7 Asian American Advocacy Organizations you Have to Follow in 2020


Now more than ever, there are reasons to be angry. The lives of Amhuad Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd were wrongly taken away from this world despite being in a pandemic. As we continue to preach how we are all in this together during this unprecedented time, I hope we can act in solidarity with the Black community.

The first week of June marked the 36th anniversary of the Sikh Genocide. Remembering how our community was brutally killed and tortured should carry weight into what is happening to Black America today. We must get involved in advocacy now, not just for our community but for the lives of marginalized communities of color that count on our solidarity to be educated and responsive to injustice. Given this, it is important to acknowledge South Asian advocacy groups who are promoting solidarity during this crisis.

Here are seven organizations that all South Asian voters should be following right now. Please note that while each organization may be headquartered in a city, they are all available digitally through an online community. 

Desis for Progress (DFP) – Washington D.C.

Founded in 2016, DFP is an organization for South Asians who politically identify as progressive and are looking to mobilize their efforts with other like-minded progressive individuals. Each year they focus on specified pillars their organization believes in. This year, DFP Board Chair Nisha Ramachandran says they will continue having difficult conversations within the Desi community about important topics, like addressing anti-blackness, disability justice, and LGBTQ equality. Given how pivotal 2020 is, DFP has increased political engagement both digitally and communally. While they have not endorsed a Democratic presidential candidate, they have endorsed local state senators running for office in the Virginia area including Ghazala Hashmi, Qasim Rashid, and Suhas Subramanyam. 

Follow – if you are looking for advocacy centered around conversational learning and debate or if you are primarily interested in racial justice. 


Conference on Asian Pacific Leadership (CAPAL) –Washington D.C.

CAPAL’s mission is to empower Asian American, Native, Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) youth to pursue a progression in civic engagement and politics. They provide a plethora of opportunities for youth ranging from scholarships and internship programs to leadership conferences in D.C. Their programs focus on connecting AANHPI youth with resources, networks, and connections to not only better change their local community, but also obtain the skills necessary to create national impact. 

Follow – if you are looking for ways to enhance your leadership and organizing skills in politics, I would recommend looking into CAPAL. 

Desis Rising up and Moving (DRUM)– New York

DRUM is a “multigenerational membership” that works to empower and advocate for low-income South Asian and Indo-Caribbean immigrant workers and youth in New York City. They aim to hone in on five pillars to activism: base building, leadership development, policy campaigns, alliance building, and institutional building. They provide comprehensive local and national programs and campaigns that outline social issues pertaining to the South Asian community. With past involvements in campaigns ranging from racial profiling to immigrant justice, DRUM has prominence in both local and national advocacy work. Alongside working on campaigns, DRUM also provides legal and community services for immigrants. They also provide a South Asian worker center that works to build leadership skills of low-wage workers in service industries, with a primary interest in immigrant women retail workers. DRUM also runs monthly clinics to advocate for fair wages, workers’ rights, and better working conditions. 

Follow – if you are looking to get involved with a worker’s rights or grassroots organization implementing a tangible movement. 


Equality Labs – Remote

Equality Labs is a multimedia platform aimed to use community research, political activism, social justice art, and technology, to promote issues in the South Asian Community. They speak out against the caste apartheid, Islamophobia, white supremacy, and religious intolerance. Equality Labs disrupts the typical racialization of South Asians by emphasizing how historic oppressions of caste systems have rendered the multifaceted identities of South Asian culture. This organization is truly intersectional in their work, advocating for spaces where women, nonbinary, and trans folks can be leaders to help elevate the community. Some of the programs they focus on include “stop genocide in India,” “South Asian power building,” “Digital Security,” and “Justices for Muslims Collective.” These programs not only provide a comprehensive breakdown of each issue, but some also include toolkits to know your rights and organize movements within your community. 

Follow – if you live in an area that lacks South Asian activism. I recommend looking into Equality Labs, they truly are a great digital resource providing interdisciplinary resources for one to initiate local movements. 


