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A Celebration of Dr. Aparna Sharma

2013 February 24

Please join Aparna’s friends and family for a celebration of her life and work on Sunday, March 10:

A celebration of the life and work of Dr. Aparna Sharma: Sunday, March 10, 2013 at Marwen (833 N. Orleans, Chicago), 2-4pm

A celebration of the life and work of Dr. Aparna Sharma

Sunday, March 10, 2013
833 N. Orleans, Chicago, IL
(Program will begin at 2:30pm)

In lieu of flowers, we humbly request donations be made to the Canadian Cancer Society or American Cancer Society.

Public parking lots are located on Orleans and the corner of Institute and Orleans. Street parking is available on surrounding blocks. The location is wheelchair accessible. Due to capacity, it will be primarily standing room and limited seating. To request accessible accommodations, please email by Monday, March 4th.

*Please note March 10 is daylight savings and clocks move forward.

In Memory of Our Beloved Aparna Sharma

2013 February 13


It is with heavy hearts that we share the sad news of Dr. Aparna Sharma’s passing on February 9, 2013. Aparna was one of the leaders of the South Asian Progressive Action Collective for over eleven years. She helped shape our organization and was key to developing its identity and mission. Her leadership on projects related to civic engagement, art and activism, anti-communalism, and bridge building in the Asian Pacific Islander American community were crucial to SAPAC’s successes.

Of course Aparna is well known for more than just SAPAC. She touched many lives through her heroic work with Crown Family Philanthropies, Chicago Foundation for Women, Loyola University’s Center for Urban Research and Learning, Asian Giving Circle, Leadership Center for Asian Pacific Americans, Women and Girls’ Collective Action Network, and more. Her influence in these vast but interconnected communities is tremendous.

It is difficult to encapsulate in a few sentences what Aparna means to us. She was a mentor and loving friend. She was the reason many of us stayed in SAPAC for so long. Aparna was truly remarkable and one of the kindest souls we ever had the honor of knowing. Her warmth, energy, and laughter were infectious. She motivated us to bring the best of ourselves to SAPAC and our activist work. She also gave many of us opportunities to grow as leaders in Chicago’s APIA and activist communities. She nurtured and encouraged us, and never once asked for any credit or recognition. Aparna was the most selfless person, always turning the spotlight away from herself and shining it on the rest of us. We all looked up to her.

But Aparna was more than just a leader and mentor to us. She was our sister. She loved us, and we loved her. For many of us, SAPAC provided the first South Asian community we connected to as adults in Chicago. The Core of our group is a family. We come together over our shared experiences, support each other, and laugh and cry together. Aparna played a huge part in creating this family. We could count on her for anything–advice, encouragement, a voice of reason, judgment-free knitting lessons, a good (or bad) Hindi movie, firsthand opinions about the merits of being Canadian, or a cold beer on a rainy night. She would go to any length to help us. She embodied everything SAPAC and our little family strive to be.

We are all in shock but know that Aparna’s legacy carries on. We will not let her light be diminished. We cherish our time with Aparna and will honor her memory by continuing to serve and live the best lives we can.

Be at peace, sister. We love you.

- SAPAC Core, past and present


Below is a document from the Sharma family that contains details on religious services in Canada. The Sharma family has requested a 13-day mourning period during which there will be no public tribute events. SAPAC will be participating in a Chicago tribute/memorial service sometime in March 2013, and we will share the details once confirmed.

Please feel free to share your thoughts and remembrances about Aparna in the comments below. We will make sure they are shared with Aparna’s family.


The Future of SAPAC

2013 January 27

Dear friends,

We know you haven’t heard much from SAPAC in a while. SAPAC Core (the 10- to 20-person group of active members that runs the organization) has been discussing the future of SAPAC, and whether it will continue.

