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Speaking Out on Affirmative Action

Aug/04/2023 / by Abhijit Masih

The new ruling has sparked mixed opinions among South Asians far and wide

On June 29, the Supreme Court ruled that race could no longer be used as an admissions factor in colleges and universities across the U.S., overturning decades of precedent. The ruling has already sparked attention from South Asian communities across the United States. 

In particular, the Harvard South Asian Association—one of the largest student groups at the university—has already come out with a statement on the ruling. 

“Asian American students should not be used as a tool for perpetuating structural discrimination,” the statement read. “Nor do we accept the assertion that this is to our benefit. We refuse to be recognised under a model minority myth, as affirmative action brings diversity, inclusion and representation for all. Affirmative action brightens and emboldens our community, renewing Harvard’s mission to ‘educate the citizens and citizen-leaders for our society.’”

The statement also pointed to affirmative action practices in South Asia that have been successfully used to address inequality based on caste, gender, and ethnicity. “The primary objective is to provide opportunities and representation to marginalized communities that have faced discrimination and exclusion for generations, supporting equitable education for underrepresented South Asian students,” it read. 

Other South Asians have spoken out in support of the ruling, acknowledging that identities in the U.S. have become more multicultural than ever and policies need to be updated to reflect that reality. “I couldn’t help thinking of my own kids, who are of mixed South Asian and white descent—and whose views of their own racial identities seem to shift depending on who’s asking,” wrote Farhad Manjoo in The New York Times. “I don’t think my children will one day deserve any kind of admission bump because of their race, nor, obviously, do I think they deserve to be dinged for it.” 

In all cases, as colleges adjust their policies in the coming year, experts will be watching closely how the ruling affects the demographic breakdown.

Voter surveys show that 69% of Asian Americans support affirmative action.
source:
NBC News

FILE PHOTO: Participants take part in an annual LGBTQ+ Pride parade, in Kathmandu, Nepal June 10, 2023. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar/File Photo

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Promoting Indian Art Forms

How Suman Gollamudi curates culture in NYC

From working in information technology to working with NGOs, Suman Gollamudi has had a storied career that now includes serving as the executive director for the Indo-American Arts Council, a non-profit organization dedicated to building awareness, appreciation, and support for the performing arts of India in America. Under her leadership, the IAAC organizes various cultural events to promote Indian art including the New York Indian Film Festival. We asked her what it was like to live at the cross-section between creativity and culture. 

How did you get drawn to social work involving art and culture?
I was always creative growing up. My mother’s side of the family was always involved in art and my mom used to love writing poetry, and self-published some poetry books. So it’s always been there in me, but the opportunity came when I was on a break and I really wanted to do something different, contribute meaningfully to the society, but also work in a field that gives me joy. I started by volunteering. I really loved what IAAC was doing, so I approached and said, “hey, how can I help?”

What events does IAAC organize?
We do the New York Indian Film Festival. We have our annual music festival that happens in August. We run the Erasing Borders Dance Festival that happens annually in September. Then we have our annual Literature Festival, which has been growing in leaps and bounds and it happens in November. Last year we had forty different authors, writers, and poets converging for the biggest celebration of Indian literature in New York City. The idea is to showcase and put the focus on arts and artisans with their work, which is either influenced by India or from India.

How instrumental is the The New York Indian Film Festival in promoting India’s independent cinema?

Independent cinema needs all of that support. These filmmakers don’t have typical big budgets for marketing or getting the resources to distribute or produce their films. Our film festival plugs that gap in such an important way, because now you have this platform in New York where all of these different cultures are coming together. It’s a great place to bring that Indian cinema perspective and give people here the opportunity to witness that cinema and to give an opportunity to the filmmaker to talk about it. It gives filmmakers more credibility to make more progress to other festivals and go to the world over. 

[sidebar]
Festival of Indian Music
August 11-13

Held at spaces throughout New York City, the Festival of Indian Music will bring in folk singer Padma Shri Malini Awasthi and Ustad Amjad Ali Khan alongside his sons and grandsons. “This year is going to be extra special for us as this year is the 25th year of IAAC,” says Gollamudi. For more info, visit iaac.us.

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Nepal Recognizes Same-Sex Marriage

The country becomes the first in South Asia to legalize the unions

In June, the Nepal Supreme Court made a landmark ruling that gave same-sex couples the right to register their marriages, making it only the second country in all of Asia and the first South Asian country to legally recognize same-sex marriage. This continues progress from a 2007 ruling that ordered the government to end LGBT discrimination and guarantee equal rights. 

“People are already celebrating,” said Sunil Pant, who was Nepal’s first openly gay member of parliament. “They are rushing back to their villages to collect documents for their marriages.” He estimates that nearly 200 couples may openly register in the coming month. 

One of those couples included Surendra Pandey and Maya Gurung, who were married in the Hindu tradition six years ago but had yet to receive a legal certificate. 

“I am overwhelmed with joy because of this decision and it is a day of commemoration for our community,” Gurung told the AP. “This court ruling has established that we are equal citizens of this country.”

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An LGBT+ Resource to Watch
With virtual and in-person community workshops, a resource hub, and a podcast, the South Asian Sexual and Mental Health Alliance (SASMHA) aims to provide members of the South Asian diaspora with the tools needed to bridge the divide between staying rooted to culture while being able to create spaces to fully express oneself. sasmha.org