South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) – Maryland

SAALT is one of the most comprehensive and educational advocacy organizations a South Asian could follow. From action alerts to blog posts to policy changes, SAALT provides a holistic overview of everything you would need as an advocate. It provides programs supporting detained immigrants, legal aid networks, and even hosts national South Asian summits. Whatever you are passionate about, whether it is gender equality, civic engagement, or racial justice, SAALT has resources for you to take action. A unique component of this organization is its “Rapid Response” program. In conjunction with Justice for Muslims Collective, SAALT has created a volunteer + legal aid network to combat potential immigration raids. You can sign up on their website to be a translator or legal counsel. In addition to providing a plethora of media resources and toolkits, SAALT also has a national directory of South Asian organizations. If you are looking to enact local change, look to their directory to find a South Asian group in your region.

Follow – if you are new to advocacy and want a comprehensive overview of news and activism relating to the South Asian community. 

Read Related: [#BlackLivesMatter: a Guide to Supporting the Movement Through South Asian Allyship]

Revolutionary Love Project – California

Founded by civil rights activist and lawyer Valarie Kaur, Revolutionary Love is a movement fighting social injustices by reintroducing love as a public ethic. With a background in fighting against Sikh prejudice, Valarie integrates Sikhism into activism by pledging to turn to empathy as an activist tool. In 2017 she gave a TEDTalk on how when we use love towards ourselves and our opponents, love becomes revolutionary. Revolutionary Love has digital multimedia resources and toolkits on how to reframe our activism to be more empathetic to others, even those we disagree with. Most recently, Valarie has written the book “See No Stranger,” a memoir and manifesto of revolutionary love, which includes her life’s work as an activist. 

Follow – if you are looking for new ways to reframe your activist work from a new perspective or if you are a faith-based organizer. 


The Sikh Coalition – New York

The Sikh Coalition is an organization working to protect the rights of Sikhs to practice faith without fear. They have initiated community, classroom, and court efforts to promote the history and culture behind Sikhi faith. Some of their work includes creating safe schools, ending employment discrimination, empowering the community, raising the Sikh profile, and working on legal cases and policy initiatives. In light of COVID-19, the Sikh coalition has mobilized to help the community. For instance, they have provided a healthcare guide that you can provide your doctor to share culturally relevant information about Sikhi if you need to seek medical treatment, a summary of the first and second federal relief package (the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act”), information about different state unemployment, Medicaid, and welfare programs, including an up-to-date listing of such benefits for each of the 50 U.S. states, a Sikh Coalition Kid’s Corner, which is a virtual learning series for children and their classmates featuring literature, music, and art workshops, and suggestions for safe volunteer opportunities, including blood banks, food donations, and more. Check for volunteer opportunities near you. This is just a small example of some of the work they have done in response to COVID-19, for more insight follow them at www.sikhcoalition.org

Follow – if you are interested in finding ways to take direct action in response to COVID-19, want to stay informed about COVID-19, or need related information translated in Punjabi.  


[Read Related: Indian-Americans, be Vocal in Standing in Solidarity With Black Americans]

These organizations work on-and-off the election cycle to amplify South Asian voices in local, national, and global politics. It is often hard to navigate where the South Asian diaspora fits into U.S. politics and advocacy, especially when we are often coined as a homogeneity. Personally, I believe it is most effective and powerful to support and uplift existing South Asian organizations that work to promote civic duty. These organizations are multidisciplinary in their dedication to shedding light on issues housed in the U.S. and back home. It was difficult to find a diverse location range of South Asian advocacy organizations as most were housed in popular cities, so in addition to these organizations, I urge you to research local ways to organize your South Asian community not only for this upcoming election but for advocacy in general. Our voices will not be represented unless we create spaces for ourselves. This year it is crucial to keep your South Asian friends and family accountable to their civic duty, so vote, advocate, and stand up for others. 