Our last big project was the 10th annual Voices of Resistance visual and performing arts showcase in October 2011. Since then we have signed on to national advocacy letters from partner organizations, in response to issues like immigration and violence against South Asians. We have also continued to host our discussion/announcement listserv, which has maintained a membership of 400-500 since 2004. However, in the last year, our actual on-the-ground work in Chicago has been stagnant.

Over the last 12 years, SAPAC has worked tirelessly to create a space for progressive South Asians to unite and take action on issues pertaining to the diaspora. Our goal has always been to use open artistic expression, public education, media outreach, community dialogues, and other tools to create a forum for the discussion of political and social issues both within the South Asian community and between ourselves and others.

We have undertaken projects related to communalism, corporate globalization, U.S. militarism, civil rights, immigration, civic engagement, education, the arts, and much more. We hope that our efforts have helped to fill a void in progressive organizing in Chicago’s South Asian community.

We are now at a crossroads. Many of our Core members have moved on to other cities or other priorities. In our current state, we do not feel we can sustain the organization, despite the important work we do.

As we consider the future of SAPAC, we ask for your input. We want to know if any of YOU have energy around a specific project or issue related to Chicago’s South Asian community. Is there something you are passionate about that you want to organize around? Are there any issues that aren’t getting enough attention from local progressive activists that you would be willing to work on? Is there an issue you’re already tackling but need more support for? If so, please email or with your response by Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013.

Your feedback will be crucial in helping us decide how to proceed. We’ll compile your responses and share our next steps soon.

Thank you,

(Shilpa Bavikatte, Tina Bhaga, Ramona Gupta, Rabya Khan, Sandhya Krishnan, Sonia Mathew, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Chirayu Patel, Ahalya Satkunaratnam, Aparna Sharma, Umang Sharma, Sabba Syal)


March 20, 2012 Chicago Election Guide

2012 March 19


Welcome to our guide to the March 20, 2012 Primary Election. Here we’ll share the basic info you need to check your voter registration status, find your polling place, and know your voter rights.

Indian language assistance: If you didn’t already know, Chicago and Cook County are now providing Indian-language speakers with language assistance through translated ballots, voter forms, web pages, and bilingual election judges in targeted precincts! SAPAC served on an advisory committee to help the election boards oversee translation reviews, recruit bilingual election volunteers, and publicize the news. For more info, see this press release from the Chicago Board of Elections.

Volunteer! To volunteer as a pollwatcher or exit poller in precincts heavily populated by Asian Americans on Election Day, contact Andrew Kang at the Asian American Institute.

We hope this is a useful resource for you. As always, we welcome your feedback and questions.

Now get out and VOTE!



read more…

Desispotting: March 2012

2012 March 6


Desispotting March 2012


Don’t forget that Illinois’ Primary Election is March 20! A full election guide is forthcoming.

As always, I’ll continue to update this post throughout the month. Send your events to or leave a comment here.



Syed Akbar @ University of Chicago
Thursday, March 1 @ 4:30pm

The University of Texas at Austin associate professor discusses “Oneness of Suffering: Religion, Art, Region and Patronage in Urdu” for the U of C’s South Asia Seminar series.


Mary Anne Mohanraj @ Tweet
Tuesday, March 6 @ 7:30pm

SAPAC member Mohanraj reads at Homolatte, a twice-a-month, all-ages, queer music and spoken word series.


Deepa Das Acevedo @ University of Chicago
Thursday, March 8 @ 4:30pm

The anthropology scholar discusses “Divine Bachelors, Female Devotees and the Law at Sabarimala, 2006-2011” for the Theory and Practice in South Asia series.


Jaswinder Singh @ Meadows Club, Rolling Meadows
Friday, March 9 @ 8:30pm

Ghazal maestro Singh pays tribute to Jagjit Singh at this suburban banquet hall.

Jaswinder Singh


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Desispotting: February 2012

2012 February 5
by Ramona


Last updated Feb. 21

Desispotting February 2012Lots to see and do this month, so let’s get to it!

