Though I was born and raised in the suburbs of L.A., this Southern Californian ended up in the Midwest, with a pit stop in Philadelphia.I grew up as a 2nd-generation queer Sri Lankan, surrounded by the often unnamed identity politics and crises of diaspora.
I chose to leave the west coast after high school and wandered to Philadelphia for college. After graduation, I stayed in the city to work with the University Community Collaborative’s POWER Internship, training college students to work with local high school students at Temple University, and developing curriculum geared towards youth media engagement. I currently work as the Social Justice Education Specialist at UW-Madison’s Multicultural Student Center. I develop and facilitate workshops through our Institute for Justice Education and Transformation (IJET) and build community with college students of color.
I have been developing curriculum and facilitating workshops since 2007. Growing up as a South Asian woman, the first issue that politicized me was gender. I became a passionate advocate for gender equality at a young age, facilitating my first workshops as a high school student. However, my introduction to radical politics was through queer people of color spaces in college. There, I learned to question everything. From the whiteness of the gay marriage fight to my own gender identity, QPOC spaces were where community was built and broken. That was where I found home.
Since then, I have become more involved in (queer) Asian American and South Asian organizing. While I continue to believe and remain involved in in the radical potential of QPOC and POC space, I also believe that part of our job is to organize our own people. I am currently involved in organizations and collectives such as DeQH, the Desi lgbtQ Helpline, the only helpline run by and for queer South Asians in the U.S.; East Coast Solidarity Summer, a political education weekend for South Asian youth in NYC; and the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, a national federation of LGBTQ API organizations. You can read more about my organizing here.
I am grateful for the communities I’ve built, the friends I’ve learned from, and the families I’ve found home in. I am excited to continue doing this work. On a less serious note, I am also an avid reader of young adult fiction (preferably in the apocalyptic genre), a wannabe runner, any dog’s best friend, and an aspiring food connoisseur.
Why “To Speak A Song”?
As a student, I studied abroad in Sri Lanka to learn my parents’ language: Sinhala. My favorite phrase in Sinhala is the verb “sindhu kiyanawa.” The verb is understood as “singing,” but the literal translation is “speaking songs.” I find that phrase both beautiful and indicative of this work.
Let me wax metaphorical for a moment. In my understanding of this work, organizing is all about “speaking songs,” using our words and stories to create a song so powerful that others are compelled to join in. Similarly, training is “speaking a song,” taking complicated concepts and melding them into a song grounded enough for all to join in.
This name grounds me in my history, my privilege, my family, and my belief that we can enact change.