National South Asian Summit Focused on Keeping Our Communities #United4Action

Wash­ing­ton, DC — On April 21–24, South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT) wel­comed hun­dreds of activists, orga­ni­za­tions, stu­dents, and com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers from across the coun­try to the 10-year anniver­sary of the Nation­al South Asian Sum­mit in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., a four-day event where par­tic­i­pants raised their voic­es on urgent issues for our com­mu­ni­ties.

“Our com­mu­ni­ties con­tin­ue to live in var­i­ous states of shock as a panora­ma of hate vio­lence, civ­il rights vio­la­tions, and anti-immi­grant poli­cies con­tin­ue to impact South Asian Amer­i­cans nation­wide,” stat­ed Suman Raghu­nathan, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of SAALT. “At this chal­leng­ing moment, the Nation­al South Asian Sum­mit offered a plat­form for our com­mu­ni­ties to seek and find spaces for sol­i­dar­i­ty while also pro­vid­ing an oppor­tu­ni­ty for thought lead­ers, activists, stu­dents, and com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers from across the coun­try to col­lec­tive­ly exam­ine our diverse pri­or­i­ties. Under the theme Unit­ed for Action, we ambi­tious­ly, dis­rup­tive­ly, and com­pas­sion­ate­ly engaged in a crit­i­cal strug­gle for jus­tice and full inclu­sion for all.”

This year’s par­tic­i­pants were a diverse group, includ­ing stu­dents and seniors, thought lead­ers and social work­ers, techies and teach­ers, poets, film­mak­ers, lawyers, coun­selors, and orga­niz­ers who reflect­ed the rich diver­si­ty, expe­ri­ences, reli­gions, eth­nic­i­ties, and nation­al ori­gins of our com­mu­ni­ties. The Sum­mit pro­vid­ed an oppor­tu­ni­ty to con­nect through a sense of col­lec­tive iden­ti­ty, com­mit­ment to strength­en­ing our com­mu­ni­ties, and a deep belief in the pow­er of unit­ing for action in the pur­suit of jus­tice.

ChangeMakers Awards

Pho­to Cred­it — Dani Leigh Pho­tog­ra­phy

The Nation­al South Asian Sum­mit 2017 kicked off on Fri­day, April 21 at the Nation­al Press Club with the Change­Mak­ers Awards, an event that rec­og­nized indi­vid­u­als and orga­ni­za­tions that have cat­alyzed social jus­tice with­in the South Asian Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty. This year’s Change­Mak­ers hon­orees includ­ed Vani­ta Gup­ta, for­mer Prin­ci­pal Deputy Assis­tant Attor­ney Gen­er­al and future Pres­i­dent and CEO of the Lead­er­ship Con­fer­ence on Civ­il and Human Rights; Equal­i­ty Labs, the first South Asian women, gen­der non-con­form­ing, queer, and trans-led tech­nol­o­gy project whose lead­er­ship is from South Asian cul­tur­al and reli­gious minor­i­ty com­mu­ni­ties; Jayesh Rathod, pro­fes­sor of law at Amer­i­can Uni­ver­si­ty Wash­ing­ton Col­lege of Law and found­ing Direc­tor of the law school’s Immi­grant Jus­tice Clin­ic who also served on SAALT’s Board of Direc­tors for 10 years; Daya, Inc., a Hous­ton non-prof­it that sup­ports South Asian women who are try­ing to break the cycle of domes­tic and sex­u­al vio­lence and which in 2015 became a BIA-accred­it­ed agency pro­vid­ing immi­gra­tion ser­vices to clients in need; Zahra Bil­loo, lead­ing civ­il rights attor­ney and the Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of the San Fran­cis­co Bay Area chap­ter of the Coun­cil on Amer­i­can Islam­ic Rela­tions (CAIR); Gur­bani Kaur, a stu­dent activists, founder of the Sikh Stu­dent Asso­ci­a­tion at Har­vard, and alum­nus of SAALT’s Young Lead­ers Insti­tute; and Ravi Rag­bir, fear­less immi­grant rights advo­cate and Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of the New Sanc­tu­ary Coali­tion who is cur­rent­ly fight­ing against his own pos­si­ble depor­ta­tion. The evening also pro­vid­ed a oppor­tu­ni­ty for SAALT to express our deep appre­ci­a­tion to out­go­ing Board Chair Sunil Oom­men, who served on SAALT’s Board of Direc­tors with dis­tinc­tion for 10 years. A musi­cal per­for­mance by award win­ning artists Kiran Ahluwalia and Rez Abassi closed out the Change­Mak­ers recep­tion.

