Harveen Kaur is a woman who leads with passion and grace. As a Kern County and City of Bakersfield community organizer for the Jakara Movement, Kaur is devoted to ensuring her community has equitable treatment and resources.
Kaur was raised in Bakersfield before attending Irvine University for college originally as a Biomedical major to be a pediatrician however she realized it was not meant for her and became undeclared.
It wasn’t until she took a class on racism with a professor who changed her mind about what professionalism looked like that she started to figure out what her major would be.
“He took this and redefined professionalism for me. I was like wait so you can be a professional but also maintain your personality? That’s this intersectionality that I had not thought of before,” said Kaur.
The professor and the topics kept her engaged in every class and ignited a spark in her and she started taking more similar classes. During this time at UCI, she had also helped start a Jakara movement chapter on her campus. With a mixture of these, it hit what she needed to do- organize.
She got her bachelors in Public Policy and Service with an emphasis in governance, a degree that was started at UCI in 2016. During the courses for this major, she would go to the ICE detentions and work with the detainees.
Kaur saw this time as a “beautiful pleasure” to be able to translate and help Punjabi asylum-seeking detainees. Although it was very hard she said it was very eye-opening and when she really saw the need for working for change in her community.
After graduating during the pandemic the Jakara movement reached out and told her they were looking for a Kern County community organizer. She knew right away that she wanted it.
“If you had asked me when I was really little what do you want to be when you grow up I would never have said a community organizer because I didn’t know it existed,” said Kaur.
Almost immediately after she was put to work remotely but still able to make the change in the community.
In the same way that Kaur did not know being a community organizer was a job neither did some of the family members around her. Kaur said she was pretty sure they did not know what her actual job was as a community organizer.
This changed when Kaur had a direct impact on a historical event in Bakersfield. During the redistricting process, Kaur was one of the many leaders that got the city to adopt the map submitted by the Jakara Movement.
This is when her grandfather told her he understood her job now. Kaur recalled him saying “hun tera kaam de vare menu samjh ai” (now I finally understand the work you do).
During the week of redistricting her Grandfather helped her get the word out about the meeting and tell his friends they needed to be there.
When Kaur is not pushing for change in city council meetings she is working with the youth. The Jakara movement goes to the high school to talk to students and provide them a safe space in their chapters.
Manpreet Kaur, the Director of Development with the Jakara Movement said Harveen helps bring a lot of young people out of their shells and is focused on making sure everyone’s voices are heard.
“Harveen brings a really good energy to our work,” said Manpreet. “She’s very driven and she wants to make sure that we are uplifting voices that are marginalized in all spaces.”
Outside of work Harveen describes herself as still ‘work Harveen’. To her, community organizing is not an 8-5 job.
“When you’re a community organizer it’s not a hat that you wear 8-5. It’s definitely something that becomes intertwined with your personality, your identity,” said Harveen.
However, she still tried to find balance by making bread, knitting gifts, spending time with her family, working out with her mother, and seeing the love her parents share. She describes herself as; family, bread, and traveling.
“That’s like my core. They’re my backbone, They are pretty much everything that keeps me standing,” said Kaur about her family.
Harveen advises other young women navigating through new careers to stand for and empower themselves and each other.
“Be relentless, not ever back down. Stand up for what you believe in,” said Kaur. “I would just hope that we can all empower each other. Be each other’s best friends, be each other’s, hype girls. Don’t fall into the internalized misogyny that we’re taught at such a young age. Love yourself in your most raw and authentic natural form. You are beautiful as is.”