Name: Meera Jayaraman
Class Year: 2017
Internship Placement: I will be interning at the South Asian American Digital Archive this summer! As an intern, I will be working on a project called Our Stories, a guidebook for South Asian American parents and teens. The first half of my internship will be fundraising for the guidebook, and the second will be collaborating with academics to make the guidebook accessible to the general public.
What’s going on? We’d love to hear how your internship is going!
I am currently working with the South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA), which is a nonprofit based in Philly. The main thing that SAADA does is document and share immigrant stories, which are often a forgotten part of American history. If you peruse the website (www.saada.org), you will find that SAADA contains collections of primary source information on South Asian American history, and then publishes some of that information in a literary magazine, Tides. The first part of my internship was mostly spent fundraising for a project that just launched, called Our Stories. This will be a full-length book detailing the history of South Asian America, placing an emphasis on erased immigrant stories. If all goes well, Our Stories will be available in libraries and homes at this time next year. I spent a lot of time doing outreach to other nonprofit organizations, writing press releases, and writing grant applications for this project. Aside from this project, I’ve been doing a lot of day-to-day work running SAADA, a big part of it being working with primary sources. I have combed through the archives and written abstracts for several primary sources, which is one of my favorite things to do. Finally, we’ve also begun to launch another project, called Desi in Philly, which aims to amplify South Asian American voices through photography. Basically, we have received funding to pass out disposable cameras to a community of Bhutanese and Bangladeshi immigrants who live in Philly. They will take photographs for three weeks, and then submit the photos to us. We’ll then put on an event where the photos will be displayed and people will have the chance to talk about their experiences as immigrants. If all of that goes well, the project, which starts next week, should be wrapped by late August.
Why I applied for my internship:
Though it corresponds to my research on immigrant life in America, a lot of my bigger reasons for wanting to work here are personal. As a South Asian American woman, I’ve always been searching for my own history. While working at SAADA, I’ve managed to lay my hands on lots of fascinating primary sources and written about them. For example, I discovered some cool evidence of organizing by South Asians in Berkeley in the 60’s. During that time, when Berkeley was a hotbed for community activism, Indian Americans were organizing around protesting the Emergency in India, which was a major sociopolitical issue of the time. They held rallies and organized with zeal, and the evidence of it all is seen in old flyers, statements, and pamphlets that I’ve been able to work with. It has made me incredibly proud to be South Asian American.
Here are a couple of fascinating images that I’ve found that detail organizing that South Asian Americans have done.