Black Lives Matter Sacramento Protest

Chants of “Black Lives Matter” and “George Floyd” rang out across Sacramento yesterday as hundreds of people peacefully protested in solidarity with the protesters in Minneapolis. Our Photography Editor, Maayez Imam, captured these photos showing how the protest unfolded.

If you want to help out, consider donating to the National Bail Out Fund, the Minnesota Freedom Fund, and Black Lives Matter.

You can also text “FLOYD” to 55156 or text “JUSTICE” to 668366

Photography by Maayez Imam

Cowtown or Browntown

By Sona Bhargava

Without all my brown friends at college, one might mistake me for a human hermit. Almost every organization or club I’ve joined, and almost every friend I’ve made shares my cultural ties (cough, cough Other Collective). This is interesting, considering my culture did not influence my upbringing in the same manner that it is affecting my college life.

 

Growing up, my parents implemented cultural values and rituals into my everyday life. Every morning my brother and I would sit in the corner of my parents’ bedroom, and pray to a shrine to both thank God for our blessings, and pray for safety and good health among other things. But my “brown identity” was not an essential part of my life. Living in a predominantly white suburb of Los Angeles, I did have brown friends, but the majority of my friends were of other ethnicities. Growing up, I had a friend group of five girls; Filipino, Irish, Mexican, Argentinian, and me, Indian. Due to our diverse backgrounds, the activities we participated in were not culturally connected. We watched movies, ate food, and got  together to indulge in pastimes that did not associate with culture. We simply partook in these cultural undertakings on our own times with our families.

 

Upon entering college,, I adopted the typical college student mindset: I wanted to make new friends, and join a few clubs. When Other Collective came to my Indian Civilization class, looking for staff writers, my interest piqued. I was a journalist in high school and adored writing, so the chance to continue expressing myself through words was exciting. I joined Other Collective mostly because of the writing aspect, although the cultural ties were intriguing to me as well.

 

I later joined UC Davis’ Raas-Garba team, UCD Raasleela, on a whim. I went to their dance workshop and auditioned for fun, thinking I would never make the team. I danced as a child, and was heavily interested in dancing in college. But the traditional folk-style of dance that Raasleela is was very out of my comfort zone. However, I soon became accustomed to the style of dance and hence, the plethora of new brown relationships.

 

I became part of a brown girl friend group within the first few weeks. The idea of making all brown friends from the get-go was unintentional, but I loved the company of these girls so much so that it did not matter. I had no clear vision of where I saw myself on campus, but I was open to joining just about anything to get involved from the beginning. After reflection, I realized  connecting to my culture in college occurred because it has helped me feel a sense of family. I never needed to look elsewhere than my family for my culture because they were always right there. Now, being over 400 miles from home, turning to my friends here in the same way I used to turn to my family makes me fulfilled. I feel content in cultural spaces on campus and a strong sense of community.

 

The connections in brown society between colleges across the nation have yet failed to amaze me. Last week, I discovered that one of my best friend’s friends from home is friends with one of my close friends here at Davis. I quickly uncovered that the reason there are so many connections between my friends at Davis and my friends from home is due to a shared culture. Originally, I was thinking it might just be a weird Bay Area cult-type thing, but lately I’ve been hearing about people from all over the nation who are friends of my friends at Davis, but also of my friends at home. Weird, right?

 

I hope my college experience continues the way it has so far. I have been blessed with an easy adjustment period because of the new relationships I have made. These friends I have made at Davis have quickly turned into family, and I believe a strong part of that is the culture we all share. I feel a sense of positivity with my friends that excites me for the next four years.

No War With Iran Protest & Vigil: A Photo Essay

Members of the Davis community gather to peacefully protest the possibility of entering a war with Iran on January 9th, 2020. This protest was organized in light of heightened tensions following the U.S. airstrike on Iran and assassination of Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani, as well as the attack on U.S. military bases in Iraq. With the Trump Administration imposing more economic sanctions, detaining Iranian-American citizens at the border, and threatening to destroy cultural heritage sites in Iran, protestors dissent further conflict with Iran. The following week, the Iranian Student Organization at UC Davis held a candlelight vigil, honoring the memory of the 176 lives tragically lost in the shooting down of Boeing 737.

