The premier social justice event across the University of Michigan campus.
The South Asian Awareness Network presents our 2019 conference: Shifting Sands
This year's annual SAAN conference, Shifting Sands, encourages attendees to strive to look inwards as a group by acknowledging the privileges they may hold, challenging their own biases, learning from the experiences of others, and exploring the contexts that have brought them to where they are. From this effort, we hope to collaborate with those who are engaging in similar work on this campus to build lasting community. We aim to maintain spaces that challenge the dominant narrative and support those who are not given the opportunity to tell their stories.
Past 2018 Conference Speakers
Pavana Reddy is a rapidly growing LA based writer and poet. Her first book, Rangoli, features a collection of poetry which travels through the dynamics of diaspora and colorism across both borderlines and cultures. Her work has been featured by noteworthy luminaries such as Anoushka Shankar, who invited Pavana to write a song for her Grammy nominated album, Land of Gold. The track, "Remain the Sea", consists of a beautiful poem by Reddy read by the critically acclaimed actress, Vanessa Redgrave. Check out her work at pavanareddy.com.
Dr. Bishnu Pariyar
Dr. Bishnu Maya Pariyar, founding President of ADWAN.ORG (Association of Dalit Women Advancement of Nepal), is a prolific social entrepreneur, award winning scholar and one of the most admired personalities in Nepali community abroad. Dr. Pariyar was born in 1973 to a Dalit family of ten children in a remote village in Gorkha District in Western Nepal.
Having realized that low caste women have no advocates and are not served well by established aid organizations, Dr. Pariyar co-founded ADWAN.ORG in Nepal with an exclusive objective of serving Dalit women and children of Nepal. She was only 20 at the time she founded ADWAN, which today has made significant impact in the fields of women’s rights and Dalit’s human rights. She is also co-founder of NRN Women Fund, a collective investment company of Non-Resident Nepali women from around the world.
She has been invited as a panelist and speaker at national and international conferences including at UNIFEM, AMNESTY International, The World Bank Family Network Forum, Korea Women’s Development Institute (KWDI), Karuna Trust UK. Dr. Pariyar now works in the United States as a counselor on domestic violence, while dedicating the rest of her time to uplifting Nepal’s marginalized people.
Sumukh Torgalkar is a stand-up comedian and writer originally from Cleveland, Ohio. He now resides in Los Angeles. As a comedian, he has toured the country performing everywhere from comedy clubs to colleges to corporate events to independent shows to small towns and opened for such notable comedians as Russell Peters and Reggie Watts. His album, The Mispronunciation of Sumukh Torgalkar, appeared in the top 10 of the iTunes comedy charts and can be heard on SiriusXM Radio. As a writer, Torgalkar has contributed to MAD Magazine and his essays on comedy, depression, and social issues related to the South Asian community have appeared on his website and shared by many on social media.
He says: “My South Asian identity has been important to me since I was a child growing up in a largely white suburban population in Cleveland and then in college at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. I felt I needed to have a role as an educator and representative of the South Asian community. As an adult and as a comedian, I continue to try to best represent the South Asian community and share my personal experiences via my humor when dealing with all people and certainly in connection with a new generation of South Asians growing up in America to make their experience better and more productive for our future in this country."
Hoda Katebi is a Chicago-based Muslim-Iranian abolitionist, photographer, author, community organizer, and radical fashion blogger. She graduated from the University of Chicago where her research focused on the politics of the underground fashion movement in Iran and the intersections of feminism, resistance, fashion, and nation-hood. In 2013 she started JooJoo Azad, a radical, anti-capitalist fashion blog that has been hailed from the Malala Foundation Blog to Teen Vogue. In 2016 Hoda published the book Tehran Streetstyle, the first-ever in-print collection of streetstyle photography from Iran aimed to challenge both Western Orientalism and domestic Iranian mandatory dress codes. She is a member of the For the People Artist Collective and core organizer with Muslims Organize. Hoda frequently speaks at universities and establishments nationally and her work has been featured in books, journals, and media outlets internationally.
Adithya is an alumni of the School for Environment & Sustainability and the Gerald R Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. He passionately applies himself to drive global action on climate change and economic development. Since 2009, Adithya led numerous projects across the globe to inform research, policy, and business decision-making on sustainability across energy, infrastructure, transportation, water, and agricultural issues.
Most interestingly, while at U-M, Adithya led a team of interdisciplinary graduate students from eight schools at the University of Michigan to identify carbon benefits of the Mission Kakatiya program, a flagship initiative of Telangana state government to revive irrigation infrastructure in more than 45,000 villages across the state. His team’s work supported the Telangana state government to obtain $300 Million in finance and grants from the Green Climate Fund. Currently, he is a Program Manager for Energy & Sustainability Strategy at Port Houston. He also actively mentors the team at Cheruvu, a sustainable, data-driven enterprise co-founded by his fellow researchers at U-M improve profitability and reduce risks for farmers in developing countries.
Ahmed Ali Akbar
Ahmed Ali Akbar (@radbrowndads) is a writer and host of the critically-acclaimed BuzzFeed News podcast See Something Say Something, a show about the many ways to be an American Muslim. He writes about American Muslim culture, nostalgia, the immigrant experience, video games and more. In prior lives, he was a graduate student at Harvard Divinity School, a teacher, and creator of the Rad Brown Dads tumblr.
Mallika is a leading innovator in storytelling and culture change and has produced multimedia experiences that have reached millions of people to shift hearts and minds. She brings together the power of ancient wisdom and spiritual practices with contemporary technologies and tools for creative connection and transformation. She combines her creative advocacy for a thriving world with a coaching, speaking and strategy practice that connects planet, people, and purpose.
She is the founder of global human rights organization, Breakthrough, and led the group as its President & CEO for 17 years. She has served as Program Officer for Human Rights and Social Justice at the Ford Foundation’s New Delhi Office. She was Associate Director of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University, an institution that was at the forefront of the global movement demanding recognition for women’s rights as human rights. She has served as the Director of the Norman Foundation, and is also a co-founder of Sakhi for South Asian Women.
Mallika draws from the richness of multiple spiritual traditions and has trained as an energy medicine health coach with The Four Winds. She has a certificate in yoga from the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center and studies Zen Buddhism with Ryushin Konrad Marchaj. She currently co-teaches an annual Institute on Women’s Leadership at the Omega Institute. Her approach focuses on shifting the old “command and control” leadership model towards “connect and collaborate,” supporting people who are playing a central role in this important evolution.
Mallika has served on several boards and committees and is a member of New York City’s Commission on Gender Equity. She has been the recipient of several awards and received the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship in 2016.
Mallika began her career as an associate at Debevoise & Plimpton. A graduate of NYU Law School, and Columbia University’s School of International Affairs, she is also the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate from her undergraduate college, Mount Holyoke.