Meet Awais Qazi

I am an activist. Plain and simple.

What we need right now in the State of New Jersey is more activists in public office. We need people who are willing to speak truth to power and who are willing to raise their voices and speak up for the people that are often overlooked. We need someone who will keep their ears to the ground, listen at local community meetings, understand the issues that affect real people, and amplify their voices in the Legislature. That is what I hope to accomplish.

I was born in Pakistan. I moved to the United States at the age of two. Growing up, I witnessed the American Dream in action. My parents worked long and hard. My dad studied Accounting at St. Peter’s University while working part time and my mother worked worked various odd jobs. We moved around frequently growing up; we went from Pennsylvania to Hamilton to Lawrenceville and finally to West Windsor, where my parents settled down. My parents worked long and hard to ensure that my siblings and I could get a quality education and have an abundance of opportunity.

Growing up, I spent a lot of time developing relationships within my community. My parents were often working, so I was able to spend a lot of time outdoors making friends with neighbors and trying to build a friendly atmosphere in our neighborhood. This is where my activist spirit began...I was always looking for new ways to bring people together. Whether that was playing football, shooting a fun video, or helping to put together a block party, anything I could do to get a large group of people together and create a positive environment was exactly what I wanted to do. I learned the value of community just by experiencing the dynamic neighborhood I grew up in. A lot of that was only possible because we lived in safe neighborhoods neighborhoods that were extremely friendly and diverse. That is a vision that I hope to bring to our district. I want to make sure that all our communities are safe enough for children to grow and build positive relationships. This is entirely possible if we invest in quality public education, new vocational schools, and job training programs. I believe a community with opportunity is a safe community.

"I want to make sure that all our communities are safe enough for children to grow and build positive relationships."

"I was able to turn a simple conversation into something more."

My activist spirit only grew throughout my college experience.

I moved to Newark in 2013 to attend the New Jersey Institute of Technology. At that time, our school had a reputation for being one of the least happy schools in the States. I did not like the sound of that. I quickly joined the Student Activities Council and started handing out popcorn at weekly movie nights and I used that role as an excuse to have simple conversations with people. I asked people how they were doing, how classes were going, what brought them to the event, and what they would like to see on campus. My goal at the time was mostly just to pass the time and meet new people, but I quickly realized that I could do something with their feedback. I decided to plan my own events for the Student Activities Council based entirely on what the people wanted and things went really well. Students were enjoying the events. I was meeting new people. I felt happy because I was able to turn a simple conversation into something more. I continued this practice and hosted dozens of unique events over my first two years of college, served as Junior Class President and passed proposals for various infrastructure projects on campus including funding the purchase of new filtered water fountains on campus, served as an Editor for the School Newspaper, and served as Operations Chair for the campus-wide philanthropy HighlanderThon.

Towards the end of college, I selfishly shifted my focus towards graduating with a Finance degree and finding a job. I had accomplished a great deal during school, but I had no internship experience and our school did not have the strongest network in place to help students like me find a job in Finance. After all, we were a tech school, so most recruiters come to NJIT to search for tech talent. I decided something needed to change. The Martin Tuchman School of Management needed an outlet for people to grow professionally and develop a strong network to help the people of the business school get great job opportunities. I found that such an outlet did not exist at NJIT, so I went into activist mode and started talking to people to bring the idea to life. I spent the entire summer leading up to my Senior Year doing research on how we could put something like that together. I landed on an ambitious idea; creating a new Fraternity on campus. But this was not just going to be any Fraternity, I decided to put together a Co-Ed Professional Business Fraternity called Alpha Kappa Psi. This would be a Fraternity that is open to anyone from any major, regardless of whether they are male or female. I wanted to everyone and anyone to be able to join.

"Such an outlet did not exist at NJIT. So I made one."

There was a lot of interest in this idea. I started talking to people within the School of Management and they were 100% on board. They were also hoping to build an outlet like this for Business Students to grow and network. But I did not stop there. I wanted to make this an organization that could help anyone. I talked to people outside of major and asked them about what they would like to see in an extracurricular organization. A lot of people wanted three simple things; a social group with friendly people to talk to, an opportunity to develop skills in oral presentation and professional development, and an opportunity to network with companies all over the States that hired in their field. So I took their feedback and decided that the Fraternity would revolve around those three fundamental traits. We were able to get a large group of 60+ people interested to pay dues and join our founding class. This was unreal to me; 60+ college students, who are already paying a lot in college tuition, trusted this idea enough to pay to join an organization that had nothing but a dream. This had shattered my entire expectations. I knew some people would be interested but to have that many people believe in my vision was entirely unprecedented. So with their faith and with their help, we put together exactly the organization that I had dreamed up. We hosted professional development workshops, taught students how to put together a great resume and cover letter and how to perfect their pitch for a job. We hosted large scale networking events where we invited Alumni from all over the State to talk to our students. And we created an atmosphere that was unlike any I had seen on campus. We created a community of brothers and sisters that support each other through thick and thin. It was an unbelievable occurrence that to this day baffles me, but I am entirely proud of the legacy I have left behind with the Chi Zeta Chapter of Alpha Kappa Psi.

