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: