- Previously known as South Asians for Biden, it is a national, grassroots organization dedicated to the education, advocacy, and mobilization of the South Asian community at the local, state, and federal levels, by increasing civic engagement, and political participation.
South Asian American elected officials, prominent members of the community and celebrity guests came together to launch ‘South Asians for America’ earlier this month. Previously known as South Asians for Biden, it is a national, grassroots organization dedicated to the education, advocacy, and mobilization of the South Asian community at the local, state, and federal levels, by increasing civic engagement, and political participation. Those involved in South Asians for American are optimistic of the community’s political involvement since the 2020 election cycle where South Asian Americans demonstrated their electoral might.
Talking about forming the organization, Neha Dewan, National Director of South Asians for America said it aims “to continue to create a better future for our country and for our children.” She added: “The work of building the South Asian community’s political power is a year-round effort, and not just something to think about once every four years during a presidential election.”
The May 6 event was hosted by Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri. Keynote speakers included lawyer and policy expert Maya Harris, venerated lawyer Neal Katyal, gold star parent Khizr Khan, White House Asian American and Pacific Islander Senior Liaison Erika Moritsugu, and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Chair Representative Judy Chu. Each keynote speaker stressed the importance of the South Asian community’s involvement in voting.
“You all stepped up, made thousands of phone calls, sent postcards, and shared why this election was so important to you, and so critical for our country,” said Maya Harris. “A victory in November was the beginning, not the end… Now is the time to build on the momentum of the last election to ensure the South Asian community stays engaged, and ensure people participate in all elections. It is critical to ensure the representation we deserve.” Adding that “South Asian political engagement and advocacy is critical to securing the representation that we deserve and the policy changes that we need,” she said that “working together, the South Asian community can continue to be a powerful force in helping strengthen our democracy.”
The ‘SAB to SAFA’ event included panel discussions centering on the work of SAFA’s committees. Panelists included veteran strategist Rohini Kosoglu, policy expert Sameera Fazili, Virginia State Senator Ghazala Hashmi, Vermont State Senator Kesha Ram, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), Reshma Saujani, Sri Kulkarni, Nina Ahmad, Elk Grove, California Mayor Bobbie Singh Allen, AAPI Victory Fund cofounder Bel Leong Hong, AAPI Victory Fund cofounder Shekar Narasimhan, IMPACT executive director Neil Makhija, SAAVETX South Asian American Voter Empowerment founder Chanda Parbhoo, and Somnath Ghimire.
Saujani, the first South Asian woman to run for Congress, noted the importance of representation in our government and politics. “You cannot be what you cannot see. With Kamala Devi Harris, our community finally felt seen,” she said. With SAFA, we are stepping into our power and I think the Vice President helped us get there.”
Kosoglu added: “Across the number of issues that are important to American families, we can relate to each other despite our diversity.”
“The spirit of public service is within us. Our ancestors’ wildest dreams would be for us to peacefully engage in democracy. It takes risking something,” said Sen. Ram.
“Our diversity really is our strength,” said Sri Kulkarni. “Beyond that, we know each other. We found people who know each other. We used methods of relational organizing and took them to Georgia and found over 200,000 people who knew someone personally. Our diversity, our strength, helped change the course of the entire country.”
Celebrities, television personalities and artists joined the launch event as well. Fawzia Mirza, Faran Tahir and Parvesh Cheena addressed the audience. The evening also included a performance by the South Asian Acapella Group SETU and Arianna Afsar, who gave a moving performance of her song “We Won’t Sleep.”
SAFA’s mission is to educate, advocate, engage, and mobilize the South Asian Democratic community in the United States at the local, state, and federal levels. The organization aims to increase the civic engagement, political participation, and network of South Asians. SAFA is the first of its kind organization that is focused on this unique and diverse voting bloc, with diaspora communities drawing their heritage from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and the Maldives, with diverse faith traditions, languages, and paths to immigration to the United States.