Photographs by Megana Bobba

Demonstrators gathered at ‘No War With Iran’ protest in Davis, CA on Thursday, Jan 9th
Three of over 48 protesters at ‘No War With Iran’ protest in Davis, CA on Thursday, Jan 9th
Sign on sidewalk of B Street, reads “We Will Not Be Lied Into Another War”
Protester holding sign that reads “War Is Not The Answer”
Protest organizer interviewing with FOX40 news
Protest organizer holding sign “Tell Congress: #No War With Iran”
Demonstrators protesting escalating U.S. – Iran conflict on 5th and B Street, Davis, CA
UC Davis student holding a candle at Candlelight Vigil held by Sedad on Thursday, Jan 16th outside Memorial Union
Candlelights placed in shape of 176, honoring the 176 lives lost in the shooting down of Boeing flight PS752

Holi Against Fascism

Students, staff, and faculty at UC Davis come together to stand in solidarity with the protestors in India as northeast Delhi broke out into serious violence last week. With countless reports of Muslim homes burning, religious sites and common folk being brutally attacked and losing over 40+ lives, clashes between Hindus-Muslims and the police only continued through the week. With the right-wing Hindu nationalist government’s still refusing to reconsider the two new laws – Citizenship Amendment Act and National Registry of Citizens – that threaten citizenship for Muslims in India, the situation forward seems bleak. Folks came forth to fight fascism on the UC Davis campus, chanting for “Azaadi” (freedom) and the revolutionary cry “Inqalab Zinadaabad.”

Photography by Maayez Imam

99 Nights in Logar Book Review

By Kiana Borjian

“Five is a good number. Five pillars. Five prayers. Five players on a basketball team.” So says Marwand, the protagonist of Jamil Jan Kochai’s 99 Nights In Logar (4). Marwand is visiting family in Afghanistan from the United States, reconnecting with cousins who are much more interested in soccer than basketball, a strange American sport where the whole team never plays at once. Even the family dog, Budabash, can sense Marwand’s dislocation and bites off the tip of his index finger to inaugurate Marwand’s homecoming. But when the dog runs away, Marwand is eager and insistent to find and bring Budabash back. Thus begins an adventure: a band of boys in search of a dog, sweeping through the villages and mountains of Afghanistan at a time when the war is at a low frequency, a familiar background noise of daily life.

In many ways, the novel is a werewolf story. For Marwand, Budabash is more of a demon than a dog. Though his twelve year old imagination may be spurred by the bootleg DVDs like An American Werewolf in London he watches with his cousins, Budabash certainly has some supernatural tendencies. The dog disappears from photographs – classic demonic behavior. But as we learn more about the history of Marwand and Budabash’s relationship, it becomes clear that Marwand, too, has a streak of evil. At age six, Marwand tortured Budabash profusely, and “the dog just suffered it” (78). His simultaneous villainizing and villaining toward the dog is not unlike the United States’s relationship to Afghanistan. What are the mythologies and stories we create and tell ourselves when we go to war? What stories get lost or eroded in the process? 

The penultimate chapter is written in Pashto (or Farsi?). My confusion and readers’ confusion at large seems to be exactly the point, powerfully protecting a part of the story so that it is accessible only to those who know, are tied to, or have learned the language. Kochai’s novel not only explores what American imperialism looks like, but directly resists American narrative imperialism in which English and US centric narratives are the only ones disseminated and understood. Even though I have a first grade reading level in Farsi, I couldn’t muster the energy to attempt to translate, and found myself in a similar predicament to Marwand – patchworking languages to communicate with his family, discomfort with the tongue of his homeland. Maintaining and persevering language, culture, and stories is an active process in the diaspora, a truth explored in 99 Nights in Logar and embodied the experience of reading itself. 

In this reinvigoration of a coming of age story and werewolf saga, stories lost and drowned by the United States imaginary are brought back up to the surface. Readers witness Marwand learn and remember, be clueless and be curious, and create and tell his own stories. Just as Budabash’s strong and scarred body is a stunning reminder and testament to the simultaneity of beauty and trauma, Kochai’s novel resists a neat narrative, weaving humor, history, pain, and growth to invite readers to experience Logar alongside Marwand and his family.

