Inspire Series: Asad Haider How SAALT Inspires Me

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.

Asad Haider

Asad Haider, Young Leaders Institute 2013

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.

Asad Haider
YLI Class of 2013

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Inspire Series: Maheen Qureshi How SAALT Inspires Me

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. This week, we feature board member Maheen Qureshi.

Maheen Qureshi, SAALT Board Member

Maheen Qureshi, SAALT Board Member

I am a Muslim American who has lived in the U.S. for half my life. I spent my childhood and adolescence between Pakistan, Burma, the Philippines and Indonesia. My path to citizenship has been as a student (twice) and H-1B worker (twice) and then the Green Card. I have lived in the DC area longer than I’ve lived anywhere. I am a mom/ single mom, a daughter, a wife, a sister, an aunt. I am also a professional who has worked at the intersection of social and environmental responsibility and the financial sector. I have a big extended family in Pakistan and I live in an intergenerational household in the U.S. I consider myself to be an international person who calls America home.

Among my multiple identities, I’m passionate about humanitarian causes and social justice. I got involved with SAALT through my work doing corporate social responsibility outreach to communities of color. I was later invited to join SAALT’s board.

I connect with SAALT in many ways.

Since 9/11, I feel the effects of racial profiling in a subtle, but constant way. I think twice before speaking colloquially, out of concern that someone may misinterpret what I mean and profile me even if I have done nothing wrong. I am happy that my family and I can worship. But I don’t take this freedom for granted, as I know that places of worship in our communities are often vandalized or under attack. SAALT’s work to oppose racial profiling in all of its forms is of importance to me.

Since becoming a single mom at age 29, I have experienced some of the challenges that women face, especially South Asian and immigrant women. I am blessed to have a very supportive family and can link this to the fortunate opportunities the U.S. immigration system has afforded my parents and siblings on their individual paths to citizenship. Having a life partner in another country, however, and not having a visa option to bring him to the U.S. for even a day (until he receives a visa through the standard family process that is expected to take 3+ years) has been difficult. This personal experience has underscored the importance of finding immigration solutions for families – the work SAALT has been doing for many years. My personal experiences reaffirm my commitment to helping other women who have even more challenges and may not have the family or financial support system available to them. There is a lot more work to be done to reform our current systems.

Raising an American child, I want to know that he will be just as safe, respected and welcome as any other child – regardless of his faith, family or appearance. SAALT’s work on anti-bullying education and bringing students together through the Young Leaders Institute inspire me.

Last but not least, I care about issues of justice and equality that impact all people. SAALT links the challenges faced by our community to larger struggles and movements. If you identify with any of the issues or if you have a hope and a vision for a more democratic and a safer nation and world, I hope you will support SAALT today and beyond.

Thank you,
Maheen Qureshi
SAALT Board member

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