Dear Com­mu­ni­ty, 

We’re writ­ing to share a ground­break­ing shift for SAALT. We have entered chrysalis which will con­tin­ue through late 2024. Dur­ing this time, we are com­mit­ted to the following:

  • Build an analysis of caste. We have ceased exter­nal pro­gram­ming to focus our ener­gy towards devel­op­ing an indi­vid­ual and shared analy­sis of caste, through polit­i­cal edu­ca­tion, prin­ci­pled strug­gle, reflec­tion, and rela­tion­ship build­ing, start­ing with our own selves, bio­log­i­cal and cho­sen fam­i­lies, and our caste communities. 
  • Co-stewardship inside an accountable ecosystem. We have tran­si­tioned from an ED and Board non-prof­it mod­el, to a co-stew­ard­ship non­prof­it mod­el, held by a cir­cle of South Asian account­abil­i­ty part­ners com­mit­ted to build­ing an analy­sis of caste. 

Why chrysalis?

For years, SAALT has received feed­back that our orga­ni­za­tion is in a per­pet­u­al “iden­ti­ty crisis.” 

We’ve felt it too. Our core con­tra­dic­tion is not lost on us. We’re attempt­ing to build pow­er for all South Asians, while lack­ing a deep under­stand­ing of an ancient, home­grown oppres­sion: caste. For decades, caste has inher­ent­ly result­ed in social inequal­i­ty, which informs the posi­tion­al­i­ty of South Asians in the US. 

SAALT has much to cel­e­brate across its 20 year his­to­ry of con­ven­ing, coor­di­nat­ing and rep­re­sent­ing South Asian com­mu­ni­ties nation­al­ly. Simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, SAALT’s agen­da has pri­mar­i­ly been dri­ven by high caste lead­er­ship, coastal elit­ism and oth­er priv­i­leged South Asian com­mu­ni­ty urgen­cies. Through rela­tion­ship build­ing and deep lis­ten­ing with and to Dalit Bahu­jan com­mu­ni­ties, along­side our own study of caste, SAALT began the jour­ney towards chrysalis. The need for this became more evi­dent in 2019 when SAALT sup­port­ed asy­lum seek­ers flee­ing South Asia because of caste vio­lence. As a result, we are assert­ing that build­ing South Asian pow­er requires coura­geous lead­er­ship and a com­mit­ment to cul­tur­al trans­for­ma­tion that is root­ed in an analy­sis of caste.

If we sim­ply con­tin­ued the work of SAALT as is, we would over­look the essen­tial first step – to build an analy­sis of caste – through which we under­stand our South Asian­ness, and nav­i­gate the oth­er val­ues we hold dear. By not under­stand­ing caste, we lack a true under­stand­ing of our­selves and our peo­ples’ his­to­ries. We can nev­er ful­ly or authen­ti­cal­ly par­tic­i­pate in cre­at­ing a racial­ly, gen­der, eco­nom­i­cal­ly, dis­abil­i­ty, and envi­ron­men­tal­ly just world with­in our dias­poric com­mu­ni­ties. Nor can we be respon­si­ble co-con­spir­a­tors with oth­er com­mu­ni­ties of color.

Through­out our twen­ty year his­to­ry, SAALT’s advo­ca­cy, pol­i­cy, and pro­gram­ming have lacked this core foun­da­tion and at times have even been caste suprema­cist in nature as a result. This focused, inten­tion­al time to build a caste analy­sis is what is need­ed for us to be tru­ly trans­for­ma­tive as South Asian Amer­i­cans and as a South Asian Amer­i­can serv­ing institution. 

Our inten­tions must be aligned with our actions. There­fore, we are unapolo­get­i­cal­ly ded­i­cat­ing our time, resources, mon­ey, and spa­cious­ness to this first step through late 2024. 

Our ultimate vision

We take this step with clear con­vic­tion and this vision in mind:  to build and sus­tain an anti-caste insti­tu­tion­al cul­ture, struc­ture, and poten­tial change work that is root­ed in us relat­ing to each oth­er and the world as stew­ards of the anti-caste move­ment. We can only expect trans­for­ma­tion in the world if we prac­tice it first with each other.

In com­mu­ni­ty,

The SAALT co-stewards