South Asian Student Association offers a welcoming cultural space on campus

Bringing awareness to social issues impacting the South Asian community is a goal, club leadership says

South Asian Student Association offers a welcoming cultural space on campus

Students dance at SASA's annual Jalwa event

The South Asian Student Association at American University promotes South Asian culture and advocacy. Serving as a safe place for South Asian students, SASA welcomes any student interested in and shares a love for South Asia. 

AU has a predominantly white student population, and many feel that SASA plays a crucial role in creating a community and providing support and education for its club members. 

“I feel like it is really important to have a South Asian community on campus because often I feel really left out and alone,” said College of Arts and Sciences senior and co-president of SASA Darshi Ambani. “A lot of my classes and spaces are full of white students so sometimes I feel ostracized, therefore I think it is important to have this space.”

Ambani’s co-president is Rachana Pokkuluri, a senior in the School of Communication and School of Public Affairs. 

Since being founded by students 10 years ago, SASA’s fundamental goal is to cultivate a space for South Asian culture on campus. Additionally, SASA works to bring awareness to South Asian issues that may be often dismissed in educational spaces. 

“I want SASA to be more involved in advocacy issues as we should be using our platform to bring awareness to some of the social justice issues going on in South Asia,” Ambani said. 

SASA’s advocacy team works to bring awareness to issues within the South Asian community and is also in charge of the South Asian Queer and Trans affinity group.  The advocacy team is led by sophomores Devi Dutta-Sultan and Sarina Patel.

“The group is part of raising marginalized identities further within the South Asian community,” Dutta-Sultan said. “We provide spaces for voices that are often left out both within the South Asian community and looking at the intersection of South Asian identities with being queer and trans.” 

Dutta-Sultan also said SASA’s advocacy group focuses on anti-casteism and collaborating with other Indigenous groups and organizations at AU. 

“Building community is one of the steps to making positive change and in the process, bring South Asian voices into more prominent spaces,” Dutta-Sultan said. 

Incorporating marginalized groups and voices in spaces that normally do not include them is essential, and with AU being a PWI, it is crucial to include these perspectives, students said. CAS senior Kruttika Gopal credited her experiences in SASA as an important part of her college experience. 

“Throughout the semester, SASA provides a lot of bonding opportunities for South Asian students that keep people engaged,” Gopal said. “SASA has brought me a lot of my closest friends to date.”

The SASA Family program, which provides students with a Big and Little mentorship is one way students can find community within the club. In addition to bonding opportunities, SASA also has a lot of cultural programming events.

“Every fall semester we host our annual showcase called Jalwa,” Ambani said. “It is basically a cultural showcase where people who are of South Asian descent can sing, dance and perform to show off the talent the South Asian community has.”

The showcase also has free food and a fashion show for students to present their attire  and is a big draw for the community

“Having the big end of the year event, Jalwa, is one of the best events of SASA,” Gopal said. “It is one of the biggest events that brings the community together and allows students to share their culture.”

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