South Asian awareness conference spurs audience debate
During the third annual Symposium for Awareness of South Asian Issues, audience was asked, “What is community?”
March 13, 2013, 11:31 pm·
Connie Kang | DP
Are a food truck owner and investment banker part of the same community — if they’re both South Asian?
This was one of the questions posed to students who attended yesterday’s keynote address for the third annual Symposium for Awareness of South Asian Issues.
Associate Director of the Asian American Studies Program Fariha Khan, one of the event’s speakers, asked the audience a seemingly simple question: “What is community?”
The question elicited a wide range of responses from the students present.
“There is a stronger connection between one pushcart driver and another pushcart driver, no matter what the race,” Wharton and Engineering sophomore Vignesh Krishnan said. Another student countered Krishnan’s comment, saying that culture, language and even the color of one’s skin have a stronger bond than we would like to admit.
In an atypical keynote address, Khan and her fellow speaker Ujwala Dixit, president of Service and Education for Women Against Abuse, a Philadelphia-based charity, opened the floor to student opinions, showing them clips from “The Simpsons” and the popular YouTube clip, “Shit White Girls Say to Brown Girls.”
The organization aims to provide resources and support to South Asian women who are victims of domestic abuse.
One hot-button issue brought up at the event was the wide gap between the percentage of South Asians in the United States living in poverty and the percentage of those who seek government assistance.
“To ask for help is like admitting you couldn’t do it on your own,” College sophomore and incoming Vice President of External Affairs of the South Asia Society Vinita Saggurti explained. She pointed out that for many immigrants, this is tantamount to admitting that immigration was a bad idea. Dixit pointed to a cultural sense of shame associated with receiving money from someone else.
For outgoing Political Chair of the South Asia Society and College sophomore Savar Sareen, this type of debate is precisely the reason why SASAI is so important.
“The main focus of the symposium is to increase political activism and awareness of South Asian issues,” he said.
The symposium, an annual event, will be a four-day affair this year, culminating in a banquet on Saturday. Some of the week’s events include a panel discussion today and a scavenger hunt later in the week.
“We decided that the focus of this year’s symposium would be women’s affairs,” Sareen said. “Following the recent rape in Delhi … we wanted the focus to be relevant to some sort of current event.”
The focus of the symposium also ties in with SEWAA, said College junior and incoming President of the South Asia Society Alina Jamil.
Ultimately, getting as many students to talk about what they think is the symposium’s goal.
“We tried to keep the events informal to encourage as many people to participate,” Sareen said.