About Taz

Taz is an activist, organizer and writer based in California. She is the founder of South Asian American Voting Youth (SAAVY), curates MutinousMindState.tumblr.com and blogs at TazzyStar.blogspot.com. Follow her at twitter.com/tazzystar

What Is It Like To Give?

The countdown clock ticks down ominously on www.amitguptaneedsyou.com, counting down the 22 days left of finding a perfect donor bone marrow match for Amit Gupta, who I blogged about before. The bounty for a match (just a certified match, not a donor) is up to $30,000 generously donated by his friends. Amit has now been interviewed on CNN by Sanjay Gupta and his campaign is gaining national traction, with a bone marrow sign up table at almost every Brown event.

It’s surprising to me after all this time that there are still people not registered in the bone marrow registry. At last week’s San Francisco Subcontinental Drift, I eagerly convinced my friend to sign up to the bone marrow registry at the back table, surprised that he hadn’t done so already. “I’ve been in the registry for 7 years,” I told him. “All it takes is 4 simple cheek swabs and you are in.” Within minutes, he was in the registry too.

But what is it like to actually donate? That I didn’t have experience in. I do know that if I ever get the chance to donate, I’ll be 99.9% willing to step up to the call of duty. I decided to interview two South Asian American women who had the opportunity to donate bone marrow, Kristeen Singh and Darshana Vakharia. Here’s what they have to say:

Congratulations! When did you do it and what was the overall experience like?

Kristeen: Almost a year ago (Dec 14, 2010), I donated bone marrow for a seventeen year old boy with Leukemia. I was told that the recipient was the same age as my nephew, so it was natural I wanted the same for this boy. As a donor it feels like yes, we are doing it, and yes we are life savers.

Darshana: I donated in January 2004.  When I donated all I knew was that it was for a little girl who was 9 years old.  My oldest daughter was exactly the same age at that time.  Needless to say I couldn’t do the procedure fast enough.  All I remember right now is how lucky I felt that I was a match and was actually donating.

When you got the call that you were a bone marrow match, what was your decision making process?

Kristeen: I was in disbelief that I was actually called. It wasn’t until I had my blood tested that confirmed I was the best match that, I believed it. I was excited that during the holiday season, I would get to share the gift of life. Continue reading

Strings Sing With Violinder

This past Friday, Mandeep Sethi hosted Bhangra, BBoys and Breakbeats here in the East Bay, a show where bhangra dancers were dancing to hip hop, B-boys were breaking to bhangra breakbeats and there were an incredible line-up of Desis taking the mic, turntables and tablas. It was a great showcase of talent and one talent that totally blew me away is today’s featured #MusicMondayViolinder. He doesn’t sing, but he sure does make his violin sing!

A Bay Area based second year college student, I first heard about Raginder “Violinder” Momi when he performed at the 5K for the 5Ks Walkathon a couple months back. Looks like he has performed w/ Bhangra Knights before and got his start doing devotional music. He’s good at what he does unplugged too.

Keep an eye on this one – at this rate he’ll be touring with Kanye West in no time.

Los Desi Kung Fu Monkeys

Today’s #MusicMonday comes from Tijuana, Mexico via a tip from my friend Sasha. I’m surprised I’ve never heard of them, especially given that the band opened for Voo Doo Glow Skulls over the years. Los Kung Fu Monkeys is a ska band w/ two Pakistani brothers (Hassan and Tarek) that was formed in 1997, has six albums under their belt and has toured with Vans Warped Tour. AND, they sing bilingually in Spanish and English. Take a listen, what do you think?

To me, the sound is classically Southern Californian ska punk, with a little bit of tequila thrown in. I’m a sucker for punk covers (Me First and the Gimme Gimmes anyone?) and am really digging this Boys Don’t Cry cover. According to their facebook, they are working on their latest demo and have an international tour planned for early 2012. Follow Los Kung Fu Monkeys here on Facebook and on Twitter.

