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