Meet Nima Kulkarni, First Native American to the Kentucky Legislature

Kulkarni represents District 40, which includes the University of Louisville, Churchill Downs, and parts of southern Louisville.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – As the first American Indian to hold a seat in the Kentucky State Legislature, Rep. Nima Kulkarni says she entered politics to ignite the fire of change.

At the age of six, Kulkarni and his family moved directly from India to Louisville so that his brother could receive the special education he needed at Paul’s school.

After graduating from Atherton High School and the University of Louisville, Kulkarni left to study at DC Law School – but his time in Kentucky was not yet over.

Kulkarni returned to Louisville in 2010, founding Indus Law Firm. With a focus on immigration and labor law, Kulkarni has helped anyone from professors to researchers secure jobs.

“I started my own immigration law firm,” Kulkarni said. “My main focus has been on employment-based immigration, so my goal is to help many businesses across the country who want to attract workers here.”

In 2013, Kulkarni founded the New Americans Initiative, a foundation dedicated to education, engagement and awareness of immigration issues.

“I started with a main goal of making sure that those who can be naturalized to obtain their citizenship can do so,” Kulkarni said.

Then the policy came to call. Kulkarni has focused her campaign on topics that have been close to her heart since she was a child: work, education, health care and immigration.

Kulkarni was sworn in at the Kentucky General Assembly in 2019, representing District 40, which includes the University of Louisville, Churchill Downs, and parts of southern Louisville.

“I think the neighborhood was ready for a change,” Kulkarni said. “This is the reason why I was elected.”

Not only is Kulkarni the first Native American woman elected to the legislature, but she believes she is the first immigrant elected as a state representative.

In the middle of her tenure, another Native American made a first: Kamala Harris became the first woman, the first African-American, and the first Asian-American vice-president.

“Everyone I spoke to was incredibly excited – the first woman, the first woman of color and of course the immigrant daughter,” Kulkarni said. “Again, it was a historic moment and I think it’s inspiring because it’s normal now. You have someone like you who maybe shared experiences, so it’s been a period. very exciting for me personally and our entire community. “

At the same time, the United States has seen an increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Like many community leaders, Kulkarni said anti-Asian hatred was hard to see. She said nothing should ever end in violence.

“Make sure you don’t perpetuate stereotypes, things that are defensive, hurtful to the community,” Kulkarni said. “It’s really just a lack of understanding.”

President Joe Biden on Thursday signed legislation to reduce anti-Asian hate crimes, providing grants to help law enforcement improve their investigation, identification and reporting of bias-motivated incidents, which are often under-reported.

►Contact Sherlene Shanklin of The Moments that Matter at [email protected] or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

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