On Saturday, September 29th, SAAPRI held our fall fundraiser The State of South Asian American Influence & Power in Illinois. We would like to thank all those who were able to join us and support this critical community event.
Our panelists, Ram Villivalam, Dilara Sayeed, and Hardik Bhatt, moderated by K. Sujata, engaged us on ways we can create a pipeline for South Asian leadership and civic participation in Illinois and empower our communities to make the critical changes needed to unleash their full potential. These were some of our key takeaways:
- The South Asian American Story. We need a narrative as complex as we are, and one that is inclusive of the multiple identities that encompasses the diverse experiences of South Asian Americans. We must combat harmful narratives that exclude experiences and struggles of the most marginalized South Asian Americans, and one that includes us in the fabric of society.
- Representation and Power. We need South Asian voices at the table to keep our unique and shared concerns relevant. We should not be afraid to take positions at all levels in our communities, in business, and in government. We are not token minorities and must own our identity to pave the way and be a connector for your communities.
- Bridge-building. We need to build bridges within the South Asian American community with an inclusive framework and extend this to other communities. Let us not have insular focus on only our own particular communities and play into a ‘divide and conquer’ strategy. We must begin conversations around our core inclusive values, use South Asian American identities and experiences to elevate those core values, and relate to others on the basis of these values.
- Creating a Pipeline. To realize our vision of South Asian representation, power, and unity, we need to invest in a pipeline for the next generation of South Asian American civic leaders. This includes both leaders in institutions and grassroots leaders. Many community members, especially young people, are stepping off the sidelines and feeling a sense of urgency in becoming involved. We must build on this momentum.
Panelists Hardik Bhatt, Ram Villivalam, DIlara Sayeed, and K. Sujata discuss South Asian American influence and power.