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The Bosslist: 6 incredible South Asian activists you must know

They organise, they speak, they conquer


South Asian Today proudly presents its brand new series, The Bosslist.

Through non-exhaustive lists, we aim to acknowledge the work of various South Asian women and non-binary peoples across the world.

In the very first part of the series, we bring to you The Bosslist: Activists. We have chosen six South Asians who are pushing the conversation around matters of race, gender, caste, colourism, body and religion.

Let's begin.

Thenmozhi Soundararajan

Thenmozhi Soundararajan is a Dalit American transmedia artist and activist. She is a storyteller, songwriter as well as the Executive Director of Equality Labs, an Ambedkarite South Asian power-building organization that uses community research and digital security to end the oppression of caste apartheid, Islamophobia, White supremacy, and religious intolerance.

She has also been involved in the curation and creation of Dalit History Month, a radical history project with a goal to share Dalit historians' research.

We deeply admire her work and voice that continuously works towards dismantling oppression and systemic power structures.

You can find her on Twitter at @dalitdiva or visit www.dalitnation.com

Sangeetha Thanapal

Tamil writer activist Sangeetha Thanapal is known for coining the term “Chinese Privilege” and analysing institutional racism in Singapore.

Her work on how ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ is not a radical win on representation given it completely looked over the Brown community of Singapore in its portrayal has been widely read and shared. She has written extensively on the topic of Asian identity being dominated by East Asians alone and is currently working on a PhD on Chinese Privilege and racism in the Global South.

Sangeetha writes and engages deeply with the issues of gender, the body, colourism and colonialism.

We are smitten by her voice against the system, her words that quite literally spill the tea and most importantly – her constant writing that works towards dismantling racism, Chinese privilege and body shaming.

We highly recommend following her and supporting her journey: www.kaliandkalki.com

Rana Ayyub

Rana Ayyub is an Indian-Muslim journalist best known for investigative book on 2002 Gujarat riots, Gujarat Files:Anatomy of a Cover Up, that proved instrumental in sending Minister of Home Affairs and Narendra Modi's close associate, Amit Shah, to several months in jail in 2010.

Her work is critical of the Indian government and the rampant rise of Islamophobia in the country. At a time when media channels in India are busy pushing a propaganda, we are thankful to Rana for her journalism that sticks to facts and is in all its power - fearless.

Follow Rana Ayyub on Instagram @ranaayyub for a daily dose of bitter truth. 

Seema Hari

One of the leading South Asian activists against colourism, Seema Hari is also a software engineer. Her work towards representing dark skinned Indians in the modelling world aims at breaking the stigma around dark skin and reclaiming the idea of being beautiful.

Not just through modelling, Seema raises her voice against colourism by also rightfully calling out ‘brownface’ in Bollywood films, skin lightening products like Fair & Lovely and the deep-rooted Anti-Blackness in our communities.

We consider ourselves privileged to have known about Seema’s work and her tireless fight against decolonising the light skin privilege.

You can follow Seema Hari on Instagram @seemahari for everyday excellence.

Kavitha Emmanuel

Kavitha Emmanuel is the founder of India’s first ever campaign against colourism - Dark is Beautiful. She was challenged by the lack of voice for those traumatized by skin colour discrimination and recognised the need for a platform for people to connect, express and challenge this toxic belief that was stripping people of their true sense of worth.

Kavitha has been a crucial voice in India’s, and by extent South Asia’s, fight against skin colour discrimination. The initiative, launched in 2009, has run several petitions, signature campaigns and workshops to celebrate the idea of darker skin and get skin lightening products off the shelves – for once and for all.

We heartily acknowledge Kavith’s efforts in making South Asia a better place for dark skinned people.

Follow her on Twitter @KavithaEmmanuel or visit www.darkisbeautiful.in for more on the campaign

Alok Vaid-Menon

Alok is a gender non-conforming world-renowned writer, performance artist and LGBTQIA+ rights advocate. They use poetry, prose, comedy, performance, fashion design, and portraiture to explore themes of gender, race, trauma, belonging, and the human condition.

Alok is the author of Femme in Public (2017) and Beyond the Gender Binary (2020). In 2019 they were honoured as one of NBC’s Pride 50 and Out Magazine’s OUT 100.

We are proud of Alok’s work and vision that calls for freedom from gender constraining norms.

Follow them on their Instagram @alokvmenon or visit www.alokvmenon.com for more.

We are inspired by each and every activist on this list and wish them all the strength to continue their journeys.

Stay tuned for more such #Bosslists and send us your suggestions on contact@southasiantoday.com.au

About the author

The above is a production of our editorial team.

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