Also, I do realize there are South Asian diaspora migration stories of every kind, and I’m really curious as to how the Pakistani brothers ended up in Tijuana, Mexico. Is there a big South Asian population in Mexico? Anyone know?

Is Chippy Nonstop Swag?

I’m slipping in a #MusicMonday in right at the last minute – because Tasneem hit me up on gchat with a (crude) gem of an Oakland artistChippy Nonstop. She’s named Chippy cuz she likes to eat chips, no kidding. And she’s Desi. She’s like a Desi-fied version of Kreayshawn meets Peaches.

I kind of the dug the sound above. Then I started finding her other videos. And then, well… I’ll let you be the judge of that. Here’s her latest with Andy Milonakis. And since it’s with Milonakis, you better know it’s NSFW.

And then there’s this video. With the Desi languag-ed hook and the (overused) multi-handed dance move. Continue reading

I Want the World To Know

Today is National Coming Out Day and when I used to live in L.A., I’d join the annual parade of South Asians walking down Pioneer Blvd. chanting, “We ‘re here! We’re queer! We’re on Pioneer!” As you can imagine, the South Asian community is not quite so accepting of ‘The Gays” in the community. I supported as an ally because I wanted to be a supporting Desi face even when their family members couldn’t be.

But sometimes, coming out to your family may not be right for everyone. I came across a touching story from Nancy Haque titled Coming Out About Not Being Out from the Western States Center. It addresses the complexities of understanding your parents enough to know when and what to share with them. Despite the fact that mainstream LGBTQIA community may encourage coming out, it may not be the best thing for every family, particularly immigrant Desi parents.

I’m not out to my parents – the gold standard of being out. I haven’t done it and don’t actually plan on doing it. The truth is I have a very complicated relationship with my parents. I’m not particularly close to them and haven’t been since early childhood. I’m the youngest of four and was raised by my sister and two brothers as much as I was by my parents. I came out to my siblings 14 years ago and have always been supported by them. I love and respect my parents, but beyond my sexuality, they don’t understand the work I do, don’t know my hopes and dreams, don’t know the majority of my friends, and have never visited the home I purchased three years ago.

 

Yet my relationship to them is important. It’s important for me to be able to go home. I know in my heart my parents can never accept me having a female partner. It’s beyond their life experience to understand it. It’s not because they’re bad people, it’s just the way it is. I don’t feel like I’m living a lie because I’m not. Yet by not telling my parents, I’m taking a very unpopular stance in the general queer community…. I know that I’m not alone, that we all find our own ways to navigate our lives. I know that being queer and being raised Muslim is who I am, and it’s a complicated way to be. That’s why it was important to me to share my story… [westernstatescenter]

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Take Action In Elk Grove

The murderer(s) of the suspected hate crime against Surinder Singh and Gurmej Singh Atwal are still at large. Both elderly men were walking on their daily afternoon walk in Sacramento, when they were shot in a drive by shooting on March 4th, 2011. Seven months later and they are still looking for clues.

If in the Sacramento area, please join the Jakara Movement and the local community as they blanket the neighborhood talking to the community and posting reward bulletins. For more information and to RSVP, please visit the facebook page.

Amit Needs Your Brown Bones

The internet world frenzied with bone marrow call outs this week when word spread that entrepreneur Amit Gupta, founder of  http://photojojo.com/ discovered he has acute leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant.

Two weeks ago I got a call from my doctor, who I’d gone to see the day before because I’d been feeling worn out and was losing weight, and wasn’t sure why. He was brief: “Amit, you’ve got Acute Leukemia. You need to enter treatment right away.”

 

I was terrified. I packed a backpack full of clothes, went to the hospital as he’d instructed, and had transfusions through the night to allow me to take a flight home at 7am the next day. I Googled acute leukemia as I lay in my hospital bed, learning that if it hadn’t been caught, I’d have died within weeks.

