South Asians for Black Lives Matter Panel-New England YP Chapter

On Thursday October 15th, 2020, the New England Young Professional Chapter hosted a live panel and discussion regarding South Asians for Black Lives Matter. South Asians for Black Lives Matter refers to recognizing the systematic failures within society against Black communities and how we as South Asians must work within our communities to stand with Black Lives Matter. The Black Lives Matter movement originally formed in 2013 and has since grown due to the increasing injustices against Black communities. We held this panel to discuss how we as part of the South Asian community can be better allies to the Black Community. We discussed how to help support the Black Lives Matter movement and what active roles we can take to help make a difference. 

Flyer for the South Asians for Black Lives Matter event.

This panel featured three distinguished individuals in the media industry; Behzad Dabu, Melanie Chandra, and Rajiv Satyal. Behzad Dabu is an actor, writer, and producer as well as an avid advocate of the Black Lives Matter movement. He has played an integral part with the Black Lives Matter organization and has attended various conferences in order to bring about change. Melanie Chandra is an actor, writer, and producer and the co-founder of Hospital of Hope. Rajiv Satyal is a comedian and host speaker who has multiple podcasts and shows and is the only person to have performed across all seven continents. All three of the panelists offered insightful information regarding the Black Lives Movement and injustices they themselves have either faced or witnessed. They covered how Black Lives Matter applies to South Asians both personally and professionally, what contributes to anti-blackness in the media industry and how it affects society, as well as any mistakes they have made and what they learned from it. 

The majority of South Asians came to the United States as a choice for school, education, opportunities, etc. Whereas African Americans were forced to come to this country outside of their will, were consistently denied education and opportunities, and were constantly discriminated against. This is not to say that South Asians have not struggled but rather to show the differences in experience, treatment, and racism itself. The panelists touched on their personal experience of stereotypes and injustices within their industries and how there is still in some cases an anti-Blackness mindset. 

Black Lives Matter Zoom Panel
Panelists engaging with audience members regarding BLM and audience questions.

Behzad brought up his work with African-American actress Viola Davis in the televised series How to Get Away With Murder. He explained how hiring an African American lead led to the trickle-down effect where they hired Black co-leads, extras, makeup artists, hair stylists, etc. This served as an example of a breakthrough against anti-Black mindsets. Melanie discussed an up-and-coming show she has partnered on alongside her African American co-lead. She talked about how they as individuals have stressed the importance of uplifting both the African American and South Asian communities. She compared how the South Asian communities have been victims of inequalities to the African American community where her co-lead has seen these same injustices tenfold. Rajiv talked about how South Asians fall into the ‘splash zone’ regarding racism and the difference between prejudice, a mindset, and discrimination, an action. He explained the importance of recognizing the differences between how South Asians face both prejudice and discrimination compared to African Americans facing slavery, Jim Crow, and redlining. Rajiv emphasized that we are all ambassadors of the United States of America and it is critical it is to be allies to the African American community and to support them in their fight for justice and equality. 

One of the most important questions the panelists covered was ‘what can we do to help the Black Lives Matter movement?’ Rajiv suggested talking directly to Black communities, with their permission, on what you can do or how you can help. Behzad recommended joining the Black Lives Matter chapter in your respective community and attending the weekly meetings they hold in order to further discussion. Melanie stressed how using your voice as a source of power is vital in creating change and supporting the Black Lives Matter Movement. 

Overall, the panel provided great insight into these pressing issues and offered advice on how to get involved and help support the Black community as allies. Attendees interacted with the panelists and asked great questions which helped to educate the audience further on this subject.  

The New England Young Professional Chapter is planning more informational events on a wide range of topics coming soon!

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