Seeing Lal

prerna Lal.jpgThis weekend, Desi youth will be convening in Oakland, CA and Washington DC for the primary purpose of getting activated and politicized. DCDesi Summer will be holding it down for the East Coast, and I personally have been involved in getting Bay Area Solidarity Summer (BASS) off the ground here on the West Coast. Not only am I excited about the FUNraiser we have scheduled, I am particularly excited about the opening keynote speakers for the weekend – author of Desis in the House Sunaina Maira and dream activist Prerna Lal.

I met Prerna Lal last summer at Netroots Nation in Las Vegas. I quickly learned that she was a quite the firecracker. Desi via Fiji, Prerna is a founder of DreamActivist, a current law student, a writer, a SAALT Changemaker, queer, an activist and… is undocumented. Her journey as a struggling youth trying to navigate the broken immigration system is one she is very vocal about sharing, whether on blogs or on twitter. Her tenacity is one to be admired and bravery is one to be inspired by.

Just a few months ago, Prerna was served deportation papers – but being who she is, she’s not leaving without a fight. Here’s what she had to say.

Taz: What made you tweet this?

Prerna: It’s how I feel on most days. We are always asked to prove our worth to our countries. But I have yet to have America prove its worth to me.

T: What is your legal status?

P: Out of status, allegedly accruing unlawful presence that could lead to a 10 year bar from the United States if deported.

T: Where are you from? How did you end up in the US?

P: Fiji Islands. Father brought me here when I was 14, kicking and screaming.

T: Your grandmother is a citizen, your parents are greencard holders and your sister is a citizen. How is it possible that you are considered undocumented?

P: That’s simple. I aged out at 21. You see, when a visa petition is approved, a family has to wait many years to actually get a “priority date” in order to immigrate legally. I was 24 by the time my parents received their priority date. Regardless of the fact that my name was on the original visa petition filed for my family, I was automatically castigated and separated from my family. My parents were no longer considered my “immediate relatives.” I find it morally repugnant, but I’m sure there are many young adults who have experienced the same horror of family separation due to an arbitrary age out of our control. Continue reading

Help keep Sepia Mutiny going strong

Dear Sepia Mutiny readers,

It has been nearly two years since we have held a pledge drive to keep Sepia Mutiny rolling along. Our server costs come to about $65 a month (yes, we have thoroughly researched cheaper options). For the last six months I have been paying out-of-pocket to keep things going. We have been ad-free for seven years strong now, and unlike the NY Times, aren’t considering putting up a paywall. Every one to two years we ask our readers to pitch in whatever they can if they appreciate the service our bloggers provide.

If you don’t want to use the Paypal link above but would rather mail in a check, then please write me at abhi [at] sepiamutiny dot com for a mailing address. In case you are curious, 100% of the money goes to paying the server costs and blog related upgrades. We don’t pocket any of the money. We will keep the Paypal link live until we have collected enough to keep the blog going through 2012.

Thanks in advance to anyone who appreciates this site or the conversations that occur here or are started here.

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Nostaligia for Your Ears

I’m not really big on Bollywood/Bombay-ish/Filmi music, though I have a vague appreciation for the historical importance and the beats do fill me with that Desh pull. But that just may change with a new site just up on the interwebs and recently handed to me, thanks to an awesome find by GirishRaj. It was so delightfully mishthi, I just had to share on The Mutiny immediately. BombayProduction_Logo_2.png

A beautifully designed site, Bombay Production is the Desi version of Pandora, on really spicy achar. With visuals reminiscent of classic Bollywood posters, an easy to surf matrix layout and the ability to easily listen through songs throughout the eras, this site is sure to be a hit amongst all of you amateur Bollywood ethnomusicologist.

For over seven decades films have been the primary entertainment source in India, introducing us to great music through highly creative and talented singers, songwriters and composers. Our inspiration comes from this rich history and we hope to capture some of it’s magic to bring you an experience that is different and engaging.

Bombay Production is designed to simplify the listening experience with one click. We’ve gotten rid of clutter and through simplicity in design created different stations that capture the mood and the flavor of a particular decade, artist or genre. The stations are randomly placed with musical tracks that are carefully selected and meant to surprise and delight you. Our collection is small but slowly growing. As we continue to grow, along with our listeners, we will be adding more music as well as customization to the stations.[bombayproduction]

I think the site has a lot of potential with an amazing catalog of music that had previously only been on vinyl – I’d love to see it expand the musical genres to include the classic rock scenes of India, emerging hip-hop, and maybe a Chutney collection too. Excited to see where this site goes and who are the brains behind this musical experiment. Don’t forget to follow them on twitter too – @BOMProduction. What do you think? Continue reading

We Have Come a Long Way

Today South Asian Americans Leading Together is launching a year long narrative campaign ‘America4All.’ The campaign will be collecting and sharing stories from the South Asian community on reflections of the past ten years since September 11th. Cross posted below is my piece launching the campaign on the SAALT Spot blog. Please follow the blog to get the latest from the ‘America4All’ series.


