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Camp Aims to Connect Youth with Radical South Asian History

Organizers say they created the camp to inform and empower the next generation of South Asian activists and community leaders.
South Asian Radical History Timeline created by students at BASS 2014
South Asian Radical History Timeline created by students at BASS 2014Courtesy BASS 2014

“We’re creating the camp we wish we had had when we were their age,” said California-based organizer and writer Tanzila Ahmed, “with access to all the South Asian American history we wish we had known.”

Bay Area Solidarity Summer (BASS) in Berkeley, California, East Coast Solidarity Summer in New York City (ECSS, formerly DCDS), and Chicago Desi Youth Rising (CDYR) are training the next generation of radical Desi or South Asian American youth activists. The camps aim to connect Desi (or South Asian) youth with lesser-known stories about social justice activism, community organizing, South Asian history, leadership skills development, and the arts.

Inspired by Youth Solidarity Summer (YSS), a South Asian summer camp for college students in the late 1990’s to early 2000’s in New York City, these camps are independently run, linked by a common hashtag, #DesiAction.

At BASS, for example, youth create an interactive timeline of 100 years of South Asian radical history in America—noting people and events like the 1907 Bellingham raid, Katar Singh Sarabha and the Gadhar party, the Punjabi-Mexican American community, and post-9/11 activism.

Camp attendees also take the Berkeley South Asian Radical History Walking Tour to see and stand in the spaces in which these historic events took place, which Ahmed says helps them to, “connect to local legacies.”