Summer of Solidarity

final1.jpgDClogo.jpgWhen I was a teen, I knew that I wanted to make a difference in the world. I just didn’t know how. I was lucky enough to attend a week long summer campaign training when I was in college which catapulted me into the world of advocacy and organizing in the environmental movement. It wasn’t until years later that similarly themed advocacy camps for the South Asian American youth community started popping up. I was grateful for my journey, but always wish I could have had access to more at a younger age.

This July there are two 4-day camps for Desi teens, both camps taking youth through a curriculum around identity, social advocacy and connecting with local activists. The first one is DC Desi Summer, based in Washington DC. The second is one I’ve been volunteering with, the Bay Area Solidarity Summer (BASS) which is a project of the Alliance of South Asians Taking Action (ASATA).

On July 22nd, South Asian American teenagers from across the San Francisco Bay Area will convene for a life-changing experience. The youth will be attending the first ever Bay Area Solidarity Summer (BASS), a four-day leadership camp for youth of South Asian heritage seeking to learn about progressive issues, gain organizing skills, connect with other South Asian activists, and develop themselves into leaders. The all-inclusive camp will provide space for young people to learn skills on how to be a social activist, as well as learn about issues affecting the South Asian community both locally and globally.

BASS is open to youth of South Asian heritage ranging in age from 14 to 19 years old. The camp costs only $50, which covers all housing and food expenses for four days and three nights. Held in the beautiful Center for Third World Organizing Training and Retreat Center (often described as the “CTWO Mansion”), the intense camp will cover a wide range of issues such as Creative Arts and Action, Racial Profiling, Hip Hop Revolutionaries, and Environmental Justice. An important component of the curriculum will be a look back at the 100 years of history of South Asian Bay Area student activism.[bass]BASS is following the path of a legacy of South Asian youth programs.

Though in the inaugural year, this is not is not the first time a camp for South Asian youth has been created. In fact, in 2004 and 2005 the Bay Area hosted Organizing Youth! (OY!), a training camp for Desi youth. Across the nation, various South Asian youth camps like this have popped up over the past fifteen years, from NYC’s Youth Solidarity Summer (YSS) to Washington DC’s DC Desi Summer. Many of the organizers at this year’s BASS have come through one of the many programs. [bass]

I was brought on to the BASS team in the past couple of months and am ecstatic to be a part of such an innovative project where I can focus my energy to develop a new generation of leaders. We’ve put together a great resource list on our website of connections we thought a South Asian teen may want. There’s a fantastic all volunteer team on board (just check out their bios!) and we’ve been working hard on creating a curriculum that we would have wanted when we were all Desi teens. But don’t just take my word for it.

“Organizing BASS has drawn together amazing South Asian organizers, scholars, and activists,” says Ramesh Kathanadhi, a BASS organizer. “Selfishly I am part of doing this to learn from my amazing peers, and make a space for us to connect more deeply with our communities here in the Bay Area.”

“BASS participants will be building on the legacy of 100 years of Bay Area South Asian student activism,” says Anirvan Chatterjee, long time ASATA activist. “Desi students at UC Berkeley and Stanford during the 1910s were fighting colonial rule, organizing with other communities and making their own media. The BASS summer program is a great way for youth with an interest in civics or politics to dive deeper into our community’s traditions.” [bass]

I have to admit, I’m a little bit jealous that I didn’t have access to these trainings and resources when I was a teen. But this is what it’s all about, isn’t it? Leadership development, mentorship and paving a path for the next generation?


If you are a South Asian teen or know of a South Asian teen that would be interested in participating, please visit BASS’s website or DC Desi’s website. The applications are available online and application deadlines are in mid-May. If you are interested in volunteering or donating to either of the camps, please do contact us – both BASS and DC Desi are looking for volunteers and for funds to make the summer camp a success. It takes a village, as they say…

This entry was posted in Community, Identity, Non-profits by Taz. Bookmark the permalink.

About Taz

Taz is an activist, organizer and writer based in California. She is the founder of South Asian American Voting Youth (SAAVY), curates and blogs at Follow her at

7 thoughts on “Summer of Solidarity

  1. I thought going to a top college was akin to spending time at Desi camp!!!!!!!!!! Ok I keed.

  2. Gah I just realized I’m now too old to attend “camp” of any sort – I feel old! I’ll pass it along to my little sis and cousins though.

    I thought going to a top college was akin to spending time at Desi camp!!!!!!!!!! Ok I keed.

    Haha true, but before acceptance to that top college, applicants often attend such leadership camps and programs; the objective you see, it to be able to put the word “leader” on one’s application as many times as possible, ensuring an advantage over the other desi kid who only joined Debate team and played tennis ;)

  3. What a great idea for a camp for young people. It’s nice to see no religious affiliation, just desire to do good.

  4. Are there really enough lefty desi parants who will send their kids to a camp devoid of a “how to get into medschool” seminar? I’m suspicious. Have they done this before? I would suggest some traditional sounding workshops to throw the parents off and maybe confuse them into thinking its HAF.Like:

    1. Johnny Walker Black for Kidz: You hate it now but you’ll love it later
    2. Jalebi vs Gulab Jamun: Which one is Mick and which one Keith?
    3. Aishwarya Rai vs Arundhati Roy: Which one is Mick and which one Keith?
    4. Sanjaya Malakar: where is he now?
    5. Dr Sanjay Gupta: Our Leader
    6. Sonia Gandhi, Desi Arnez, and Gwen Stefani: Passing for Desi


  5. “When I was a teen, I knew that I wanted to make a difference in the world. I just didn’t know how.”

    When I read this line I immediately knew the author of this post; I’m beginning to follow Sepia ’nuff now to guess the various tones and styles of the authors. I’m getting better at my game of guessing who wrote what.

  6. Excellent post, Taz. Am totally with you on wishing something like this was around when I/we were teens; thankfully, we had some pretty rock solid mentors–though few and far between–who showed us the way!