Diaspouric Tones

By Ariana Boostani

BACKGROUND: 

The term diaspora is something many of us can connect to or so electronic producer, Diaspoura hopes, having chosen their name to reflect community experiences. Diaspoura grew up in South Carolina and first came to Davis in May 2019 to record with UC Davis radio station KDVS. I was fortunate enough to interview and connect with them, and learn about their diasporic experience as a queer artist. Diaspoura’s performance revealed the freedom independent artists have over their identity, rewarding nonconformity in oppressive systems of identity, making it a memorable performance. As an artist, being transparent about queer identities can be very difficult; it may displace them further from an already displaced community. I relate to Diaspoura’s experience of understanding discovering this liminal state of identity, and it was inspiring to hear about how music gave them the ability to express their identity truthfully and connect queer people together, which is why music is such a powerful thing. I caught up with Diaspoura after their performance in October to explore their musical career and discuss the topic of displacement. 

What inspired you in using the name Diaspoura?

“I remember reading my first ever account of a South Asian diasporic feminist. My college professor showed me a scholar named Chandra Mohanty, and in the essay, she was talking about the experience of living in America and being from India. I wasn’t born in 

India, but the word…how it bridged people…it felt like a void had filled. [I] started looking [the word Diaspora] up to find more people talking about this. I was so fascinated, this was in 2015 or so, that I literally just started publishing things under the name hoping people would see it and be like ‘cool, they’re here talking about this shit too… and the music is good’. And now I’m seeing new people and articles every day who are normalizing the word ‘diaspora’. It just shows that building community across borders and oceans – it’s needed.”

How did getting into art and music let you express your identity better? What were your hardships identifying as those and showing your art and being public about it? 

“As a revolutionary, art is a great way to plug people in and it’s shown to be a form of resistance to me – to be able to make content about the struggles that I have, and then organize around it. It’s helped me own my identities, and break out of this weird shame cycle that I was socialized with. In controlling societies, we are told to be quiet about our experiences and what we’re upset about, and when we vocalize them normally, it’s hard for people experiencing shame or guilt to receive that information, but art is a good way to communicate. People will listen, re-listen, and double-take, like ‘oh, I feel this too!’ It’s a great way to rebuild the public narrative. But I do want to add, musicians have the power to contribute to movements beyond narrative-building. In this way, I’m thinking, ‘OK, so my music is bringing people with a shared narrative together. What’s next after building community? What are we all doing when we’re all together?’ I’m on tour on the West Coast right now in part to host workshops to explore this topic! I am grateful to host them with my artist friend and organizing comrade, Joseph Quisol, and we hope to continue in 2020! Book us please.”

How does your experience of being queer displace you from an already displaced community? 

“It is really hard noticing and speaking on your own trauma. In this light, it’s hard for me to publicly delve into it for a quick and free interview, but I will say that the transparency in my public image has helped me understand who in my extended biological family is on my team. I have two cousins who reached out this year and let me know like ‘hey what you’re doing is cool, keep doing it’, and it was really, really relieving. That relief is even a trauma-informed response, one that says we’re not normally both acknowledged and validated within our extended family. I am grateful for my parents’ effort in growing acceptance and support of my wholeness each year; my mom started practicing pronouns last summer and we will hopefully move into the sex-positivity ballgame in 2020, haha.”

How was the barrier to making music inspiring? 

“Platforms create barriers for artists because they are designed and marketed as headless entities. Tech heads design them so that nobody really knows who’s developing the stuff and what their lives are like, and namely, the insane amounts of money Big Tech investors, leaders, and workers earn off the backs of independent artists, musicians, and writers. Once I had taken the first dose of platform suspicion, I started writing about the experience of being an independent, assessing my grief and fear by song-writing.”

Diaspoura uses their experience as an artist to advocate for social changes; They hold workshops about unlearning oppressive systems through their patreon website, which directly fund their art and mission. Support Diaspoura by checking out the website they created and listening to their music on Bandcamp or Spotify! 

