Five Questions for SAYHU

Image Credit: “study, arc 2015” by Preetika Rajgariah (@Prajgariah)

Image Credit: “study, arc 2015” by Preetika Rajgariah (@Prajgariah)

1. When was SAYHU formed?

We formed as a seven-person feminist collective in April of 2017. 

2. What was the main intention behind forming SAYHU?

Every collective member that has been part of the process of creating and shaping SAYHU has brought their set of experiences and vision of what we can collectively create together with our Houston community. We share the intention of making a South Asian-centered space that many of us wish we had in our youth - where we could connect with like-minded people on issues that matter to us, explore our identities, as well as feel heard, safe, and empowered. SAYHU is a community where you can learn and teach about social advocacy and develop practices based in feminism that are specific to the experiences of South Asians in diaspora. Many of us who had searched for this kind of community finally decided we should create it together here in Houston.

3. Can you explain what the Summit and the Institute provide?

Last year was the first year we held our Southern Summit. Our goal was to create a space for South Asians in the Southern United States to come together and explore our intersectional identities connect with others, and build community. While the summit was open to other races and ethnicities, we privileged South Asian voices, stories, and experiences. We shared SAYHU’s history and our vision for what we are working to create, through a series of workshops and speakers who presented on a variety of topics including: unpacking sexuality, toxic masculinity, anti-blackness, colorism, South Asians in the arts, mental health, black and South Asian feminism/collaboration, and our social justice/feminist practice of oral history, storytelling and preservation. 

This year is our third annual Summer Institute for young South Asian Houstonians between the ages of 18 and 24. The institute is a skills-building, networking and community-building program rooted in discussions on social justice, feminism, stereotypes concerning South Asians in the US, healthy relationships and immigrant family dynamics, working for social justice in Houston, and understanding our unique culture and history as South Asians in Texas. In the past, it has been a week-long, and this year it will be 4 days of skills-building workshops with specific sessions with speakers who do social justice work in Houston. 

4. How many members do you have, where in Houston are you located, and how far do you travel to connect with others with similar missions?

We do not have the typical membership application, joining fee, form, etc. Rather, we are an open community - those who are interested in our mission, looking for community, and wanting to learn and grow with us are welcome to come out to our events. The only programming we currently have that is restricted in some ways is participation in our summer institute, which is specifically for young South Asian Houstonians, ages 18-24. You can get a sense of our community numbers through our Facebook page (@sayhuTX). Some of our community is not on social media, and engage with us through our email listserv. 

We’re not located specifically out of an office, or school. Our core collective has planning meetings virtually and in-person at our “SAYHU HQ” - which is the home of two collective members. We have community gatherings throughout Houston, including at Hotel Ylem, The Art League, Kim’s Teahouse, and other locations that welcome us. 

We have not yet travelled outside of Houston specifically to meet others with similar missions, but are open to presenting our work and collaboration with other organizations. We have collaborated on community events with Daya Houston and CHAA. In November 2019, we will be presenting about our collective and community-building at the National Women's Studies Conference in San Francisco.  

5. Can you explain how your organization exemplifies the theory and practice of transnational feminism?  

SAYHU’s feminism is rooted in ideas, activism, and scholarship drawn from women of color feminisms, and in particular Black and South Asian feminisms. Our feminist work as a South Asian-focused collective in Houston responds to issues of gender inequity and social injustices and the structures of power that maintain them. We are dedicated to doing intersectional and transnational feminist work because we realize structures of power such as colonialism and imperialism, alongside race, class, gender, sexuality, immigration status, ability, have an impact on how we each navigate our lives in the Southern United States.

We are continuously learning and adapting SAYHU through our collective experiences, as well as listening for what our community needs. We understand the significance of lived experiences, and how each of our unique stories can both exemplify and contradict theory. SAYHU is open to community members coming to the table in their whole selves, and as a community we create the space to unpack our experiences, and explore how feminism, race/gender/class theory, and structures of power can give us context and a way to understand them. We carry it forward by creating educational programming and social justice practices that are informed by this analysis.

Evan ONeil