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Deepa Iyer And Purvi Shah Honored As 2017 Soros Equality Fellows

Press Release

Deepa Iyer and Purvi Shah were among seven recipients honored by the Open Society Foundations as 2017 Soros Equality Fellows.

The Fellowship is a new initiative to help emerging mid-career professionals become long-term innovative leaders in the field of racial justice.

Iyer, Shah and the five other Fellows were chosen from more than 1,000 applicants and will work on a wide variety of ways to advance racial justice, including documenting the oral histories of queer and trans people of color; tackling structural racism in the food supply; chronicling how slavery helped build a major modern institution of higher learning; and creating an ad campaign to take on distortions in America's contemporary racial narrative, the foundation said.

Iyer will create a platform to provide racial justice organizations with resources to sharpen organizing and coalition building strategies, and promote solidarity across communities.

Iyer is an activist, writer and lawyer. Her areas of expertise include the post 9/11 America experiences of South Asian, Muslim, Arab and Sikh immigrants, hate violence, national security and immigration policies and racial equity and solidarity practices, according to her fellowship bio.

Iyer served for a decade as executive director of South Asian Americans Leading Together. She has also worked as a trial attorney at the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice, and at national and local Asian American civil rights organizations.

Currently, she is a contributing writer to Colorlines, and has published editorials in CNN.com, the Guardian, the Huffington Post, the Nation and the New York Times.

She has also taught Asian American Studies classes at Columbia University, Hunter College, and the University of Maryland.

Shah will create a hub to promote collaboration, coalition-building and experimentation among lawyers working on racial justice issues.

Shah is co-founder of Law4BlackLives, a network of over 2,000 lawyers, law students and legal workers of color dedicated to building the Black Lives Matter movement.

Previously, she was director of the Bertha Justice Institute at the Center for Constitutional Rights, her bio said.

She also worked as an attorney with the Community Justice Project at Florida Legal Services Inc., and was co-director and adjunct clinical professor at the University of Miami School of Law’s Community Lawyering Clinic.

Shah received a bachelor's from Northwestern University and a law degree from the University of California–Berkeley School of Law.

“We are living in a time of enormous challenge, when forces peddling fear and hate are pushing ever harder to normalize xenophobia and racism," Leslie Gross-Davis, director of the equality team within U.S. Programs at the Open Society Foundations, who launched the initiative, said in a statement.

“While the magnitude of the challenge is daunting, the inaugural class of Soros Equality Fellows gives me hope for the future. Their energy, creativity and determination to tackle even the longest odds are an inspiration,” Gross-David added. “The Open Society Foundations is honored to have the opportunity to support this amazing cohort of next-generation racial justice leaders.”

The program is intended to help incubate innovators and risk-takers striving to create and develop new ways of addressing the challenges of racial disparity and discrimination in the U.S., according to the news release.

Beyond nurturing their specific projects, the program seeks to promote leadership development training, networking and other professional support aimed at building a pipeline connecting the energy and ideas of youth with the wisdom and influence of experience, it said.

All the Fellows will receive stipends ranging from $80,000 to $100,000 to support projects over the course of 12 to 18 months.

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