Follow Diaspoura!

Bandcamp: https://diaspoura.bandcamp.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/diaspoura/

Website: https://diaspoura.com/

Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/diaspoura

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/diaspoura

Delhi’s Widow Colony: An Assessment of Anguish

In 2017, Dr. Sandeep Sabhlok —then a resident at the University of California, San Francisco— was conducting a psychometric evaluation to study the mental health status of his patient when she experienced a 30-second flashback, a specific symptom for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“I was taken back to the moment when I saw my husband burning on the ground,” his interviewee said.  

Sabhlok was assessing subjects for PTSD and Multiple Depression Disorder (MDD) in Tilak Vihar, West Delhi, India. Now infamously called “Widow Colony,” this settlement was built by the Indian government to compensate and relocate over 3000 widows after the loss of their family members in the 1984 Sikh genocide. Most of the women who came from Mongolpuri, Sultanpuri and Trilokpuri in Delhi readily accepted the government’s offer to provide for their children and ensure their safety. Those who rejected, returned to Punjab or emigrated out of the country.

Instigated by prominent political figures of the ruling party, the Indian National Congress (INC) — Jagdish Tytler, H.K.L. Bhagat, and Lalit Maken, the genocide was a response to the murder of the former Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, by her Sikh bodyguards — Satwant Singh and Beant Singh, on Nov. 1, 1984. 

Earlier in June, Gandhi had ordered a military attack on Sikhism’s holiest shrines, the Harmandir Sahib Gurdwara, in Amritsar, India. Innocent Sikh families were caught in the tension between the Indian government and political activists who had taken refuge inside the Gurdwara during the busy Gurpurab festivities. These activists were demanding economic progress and religious and linguistic preservation for India’s Sikh minority of 1.9% in the state of Punjab, where 57.69% of the population identifies as Sikh. 

In an array of atrocities inflicted upon Sikhs across the country, copies of the Sikh holy scripture, Guru Granth Sahibji, were burned and urinated on. Sikh temples in Delhi and other citieswhere hundreds of families were taking refuge— were hunted down and attacked. Conservative estimates record around 700 civilian deaths, but reported figures could range up to 20,000.  

To highlight the trauma and mental displacement that the widows experienced, Manmeet Singh, producer of the documentary, Widow Colony: India’s Unsettled Settlement (2009), also interviewed Sikh women in Tilak Vihar, who told stories of their family members who were dragged out of their homes and gang-raped on the streets. Their brothers, husbands, and fathers were beaten and unturbaned by angered masses.

“The word rape comes with a great amount of discomfort, [and so does being] beaten up with rebars and having cut hair,” Singh said. 

Sikhs cover their heads as part of the Bana or the military uniform outlined by their religious Gurus and as a mark of respect for their religion. To them, losing their turbans and letting their uncut hair down in public is synonymous with losing their Sikh identity. 

“For some Sikhs, they [would] accept death with no qualms, but they won’t give up their identity,” Singh said.

According to Singh, young boys’ mothers were forced to braid their hair to camouflage them as girls and protect them from the mobs. This memory lingers on in the aftermath of the massacre, instilling a fear of identifying as a Sikh.

Singh’s documentary highlights mothers and children who lament the loss of their homes. Some of them do not want to go back for fear of vivid memories. Nevertheless, each year during the anniversary of these attacks, the entire community comes together to honor the lost lives of their loved ones. 

Upholding the value of Chardikala which teaches Sikhs to be optimistic in the face of adversities, the women in the colony live through life and its everyday emotions courageously. Whether it is by working tirelessly for hours in the Nishkam community sewing center or through job opportunities provided by other businesses, the women have managed to put the pieces together. However, the widows still suffer pronounced mental distress. 

“When I was doing the evaluation, I almost felt like I was a psychiatrist holding mental health counseling sessions because no one had ever asked [the women] about their health,” Sahblok said. 

A significant setback for Sabhlok’s study was that these instruments were not designed to fit the Indian context. Of the four PTSD symptoms — intrusion, avoidance, negative alterations in cognition or mood, and alterations that allow activity– the avoidance cluster was most difficult for the women to fathom. 

