Career

Lessons from Katrina: Support Local Community Groups for Hurricane Harvey Relief and Recovery

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Hurricane Katrina exposed extreme failures in disaster prevention, and endemic mismanagement and corruption. Moreover the negligent response sent a chilling national reminder that there is little value placed on the lives of people who are poor and black in the United States. My work around Hurricane Katrina was as a human rights advocate and co-founder […]

India

Can You Share Your Story Without Feeling Exposed?

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It’s been a little more than two weeks since I got back from India, and I’ve found it difficult to answer the “How was India?” question. The trip was amazing and probably life changing (although maybe too soon to say). It was as emotionally taxing as it was revelatory. I attempted to tackle my personal […]

India

Powerful Ancestors

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  A few months ago, I had the incredible good fortune to visit the Smithsonian Museum of African American History in Washington, DC. The place is an awe-inspiring testament to the deep wounds, trauma, resilience, power, culture, magic and beauty of the Black American experience.  I walked through the exhibits feeling like I was floating […]

India

A Question of Faith

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I have a memory from when I must have been around seven or eight years old. My mother and I lived in South Jamaica, Queens in an apartment that we rented upstairs from a very large family on the ground floor. I think we were sitting in the kitchen. I remember that it looked out […]

India

Wishing My Tongue Matched My Face

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 There are no hard and fast rules for what I look like to people in terms of ethnicity. Often it seems to depend on context and who I am with. Although Indians in the US frequently recognize me, I remember an Indian-American girl I met once years ago who expressed shock to find out that […]

India

Say My Name, Say My Name

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  Whenever I pick up the phone and the person asks for Sharada Chandrasekaran with flawless accuracy, I immediately know that this has got to be from an Indian call center making me some sort of offer. It gives me particular amusement when they follow up the perfect pronunciation with carefully practiced American English. I’m […]

India

How About Your President?

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It’s been a week since I’ve been in the presence of any other Americans. Inevitably, the people I encounter are tempted to ask me about Trump. So far, I haven’t come across any vocal fans. Some of the Indians are carefully diplomatic in their response to my clear disgust and horror. Others have been quick […]

India

Accidental Tourist

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This may be a contradiction but I love to travel and I hate being a tourist. My best travel memories are sleeping in the living room of someone’s (if not my own) extended family or sitting cross-legged on a mat around a cooking-fire. I prefer to be somewhere as an invited guest or for a […]

India

Malayalam Girl Power

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My mother has never offered me a whole lot of information about her relationship with my father. He was an international graduate student in chemistry at Michigan State University. She was an undergraduate student in urban planning.  It was the 70s. He had striking features, long black hair and dark skin. She said she’d never […]