By Brown Girl Magazine

Brown Girl Magazine was created by and for South Asian womxn who believe in the power of storytelling as a … Read more ›

Nancy Jay: Meet the Indo Caribbean Influencer Breaking the Mold

nancy jay
nancy jay

In an age where algorithms dictate viewership, Nancy Jay uses her love of dance to propel herself onto TikTok’s “for you” pages. Jay is an Indo Guyanese, Bronx native who began dancing at the age of three. As an influencer and content creator, she amassed a social media following of more than 500,000. Versed in many styles of dancing including Caribbean, Bollywood, urban and Latin, Jay can be spotted in soca music videos such as Linky First’s “Rock and Come in” and “Jeune Femme,” Adrian Dutchin’s “Roll” and by soca king Machel Montano’s “Mami Lo Tiene.”

nancy jay
Photo courtesy of Nancy Jay

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Many content creators are typecast into the niche but Jay has defied this norm and proclaims she is more than just a dancer.

“I dance, travel, post lifestyle and beauty content. I’m an Indo Caribbean woman who enjoys being myself and promoting my culture. I like showing viewers it is okay to be who they are and embrace what they look like, despite what they see on social media. I did not plan on being a TikToker. As I started posting videos, the love and support I received from viewers was amazing. I have never experienced anything like that before on Instagram, where I started my content journey,” Jay said.

In conversation with Jay, the following answers have been condensed for concision and clarity. 

Why is it important for you to create content related to your Indo Caribbean roots?

Growing up, I never felt represented as an Indo Caribbean on television, in movies, social media or anywhere else. My goal as a content creator is to promote the Indo Caribbean culture through my content and be the representation the Indo Caribbean community needs.

Are there unspoken rules about being a content creator or an Indo Caribbean woman on the platform?

Being an Indo Caribbean woman on TikTok can be challenging when you are trying to find your identity and do not feel represented. 

Jay explains her frustration with the lack of Caribbean representation and acknowledgment from platforms, as well as her goals as a content creator in this video.

@iamnancyjay Anyone else feel this way? Or understand what I’m saying? R E P R E S E N T A T I O N ?? original sound – iamnancyjay

Do you ever experience a block, similar to writer’s block, when it comes to creating content? How do you overcome that?

I have yet to experience a block. However, I do have days where I want to take a break and just relax instead of filming. As a content creator, it is important to take breaks and schedule days to just relax because being a full-time content creator is a 24/7 business. It can be draining and you may lose your sense of reality when you have the mindset that everything is content. I enjoy taking a day or half a day to cook, watch TV or go shopping with my partner without the worry of filming any of it.

How has your social media presence changed your daily life?

When I am in public, supporters approach me to express their love for my content and sometimes ask for a selfie. When I find people staring at me in public now, it’s most likely because they recognize me from social media and not because I look funny.

In May of 2021, I used my platform to reach out to brands and ask for their support in a project I named ‘Nancy Jay Gives Back.’ I put together care packages, using products donated by brands, and drove around the Bronx sharing them with people experiencing homelessness or those in need. Seeing the happiness on their faces upon receiving these bags was priceless. Additionally, I spread some extra joy through dance. I remember one lady telling me she’d never been to a club or party so I told her I’ve brought the party to her and we danced to her favorite genre of music right there on the street.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Nancy Jay (@iamnancyjay)

Jay plans on continuing this project as her social media presence has grown. 

How has your family reacted to your social presence?

My family has always been supportive of my talents and the path I have chosen. My first public dance performance was at the age of 12. I performed a fusion of Bollywood and chutney music at middle school events. When I got to high school, I participated in our talent show to a fusion of Bollywood, chutney, soca and top 40. I won the talent show three or four times. I also performed for fundraisers organized by mandirs in Queens, the Bronx, weddings, sweet sixteens and other social events. 

