Writing our story… digitally: 2021 was a banner year for American Indians, with others recording their immigrant journey

Congressman Dalip Singh Saund is greeted at Palam Airport in New Delhi. Photo courtesy of Eric Saund and UC Santa Barbara Library.

In 2021, as the Covid-19 pandemic continued to unleash its rampage, American Indians as well as immigrants from South Asian countries marked a record year for relying on digital archives of their history in this country.

The South American Digital Archives, or SAADA, founded in 2008, has seen marked growth this year, as community members added their memories and the country recognized the importance of recording the stories of diverse and newer immigrant communities to integrate them into mainstream American consciousness.

From pre-independence to post-independence India and the formation of other countries in the region called South Asia, immigrants shared their memories, whether it was the partition or the formation of the Bangladesh, to daily activities in the United States enjoy running convenience stores and taking road trips, the SAADA archives present a wealth of information for scholars and young people born and raised in this country.


“For all of us, it has been a difficult year with the pandemic,” said Samip Mallick, co-founder and executive director of SAADA in a year-end interview with News India Times. “But we found ways for the community to come together – we were fortunate to be able to continue to create space for our community to come together,” added Mallick.

A reader holds a copy of SAADA’s Our Stories, published August 2021. Photo courtesy of SAADA

It was indeed a “momentary” year for SAADA, which published a book Our stories which highlights in tactile print, part of the archived digital history of the Indo-American community, as well as that of other countries in this region.

Our stories is now in 1,721 schools, libraries and homes across the country and SAADA’s goal is to get this book into the hands of as many young South Asian Americans as possible in the coming year.

“If you’ve kept this book, you know how life-changing it is to hold in your hands a testimonial of almost 500 pages of belonging to our community,” said Mallick.

As a young reader, Alisha, wrote in her review of Our stories on Goodreads: “This is something to read about your own heritage as it is written by people who share it with you. I would love to share it with you too! ”

Additionally, SAADA recently received a $ 1 million investment from the prestigious Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

“In SAADA’s early years, when traditional funding agencies declared our work ‘too specialized’, it was our community that supported us and made our work possible,” notes Mallick.

Here are some of the many other SAADA highlights from 2021:

The organization added the 4,537th article in SAADA archives this year, including the hugely important photograph of Congressman Dalip Singh Saund, D-California, elected in 1957, being greeted at Palam Airport in New Delhi.

Containing rare and valuable photographs, letters, newspaper clippings, oral history interviews, digital documents and other ephemeral documents, the SAADA archives enable artists, academics, filmmakers, journalists, students and members of the community to write books, create new content and shape public understanding. about our community, says the organization.

This year, the SAADA archives also received their 1,000,000th visitor! the organization announced.

SAADA Archival Creators 2019-20, 2020-21 and 2021-22 scholarships. Photo courtesy of SAADA

Additionally, the many Archival Creators Fellows have continued their work throughout the pandemic to ensure that the archival record includes the stories and perspectives of marginalized groups within the South Asian American community.

Screenshot of an online event to celebrate the announcement of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s $ 1 million investment in SAADA. Photo courtesy of SAADA

“Of course, it was a time of reflection on what is personally important, but also a time of reflection on the type of world to be created,” recalls Mallick, adding: “And fortunately, SAADA is part of it. “

the six The 2020-21 SAADA fellows have completed their projects and new The 2021-2022 fellows started theirs, including three fellows working specifically to document South Asian experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic in South America.

For the past three years, this program has supported fellows sharing stories of Bangladeshi queer asylum seekers, Indo-Guyanese immigrants, experiences of incarceration in America, Ambedkarite political organization, “and so many ‘other voices in our community that need to be heard, ”says Mallick.

Over the past thirteen years, a small, dedicated team has worked “toward a transformative vision” in ensuring that South Asian Americans are included in American history: past, present and future, SAADA stresses.

Fazlur Rahman Khan watches the construction of the Sears Tower in Chicago. Photo courtesy of SAADA

“Now the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is demonstrating its faith in our vision by handing us a key to unlocking the full potential of what we’ve built together,” Mallick says of the million dollar grant, which is both a validation of what SAADA has achieved and an opportunity for it to build something bigger and even more impactful, believes the organization.

“The appeal of SAADA is aimed at young and old alike. Certainly, many of the people engaged in the work of SAADA come from different generations, ”Mallick told News India Times. “We try to tell stories across the spectrum.”

As a non-profit organization, SAADA.org accepts and encourages donations from anyone who considers the goal of adding to American history important.

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