State Rep. Raumesh Akbari is speaking at the 2016 Democratic National Convention on its final day — hours before Hillary Clinton accepts the party’s nomination. The 32-year-old Persian and African-American Akbari represents a part of Memphis, where she has lived her entire life, and has worked to reform the state’s criminal justice system.
She won’t be a keynote or a have a large speaking part on primetime; rather, Akbari, in her first political convention as a Clinton alternate, is given about 180 seconds to tell young people why they should vote for Clinton.
Akbari, a twin, is a member of the state’s black caucus and works for her parents’ trichology (hair doctors) business. When she isn’t showing her support for Clinton in Philadelphia, she’s tweeting selfies and working on education proposals (she gets financial support from teachers unions).
Here is what you need to know about Akbari:
1. Akbari Succeeded a ‘Legendary’ State Representative
Akbari won a special election in 2013 after one of the longest-serving lawmakers in the country died. Lois DeBerry, who was first elected to the Tennessee state house in 1972, died after suffering pancreatic cancer. The “legendary” DeBerry was 68.
“Because Lois DeBerry’s personality was so big, all of us were holding our breath wondering who was going to step into her place,” Rep. Brenda Gilmore (D-Nashville) said.
In an interview with the Memphis Daily News, Akbari said she knew there were big shoes to fill:
“I tell people I hope I can just walk beside them because of what she was able to achieve for the state,” Akbari said.
After winning the special election, Akbari, a Democrat in a heavy blue district, easily won re-election a year later and is running again this year.
2. Akbari Has a Twin Sister, Raumina
Raumina Akbari, Raumesh’s twin sister, is a third-year medical student, according to Memphis Daily News. Both twins studied at Washington University in St. Louis, where Raumesh Akbari received her law degree.
Raumesh Akbari recently celebrated twinning when she approached Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro and his brother, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) at the DNC and got a selfie:
“Today’s been awesome,” Akbari told the Times Free Press. “So I got here early. I was in rehearsal backstage with a teleprompter. I got to meet the Castro twins and I got to walk out on stage so I could kind of get an idea of what it’s going to be like tomorrow.”
3. She Works for Her Mom’s Hair Doctor Business
Akbari’s mother, Lisa Akbari, is a trichologist known to her patients as “The Hair Doctor.” A self-described “hair care pioneer” in her website’s bio, Lisa Akbari and her husband, Hooshang Akbari, are “the directors and lead Trichologists of Hair Nutrition and Research in Memphis Tennessee, which focuses on education, research, and analysis of hair and its connection to the scalp,” the bio states.
4. Labor Unions, Liberal Groups Are Top Contributors to Her Campaigns
The National Institute of Money in State Politics reports Akbari’s campaign’s top contributors consist of “liberal policy” and trade unions.
Tennessee campaign finance databases show education groups and pharmaceutical companies are also top donors.
Education donations aren’t out of anywhere: Chalkbeat, a nonprofit news organization focused on improving schools, ran a story called “How a Memphis lawmaker quietly passed a law that may have kept your school from state takeover” which said “…the Memphis Democrat managed to build consensus among lawmakers and state leaders, including founding ASD Superintendent Chris Barbic, in favor of the school turnaround game-changer.”
“I’m a product of the city and county schools, and I know what public schools can do,” Akbari told Chalkbeat. “It will be a disservice if we don’t invest in these schools.”
5. She’s a Hillary Supporter Because of Affordable College, Economic Development, Equal Rights
Akbari told The Tennessean she was “super excited” to be at the DNC and to support Clinton as the party’s nominee for the White House:
“I feel like [Clinton] is the most qualified. I feel like she is going to fight for the people in my community, for affordable college education, for economic development, for equal rights for all; and I think that’s important. I want to support a leader that builds on unity and not divisiveness. I believe secretary Clinton is that one,” she said.