My family always came out to support me. They love seeing my content and always encourage me to film and create. My mom in particular tells everyone about my TikTok videos.

While enrolled at John Jay College, Jay founded the first West Indian student organization called “West Indies Massive.” She captained the dance team, taught dance classes and won the talent show multiple times while pursuing her Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice with a minor in law and police studies.

Any advice for creators who may not have the support of family?

Do not let this discourage you. If content creation is something you truly want to do, stay consistent and eventually your family will support you for doing what you love. Social media is still new to some and the idea of it being someone’s career or business is new as well. I say be patient. Also, talk to them about your social media goals, as perhaps they do not understand the full picture.

What is your dream partnership and why?

My dream partnership would involve acting. I’ve always wanted to be an actress, preferably a Bollywood actress because I know I would kill those dance numbers (haha!). Also, I would love to partner with Sandals Resorts and bring that Caribbean flavor they should be promoting.

Jay has collaborated with major brands like Samsung Mobile, Norwegian Cruise Line, AC Hotels, Disney Music Group, and Dunkin which is paramount for the Indo Caribbean community.

“I am the first Indo Caribbean woman to work with Norwegian Cruise Line as a content creator. Cruise travel is a huge part of my content journey. I love cruising and creating unique experiences and content. While cruising, I connected with the crew while most people typically do not. I treat everyone with respect,” Jay said 

@iamnancyjay It’s not a cruise unless I dance with the Norwegian Prima crew ??? Drip Too Hard (1er Gaou Mix) – Thejokestation0 • Following

“I started a fun series called ‘Cruise Dances with the Crew’ back in August of 2021. There’s a playlist on TikTok with all of the fun dances. Prior to my first video, I had not seen anyone dancing on cruise ships with the crew. I guess you could say I started that trend.”

Nancy intertwined this partnership with her content and further put herself on the map.

Another pivotal partnership for Jay occurred in March 2021 when Dunkin chose her as one of 10 from a nationwide competition to feature her signature drink on the local menu.

@iamnancyjay I love ordering “The Nancy Jay” @dunkin ?? #dunkin #coffee #icedcoffee #dunkinmenucontest #thenancyjay #BiggerIsBetter #EnvisionGreatness #viral #bx ? original sound – iamnancyjay

How has content creation changed in the past two years?

Within the past two years, my content and style has grown tremendously. My gear list has also grown tremendously. I’ve been a content creator full time for a little over a year now. I have had more time to focus on the presentation and editing of my content.

What else do you want your viewers to not know about you or your work?

I stay true to who I am. Supporters who I’ve met in person can attest that I am the same, in-person and online. I like to keep things relatable, fun and authentic. I am working with a lot of big brands. I try to incorporate dance in all my content to capture my passion, diversity and culture.

I started teaching Caribbean Dance Fitness classes and private dance lessons officially in 2016. Since Covid, I moved everything online. Not only have I helped many learn how to dance but I have also helped build their confidence through dance and expression.

Lastly, I love traveling and encouraging others to live their best life.

Jay is more than a dancer; she is unapologetically herself. She maximizes opportunities and is building a brand that highlights her Indo Caribbean roots – a culture often not highlighted in mainstream media. 

You can stay updated on Jay and the community she’s created by following her on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube.

Featured image courtesy: Nancy Jay

By Ashley Ramcharan

Ashley Ramcharan is Indo-Guyanese and the assistant editor for the Indo-Caribbean team here at Brown Girl Magazine. She developed a … Read more ›

In Conversation With Emily Harwitz: Nature is for all of Us

Emily Harwitz
Emily Harwitz

Emily Harwitz is a journalist, photographer, and podcaster whose work focuses on making the outdoors a more inclusive place. Coming from a background in chemistry and ecology, Harwitz uses her knowledge to tell stories about the environment. She has written for many publications including High Country News, Hakai Magazine, Mongabay, Chemical & Engineering News, and more. Harwitz is an ambassador for Girls Who Click which is a nonprofit that empowers women to forge their paths in conservation photography. Her creativity does not stop there as Harwitz is also the host and producer of the Save the Redwoods League podcast: “I’ll Go If You Go.” Harwitz has explored a range of topics such as forest bathing, skateboarding, and building an inclusive community in the outdoors. Her stories do not stop there as Harwitz is always on the move looking for her next story. Continue reading to learn more about Emily Harwitz’s journey.

