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Samip Mallick: Documenting South Asian History In US

Anil Saigal

Samip Mallick talked about SAADA on April 30th at MIT. SAADA is an independent non-profit organization based in Philadelphia and working nationally to give voice to South Asian Americans through documenting, preserving and sharing stories that reflect their unique and diverse experiences. Samip has degrees in Computer Science and Library Science and left his position as the University of Chicago in 2012 to become its first full-time staff member. The focus of the organization is on digital achieves on line and access. It does not have or own any physical collections.

“A community without its records is a community under siege” – J. Bastian and hence the need to document our heritage.

There are about 3.4 million South Asians in this country. The first South Asian immigrants to come to US were from Punjab in the late 1800s/early 1900s to work in farming/lumber industry on the west coast. A few came as students. In 1923, the Supreme Court in a unanimous vote barred the South Asians from voting, which was overturned only in 1946. The number of immigrants from South Asia increased significantly after the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act which gave preference to skill based immigration.

Samip talked specifically about three cases: Dalip Sing Saund, Bhagwan Singh Gyanee and Anandabai Jashee. Saund came in 1920 to UC Berkeley. After completing his PhD in Mathematics, he could not find a teaching job and hence worked as a farmer. He became a citizen in 1949, was elected Democratic Committee Chair in 1954, ran for judge and was the first South Asian to be elected to Congress in 1956. After participating in anti-colonial movement in India, Gyanee left India in 1909 and was in exile until 1959. He believed in armed revolution and started the Hindustan Gadar Party in 1914. He worked with the Irish and Germans, was found guilty and jailed for two years. After that he settled in Los Angeles, published a paper in Punjabi, went back to India in 1959, and died in 1962. His grandson S.P. Singh from Atlanta has been very forthcoming in sharing his life history with SAADA. Jashee was the first Brahmin to leave India to come to the US to study medicine. She graduated in 1886.

SAADA’s goal is to:

You can help them by Contributing to the First Days Project (300 words or a 3 min video about your first days in the US), Sharing the information and Donating to the cause. 95% of SAADA’s support comes from individual donors.

For details, visit http://www.saadigitalarchive.org/.

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