STRONG COMMUNITIES, STRONG VOICES
The year 2020 has tested the foundations of our society like no other. With a tempestuous pandemic taking the world by storm, we have seen our traditional societal framework marked by tumult and disarray. As individuals, we have been pushed apart, relegated to the confines of our own homes. At the same time, we are witnessing and participating in the continued struggle for racial justice, as seen through the Movement for Black Lives.
In the midst of this maelstrom, nothing has proven more vital than the solidarity of our own communities. Organizations like Sakhi, which in the midst of the pandemic has intensified its efforts in protecting South Asian women from domestic violence, have taken on even more essential roles as cases of domestic violence rise. Stories of South Asian Americans volunteering their restaurants as makeshift hospitals or offering their homes as sanctuaries for Black Lives Matter protestors have further testified to the necessity for cross-community solidarity.
Now and forever, we must stand in solidarity with marginalized communities and commit to this fight of justice both within the South Asian American community and beyond it. We must openly recognize and condemn the bigotry and anti-Blackness within our community, because we are active members in the fight for racial justice whether we realize it or not. This struggle for liberation is collective. The history of the South Asians in America, and the community we have built in this country, is inseparable from the movement for Black liberation. Just as our histories are intertwined, so our are futures.
In this issue of Shakti, “Strong Voices, Strong Communities,” we aim to highlight these roots of our interconnected community through the unique perspectives of our contributors. Alysha Siddiqi probes the meaning of our newfound isolation in the context of Kashmir, where such circumstances have been a longstanding reality for a people caught in the crosstrings of conflict. Janani Sekar uses the medium of paint and colored pencil to comment on South Asian women and community heroes. Setu Mehta looks at how her own grandmother, lost to the current pandemic, stood as a beacon of Shakti for all those around her. Nikhil Dharmaraj interviews Durba Mitra, professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, on her South Asian American upbringing and against-the-grain philosophy. Pranati Parikh studies the contradicting threads that weave their way through the Mahabharata and South Asian society. Gayatri Balasubramanian reflects on her experience as an ROTC member, drawing on her conversations with a host of diverse Army members. Niv Sharma examines our potential to look within ourselves and join with one another to create societal change.
Nivedhitha Sivakumar grapples with the inevitable loss of cultural traditions and knowledge experienced as members of the diaspora. In a narrative on South Asian womanhood, Aiman Shahab reflects on deep-rooted cultural and familial pressures. Tamica Perera embarks on a creative journey with South Asian poetry, composing “Poetry in Response.” Reshini Premaratne chronicles the facets of code-switching and the nuances of her first generation American experience. Avik Sarkar explores themes of generational trauma and familial connection in two poems.
Flowing in rivulets beneath these different narratives is the importance of community. Our contributors focus the lens on those around them, commenting on how members of their community have brought forth new life, new energy, new Shakti.
We want to extend our deepest gratitude to our contributors, who have brought their incredible voices to make this issue of Shakti possible, and the incredible SAAPS team, particularly Aman and Trisha. Thank you for your unwavering support and belief in us.
Thank you for joining us on this journey. Our community is strongest when we stand up for our collective liberation, and our voices are loudest when they join together.
Swathi Kella and Bhargavi Garimella