Summit Sessions

Pho­to Cred­it — Dani Leigh Pho­tog­ra­phy

Over 300 atten­dees gath­ered for the four-day Sum­mit, includ­ing two full days at Trin­i­ty Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty where 40 dynam­ic ses­sions con­ceived and led by com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers explored the diverse needs and pri­or­i­ties of our com­mu­ni­ties. “The Nation­al South Asian Sum­mit is cru­cial because we are now com­ing togeth­er from across the coun­try to dis­cuss cre­at­ing and chang­ing the insti­tu­tion­al racism that we face here in Amer­i­ca,” stat­ed Ravi Rag­bir, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of the New Sanc­tu­ary Coali­tion. ASATA mem­ber Sabi­ha Bas­rai believes “The Nation­al South Asian Sum­mit allows for a healthy con­tro­ver­sy in the room and does not expect every­one to have polit­i­cal align­ment on every­thing, which allows us to push each oth­er with love and respect.” Fahd Ahmed, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of Desis Ris­ing Up and Mov­ing (DRUM), not­ed, “The oppor­tu­ni­ty to bring peo­ple togeth­er and to learn about the issues that peo­ple are fac­ing, how they are respond­ing to those issues, how they are suc­ceed­ing, and what con­tin­ue to be their chal­lenges is a very impor­tant learn­ing ground. For DRUM, that’s always been the most impor­tant aspect of the Sum­mit.”

Pho­to Cred­it: Vivek Trive­di, SAALT

On the evening of April 22 the Sum­mit par­tic­i­pants took to the streets for the South Asian Amer­i­cans March­ing For Jus­tice event, a ral­ly that began at Free­dom Plaza and con­clud­ed with a march to the White House. From speech­es to chants demand­ing civ­il rights, civ­il lib­er­ties, and immi­gra­tion jus­tice for all, we marched for all those fight­ing for a social­ly just coun­try, and we demand­ed the sup­port of pol­i­cy­mak­ers towards that vision.

View the full agen­da with all ses­sion descrip­tions here.

Advocacy Day

Pho­to Cred­it — Dani Leigh Pho­tog­ra­phy

The Nation­al Sum­mit gar­nered strong media cov­er­age from numer­ous nation­al and eth­nic out­lets. A fea­ture in Scroll exam­ined the Sum­mit and the pow­er of cross-racial orga­niz­ing. NPR’s Arun Venu­gopal attend­ed the Nation­al Sum­mit and inter­viewed SAALT’s Exec­u­tive Direc­tor and allies for this piece on the nation­al real­i­ties of hate crimes.. SAALT was also hon­ored by Huff­Post as one of the five South Asian Amer­i­can orga­ni­za­tions every woke per­son should know.

Thank you to our spon­sors, The Four Free­doms Fund, Com­cast, Savan Kotecha, Gar­cia Her­nan­dez, Sawh­ney, LLP, South Asian Bar Asso­ci­a­tion of North Amer­i­ca, Sunil Oom­men, and Man­si and Archit Shah for their gen­er­ous sup­port of the Nation­al South Asian Sum­mit.

For more infor­ma­tion, quotes, or pic­tures, please con­tact:
Vivek Trive­di, Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Devel­op­ment Man­ag­er | vivek@saalt.org