Why I Rise Up: Sadia Saba
Meet Sadia Saba
For many Americans, voting is a daunting and complicated task that can feel too intimidating to attempt. Historically disenfranchised communities especially find it difficult to surmount a political landscape that too often feels detached from our everyday lives. Despite the increasing ease of access to information through new technologies, young people from these communities find themselves in positions similar to their parents and grandparents. Organizing communities can build critical civic infrastructure that can get people involved in the electoral process.
Sadia Saba (she/her) is an Andrew Goodman Ambassador at Bard College in New York. Hailing from Queens, Sadia studied in Global International Studies, focusing on the Middle East in North Africa. As the daughter of parents who immigrated from Bangladesh, Sadia became an advocate for voter rights as an eager young freshman in college through The Andrew Goodman Foundation. Learn more about Sadia in the Q&A below!
Join student activists like Sadia at The Andrew Goodman Foundation’s Rise Up Weekend beginning on June 25th. Register here!
How did your upbringing bring you to the work you do with The Andrew Goodman Foundation? In other words, tell me some background about yourself and why this work is important to you.
I grew up in Queens, New York, as the daughter of immigrants from Bangladesh. Being Bengali-American is foundational to how I became interested in voter advocacy and political work. Despite my Dad being immersed in the news, policy, and political commentary, he couldn’t vote as someone who wasn’t a citizen. During the 2016 election, I was too young to vote, but it was the first election that my older brother was old enough to vote in. However, my older brother told me that he wasn’t going to vote because he didn’t think that it would amount to anything. Seeing an average citizen like my brother genuinely believe that their voice doesn’t matter is disheartening and resonates with how many Americans feel. That experience helped me realize how little structure there is to maintain democratic behaviors in young people, especially for young people who are the children of immigrants.
Many Americans are intimidated by voting due to the lack of structure that makes them feel comfortable enough to participate in elections. People that I’ve spoken to often didn’t know they were eligible to vote, or they didn’t know how to, or they didn’t think it was valuable. That’s why it’s essential to make participating in our nation’s democracy as accessible as possible.
What inspires you about the legacy of Andrew Goodman, James Earl Cheney and Michael Schwerner, and the mission of the foundation?
What motivates me is the sacrifice they made in commitment to voting rights to ensure that people from different minority groups have access to the ballot. No matter your ability, sexuality, gender expression, race, ethnicity, or socio-economic class, access to the poll should be the same for everyone. The mission of The Andrew Goodman Foundation is based on their legacy and the sacrifices they made when America was in a much more tumultuous time. Andrew Goodman battled much apathy, and that seems to be something that we struggle with today. The growing uncaring attitude is one of the most dangerous things to society.
One of the biggest problems that plays into that growing apathy is the lack of accountability of elected officials and understanding of how issues like voter suppression relate directly back to different pieces of legislation and the history of race in this country.
No matter your ability, sexuality, gender expression, race, ethnicity, or socio-economic class, access to the poll should be the same for everyone.
Why is youth voter participation important in shaping our country’s democracy?
Youth engagement is vital because it sets up a lifetime of democratic behaviors. My family didn’t experience that engagement because no one ever reached out to get us involved in American politics. If there were a better structure of getting people involved in elections and politics, it wouldn’t have been seen as something complicated and far removed from our everyday lives. When we get people involved starting at a young age, participating in democracy becomes a personal responsibility rather than a chore or inconvenience. Especially now, when social media and technology connect people, young people are already caring more about politics but still feel disconnected from tangibly participating. The spread of information online distinguishes my generation today but being informed doesn’t mean being involved, and that’s why it’s important to youth communities to organize around issues they care about.
How does recently introduced voter suppression legislation threaten the future of our country?
Voter suppression legislation prevents people from going to the polls in states where voting is already unnecessarily complicated. The United States is often upheld as the pinnacle of democracy, yet we have policies and legislation that legally bar people from voting. Restrictive voting laws completely go against our democratic values as a country and exist due to our history as a country; there needs to be accountability for that. Free and fair elections are one of the pillars of democracy, but these laws and policies disproportionately affect communities of color which can have disastrous consequences for our future.
What motivates you to Rise Up?
What motivates me to Rise Up is the responsibility that young people have to liberate oppressed communities. Whether through voting rights and elections, community organizing, and even through interpersonal relationships, you can talk with your close friends and family about being informed and building democratic behavior.
It can be daunting to feel like you have to change the world, but it’s easier when you connect with the mass movement of politically engaged young people. When I was a freshman, I was hungry to help create change somehow, and I found that through The Andrew Goodman Foundation. When I moved to attend college, my community evolved as I connected to different people and will continue to evolve as I grow and meet new people. To create change means beginning with the communities most accessible to you.
About the Author
Student activist and Andrew Goodman Ambassador Sadia Saba is a student at Bard College.