Rad Bay Area artists Amman Desai and Nisha Sembi teamed up to explore the history of Anti-hegemonic South Asian dissent in Berkeley in an exhibition called ¨OUR NAME IS REBEL,” and boi have I found my home! As a queer cis-male middle class South Asian invested in dismantling systems of oppression myself, these images inspired me to see my people in a radical new frame. I read them against the myth of the model minority (one that basically advocates for acceptance of systems of oppression in order to get ahead i.e. pursuing “safe” career paths, not protesting etc.). This path, usually taken by upper middle class South Asians who buy into this idea of “achieving financial success through complicity with white supremacy”, often perpetuates anti-black racism, and within many Hindu contexts, Islamophobia in our post 9/11 moment to more successfully assimilate into “the right kind of brown”. In contrast, “OUR NAME IS REBEL” focuses on the anti-colonial Ghadar Party and South Asian women activists who protested Indira Ghandi’s suspension of democracy, highlighting histories that are rarely taught and life-paths rarely supported. By valorizing rebels, Sembi and Desai’s art presents us with a radically alternative way of identifying as South Asian- one that does not assume repressive patriarchy or class ascendancy
One important part of this alt approach to South Asian diaspora is the idea of solidarity across social movements. Sembi and Desai move their pieces beyond the arena of single-issue politics by depicting connections between South Asian women to the Black Panther Party in the 70′s (such as Kartar Dhillon, one of the few women Ghadar Party members who was a trailblazing activist and alternative role model, depicted by artist Amman Desai as the Hindu saint Meerabai) when dominant narratives usually show South Asian women as powerless pawns frozen into a patriarchal amber. The historical record of these women’s participation in social movements outside the confines of their own identity politics is a powerful reminder of Audre Lorde’s essay entitled, “There is No Hierarchy of Oppression”. Make no mistake, I’m totes NOT advocating for South Asians to coopt black struggles as their own (seriously, check yourself). What I AM saying is that systems of oppression are interconnected. Dismantling them in one area won’t work if we are perpetuating them in another. To that end, this exhibit opens worlds of possibility.
TWO-BROWNGIRLS : TWO-FAITHS
While both of us were studying at University, we came across this post by Dora Dalila,which inspired us to think about how our own friendship stretches across two faiths.
Centuries of tension have existed between Muslims and Sikhs; whether we look at Mughal history, 20th Century partition or even modern day media headlines, there seems to be a constant fuel added to the fire between both of our religious communities.
Throughout University we both started to look deeper into our own faiths and had endless discussions with each other about God, religion etc. Through this dialogue we learnt how our faiths are clearly unique but also how they share numerous similarities too.
We don’t agree on everything, but our mutual respect for each other’s opinion proves the possibility of sharing a strong bond with someone who holds different beliefs. It also taught us the importance of a fresh perspective on what religion and spirituality really is.
Remember: We are not undermining or dismissing the shared history of bloodshed between Sikhs and Muslims. But its important we do not let this history prevent a healthy dialogue between both of our communities. This will allow us to tackle existing issues much better than if we are constantly working against each-other, fuelling hatred and racism.
We hope you enjoy this little photo-set that shows that we may do things differently, but ultimately we’re the same.
- A&S x
DCDesi is now East Coast Solidarity Summer! Apply today!
It will be held in NYC, August 8-10 for youth 15-21 years old. Deadline is May 31. Please share this post with your friends, organizations, schools, student clubs, and fellow organizers and activists!
East Coast Solidarity Summer (ECSS) is a weekend-long leadership and empowerment program for youth of South Asian and Desi heritage who are passionate about social justice.
ECSS provides a radical and inclusive space for youth of South Asian/Desi heritage (including those of mixed heritage) to examine key social justice issues and take action! Past workshops have included topics such as identity, immigration, sexism, racism, mental health, and capitalism. The goal of the retreat is to engage participants in critical reflection, coalition building, activism, and organizing. We believe that a united, educated, and inspired collective of young activists and organizers is crucial to creating social change both locally and globally.
This messaging exoticizes and objectifies Maks, and goes further to sexualize this industry that is riddled with death traps. And all because American Apparel wants us to buy their clothes.
But I’m not buying it. And neither should you.
Instead, with help from 18MR, I’m demanding that American Apparel executives have a sit-down meeting with South Asian women activists, and for the company to donate to the International Labor Rights Forum (a group that supports and funds the Bangladeshi Center for for Worker Solidarity).
