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Meet Mira Nair's Son Zohran Mamdani, a Democratic Socialist and Rapper Who Won Seat in NY State Assembly

Mira Nair / Zohran Kwame Mamdani. Credits: News18 / @ZohranKMamdani.

Mira Nair / Zohran Kwame Mamdani. Credits: News18 / @ZohranKMamdani.

Mamdani was born in Kampala (Uganda) but his family moved to New York City when he was seven-year-old. He graduated from Bowdoin College, and currently works as a housing counsellor, and aids immigrant families facing eviction retain their homes.

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Simantini Dey

Zohran Kwame Mamdani, the 29-year-old son of Indian American filmmaker, Mira Nair, and Ugandan academician Mahmood Mamdani made history today.

Mamdani (along with fellow Queens resident, Jennifer Rajkumar) is one of the first South Asians to secure a seat in the state assembly of New York. He ran unopposed to represent New York's 36th Assembly District in Astoria (a neighbourhood in Queens).

Earlier today, Mamdani tweeted the news of his victory and wrote, "It's official: we won. I'm going to Albany to fight to tax the rich, heal the sick, house the poor & build a socialist New York. But I can't do it alone. To win socialism, we'll need a mass movement of the multiracial working class as well. So let's build one. Join @nycDSA."

Mamdani was born in Kampala (Uganda) but his family moved to New York City when he was seven-year-old. He graduated from Bowdoin College, and currently works as a housing counsellor, and aids immigrant families facing eviction retain their homes.

Talking about his job as a housing counsellor, Mamdani says on his website, "It’s a difficult job, but not just because I have to negotiate with banks that value profits over people or because it takes months to make progress on a single case. It’s difficult because every day I come face to face with the reality that all this suffering isn’t inevitable. It’s a choice — the consequence of decades of pro-corporate and pro-landlord policies in Albany. Our representatives turned family homes into investment properties while letting public housing fall into decay and disrepair."

He decided to enter into politics in October 2019, after a friend, and a fellow member of the local unit of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) suggested it and defeated incumbent Aravella Simotas by 346 votes in the Democratic primary. Immigration is high on Mamdani's list of 'issues' that he would like to tackle as an elected representative. Mamdani notes that despite New York being a city that has a large immigrant population, and many diverse neighborhoods, the 'deportation machinery' of Donald Trump works in this city too. Therefore, his aim is to ensure that the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) stays away from all new york courtrooms and hospitals. He wants to offer free healthcare to low-income New York residents, irrespective of their immigrant status, and enhance funding for immigrant legal services.

Mamdani's primary goals are to guarantee housing and healthcare for all. Apart from that he also wants to defund the NYPD and aims to bring change to 'the racist police system that’s working exactly as designed - as a means of control over black and brown New Yorkers.'

Mamdani, who defines himself as a 'democratic socialist', is also a proponent of socialist feminism and wants to look away from 'lean feminism' in which women have to work their way to equality. Instead, he wants to examine feminism within the spectrum of capitalism, a system that only favours the wealthy, and under which women are always 'undervalued, underpaid and overworked.' He also aims to "guarantee queer and trans-inclusive medical care which would include mental health support, transition-related care and HIV related sexual healthcare- through a single-payer system."

According to a report in Vogue, when Mamdani began his campaign last year, many advised him not to highlight his desi roots. Although these suggestions were 'well-intentioned', the young politician chose otherwise. He added a twist to the popular Democratic socialist slogan, 'bread and roses,' and went with 'roti and roses' instead. Mamdani's interest in socialism and current affairs, in fact, had been evident from an early age to his mother, filmmaker, Mira Nair.

In an interview in 2013, Nair had confessed that her son wasn't a big film buff but took an active interest in politics. The filmmaker had told Hindustan Times, " ...I don’t see it in him to make movies. He is very involved with current affairs, politics, and political issues. I think he can be engaged in the world in some way to make a difference. He is very very interested in that.”

Apart from being a politician, Mamdani also happens to be a rapper. A childhood hobby that resulted in a groovy music video titled Nani, featuring 85-year-old actress and chef Madhur Jaffrey in the titular role of Nani and Mamdani himself as Mr Cardimom, is a really catchy number indeed. In an interview to the Scroll.in, Mamdani said that being a rapper was 'an instructive experience' for him.

"Oftentimes, people think of music and politics are separate endeavours, but I think they’re tied together...In both, you’re trying to tell a story. As Mr Cardamom, I was trying to tell a story about my grandmother made a little fantastical. As a candidate, I’m trying to tell the story of my community.” he added.


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