About SAALT

Purpose

South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT) is a nation­al move­ment strat­e­gy and advo­ca­cy orga­ni­za­tion com­mit­ted to racial jus­tice through struc­tur­al change, which means we focus on trans­form­ing insti­tu­tions while lever­ag­ing incre­men­tal change as a means to shift con­di­tions and pow­er.

MISSION

We do this through fed­er­al pol­i­cy and advo­ca­cy, local and nation­al part­ner­ships, coali­tion build­ing (i.e. NCSO) and strate­gic com­mu­ni­ca­tions. We con­vene ded­i­cat­ed spaces for South Asian orga­ni­za­tions across the coun­try to engage in polit­i­cal edu­ca­tion lead­ing to strate­gies and nar­ra­tives to real­ize our vision.

vision

SAALT’s vision is to help build a South Asian Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty with shared val­ues that uplift all peo­ple of col­or, and will cross lines of race, caste, gen­der, sex­u­al­i­ty, and reli­gion to abol­ish sys­tems of oppres­sion and achieve col­lec­tive lib­er­a­tion. South Asians will come togeth­er around the belief that none of us is free until all of us are free, under­stand­ing that we can only reach this col­lec­tive lib­er­a­tion by cen­ter­ing and pri­or­i­tiz­ing the demands of those most mar­gin­al­ized. South Asians in the U.S. will work in uni­ty to com­bat poli­cies, rhetoric, and action stem­ming from sys­temic racism, Islam­o­pho­bia, and white suprema­cy; acknowl­edg­ing the transna­tion­al con­nec­tions to this vio­lence and its impact on the U.S. Dias­po­ra.

Wide­spread polit­i­cal edu­ca­tion will bring peo­ple with vary­ing expe­ri­ences and back­grounds of polit­i­cal engage­ment togeth­er to con­tin­u­ous­ly learn from each oth­er, heal with each oth­er, and reflect on each other’s shared his­to­ries to bet­ter orga­nize for col­lec­tive lib­er­a­tion. There will be endur­ing infra­struc­ture to mobi­lize quick­ly and effec­tive­ly when threats or needs emerge that impact any one of us, pri­or­i­tiz­ing those most mar­gin­al­ized.

background

Near­ly 5.4 mil­lion South Asians live in the Unit­ed States, a 40 per­cent increase in pop­u­la­tion size from the Cen­sus count in 2010. Our grow­ing and diverse com­mu­ni­ties trace their roots to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Kash­mir, Pak­istan, Sri Lan­ka, the Mal­dives, and the dias­po­ra, includ­ing but not lim­it­ed to Trinidad/Tobago, Guyana, Fiji, Tan­za­nia, and Kenya. South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er was orig­i­nal­ly con­ceived of as a South Asian lead­er­ship orga­ni­za­tion, to increase rep­re­sen­ta­tion of our com­mu­ni­ties, in all their diver­si­ty.

In SAALT’s first year, 20 years ago, 9/11 and the sub­se­quent Islam­o­pho­bic tar­get­ing of our com­mu­ni­ties through state and inter­per­son­al vio­lence shook South Asians across the U.S. In the midst of that cri­sis, SAALT rose both to meet the needs of the moment and to help build com­mu­ni­ty infra­struc­ture for South Asians so that the next time a cri­sis struck, we would have a net­work in place to come togeth­er and orga­nize, act, and advo­cate for our­selves and our rights.

Twen­ty years lat­er, the world looks dif­fer­ent, yet so many of the under­ly­ing, struc­tur­al injus­tices remain. The COVID-19 pan­dem­ic is rag­ing, dev­as­tat­ing people’s lives across the U.S., and dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly impact­ing Black and brown work­ing-class com­mu­ni­ties. Cli­mate change is no longer a dis­tant the­o­ry, but a lived real­i­ty that tran­scends bor­ders, which them­selves are already wit­ness­ing unprece­dent­ed mil­i­ta­riza­tion, sur­veil­lance, and occu­pa­tion. We rec­og­nize the need to resist insti­tu­tion­al­ized pow­er that con­tin­ues to threat­en the liveli­hoods and rights of peo­ple across the world, includ­ing Islam­o­pho­bia and Hin­du nation­al­ism, xeno­pho­bic polit­i­cal rhetoric, and white suprema­cist hate vio­lence, which all con­tin­ue to endan­ger the lives of South Asians both in the U.S. and glob­al­ly.

