The Homegirl Project recently spoke with Sameera Rajwade, a 21-year-old, non-binary, first-generation Indian American running for San Ramon City Council District 3. Her campaign focuses on divesting money from the San Ramon police department and reinvesting in the community, providing universal childcare, education reform, mental health services, accessible public housing, and San Ramon’s Green New Deal.
The Homegirl Project: Tell me about yourself. What’s your background, and how did you become the person you are today?
Sameera Rajwade: I lived in San Ramon my whole life. I’ve always been interested in politics, mainly just wanting to understand humans and society’s social aspects. I got radicalized early on into understanding social justice when Mike Brown died at the hands of Darren Wilson during the Ferguson protest in 2014. Soon after, I started going to local black Lives Matter rallies. Back then, it was a very cool time, very radical, so it’s interesting to see how the movement has evolved! I’ve always been an artist as well. I like art! I make music, I write, journalism, I do a lot of creative things. I would say I mostly label myself as a creative before anything else.
I went to school in DC after I graduated but dropped out of my first year there. I found out that private education and university studying political science just wasn’t the best route. You just had a bunch of rich people in a classroom talking about issues they have no idea about. I was disgusted by it and started to do independent journalism and political activism. I also did graphic designing and art, and music on the side!
THP: What was your calling? When did you realize that you wanted to run for San Ramon City Council?
SR: I helped organize a Black Lives Matter protest in San Ramon. It was the first protest in the history of San Ramon, and there were thousands of people on the streets. I saw people in my town that don’t go out and protest. When I was on the back of that truck leading the crowd, I felt so emotionally empowering so many people. At the same time, people were demanding justice for the Black community; we finally saw solidarity outside of just the Black community for the fight against the police. So I was like, the people are demanding it, it’s time to defund the police, I’m just going to run.
THP: Who or what inspires you?
SR: Well, I have this saying in my head, “Make your idols your rivals.” I really don’t like to idolize people that are in social justice or fighting for justice. I think it makes a hierarchy between people just because they’re doing something. I mostly take inspiration from reading and learning about social issues. What inspires me to keep going is really the suffering of humanity, trying to make our world better. I don’t think people are ever perfect enough to idolize.
THP: What has your journey been in activism growing up as a POC and non-binary?
SR: When I was back in high school, I had a group of friends that was mostly white girls. I would introduce to my friends concepts that white privilege exists, black lives matter. Everyone at my school thought that it was so controversial for me to say stuff like that. Now, I see all these people posting on their Instagram stories, “Black lives matter,” and I wonder where you were when I was saying this, and now you’re doing it as a trend? I’ve always been outspoken as a person, I’m going to be radical. Back in high school, I became a Marxist and a communist. I started to understand how racial capitalism and our economic system worked and how it is based on class and hierarchy. It divides us and is the leading cause of the suffering of our society. I started to get in with different socialist organizations like Workers World and PSL, and I found that I really hated socialist organizations and most activist spaces. There are so many stupid divisions and hierarchies, and people aren’t for the cause but mostly for money-making. All these activist organizations have now become businesses, and I don’t like that! It’s why I mostly do my activist work on my own.
THP: I’ve heard that your campaign is managed solely by youth organizers. Can you tell us more about that?
SR: I think that it is important for the youth to start being politically active and have the confidence to run for public office. I think it’s important that people our age and people in the younger demographic are in policy-making. I feel that there’s such a huge divide between the older generation and the younger generation. Our opinions are so divided, and it just doesn’t seem like a real democracy if the youth voters aren’t actively involved.
THP: What is your vision for San Ramon?
SR: My vision for San Ramon has to be more integrated with the Bay Area. I believe that we separate ourselves because of geopolitics because we are a wealthier city. The social issues that are happening outside of the city that is obviously just protecting the interests of those who are wealthy and rather than being a part of Bay Area culture, we just keep to ourselves, so I really hope that’s my vision of San Ramon is for defending the police but also just creating incense and making a City Identity we have so many artists and so many fashion designers we could come together and make San Ramon on the map
THP: What are some of the priorities that you focus on for your campaign?
SR: Defunding the police was the main base of the campaign. We want to put those funds into subsidized housing, especially for teachers. I also want to enforce community gardens and universal child care and different social programs for the community, such as an LGBTQ+ youth center. This youth center would be where LGBTQ+ youth in San Ramon could feel safe.
When I was in high school living in this town, I was in the closet the whole time, feeling unsafe in this space. After I graduated, I was like, “I’m bisexual, I’m non-binary, I’m awesome.” It’s something important because we have a substantial amount of LGBTQ+ community members in our city, so it’s definitely a top priority. I want to increase dialogue and make San Ramon a more inclusive city.
THP: Can you tell us more about your policy for divesting from the San Ramon Police Department?
SR: Every single year, the police budget increases by $1.000,000 per year. An already exorbitant amount of money is put in the department because we spend money on stuff like drones, vehicles, armory, contracts with SWAT teams, all in a city with a crime rate of 1%! It’s a really low rate, which makes you question, why is our police continuously increasing their budget?
The San Ramon Police Department also has really low transparency. They don’t even release how many people they stop for moving violations by race and no tracking of racial demographics. The campaign is all about transparency and cost-cutting within the department.
There’s this quote that I’ve read, “The police are the personal military for the wealthy.” We have all of these things because San Ramon wants to protect Chevron's interests and protect the interests of the wealthy residents here. However, we could use that money in a more productive way. I don’t believe that visual recognition in drones is ethical and something that we should have in our city. I’m not a fan of authoritarianism. Our country is already fascist and populist, and I’m really trying to combat that.
THP: How can others get involved with your campaign?
SR: I think that it’s not necessarily about being a part of my campaign, but making a campaign of your own. My whole thing is to inspire YOU to start up. Run for your city’s office, advocate for defunding the police in your area. I don’t think we can change anything until we can change our immediate surroundings. What surrounds us all, connects all, is the conscious goal for equality. If anyone really wants to get involved in my campaign, look through how I’ve run for office. Check out the type of stuff I’ve done, and use that as a blueprint for yourself. Imitation is the biggest form of flattery, I would say!
THP: Thank you! You can find more details about Sameera at https://www.sameeraforsanramon.com.