Inspire, is a series which will run through the end of December 2013. We will feature youth, Board members, organizational partners, donors and others, who have contributed to SAALT’s work on the ground and nationally. We invite you to share your stories of how SAALT has shaped (and perhaps transformed) your local activism and your commitment to the larger movement for democracy and justice. Today, we hear from Asad Haider, a participant in the Young Leaders Institute.
I am a 27-year old queer male. I grew up in southern California and am the only son to a Shia Muslim, Pakistani family. Growing up, I attended an Islamic school and my community consisted of other South Asians and Muslims. While these environments were nurturing at the time, they did not allow me to explore all parts of my identity. Sometimes I felt as if there was no room for someone like me.
At 22, I enrolled in Humboldt State University in Arcata, California, specifically in the Critical Race, Gender and Sexuality (CRGS) program. I developed the language to challenge gender roles and systems of power. However I felt isolated from my South Asian identity and community.
I learned about SAALT through my younger sister, who encouraged me to apply for the Young Leaders Institute (YLI). For the first time in my life, I was able to have conversations about race, sexuality and politics, in a community context. We were able to talk about issues relevant to our own upbringings and adversities. While we all came from different ethnic, religious, and social backgrounds, we were able to recognize points of solidarity. These discussions helped me form action plans specific to my South Asian community back home. In our three days together, we connected on a personal, community and professional level. I walked away with friendships that will last a lifetime.
I am bringing what I learned at SAALT to youth in southern California. As part of my YLI community action plan, I am creating materials that highlight the history of people of color within California and showcase points of solidarity. I will be pitching this to the California State University system in hopes that they may travel throughout the university system. This project will create spaces of discussions and actions on how communities can build together and grow together.
I want people to know that SAALT is creating incredible spaces, like YLI, where people like me can be at home, and be empowered with the tools and knowledge to create change. I consider myself very lucky. My hope is that more people can enjoy this privilege and access, like I did.
YLI Class of 2013