In 2008, I interviewed writer, activist and now Washington State Senator Pramila Jayapal.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, India-born author Pramila Jayapal was living amid cardboard boxes in her new house in Seattle, Washington, when a friend called from the East Coast and told her to unpack her television. Over the next several days, as Americans struggled with their grief over the deaths caused by the plane hijackings and the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, another set of tragedies began to unfold: hate crimes against Arabs and other ethnic minorities swept the country. In Seattle Jayapal was inundated with calls for help from Muslim women who were afraid to leave their houses in traditional dress, from immigrant taxi drivers who had been assaulted, and from Arab parents who had pulled their children from school.
Recently divorced, Jayapal had set aside her activism to carve out time to work on a book manuscript, but a few days later she met with Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA) and presented a proposal for a campaign to make Washington a “hate-free zone.” She’d envisioned someone else leading the effort, but within twenty-four hours McDermott organized a press conference to introduce Jayapal — who maintained that she was not looking to front a new activist movement — as the head of the campaign. [Read more. You can also read the full interview here.]