VALUES

  • Cen­ter Peo­ple Equi­tably – We cen­ter and pri­or­i­tize the most his­tor­i­cal­ly and sys­tem­i­cal­ly mar­gin­al­ized pop­u­la­tions with­in the South Asian Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty. This means reli­gious minori­ties; caste-oppressed pop­u­la­tions; indi­vid­u­als with dis­abil­i­ties; queer/­tran­s/non-bina­ry com­mu­ni­ties; those with vul­ner­a­ble immi­gra­tion sta­tus; work­ing class indi­vid­u­als; and those with lim­it­ed Eng­lish pro­fi­cien­cy under­stand­ing. We believe that we all ben­e­fit from this approach. The lead­er­ship, expe­ri­ences, analy­sis, demands of those most direct­ly impact­ed by exist­ing oppres­sive sys­tems guide SAALT’s pri­or­i­ties and strate­gies. We believe the sur­vivors of abu­sive pow­er should not be tasked with edu­cat­ing those who have caused the harm and SAALT will inten­tion­al­ly work to pro­vide this edu­ca­tion.
  • Think Trans­for­ma­tion­al­ly – Our advo­ca­cy, while often sit­u­at­ed with­in exist­ing gov­ern­ment struc­tures, is ori­ent­ed toward abol­ish­ing sys­tems of oppres­sion and achiev­ing col­lec­tive lib­er­a­tion. We only sup­port reforms to this end and will use our pow­er in exist­ing nation­al coali­tions to push for the same.
  • Share Pow­er Col­lab­o­ra­tive­ly – We believe the path­way to col­lec­tive lib­er­a­tion can only be achieved through part­ner­ships, trust, shared vision, and non-nego­tiable com­mit­ments among val­ues-aligned South Asian orga­ni­za­tions. We believe that a con­stel­la­tion of orga­ni­za­tions must inform and co-cre­ate this path­way, which will require polit­i­cal edu­ca­tion for South Asian orga­ni­za­tions and con­stituen­cies who are seek­ing to be con­nect­ed to val­ues aligned efforts. Our mea­sure of align­ment is also informed by and sup­port­ive of move­ments out­side the South Asian Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty to build pow­er and cre­ate trans­for­ma­tion­al change.
  • Engage Inter­gen­er­a­tional­ly To build the foun­da­tion we need to shift pow­er in a trans­for­ma­tion­al way, we believe in the engage­ment and lead­er­ship of val­ues-aligned peo­ple of all ages, gen­er­a­tions and expe­ri­ences under­stand­ing this allows var­i­ous per­spec­tives to inform strat­e­gy.
  • Work Inter­sec­tion­al­ly – We are com­mit­ted to proac­tive­ly and emer­gent­ly respond­ing to and align­ing with mul­ti­ple domes­tic and transna­tion­al move­ments for lib­er­a­tion that exist in the U.S. and beyond. SAALT will ensure staff and part­ners are in tune to the imme­di­ate and long-term demands being made by these move­ments and remain informed by this con­text and land­scape analy­sis.
  • Reflect Con­tin­u­ous­ly – We are com­mit­ted to rec­og­niz­ing our role and priv­i­lege as a well-fund­ed and staffed nation­al orga­ni­za­tion. We seek to dis­rupt the ways in which we may per­pet­u­ate oppres­sion, giv­en this priv­i­lege, and toward that end, we will exer­cise self-aware­ness and account­abil­i­ty in this role.