[Read Related: How Nature can Reduce Stress and Anxiety]

The term inclusion when it comes to the environment and outdoors does not always go together. How can we make the outdoors a more inclusive place?

The outdoors is inherently inclusive because, the moment you step outside, you’re outdoors, regardless of who you think you are. What needs to change is how we think about who is and isn’t “natural,” or what’s a “natural” way to behave. The natural way to be is however you are.

How have your personal experiences in nature affected the way you look at the rest of the world?

When I’m in nature, I feel the smallness of my being in the context of the bigness of the natural world. But the amazing thing is, when I slow down to look around, smell the air, touch the dirt, I feel like I’m a part of that nature, too. It’s really comforting to feel connected to something so vast outside myself. I no longer think it’s hoaky to say that appreciating nature’s beauty is spiritual for me. It just feels so good to look at water sparkling in the sun, or a dusting of purple and yellow flowers in a gently waving field of grass. Watching how animals and other creatures seem to flow through their landscapes is also a spiritual experience. How perfect they seem! And wow, I’m an animal, too!

This brings up some important questions: In what context do I exist that effortlessly? How can I foster that feeling for myself in my daily life? How can I foster that feeling for others? And how can I connect other people to that feeling of “I love being alive!”? That fuels so much of my work—wanting to share the feeling of what I experience in nature with others.

As you have covered many stories for various publications as a reporter, is there one that specifically calls out to you that you would like to expand upon?

I just wrote a story about biophobia, or the fear of nature, for Hakai Magazine and it got picked up by The Atlantic. I’m pretty stoked about that because this is a really important topic. The story’s about how certain aspects of modern life, like urbanization and the ensuing lack of daily nature experiences, are driving people to feel increasingly disconnected from nature. This not only impacts conservation, but also human health because nature provides so many benefits to physical and mental health. Here’s a good article introducing a growing body of research about the health benefits of nature immersion. Nature also provides the opportunity to feel connected to something bigger than ourselves, which I believe is an important thing to experience.

As someone who is in the field of environmentalism do you feel this influences you to follow a vegetarian or even vegan diet which is more supportive of animals from all walks of life?

Absolutely. Animals from all walks of life, I like that! I eat a pretty pescatarian diet and try to use Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch to look up the seafood I eat. I feel strongly about what I put in my body and where it comes from. Beyond the sustainability and health concerns of factory-farmed animals, I am deeply disturbed by the conditions animals are subjected to in factory farms. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, look it up. If you do know what I’m talking about and you’re still eating conventionally-raised factory-farmed animals, I’d urge you to take another look. We all exist in systems, though, and I know it can be hard for people to totally overhaul their diets—especially with things like ag-gag laws in the US blocking the spread of information about the conditions farm animals are raised in. It’s a privilege to even be able to consider where I’m getting my food from, considering the vast food deserts in the US and how inaccessible fresh produce is for many. So, my hope is for a growing collective consciousness about our food systems that eventually leads to regenerative agriculture that’s healthy for all of us on this planet.

Are there any brands we can support which push the message of inclusion?

I think we should all consume less, so I’m going to recommend a few organizations promoting equitable outdoor access, diversity, and inclusivity: Skate Like a Girl, Feminist Bird Club, The Outdoorist Oath, Brown Girl Surf, Queer Asian Social Club, Hike Clerb. All of these orgs have great Instagram pages so you can fill your feed with diverse stories and faces. I guess this is still a kind of consumption, but hopefully an inspiring and generative kind!

