Executive Director North Central Florida Indivisible
At 11, Jyoti Parmar competed in an annual neighborhood race in her Indian town. The first-place prize: a shiny, red bicycle with tassels. But when Parmar won, she was told, “That’s the boys prize.” She argued with the judges but ultimately walked away empty handed. The following year, however, there were two bicycles. “It proved to me that one person can make a difference,” she said.
In 1981, when Parmar was 16, her father was recruited by Bethlehem Steel in Pennsylvania. A month after moving to the U.S., he died unexpectedly. The family was suddenly without its breadwinner. And though Parmar’s mother held an economics degree, no one would hire her. “She wore a sari and had an accent, and it was actually traumatic for her at times, the way she was treated,” says Parmar.
Parmar’s mother used her expertise to play the stock market, while Parmar and her siblings got part-time jobs. Within two years, the family was able to purchase a home with a pool.
But Parmar never forgot the discrimination and barriers her family faced as Brown immigrants in America. “I know what it’s like to be underestimated and marginalized,” she said. “So, if I can see a solution to a challenge a group is facing, I act.”
After moving to Gainesville with her husband and son in 2006, she transitioned from her career in corporate retail in order to support her new community. She was a volunteer advisory board member for the Victim Services and Rape Crisis Center in Alachua County. She also launched a group called Baby Steps to support new parents. In 2018, she started North Central Florida Indivisible, a voter registration and civic engagement group with 50 active volunteers. In March 2021, they helped organize the Stop Asian Hate March.
Parmar says that online and English-only resources prevent many minority and low-income residents from accessing city resources. “But there is a growing awareness and support for finding solutions that work for us,” she says. “Together we are creating a pathway to bring more underrepresented people into the political and community conversations.”