Arun Gupta and The Occupied Wall Street Journal: Desis at Occupy Wall Street, Pt. 4

(h/t @vetoshield for Tweeting this video)

Speaking of desis at Occupy Wall Street, last week I chatted with Arun Gupta, one of the founders of the Occupied Wall Street Journal. Gupta, who talked with me on the phone from a road trip to visit different sites of protest, has been working with newspapers off and on for the past two decades, and writes for publications like AlterNet and Al Jazeera. He’s also been with the Indypendent for the past 11 years. He told me about making the first issue of the Occupied Wall Street Journal happen in under 24 hours.

(Time-sensitive note for New Yorkers: If you want to hear more from Gupta, The New Yorkers editor, David Remnick, is moderating a discussion about OWS tonight at Florence Gould Hall in NYC. 7 p.m. In addition to Gupta, the event features NYer staff writers John Cassidy and Jill Lepore, as well as former NY governor Eliot Spitzer. Online tickets are gone, but a limited number of free tickets will be available at the door.) And a BONUS read via Sonny Singh: Manissa McCleave Maharawal in conversation with Eliot Spitzer about OWS in NYMag, here. I blogged about Manissa earlier in this series.)

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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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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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Looking into the fold

Folding laundry is not usually interesting. I’ve done it while listening to music or watching TV and quickly put it out of sight and out of mind. But FOLD from San Francisco-based new media artist Surabhi Saraf offers an opportunity to ponder the mundane task in a different way. Saraf’s works meld music and choreography with experimental sound and video art. FOLD presents the seemingly simple act in a mesmerizing way, evoking dance, waves, and even rainbows as different colored pieces of clothing are folded.

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It’s Wednesday

No, it’s not Friday. It’s Wednesday!

What would happen if Ice Cube’s Today Was a Good Day took place in the techie days of nowadays? The video stars comedian Hasan Minhaj as the Desi South Bay-esque protagonist. Hasan can also be seen on ABC Family’s State of Georgia and can be heard on his comedy album wittily named Leaning on Expensive Cars and Getting Paid to Do It. Aziz Ansari better watch out 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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White House Wants Your Stories

The stories shared by commenters and bloggers are one of the best parts of Sepia Mutiny. So when Taz shared an email from the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders about a video challenge called “What’s Your Story?” I thought it might be of interest to some of our storytellers.

There is nothing more powerful than the stories of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Our stories define who we are, and they reflect our impact on the community around us. At the White House Initiative on AAPIs, we seek to amplify these voices nationally. We are pleased to announce the first ever White House Initiative Video Challenge, called “What’s Your Story?”

 

We’re calling on you to produce a video, up to three minutes long, telling us who you are and how you have impacted those around you. In your video, answer the questions: How have your unique experiences shaped who you are today? And in what ways are you making a difference in your community? Everyone is welcome to participate.

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Danny Pudi, Video Vixen?

I wouldn’t call Danny Pudi this decade’s Tawny Kitaen, or a hip hop honey. But like them, he’s got screen time in music videos. Last week I noticed him in Raphael Saadiq’s “Day Dreams.” Now he’s in a new music video from Jones Street Station, “The Understanding”. Both feature him as a quirky, cute, romantic protagonist–cute as in Buddy Holly cute, without the glasses.

In the video from Brooklyn-based folk rock band Jones Street Station, Pudi is photographing while brown in NYC. But no suspicion here, maybe because everyone he snaps in the Big Apple is charmed by him and his tiny camera. :) After he meets a woman played by actress Monica West and gives her a piggyback ride in the park, they end up in a studio jamming with the band.
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