How has Girls Who Click empowered you to get into the field of nature photography?

Girls Who Click connected me with an incredible filmmaking mentor, Dewi Marquis, who is also mixed Asian American. In addition to practical advice for film shoots, we’ve talked about work and life as women of color and the importance of listening to our own intuition during the creative process. Dewi’s involved with some great filmmaking organizations that I think the Brown Girl Magazine community would be interested in: Asian American Documentary Network, Brown Girls Doc Mafia, and Film Fatales.

[Read Related: Meet Preet: This is What an Antarctic Explorer Looks Like!]

As you have explored a range of topics on the Save The Redwoods League Podcast: “I’ll Go If You Go,” what are your plans for the newest season and how can we help support?

Thanks for this question! This new season is all about building community outdoors—hearing guests’ stories about how they started and grew their awesome community groups and organizations. My hope is that people can hear these stories and then go foster their own communities, wherever they are. All of our guests started with the desire to connect more with nature and others who can relate to their experiences as BIPOC and/or LGBTQ2S+ folks in the outdoors. If you identify with either or both of those categories, this podcast is for you! It’s by us, for us. The best way to support would be to listen, rate us 5 stars (if that’s how you feel), and share with friends. You can also follow the podcast on IG at @illgoifyougopodcast.

What is the Emily Harwitz starter kit for going camping or hiking?

I love this question! For hiking, aka a big walk outside, I always bring: a least one 32 oz. water bottle, a thermos of tea (oolong or green), a notebook or sketchbook, a pen or pencil. Sometimes I’ll bring a book that I don’t end up reading (how can I when there’s so much pretty nature to look at?), a tub of strawberries or other in-season fruit, my camera (currently shooting on a Sony alpha 6300 and a G200-600 lens). One of these days, I’m planning to bring my flute and a field recorder (Zoom H5). For going camping, I’d say: Make plans with a friend who already has lots of gear and likes to plan camping trips! Or there are lots of organizations that host camping trips you can sign up for. One day, I’ll go solo-backpacking, but I really enjoy camping with friends.

If you could go hiking with anyone in the world who would it be and why?

My Chinese grandpa who recently passed away. He loved nature, especially flowers, and I would love to go for a hike with to appreciate the beauty of nature together.

Who are your conservation heroes?

Personally: my grandmother who worked as lawyer to protect the environment in Florida, where I grew up. She introduced me to the whole world of conservation at an early age and I have so many joyful memories sifting through sargassum weed with her for tiny little shrimp and crabs, or looking for monarch caterpillars in the garden.

Thinking globally: Indigenous peoples around the world who steward and protect the lands they live on—including 80% of the world’s biodiversity. There’s growing recognition of this, and I hope to see more respect, protection, resources, and political action dedicated to Indigenous peoples who are doing this important work.

Do you feel that we will see a change and more representation in the outdoors?

Definitely! It’s already happening. Social media has actually been really beneficial in this regard because people can form their own communities online and share media and resources relevant to them. The outdoors industry is moving slower, but I’m seeing more initiatives to diversify marketing and such. The industry will have to adapt to include the people of the global majority if it wants to survive.

What do you see as the future for the outdoors?

Biodiverse (including humans!), inclusive, healthy, thriving, accessible experiences for adaptive skill levels. I am optimistic!

The sweet smell of petrichor, a cup of tea, and the redwoods. What more could you ask for?

True! Maybe an animal in the bushes nearby and a human friend to share it all with :)

[Read Related: Oil Spill Avoided in Caribbean Sea Thanks to Environmental Groups]

Lastly, what do you hope individuals take away from this interview with Brown Girl Magazine?

We’re all natural and we’re all nature people. There are as many ways to love and be loved by nature as there are people.

Photo Courtesy of Dani Shi

By Arun S.

Arun fell in love with music at a young age by way of his middle school music teacher Mr. D. … Read more ›