SAAN hosts conference, discusses social justice in South Asian communities

Sunday, January 26, 2020 - 5:16pm

Students participate in small group discussions as part of the South Asian Awareness Network annual conference at The Michigan League Saturday.

Students participate in small group discussions as part of the South Asian Awareness Network annual conference at The Michigan League Saturday. Buy this photo
Alexis Rankin/Daily

About 200 people attended the South Asian Awareness Network’s “Electrify” conference at the Michigan League on Saturday to discuss pressing social issues, create innovative solutions and understand existing movements for social change in various South Asian communities.

The SAAN conference consisted of a combination of small discussion sessions and speaker events. Many prominent figures fighting for social change in the South Asian community came to speak about their experiences with marginalized groups, immigration and solidarity movements. These speakers included journalist Tania Rashid, entrepreneur Ani Sanyal and Michigan State University psychiatry professor Farha Abbasi. 

LSA sophomore Saachi Mittal served as a facilitator at the SAAN conference by leading small-group discussions about various social issues, including ethnocentrism, colorism, sexual health stigma and barriers in cross-cultural marriages. She discussed the importance of having similarly driven peers work towards change.

“Basically, the whole conference is about just promoting social justice and social change, particularly on topics that are hard to talk about specific to the South Asian community,” Mittal said. “It’s basically about inciting discussion among people that are like-minded and have similar stances.”

Business sophomore Harika Kolluri said she decided to become a facilitator because she found a space for dialogue within SAAN she hadn’t encountered elsewhere.  

“I came to the SAAN conference last year and was absolutely blown away by this community and space it created to talk about the things that I always wanted to talk about with my family and my parents but never felt comfortable to do so,” Kolluri said. “To see that other kids wanted to talk about the same things and have the same passion to do certain things made me so excited.”

Engineering sophomore Shivani Jayendraprasad spoke to the importance of fostering first-hand experiences. She said she believes the organization allows less-mainstream perspectives to be recognized.

“We talked about some really important topics, like Kashmir and racism, that South Asians tend to perpetuate in the U.S.,” Jayendraprasad said. “It was really interesting to get perspectives that people don’t really have access to and mostly just hear from second-hand sources.”