I quickly realized the working world was nothing like what I was accustomed to growing up.

After college, I was able to secure a job at Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Financial Services company. Things are very structured and formal. There are not many opportunities to flex your creativity and make a profound impact on the culture in the workplace. Everyone is focused primarily on getting their job done and making their way homes. This change in environment was completely foreign to me and I decided that I needed to do something outside of work to continue to fulfill my activist spirit. I began volunteering at local high schools in Newark. I reached out to elected officials and asked for opportunities to volunteer with the dream of working on big issues that I was seeing such as the Newark Water Crisis, the underfunding of local public schools, and the huge investments into Corporate Welfare with little to no investment in the people of our district. The volunteer work that I did exposed me to a lot of grave issues in our district, but did not provide a meaningful way to come up with solutions that can change these circumstances.

I noticed on the news that there were young people from all over the country that were participating in this new movement to stand up against the threat of Climate Change. They were fighting for a Green New Deal and they were organizing in Washington and really pushing to make their voices heard. They were clearly doing a great job, since I was able to hear about it all the way from New Jersey. I decided to join up with them for a big day of action in Washington DC, which ended up being one of my first real big displays of activism. I arrived on Sunday night and was completely astounded by what I saw. There were hundreds of people, of all ages and cultural backgrounds, all listening to a couple dozen young people that worked tirelessly to organize this gathering. I was beyond inspired. These were people that were younger then I am that were bringing together people from all over the country and preparing to speak truth to power in a gargantuan way. I listened to their impassioned call to action. I followed their well thought out instructions and went to Capitol Hill with a group of New Jerseyans and marched into the offices of our Congressional Reps and asked them if they were prepared to take action on Climate Change. And at the end of the day, I sat with over a hundred of people in Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s office, singing songs about hope and action. At the end of the day, about a hundred of us were arrested and brought to a warehouse in the city. We stood tall, supported one another, kept each other company, and we stayed proud of the work we did. That day of action led to more people supporting the Green New Deal, which is now a piece of legislature that has over 80 cosponsors in the House and about a dozen in the Senate.

That experience was a defining moment for me. I saw the impact that young and diverse people were having. I truly believed that they were making a difference and I felt inspired to bring that message home to New Jersey. I truly believe that if we stand together, if we organize, if we raise our voices, we can make a difference. We can change the world.

"Hundreds of people, of all ages and cultural backgrounds, all listening to young people."

"I continue to raise awareness and talk to groups of activists."

Since that experience, I have continued to seek out ways to learn more about the issues that are affecting the people of my community.

I started a Sunrise Hub in Jersey City to bring that level of activism to North Jersey. I joined the Newark Water Coalition and helped to organize a rally outside of Mayor Baraka’s State of the City Address to raise awareness for the Newark Water Crisis. I have joined activists in demanding that the Board of Chosen Freeholders take actions to end Essex County’s inhumane contract with ICE. I continue to raise awareness and talk to groups of activists about the Climate Change crisis. And I continue to learn from other activists about how to do a better job of connecting with people and addressing their concerns.

My vision is to bring activism to our State Legislature. I will be the voice that stands out and says that every resident of the State of New Jersey has a right to clean water NOW. I will be the voice that stands out in a quiet room that says we need to stop providing millions of dollars of subsidies to profitable corporations that are not creating new jobs. I will be the voice that stands up and says that we need to invest our money in our residents. We need to create job training programs and vocational schools to help people find careers that pay a living wage. We need to fund public education and make sure that every single resident of our State grows up with the opportunity to rise up and change the world. We can only make this happen if we elect people who stand up and speak truth to power.

That is why you should vote for me. That is why you should vote off the party line. I have given you a clear picture of who I am and what I stand for. The biggest question you should ask yourself is do you even know who the other candidates are and what they stand for?

#VoteOffTheLine #VoteQaziForAssembly

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