Organizing for Black Lives Matter

In the wake of the decision of non indictment of Tamir Rice’s murderers, advocacy and social justice have become even more important. The Black Lives Matter movement (BLM) has been doing a great job promoting equality for Black lives throughout the nation yet, as South Asians it is our civil obligation to support and further that movement. Students have the advantage of being able to reach out to their peers on campus to make them see why their cause is important and here to stay. Because of this, campus organizing has become even more necessary.

Personally, returning from SAALT’s annual Young Leaders Institute, I felt empowered to create change. New ideas were forming in my mind on how to involve my campus in the revolution- I wanted bring the movement to my university and have everyone know of its importance. I imagined protests to the Alachua County Office to remove the confederate statue, and sit-ins with my fellow students to show how we were against violence and institutionalized racism, and workshops with the center of Multicultural and Diversity Affairs on how to encompass everyone on campus in this movement. My vision was to see minority groups raise their voice in support for the BLM movement and bring awareness to students who had no idea what we were fighting for. To say the least, this all did not happen. Instead, what happened was my realization of the folks around me and their priorities.

I was beginning to see where I was and who I was around. My South Asian friends started to seem uninterested in my ideas and what I supported. They questioned my frustration with the government and my fear of the police. They didn’t understand why I refused to spell my name out to the white barista at Starbucks. They were confused when I started to call out all the South Asians I saw perpetuating the model minority myth. They didn’t like me getting angry at the Taco Bell employee for assuming I am a vegetarian. They were annoyed I stopped eating Krishna lunch with them because of the cultural appropriation of my food. YLI liberated my mind. Now, I had to bring this same light to my peers.

To make my fellow South Asians on campus feel the importance of the BLM movement, organizing events and meetings was a must. This task was near impossible because of stupid dance groups. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for showing dedication to our South Asian heritage and exercising in a fun way. But all I can hear on campus between South Asian folks is about Gator Adaa, Gator Bhangra, and Gator Garba. The focus is on how hard they work, how they need a place to practice, and how they needed to pass their premed classes. In this environment, it is difficult to bring social advocacy into the mix even when it is so much more important.

As students we are all living hectic lives. Being guilty of this myself, I am often preoccupied in my own mess and too busy to worry about what is going on around the nation. Nevertheless, I want to change that. I want to tell my fellow peers to rise up and stand up against anti-Black racism. We need to start the conversations about institutionalized racism, white supremacy, and cultural appropriation. Along with organizing, we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard. We are held accountable every time a Black life is lost and we did nothing stop it. With more Black lives at risk each day, now in particular we must start practicing social justice and activism. I will continue to try and create a safe space on my campus for South Asians so we can start the conversation and show support to the BLM movement. I encourage you all to organize as well in support of the revolution, in any way possible.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

-Martin Niemöller


Priya Sabharwal

Young Leaders Institute Fellow, 2015

The Young Leaders Institute 2015 is sponsored by: