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Essay And Art Competition For South Asian-American Youth

Press Release


  Topic: “How my identity intersects with the civil rights movement”

Open to South Asian-American Students in Grades 6-12

Gandhiji at a 1942 speech in Mumbai             Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963 in DC


The contest closes at Noon EST February 14, 2021 Prizes: Winner(s) $1,000; Runner(s)-up $500


Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR) and Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) are organizing an Essay and Art Contest for South Asian-American* students in Grades 6-12 to connect their identities with the historical and contemporary movements for civil and human rights.

The purpose of the essay is to promote dialogue within the South Asian-American community about how much they have benefited from the civil rights and voting rights struggles of the 60’s. And about how they can contribute meaningfully to the ongoing quest for social justice in America and elsewhere. 

In either an essay or a work of art, express how your identity informs your understanding of and response to the struggle for civil and human rights. How do you benefit from the efforts of those who fight for such rights? What does non-violence as a core principle of such struggles mean to you? Social, cultural, economic, political, and religious perspectives are all welcome. 

Approaches might include (but are not limited to): How do the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 relate to your experience as a South Asian-American today? How does your cultural or religious upbringing affect your engagement with the challenges of our present moment for social justice and human dignity? What are your moral obligations in the

face of these challenges? How does your identity intersect or conflict with contemporary civil and human rights issues: e.g., anti-black racism and the Black Lives movements, casteism, Islamophobia, LGBTQ+ communities/gender injustice, gun violence, economic disparities, etc.?

(* We welcome submissions from those who identify as bi-racial, transcultural, or whose identities intersect in meaningful ways with Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, or Sri Lanka, and the United States.) 

Contest Rules and Details: 


Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR) is a US based advocacy organization dedicated to working for religious and human rights in India, the US, and other South Asian countries, especially in the context of minority communities (see www.hindusforhumanrights.org).

Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) is an advocacy group committed to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos (see www.IAMC.com)

WHAT: Essay and Art contest on how your identity connects with the struggle for civil and human rights.

WHO: The contest is open to South Asian-American* students in Grades 6 through 12, of all faiths and traditions, residing in the United States.

WHEN: The contest closes at Noon EST February 14, 2021. Winners will be announced on March 1st. Awards Ceremony will be on March 7th.

CONNECTING WITH THE SELMA JUBILEE: This contest is timed to coincide with the 56th anniversary commemoration of Bloody Sunday, which brought about the Voting Rights Act of 1965. We urge all contestants to pre-register for the virtual event March 5-7th for a unique opportunity to listen to civil rights stalwarts then and now: http://www.selma50.com/

PRIZES: Winner(s) - $ 1,000; Runner(s)-up - $ 500

REGISTRATION: Please pre-register today at: https://tinyurl.com/y2mgngf6 to indicate your interest in participating in the contest so we can hold a place for you. 


       700 words minimum; 1,000 words maximum
       Microsoft Word (.docx) document; double-spaced, 12 pt. Times New Roman font
       No Personal identification information may be in the body of the essay
       Citations, if any, must be placed in the end, and will not be part of the word count

ARTWORK FORMAT: 8 ½ x 11 inch or 11 x 17 inch format

       A high-resolution photograph of your artwork. 


       Please submit your entry by completing the Submission Form at https://tinyurl.com/y4fl7rce 

THE PROCESS: Essays will be grouped and judged in two or three age groups, depending upon the number of entries. All artwork entries will be judged together. Jurors will not be able to see the names of contestants.


       Your understanding of the history of the civil rights struggle
       Your case for connecting the non-violence movements in South Asia and the U.S.
       Originality, clarity, and effectiveness of your message.
       Language (grammar, spelling, and composition)
       Any other criteria that the juror groups may agree upon



Tarunjit Butalia, Research Associate Professor, Department of Civil, Environmental and Geodetic Engineering, The Ohio State University, OH
Linda Hess, Department of Religious Studies at Stanford University (retired), CA
Balmurli Natrajan, Professor, Department of Community & Social Justice, William Patterson University, NJ.

Anantanand Rambachan, Professor of Religion, Saint Olaf College, MN

Samina Salim, Associate Professor Pharmacology, University of Houston and IAMC volunteer, TX

Sarah Sayeed, Chair & Executive Director, New York City Civic Engagement Commission

Roja Singh, Visiting Asst Professor, St. John Fisher College and Dalit Solidarity Forum, NY Simran Jeet Singh, Writer, Teacher, Author, Visiting Professor of religion at Union Theological Seminary, NY

Masuda Sultan, Afghan American entrepreneur and international human rights advocate, NY

Tazmin H. Uddin, Youth Program Director, Turning Point for Women and Families, NY 


Salma Arastu, a Bay Area artist whose work aims for a universal and interfaith experience of peace and well-being, largely inspired by Islamic calligraphy and art, CA.

Arathi Menon, Assistant Professor of Art History, Hamilton College (Academic work on Kerala sacred architecture), NY

Yousuf Saeed, Yousuf Saeed is an independent filmmaker, researcher and designer based in India.

Siddhartha V. Shah, Director of Education and Civic Engagement, Curator of South Asian Art, Peabody Essex Museum, MA

Thukral and Tagra, Delhi-based artists whose work regularly deals with social issues in India.

GROUNDS FOR DISQUALIFICATION: Submitting an essay that is not your original work, providing false information, missing the submission deadline, not complying with the submittal format and word count will disqualify your entry. 


Contestants may be required to submit a release allowing the sponsors to publish your essay and/or artwork in print publications and on public websites. In addition, you may be asked to authorize use of your photograph in contest-related promotional materials.

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