Thanks so much for stopping by!
My name is Liliana Bakhtiari, or “Leila” to my family, and I am proud to be running for Atlanta City Council, District 5. Our district is a diverse patchwork including: ADNA, Fourth and Sand, Central Atlanta Neighbors, Old Fourth Ward, Sweet Auburn Neighborhood, Fourth Ward West, Edgewood Neighborhood, Kirkwood, Cabbagetown, Reynoldstown, East Atlanta, Lake Claire, East Lake, Ormewood Park, and Grant Park.
I was born and raised right here in the heart of Atlanta. My father, an Iranian immigrant, was a pharmacist and my mother was a dental hygienist who worked hard to put him through medical school. I was born at Piedmont Hospital during a time when my father was working at Grady, going to school at GSU, and raising a family here in Atlanta, thousands of miles away from his Middle Eastern upbringing. All the while my tenacious mother balanced her dental career, publishing her writing, and raising me and my younger brother Sina. With such busy and driven parents, I learned from a young age how to pitch in and help, often taking care of my brother, who had asthma and needed to be looked after.
My father has owned a pharmacy on Edgewood Avenue across from the Sweet Auburn Market almost my entire life, and I grew up working there on weekends. It’s where I learned the value of hard work and what it takes to run a small business, and the difference between living on a street and being a part of a living, breathing community. Auburn Avenue was and is home to me.
My parents bought a bigger house in Lilburn when the pharmacy started to take off, and I graduated from Parkview High School in Gwinnett County before moving back downtown and becoming a GSU student just like my dad. I lived in the dorms and worked hard to pay my own way through college. I was very active in the district while remaining informed and active in international issues – for example, my friends and I began a non-governmental organization our first semester of college dedicated to protesting the tragedies in Darfur. I invested my time in student led coalitions and causes such as the Georgia Dreamers program and affordable education, and also fought for awareness surrounding gentrification, predatory lending, and the growing wealth gap in Atlanta throughout my time as a student.
I followed my passions for people abroad, fighting for every cause from student rights, to women’s rights, and the environment.
I followed these passions to Kenya for an archeological expedition where I also did independent cultural studies on multiple issues including female circumcision, food scarcity, and water accessibility. Soon after, I headed to Cambodia to study the cultural after effects of genocide, to work with women and children who were victims sex trafficking, and also to build housing and hygienic systems for different families in rural parts of the country. I spent additional time in Thailand, Laos and Vietnam working with refugees, volunteering in orphanages and schools for the disabled, organizing with various nonprofits, working in women’s health, studying public infrastructure, and volunteering with small businesses focused on job training and education. I backpacked through Australia for a month on my own, exploring at risk rainforests to the north, and witnessing first hand the destruction of the reefs on the coast. Back in the United States, I found my way to Washington D.C. and worked with The Pulitzer Center for Global Crisis Reporting as well as United Press International. While I was there, I honed my skills in film and photography, and began to focus on storytelling and giving a voice to the voiceless. I founded my own photography company and learned what it took to make ends meet while trying to make the world a better place.
It was a fantastic learning experience, but each adventure always led me back to my home – Atlanta.
I have since settled down, started dating my fantastic partner, Kris, and we have been together four years. We bought a house and rescued a few dogs and cats together. We enjoy cooking together, and hosting small dinner parties with close friends. On Sunday mornings we love to stroll through the Farmers Market or sit on our porch with coffee and a big homemade breakfast. And we always make time for as many arts events in town as possible.
I have continued to invest my time in the causes that mean the most to me. For several years I served on the Board of Lost N Found Youth, an organization dedicated to getting homeless queer youth off of the streets. I have traveled throughout the Southeast volunteering in crisis relief, such as Louisiana flood relief. I have pushed for continued conversation on the intersectionality of the arts and politics through platforms like 9to5, Elevate, and Tanz Farm. And, inheriting my father’s passion for preservation, I have spent the last couple of years renovating the Rufus M. Rose House - the last Victorian home left on Peachtree, a street that holds extensive Atlanta history. As our city continues to grow and develop, I find so much joy in preserving the architecture and values that made Atlanta what it is today.
I still run my photography company, but when I’m not working I love anything involving the outdoors, including rock climbing, backpacking, farming, and hiking hidden trails with my dog Pepe. I’m as guilty as the next person of loving TV and movies, and you can usually find me checking out The History Channel’s “Vikings” or “Beauty and the Beast” at the theater. Or you’ll find me exploring our great city, sometimes on my Honda Rebel Motorcycle.
As I visit each neighborhood, I am filled with pride in the unique identities that contribute to the definition of Atlanta; the city in a forest; the birthplace of the civil rights movement. We are the home to local and small, eclectic businesses that upheld us during the recession, and grassroots arts movements. It is up to us to use actions to uphold these incredible achievements.
I hope you will join me in recognizing this prime opportunity to make Atlanta a city that leads by example. A city that listens to its citizens and grows together instead of apart. A city that loves its dedicated, resilient, and vibrant residents.
I’m incredibly proud to be your candidate for Atlanta City Council, District 5, and I’m excited about a positive campaign focused on the issues that matter most to our community. I hope you will take the time to reach out personally with any questions you might have, at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I hope to earn your support, your prayers and your vote.
Thank you so much,