In response to questions like “In this past month, how much were you bothered by avoiding memories, thoughts, or feelings related to the stressful experience (here, November 1984)?” women told Sabhlok that the killings were ingrained in their minds; they were a vital part of their lives. Low scores on the avoidance cluster caused the results to be scientifically inconclusive. 

Cultural contextuality is essential for such screening instruments given the rising worldwide risk of displacement for vulnerable populations. Women in Widow Colony have been battling the repercussions of both mental and physical displacement for over thirty five years now. Despite their different approaches to highlighting the experiences of the widows, both Singh and Sablokh concur that every individual can contribute to rebuilding the realities of the women. 

For Sahblock, being able to measure the trauma is the first step in healing. 

“With India at a risk of becoming a bed of ethno-religious violence, and with the stigma within the Indian culture of mental health issues, I think it is very important that we highlight this in our community for vulnerable people, who are often unable to get care,” Sabhlok said. 

Same Religion, Different Interpretation

By Taimoor Qureshi

My religion gives me guidance and inner peace. Islam has always been a source of wisdom and comfort to rely on regardless of how dire my situation’s circumstances are. However, I frequently find contradictions between how I practice my faith vs. how others practice. While most of my family strictly eats halal meat, I find myself to have an awful addiction to the number seven at Chick-fil-a. But what I have come to realize is that my way of practicing my faith does not make me any less Muslim than them. As a second-generation Pakistani-American, the environment I have grown in has forced me to adapt my religion around my life priorities.

My experiences are similar to those of my father’s. As a Pakistani immigrant, my father’s circumstances led him to develop a reformed practice of his faith which he continues to abide by to this day. My Baba gradually came to realize that he did not have the capacity to pray five times a day while committing to a full time job. “America was very tough for Muslims back then…mosques were so far away from the city, [Los Angeles], and there weren’t any halal stores,” Baba said. “I was working all day like a robot to support family back home— like everyone—so I guess I started to practice my religion according to my convenience.” 

My father’s story is representative of what many immigrants experience: having to leave their home country in search of an opportunity to provide for their family. Although Baba maintained his strong connection to his faith after immigrating, he had to prioritize providing for his family over his religion. He simply didn’t have either the resources or the time available to practice Islam the way he did back home. It would be difficult to pray five times a day while committing to a full time job, but Islam meant much more to him than the number of times he prayed in one day. His faith was a source of comfort and peace for him at a time when he was on his own, and burdened by the responsibility to be the sole supporter of his family here and in Pakistan. My father’s way of practicing Islam is definitely not the only way. 

 Some may think my father isn’t necessarily a devout Muslim because he misses his namaz, or prayer, once a day. But ultimately, both Baba and I have endless love and passion for our religion. We simply practice our faith in different ways.

About four years ago, I asked my friends from my local mosque if they wanted to grab something to eat after our typical Friday prayer. And because it wasn’t too far away, I suggested Chick-fil-a. Never in a million years would I have thought that I would soon feel embarrassed by asking such a simple question. However, since the chain offers non-zabiha meat, my own friends began to question my faith. They were quick to assume that I wasn’t a devout Muslim. 

This experience, and many similar ones, have made me feel as if I was unfaithful to not only my religion, but also to myself. I often felt that people judged me as less of a Muslim for minor infractions rather than my actual spirituality. It was because of Baba, however, that I felt like Islam was an essential aspect in my life that directs me to having willpower to keep pushing through any time where I feel defeated. From whenever Baba’s business wasn’t doing well all the way to whenever he would have a slight cold, Baba would pray, make dua, and feel as if he is unstoppable. And I wanted to follow Islam exactly the way he did as it seemed to always bring immense inner peace and guidance.

I may not relate to my father’s story of being displaced, but we share a struggle for authenticity. I’ve realized that it’s unfair to not only Muslims who were born in or who migrated to the US, but also people of the diaspora to feel like they aren’t as deeply connected to God despite being separated from homeland communities that would offer that validity. Religion offers displaced immigrants like my father a way to feel like they’re still at home. To feel like they will always belong to a greater good no matter where they go.

“Allah has given me everything,” Baba said.