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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