BY: RAEMI CHARLES
“I absolutely loved being at B-CC. I feel like [the Class of 2015] had such great energy and we just all got along really well” recalls Lubna Sebastian.
“It was really fun to be in different clubs”, says Sebastian. As a member of Mock Trial from freshman through senior year, Sebastian learned “everything about how to form a case and all of the rules” and remembers “going to the courthouse together and getting together after…it was just such a fun group and so cool.”
She recollects the protests during the spring of her senior year including “a sit-in at the lobby” and going to D.C. for marches being the start of her political career. Graduating in the top 5% of Maryland’s class of 2015, she would attend the University of California at Berkeley, “a very political school”.
“[Berkeley] is a place where being politically active is something that is celebrated. Many people want to be able to speak up and protest and get involved. Everyone’s very environmentally conscious and talking about issues in a very broad and specific sense. Multifaceted discussions happen.”
Sebastian describes “having to take a longer route to not cross a line of people striking” and “seeing protests happening.” “[Berkeley] had a lot of people who were very, very politically involved, [her]self included.” With regard to the 2016 election, Sebastian says “it was really jarring for a lot of people, especially those who just assumed everything would be fine, that they may not need to be as politically involved as they should’ve been.”
Though she knocked on doors, did her research, and participated in conversations, she was a green card holder at the time, so she “saw a lot of absentee ballots at [her] sorority house come to [her] sorority sisters.” She “spent a really long time being politically active in spaces in which she couldn’t make the ultimate…action step, which is that ballot.” Sebastian has planned congressional briefings, made phone calls, organized people, collected petition signatures, and worked on a campaign. She states how “It was difficult trying to feel like I belonged in the political space…as a non-citizen.”
Sebastian just became a naturalized citizen this past month and registered to vote and will turn her ballot in at the B-CC dropbox.
“When I was on campus, I founded the Berkeley chapter of the ‘It’s On Us campaign’, which is the Obama- Biden campaign against campus sexual assault. I had an idea of Joe Biden’s history with that college program and the Violence Against Women Act and all that he had done for women of my age at the time.”
“Because of the activist history of the campus and the fact that everything you’re studying and talking about always roots back to core issues, I was able to take classes on economics, geography, sociology, and philosophy, and they all tied back into some political nature.”
Sebastian’s college experience was not only defined by her political activity but also her experience in greek life.
After finding a great house her freshman year, they “ended up starting [their] own chapter a year into [her] college experience. In sophomore year, we all started a brand new modern local sorority and [she] was elected vice president so [she] helped write the bylaws, conducted chapter elections, and did [their] calendar.”
“Greek life at Berkeley is very different than Greek life at other schools. For me, it seemed a lot more inclusive. I saw people who looked like me there and I felt more comfortable,” she explains.
As Sebastian reflects on her time in college, she states how “I just absolutely loved being at UC Berkeley. I loved being able to speak freely about my political beliefs.”
As a recent alumna of the University of California Berkeley, she had applied for 200 jobs, and had been interviewed for the final round at a beer company, PR company, and health insurance group.
However, she ended up with the ‘Biden for President’ campaign. “He’s just someone that I feel like I’ve known forever…someone who wanted to fight for me.”
In the Biden campaign, Sebastian started out as an organizing assistant, responsible for tracking the organization and communication between early states and the headquarters with the Organizing Team. With two other young members of the Biden campaign, she wrote a program plan for connecting students and sent it to the leadership. This would become ‘Students for Biden.’
“I knew that the program had legs and was something that was going to do incredibly well, especially as we expanded further… I was able to keep my position and then I ended up going to Iowa and Nevada for the caucuses”, she remembers “[Super Tuesday to have been] a highlight…we had student groups who had been organizing with us for so many months…we were able to phone bank, talk to volunteers, and then see their state win.”
“There’s this photo in the Boston Globe of our students cheering when Joe Biden won [the primary] in Massachusetts.”
Sebastian now serves as the Director of the program, working with the Coalition team after running the program for a year as an assistant. She “was able to reach out to people in various departments and tell them very clearly what [she] was running and what [she] needed their help and support with.” The successes came with struggles, though.
Sebastian describes how she faced exhaustion, second-guessed herself, needed to refocus herself, and how she didn’t always look at the big picture.
“I felt like I was the only person to look like me in certain spaces. But what’s really important is to find those mentors and those people who are really breaking down barriers for you and making sure that you are speaking up as much as you possibly can.”
For Sebastian, one of those mentors was Simone Sanders. Along with encouraging her to take risks and ownership of her work as well as maximizing her work, Sanders once told Sebastian “I don’t have an inside voice…I use my outside voice no matter where I am,” meaning, “don’t change who you are when you’re working…if you’re passionate and creative and you’re outgoing, don’t minimize that when you’re working because especially in politics, it is so important to be heard.”
The ownership of work encouraged by Sanders made a difference. Sebastian states, “when I was confident about my work and I was able to keep detailed notes and detailed trackers and spreadsheets and information and present in a confident and well thought out way, I was able to gain support and a lot more assistance.”
“I’ve learned that if you have a great idea, that you should absolutely go for it, and if you’re making work for yourself, make it work.”