 

I have a couple more months of chemo to go, then the next step is a bone marrow transplant…. [M]inorities are severely underrepresented in the bone marrow pool, and I need help. [amitgupta]

 

We’ve told you before of numerous cases where bone marrow donors are needed -  for Sonia Rai, Maya Chamberlin, Vinay & Sameer, Bevin Varughese, and more. For the most part, these stories have ended tragically. The sad thing is, they did not have to end the way they did. The health disparity is stark: There are 9.5 million people in the bone marrow registry; only 1% of them are of South Asian descent; that means South Asians have a 1 in 20,000 chance of finding a match.

What are you waiting for? A simple (FREE) cheek swab can save a life. Continue reading

Don’t Toss It Into The Bins

Today’s #MusicMonday comes from our very own Bay area based DJ Drrrty Poonjabi. A mix master of a musician (remember this SF Meetup Mixtape?) , he recently joined on to the eclectic and electronic sounds of The Bins. The group was recently signed on to the label 1320 Records and they are making some big moves. Listen to their debut album Every Minute of the Day below and download it for “name your own price”.

Like the sound? Then check them out in San Francisco on Oct 5th at the 1320 Showcase. And be sure to facebook, tumblr, soundcloud, and bandcamp them to tell them what you think and hear more sounds.

D.C.’s First Drift Elemental

It all started with a Kickstarter campaign months ago. They raised enough money and now it’s finally here. This Friday, Subcontinental Drift  will be hosting D.C.’s very first South Asian hip hop show: Drift Elemental.

The concert will take place at Liv Nightclub, located upstairs at the historic Bohemian Caverns. Doors will open at 8 p.m. with the show beginning at 9 p.m. A dance party featuring Drift Elemental’s DJs will follow. … The aim of Drift Elemental is to present South Asian artists in the context of old school hip-hop’s four elements, which include rapping, DJ-ing, graffiti art and breakdancing. The concert will feature acts from Washington, D.C. and New York. [subcontinentaldrift]

 

The show will be featuring local east coast hip hop artists who I am excited to have on my radar. The first is Navid Azeez other wise known as Navi the Swami, a member of the Whole Damme Delegation.

The second is Baltimore based Koushik Chatterjee, otherwise known as Ko the Timeless. Inspired by his Bengali music performing parents and indoctrinated into hihop with the lyrics of Tribe Called Quest, Ko’s first mixtape The Subway High Life can be downloaded here. Continue reading

To Thine Own Self Be True

A memorial to Gaurav Gopalan via Washington City Paper

In the early morning hours of September 10th, the Desi community of D.C. was rocked when a local aeronautical engineer and theatermaker Gaurav Gopalan was found near death only two blocks away from his home. He died soon after. He was only 35. There had been confusion over if had been a hate crime (he was wearing women clothing at the time as an alter persona named “Gigi”) but there had been no visible signs of trauma. Today it was confirmed to be a homicide.

Gopalan, who was found unconscious near his Columbia Heights home in the early hours of Sept. 10, died after suffering sub-arachnoid hemorrhage—bleeding in the space between the brain and the thin tissues that cover it—”due to blunt-impact head trauma,” according to Beverly Fields, chief of staff of the D.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. “The manner of death is homicide.” … The news comes in the wake of initial confusion about the case, and amid a string of shootings involving transgender women in the District. (Gopalan was wearing women’s clothes when he was found by a passerby on the 2600 block of 11th Street NW.) [citypaper]
 

Losing someone suddenly is tragic but for it to be a potential hate crime just highlights the incredible injustices in this world. Khush DC sent out a release this week:

This tragedy comes during an especially troubling time for Washington D.C.’s LGBTQQIA community.  A number of incidents involving sexual and gender minority individuals, particularly those affiliated with the transgender community, have occurred during recent months.  We stand in solidarity with all of our communities at this time, and ask everyone to exercise personal safety measures.  We also urge the MPD to fully and thoroughly investigate the incidents that have occurred. [khushdc]  

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