Category Archives: projects

Asian Pacific American Our Experience: Local Stories

Asian Americans is a sweeping 5-part historical series chronicling two centuries of evolving contributions and challenges experienced by Asian Americans in the United States. The series explores bold, new perspectives that recalibrate the way we look at those experiences, and reveals the vital role of Asian Americans in shaping American history and identity.’ [from Vivek Maddala who composed the music score for this series]

Episodes 1 & 2 premiered yesterday on PBS (broadcast and streaming), and Episodes 3, 4, & 5 premiere tonight (May 12) at 8 PM.

I was honored to be one of the local Asian Americans asked to share their stories and perspectives, as part of the collaboration between APAA (Asian/Pacific Islander/American Association of Greater Rochester) and WXXI. Thank you Mimi and Lily Lee for your continuing work in our community.

You can watch the spots, including my own, below. My only gripe is that, in my intro, I mentioned how I come from the Global South/colonized world and how that impacts my identity and work, which was edited out. But the rest is still here:)

Watch at this link.

The Changemakers: Rochester Women Who Changed the World

Dear friends, I’m thrilled to share that I will be one of the women featured in a new exhibition, ‘The Changemakers: Rochester Women Who Changed the World,’ inspired by the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment and commemoration of the women’s suffrage movement.

The Changemakers will open on October 9, 2020 in the Riedman Gallery at the Rochester Museum & Science Center.

It will be a community-curated exhibition that hopes to celebrate historical and contemporary women visionaries, trailblazers, inventors, social innovators, and entrepreneurs in western New York, through compelling, untold narratives. It will use Immersive, collections-rich spaces and hands-on experiences to give visitors new access to insights from the past, encourage gender equity in the present, and inspire a better future.

I will be there on Oct 8th! What a treat! #ChangemakersRoc

doing a tv spot for asian pacific american heritage month

working with #APAA (asian pacific islander american association of rochester) and #WXXI to celebrate asian pacific american heritage month. 

The ‘Sultana’s Dream’ Project by Chitra Ganesh and the Importance of Muslim Feminisms

i wrote this in the middle of our move, because it means that much to me.
a new exhibit based on the work of radical bengali feminist rokeya hossain is now at the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester (until june of this year). that’s something to rejoice, except that hossain’s muslim identity is completely erased in the discourse about the project both on MAG’s website as well as in artist chitra ganesh’s description of the work on her own website.

this erasure is particularly jarring at a time of anti-muslim progroms in india as well as the weaponization of the pandemic (it’s being called covid jihad) to stoke islamophobia.

here’s more.

Film Discussion to Explore Legacy of 1947 Partition, As Anti-Muslim Violence Surges In India

so a screening of ‘a thin wall’ followed by a community discussion at Douglass Auditorium at 36 King St. was cancelled on march 14th, in accordance with NYS coronavirus guidelines. we hope to reschedule some time in the future.

in the meantime, Darien Lamen spoke to Hibah Arshad, Thomas Gibson and i, and put together this excellent intro to the community conversation we hope to have. pls read/listen here.

‘books sandwiched in’ at wood library

spoke about ‘citizen: an america lyric,’ part of ‘books sandwiched in’ at wood library in #canandaigua today. discussed the book (with a clip from an interview with claudia rankine), the idea of #microaggressions, the toll they take on the body, and how my film #TheInjuredBody was inspired by the book. shared some clips from the film and explained how dance, the muscular contraction of the body, and breathing are important themes in the film. the Q & A was particularly lively with some resistance to microaggressions i shared as examples. will write more about that. but the library’s director realized how such convos were badly needed, and asked for names of activists and speakers. i guess that’s a step forward. here i am with jenny goodemote the library’s executive director.

panelists for post screening discussion

After the screening of ‘A Thin Wall’ there will be a Q&A discussion about the film, the 1947 partition, and the current news coming out of India.

I will be joined by Hibah Arshad, who will speak from personal experience about what it’s like to have family in India.

Hibah Arshad is a graduate of the University of Rochester. She majored in Psychology and is planning to pursue a career in medicine. She has been actively involved in interfaith efforts and community outreach for a number of years. She is a first generation Indian-American, and hopes to bring light to the impact that these recent events have had on Indian Muslims around the world.

My second co-panelist, for our post-screening discussion, will be Thomas Gibson. Tom will talk about British colonialism, the history of the RSS and European fascism. He will also locate the Delhi pogrom in a global, neoliberal context. Here is his bio.

Thomas Gibson is an anthropologist who has conducted extensive field research in the Philippines and Indonesia on religious nationalism, the indigenous peoples movement, and the legacy of Spanish, American and Dutch colonialism in Southeast Asia. He teaches courses at the University of Rochester on Radical Social Theory, American Empire, and Political Ontology.

Sat. March 14 // 6-9 PM // 36 King Street
Tickets on sale now:
$8/online // $10/ at the door

why the partition is still relevant

when i was working on ‘a thin wall,’ some people questioned its relevance. after all, why would something that happened in 1947, on the other side of the planet, in south asia, have any relevance for the world in the 21st century.

the advent of fascism in india along with the recent violence unleashed on minorities, especially the anti-muslim pogrom in delhi, have everything to do with the partition – with ethnonationalism, racial supremacy, and ideas of separation and ‘purity.’ many have likened the pogrom to kristallnacht in 1930s germany. there are also astounding similarities to the incitement and killings of 1947.

so far there has been no public discussion in rochester about the unraveling of india, what arundhati roy describes as follows:

‘A democracy that is not governed by a Constitution and one whose institutions have all been hollowed out can only ever become a majoritarian state. You can agree or disagree with a Constitution as a whole or in part – but to act as though it does not exist as this government is doing is to completely dismantle democracy. Perhaps this is the aim. This is our version of the coronavirus. We are sick.’

pls join us for a vigorous post-screening discussion and learn more. this can happen anywhere, especially in the US where fascism has already become a reality.

will be posting the bios of my co-panelists soon.

choreographing a piece about micro-aggressions

View this post on Instagram

taught @my.marikoyamada’s ‘dance performance and collaboration’ class today at @nazarethcollege. i talked about #TheInjuredBody: a #film about #racism in america, showed students clips from interviews. i explained #microaggressions, double consciousness and franz fanon’s work on the ‘muscular contraction’ of the colonized body. we read a poem from ‘citizen: an american lyric’ and saw the film projection from a fringe festival piece that mariko and i collaborated on in 2017. i asked students to use the words, concepts and images we had discussed to choreograph a multimedia piece. they did an incredible job in just 30-40 minutes. this is a v rough presentation of the individual choreography as well as a tiny bit of the collaborative ‘phrase’ they came up with ?

A post shared by mara ahmed (@mara__ahmed) on

meeting with erica

meeting with the incredible Erica Jae where we transferred some files, looked at her gorgeous photography, and concluded our work together on The Injured Body: A Film about Racism in America – what a beautiful collab this was, dear erica. will miss u and have every intention of staying connected inshallah.

erica jae and mara ahmed