As always, I’ll continue to update this post throughout the month. Send your events to or leave a comment here.





Matthew Hull @ University of Chicago
Thursday, February 2 @ 4:30pm

Hull, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan, discusses “Paper, Databases, and the Ontology of Land Holdings in South Asia” for U of C’s South Asia Seminar series.


Sharmili Majmudar @ Goodman Theatre
Monday, February 6 @ 7:00pm

Majmudar, executive director of Rape Victim Advocates, joins other activists and scholars for a conversation exploring sexual violence and its relation to race, gender, sexuality, poverty, immigration, and community. The special event is part of the theater’s Context series and serves as a companion to its current production of David Mamet’s Race.

Sharmili Majmudar


SAADA Community Forum @ Roosevelt University
Tuesday, February 7 @ 5:30pm

The South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA) hosts a community forum to discuss how to document, preserve, and provide access to South Asian American history. MasterChef Suzy Singh will also be on hand serving samosas.

SAADA community forum


Matteo Pistono @ Loyola University Museum of Art
Tuesday, February 7 @ 6:00pm

Author and photographer Pistono presents “Tibetan Pilgrimage: In the Shadow of the Buddha,” an illustrated journey across Tibet.

Matteo Pistono book


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Desispotting: January 2012

2012 January 1
by Ramona


Last updated January 20.

Desispotting January 2012Happy New Year, friends! All of us at SAPAC wish you the very best for 2012. Let’s kick the year off with some desi events around town!

As always, I’ll continue to update this post throughout the month. Send your events to or leave a comment here.


Pakistan: A Rare View @ Noyes Cultural Art Center ADDED 1/4
Tuesday, January 3 – Sunday, January 15

The art center presents “An Introduction to Pakistani Art” featuring work by resident artist Zafar Malik. Free events associated with the exhibit, including poetry reading, music videos, a children’s painting project and gallery talks, will take place Jan. 14 and 15.


Rajorshi Ghosh @ Arc Gallery ADDED 1/17
Sunday, January 4 – Saturday, January 28

The River North gallery presents an exhibition of photography and video by Ghosh and Ray Klimek. “The works in the show explore the historical and imaginative elements of residual landscapes. The images observe ‘landscapes’ focusing on the complex historical traditions and cultural assumptions that shape their perception. While Klimek’s photographs examine former mining sites of N.E. Pennsylvania, Ghosh’s videos and installations reconsider familiar landscapes as sites that blur the complex history of a ‘place’ with its multi-layered present.”


Velcheru Narayana Rao @ University of Chicago
Thursday, January 5 @ 4:30pm

The Emory University professor of South Asian Studies is the first speaker of the year for U of C’s South Asia Seminar Series. He taught Telugu and Indian literature for 38 years at University of Wisconsin-Madison and has written more than 15 books on these topics.

V. Narayana Rao


Monica Ringer @ University of Chicago ADDED 1/4
Friday, January 6 @ 4:30pm

The university’s Middle East History and Theory Workshop presents Monica Ringer, Associate Professor of History and Asian Languages and Civilizations at Amherst College, for a talk called “Pious Citizens: theological origins of modernity in India and Iran.”


Chandrika Marla @ Mars Gallery ADDED 1/4
Friday, January 6 – Wednesday, February 1

The West Loop gallery hosts an opening reception the evening of Jan. 6 for Marla’s new show “Social Skin.” From the artist: “My paintings discuss relationships, where fabric bodices represent people. The human form is redundant, and the collaged fabrics can talk and think. Through these forms I portray our outer personas leading their superficial lives. I grew up in New Delhi, surrounded by old buildings and monuments from centuries ago. You see them here in the backgrounds I create, the scribbled-upon walls of my ancient playgrounds.”

