing the power of the AAPI electorate and hope to work to push policy and legislation beyond electoralism when I go to college next year.

Akshadha Lagisetti is a 17-year-old, Indian-American political organizer from Atlanta, Georgia. She has been very involved with politics and activism in Georgia since 2018, when she first worked on Stacey Abrams’ gubernatorial campaign. In the past, she’s worked on Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign, with AAPI Outreach for March For Our Lives Georgia, for the Gwinnett County Democratic Party, for GA State Representative Sam Park, and most recently for the Democratic Party of Georgia for both the general election and senate runoffs. She currently works with March For Our Lives Georgia as the Communications Director and as the Co-Director of Civic and Creative Engagement and Atlanta Executive Director for Asian Youth for Civic Engagement. Outside of politics and activism, she loves art, dancing, and reading. 

Social profiles:  

Instagram: @akshls

@aycenational @ayceatlanta



Twitter: @akshls 

Other links: 

Head Interviewer

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