I used to tell this story. It was 2001 and I was living in D.C., 22 yrs old and miles away from my family in Los Angeles. It was just months after September 11th and as a Muslim South Asian woman, though I knew there would be repercussion for looking like the enemy, I was most worried about my family.

Sure enough, on a phone call with my mother she shared a story of how Homeland Security came to our house looking for my male cousin. My family had stopped going to the mosque, wore patriotic flag pins and got followed in unmarked vehicles. My mother said “it doesn’t matter that I’ve lived here for 30 years or that I have my citizenship. I will always be a second class citizen.”

Thus marked my oft told founding story of why I became a South Asian American activist.

Ten years since September 11th, 2001, I wonder, how much has really changed?

SAAVY Sticker.jpg

This is the story I tell when people ask me about South Asian American Voting Youth, an organization I founded in 2003 to organize young South Asian people around the country. I was young, naïve and invincible. I truly believed in the power of electoral politics and civic engagement and, most importantly, I believed we could swing political power in our favor when we vote. If we did that – the racial profiling, hate crimes and marginalization of our community would all just stop.

The organization has since dissolved and the state of the South Asian American community has evolved. For me, it has now gone beyond simply registering South Asian Americans to vote into a world of identity politics and includes documenting our narratives and building community at both the pop and politics level. Continue reading

Guest Blogger: Razib Khan

He has been a commenter since the very beginning of SM. It makes sense that he finally has a shot as an actual guest blogger here. Please welcome Razib Khan who has most recently been unzipping his goodies and posting them all over the internet as a way for people to get to know him better and also learn a little about themselves. The next month might be somewhat esoteric at times, but it will definitely be a learning experience. And maybe he’ll coax a few more of us to unzip our South Asian goodies in the name of science.

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Server Technical Difficulties

We have been experiencing some technical difficulties with our server. They should be resolved now. We are not sure if we were targeted by WikiLeaks hackers, but we were able to defend ourselves and restore everything back to normal. Looks like we have to hire more security around the bunker.

Please let us know if you continue to experience any problems. Thank you for your patience. Continue reading

Peacemakers: London Desis & Cricket Fans

peace.symbol.jpgCan online communication help us achieve world peace? The Economist seems to think it’s unlikely in A cyber-house divided. But London desis and cricket fans, it turns out, are two groups who are working toward that goal by building bridges across the divisions.

With its global reach and relative freedom, the internet could be a great opportunity for people separated by war, religion, color, class or other borders to connect and learn about each other’s common interests and concerns. But reality, as described by The Economist, is different: “Research suggests that the internet is not so radical. People are online what they are offline: divided, and slow to build bridges.” Continue reading

Sepia Mutiny’s new commenting system

You have spoken. We have heard. We agree. The level of discourse in the comments following blog posts has declined substantially since we first started in 2004. I won’t go in to all the reasons behind this but it involves an evolution in the way people use and interact with blogs, as well as the time the bloggers here have available to moderate. Over the coming months we will be making changes to the website to better your experience, as well as, hopefully, increase the value of the discussions that are being had on this site. Here are a couple of the near term changes our awesome website admin team, Chaitan, Kunjan, and new team member Vishal are getting set to roll out as early as today:

  • You will now have the ability to “Login” to leave comments. This means you can use your Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. ID to serve as your login to leave comments on SM. Why should you choose to do this? Well, we want everyone to be able to tell (even if it is via an anonymous Google/Facebook/Twitter account) who the people are that leave the best and most substantive comments here at SM, the people that are contributing an edifying perspective. We also want people to know who repeatedly derails comment threads by violating our comment policy so that our bloggers can more quickly and effectively moderate comment threads.
  • You can continue to leave comments totally anonymously as always. BUT…starting September 22nd these comments will be hidden by default (collapsed) and most people will never see them unless they take the time to uncollapse them. For practical purposes this means if you want to leave comments with total anonymity, very few people will actually see that comment.

The new comment system is in testing mode so please use this thread or the “Contact” link at the top of our homepage to send us feedback about any bugs you have found. Thanks, and please let our wonderful admin team know if you like!

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