Chandrika Marla - Social Skin

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SAADA Creates Digital Archive of South Asian American History

2011 December 15
by Samip


Princess Sophia Newspaper Article

In 1901, Princess Sophia Bamba Dhuleep Singh, daughter of the late Maharajah Dhuleep Singh of India, entered the Woman’s Medical College of Northwestern University in Chicago to pursue her long cherished dream of becoming a physician.  An article in the Chicago Daily Tribune of the time featured the Princess and her quaint habits and dress:

“In her own apartments the Princess wears rich and beautiful gowns and little jewelry.  She will not burn the gas, but has provided herself with a number of kerosene lamps, and last evening, as she sat down with a big medical book to study her first lessons at the college, the gown she wore was of the thinnest muslin made in her own India.”

Stories like that of Princess Bamba stretch and challenge our understanding of the history of South Asians in the United States. And it is to document relatively unknown stories just like these that led us to establish the South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA) in 2008.

Princess Sophia Bamba and her sisters

Princess Sophia (right) and her sisters

We started SAADA because we realized that the history of the South Asian American community had been overlooked by traditional archives and felt that unless an intervention was made to preserve our community’s history, it was in danger of being lost.  SAADA’s mission is to document, preserve, and provide access to the history of the South Asian American community through a digital archive. Our organization’s innovative digital-only approach to archives presents a major reconceptualization of traditional archival functions, wherein original archival documents remain with the communities, institutions, or individuals from which they originate, while digital access copies are available for use online.

The digital archive now includes over 250 unique items related to both the early and more recent history of the South Asian American community, ranging from our earliest item from 1892 to materials created just this year.  Each of these archival items, we believe, contributes toward telling the diverse story of what it has meant to be South Asian in the United States.

As someone born and raised in Michigan, I’ve been particularly excited by the materials we’ve documented uncovering the early history of South Asians in the Midwest.  The story of Princess Bamba Sophia is one such story, but there are many others. Our hope is that you will explore the archive online and find a new story that you may not have known before.  Let us know what you find! We welcome all comments and questions at


The South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA) is a volunteer-run not-for-profit organization based in Chicago.  SAADA’s mission is to document, preserve, and provide access to the history of the South Asian American community through a digital archive, available online at For SAADA news and updates, “like” them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.


Indo-American Center – Holiday Toy Drive

2011 December 5

The mission of the IAC is to mission is to promote the well-being of South Asian immigrants through services that facilitate their adjustment, integration, and friendship with the wider society, nurture their sense of community, and foster appreciation for their culture and heritage

As you go about your holiday merriment and cheer and your gift shopping, please consider supporting the Indo-American Center (IAC), one of SAPAC’s partners, as it conduct its annual holiday toy drive.

Every year, the IAC staff host a holiday party for the approximately 120 youth served by the Center’s youth programs. Each young person receives a toy and their family is served a delicious meal.

Many of the families served by the IAC are recent immigrants and just getting adjusted to life in a new country. This holiday party is a time to come together as a community and celebrate the families’ achievements.  In the past, the IAC was able to access funding to help buy gifts for the toy drive. This year, like many other organizations, the IAC is calling upon us, its community, to help make this another memorable holiday party for their families.

The IAC is trying to raise $1,200 and will accept monetary donations or unused toy donations (unwrapped) until Monday, December 12.

IAC youth participate in a puppet making workshop

Please contact Rachael Bruketta, Development Associate, at, or Jay Luthra, Executive Director, at for more information.

Unwrapped new toys can be dropped off at

Indo-American Center
6328 N. California Avenue
Chicago, IL 60659
(773) 973-4444






SAPAC Meeting Tonight!

2011 December 5

Please join us for our next SAPAC General Meeting:

Monday, December 5, 2011
Barnes & Noble at DePaul Center
1 E. Jackson, 1st floor (corner of State and Jackson in the Loop)

We will be debriefing on our recent Voices of Resistance show at Marwen and discussing our plans for the winter and spring. All are welcome!

Questions? Contact us at