If American Apparel wants to run a marketing campaign that profits from the dangers posed to workers in the Bangladeshi garment industry, the least they can do is donate money to help those same victims. Please join me and 18MR to make this happen.
Come on out, Oakland! www.disorientedcomedy.com
PLEASE SHARE & BOOST — First priority applications for the lifechanging Bay Area Solidarity Summer’s South Asian youth social justice program are due by Mar 31! The camp for 15-21 year olds runs Aug 7-11. BASS is a place to share ideas, learn how to lead real campaigns for change, find mentors, and be inspired.
Learn more about Bay Area Solidarity Summer at www.SolidaritySummer.org
Got questions about this lifechanging program? Want to talk to organizers or alumni? Leave a comment below, message us via Facebook, or email us at email@example.com. A limited amount of scholarships are available!
Still got a few days to pick up March’s issue of India Currents with your home girl on the cover. #rebellegacy #indiacurrents #childrenofghadar #OURNAMEISREBEL
i will perform in Washington DC at the Fridge for the Subcontinental Drift / Beyond Bollywood show “Be(coming) Desi in America.” The show is this Saturday, on the 29th of March. (Facebook event)
The festival showcases South Asian talents and expressions in different mediums (film, storytelling, poetry, stand up comedy, visual + interactive art, music, etc..)
I am the only Deaf performer at the festival and I will perform 2 poems in American Sign Language.
Thanks, and hope to see some of you there.
Join Kaya Press and the USC Visions & Voices Arts & Humanities Initiative for a night of incredible artistic collaboration: Legendary South Asian musicians and poets will come together to celebrate and investigate the rich diversity of South Asian spiritual influences. From ghazals set to music and sung throughout the Muslim world to Rabindranath Tagore’s Nobel Prize–winning Gitanjali (Prayer Offering of Song), collaborations between poets and musicians have been a staple of South Asian religious life for centuries. In Mughal courts, nightly mehfils brought these performers together and elevated their collaborations to high art.
This tradition will get a 21st-century update in a landmark evening featuring performances by internationally renowned diasporic South Asian artists including Sufi-influenced rock guitarist Salman Ahmad, vocalist and ten-string double-violin master Gingger Shankar, Mumbai-based dubstep DJ Bandish Projekt and hip hop artist and producer Brooklyn Shanti in collaboration with award-winning poets Kazim Ali, Tarfia Faizullah, Bhanu Kapil, Mandeep Sethi and Amarnath Ravva.The evening will be hosted by comedian/writer/performance artist D’Lo.
Wednesday April 23, 2014 | 7:30 – 9:30 p.m.
Bovard Auditoirum, University of Southern California (3551 Trousdale Parkway Los Angeles, CA 90089)
Admission is free. Reservations required. RSVP at the links below beginning Thursday, March 27, at 9 a.m.
For further information on this event:
This is an image of an American Apparel advertisement that had previously said “Made in Bangladesh.” It was ‘adjusted’ by the folks at 18millionrising.org. I wrote a piece at The Aerogram how I too am #MadeInBangladesh: http://theaerogram.com/im-made-bangladesh/
“American Apparel is a known American-made clothing company that prides itself on being sweatshop-free and paying “fair” wages (albeit with questionable sexual harassment allegations against CEO Dov Charney). They are selling their clothing. Thus, we can ascertain that the message in the photo implicitly rejects the notion of buying Bangladesh made “objects.” The implication is that Bangladesh is bad, and American is good. Burka-ed Muslim women are bad, and bare-breasted “former” Muslims with newly found American freedoms are good. Right?”
“But you’re fine with that rejection, right Maks? Because in the press release you state that in high school you distanced yourself from your Islamic upbringing. That you don’t identify as Bengali or American, and you don’t fit into conventional narratives, and that’s why you are essential to Los Angeles.”
“The thing is I’m Bengali, American, a Muslim, a non-hijabi woman, and I’m also an Angeleno. I work constantly to break the mainstream conventional narrative I’m constantly placed in. And I don’t think that makes me any less important to the mosaic that is LA. In fact, LA is littered with women like this, like me. My Los Angeles embraces this diversity and my mosaic is beautiful. Whereas the LA in this marketing campaign is tinged with Islamophobia and xenophobia….”
Prez Obama - the face of Pakistani Viagra via The Aerogram circa 2014.