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.

Kumail Nanjiani on the Comic Life

You may know comedian Kumail Nanjiani from his stand-up and TV work (Franklin & Bash) or his brush with John Mayer, all of which have been the subjects of past posts on Sepia Mutiny. If you’re a fan, you’ll want to listen to his recent interview with Shirin Sadeghi of New America Media covering such topics as how he went from studying philosophy and computer science in Iowa to stand-up, the biggest challenge of being a Pakistani American comedian, what he describes as his fading Pakistani accent with a trace of British school, his Twitter presence and his nerdist alterego.

In the beginning of his stand-up career, Nanjiani said the biggest challenge of being a Pakistani American comedian was telling the jokes he wanted to tell about movies, video games and TV shows, and not the jokes he was expected to tell about 7-11 or 9/11. After Nanjiani and his interviewer made reference to what was a new crop of post-9/11 comedians who were South Asian American and Middle Eastern American, the interviewer noted that unlike many of them he has an accent and “does not speak as someone born and raised here.”

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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

The Color of the Call: Desis at Occupy Wall Street, Pt. 2

a video about people at the protests one week ago, courtesy of Thanu Yakupitiyage

“We must not miss the chance to put the needs of people of color—upon whose backs this country was built—at the forefront of this struggle.”

—from CALL OUT TO PEOPLE OF COLOR from the #OWS POC Working Group

How Hena Got There

Two Thursdays ago, after Troy Davis had been executed, Hena Ashraf protested his killing at a rally in New York City. The group that she was with didn’t have a particular plan, she says, but “we ended up on Wall Street.”

It was her first time at Occupy Wall Street, a movement that’s rapidly gaining steam and numbers. And a week ago, by her fourth time there, Ashraf had become a game-changer: one of a group of desis who stood up and insisted that the movement’s primary declaration edit language that referred to racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination as though they were things of the past.

“We definitely stood out,” Ashraf told me. At that point, she explained, the protests were still overwhelmingly white. (We spoke on the phone Sunday night; she was two blocks from Wall Street, heading back to the protests.) But, she added, over the course of her visits to the site, she’s seen them become more diverse.

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Desis Take Action At Occupy Wall Street

 video courtesy of Thanu Yakupitiyage

I no longer live in New York, and I was following the Occupy Wall Street movement only vaguely when last week, something on FB caught my attention… and kept it. It was a lengthy note by Hena Ashraf, chronicling how she and a few other desis had gone down to Liberty Square on Thursday night and argued to change some of the language in Occupy Wall Street’s primary declaration.

I recognized some of the names in her story from my own time in New York: Sonny Singh (of, among other things, Red Baraat) and Thanu Yakupitiyage, an immigrant rights activist who is also a Lanka Solidarity member. And another, whom I didn’t know: Manissa McCleave Maharawal. These four, it seemed, had formed the posse primarily responsible for the intervention that had me riveted.


Here’s how it looks in the Occupy Wall Street notes:

Block 4—Grievance in supporting a document that claims that my oppression on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, religion, and things not mentioned on this document are something that happened formerly and not in the present day.

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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

The Fierceness of Janaki

A Siren Theatre Project ProductionLast month protesters marched in front of the San Jose Museum of Arts, protesting the interpretation of Sita in the animated film Sita Sings the Blues and in a painting by M.F. Husain where Sita is depicted the nude. The words “shameful” and “denigration” were some those used by the conservative religious groups protesting the artwork – but the museum continued their support, stating “freedom of artistic expression.”

This weekend the Bay Area will see another form of “Sita art”, this time in the form of a theater production. Siren Theatre Project’s production of Janaki – Daughter of the Dirt will be hitting the stage at the Mission Cultural Center in San Francisco for it’s world premiere this Sept 16th -18th. This ground breaking stage production written by Virali Golkadas touches upon issues of power, sexism and classism from the perspective of Sita.

“I wrote Janaki – Daughter of Dirt to show that Hindu goddesses, just like the women in my family, are not self-sacrificing devotees,” said playwright Virali Gokaldas.  “They are complex, powerful, strong-willed examples, helping us hold compassion for others and ourselves, guiding us when making hard decisions, and above all, giving us the courage to live out our own destinies.” [sirentheatre]

 

As for the controversy in San Jose, here’s what Virali and Anirvan Chatterjee have to say:

Our ability to recontextualize the Ramayana is precisely what makes it a living story, instead of a dead one….The Ramayana is as rich and diverse as India.  If our Indian traditions allow even a 180 degree twist like Ravana being the hero, then what right do protestors have to censors new ways of expressing the story?

 

As Bay Area writers who have our own visions of the Ramayana to share, we take the attack on the tradition of diverse Ramayanas personally.  The Ramayana speaks to us, just as it did to those creators whose works were being protested in San Jose. [sirentheatre]

 

Art for arts sake or art to honor and personalize faith? Check out the play this weekend and form your own opinion. And just for our Sepia Mutiny readers, tickets are only $20, with the discount code “Sepia Mutiny” over at Brown Paper Ticket. For more information on Janaki – Daughter of the Dirt or Siren Theatre Project, visit their facebook page and their website.

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Seeing Ghosts in the Air

Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikerollinger/

Browns on a Plane is an American horror story not featuring Samuel Jackson and not coming to a theater near you, though it did make its way onto a Detroit-bound flight yesterday and may be replayed on select 9/11 anniversary flights as long as brown people continue to fly the fear-filled skies. To learn more about the plot of this real-life tale, read Shoshana Hebshi’s personal account of being on one of the two flights that were escorted by fighter jets to their destination yesterday on September 11–“Some real Shock and Awe: Racially profiled and cuffed in Detroit.” Hebshi is a self-described “half-Arab, half-Jewish housewife” from Ohio who sat next to two Indian men on the Frontier Airlines Flight 623, two men who used the restroom at some point during the flight.

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How Will We Remember?

On this day I woke up to images of the twin towers falling on TV, eerily similar to what happened ten years ago at the same time. Deliberately, I’ve avoided the videos over the years, quickly changing the channel, images of people jumping from the building permanently embedded in my memory already. But today, I watched. I needed to be reminded, I guess. Where will we be in 300 years of remembering? This is Chee Malabar & Tanuj Chopra’s interpretation.

The video was created as a DVD insert to the Asian American Literature Review Tenth Anniversary of September 11th issue.

So many of our communities have borne witness to so much over the past 10 years; it behooves us to critically consider the moment and its aftermath—the various political, legal, and civil rights repercussions, particularly for the communities most directly affected, South Asian, Arab, Middle Eastern, and Muslim American. But how can we do so, when so many of the voices of affected communities remain unheard? [AALR]

 

You can order your copy of the AALR special issue online here now.

Backlash is Part of the Story

Everyone has a story about 9/11, including desis. South Asian American Leaders for Tomorrow (SAALT) has been working to make desi voices a part of the national tenth anniversary commemoration and conversation about 9/11. SAALT’s campaign called An America for All of Us was mentioned in the SM post “It’s Been Ten Years”.

A recent interview with Mou Khan, a SAALT program and communications associate, gives more information about the kinds of stories SAALT is seeking to share and highlight. To listen to or read the full interview, visit Center for American Progress.

E: …what are the unique experiences of the South Asian community and their stories in the post-9/11 America?

M: South Asians, like all Americans, experienced 9/11 primarily as the violent, tragic attack that it was. Our story since then is also in the distinct and different ways that our community—along with other communities like Muslims, Sikh, Arab Americans—has been targeted by a post-9/11 backlash.

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