Tag Archives: ISO

(From left to right) Mukhail Srinivasan, and ISO executive board members: Deepa Mistry, Shivan Singh, Navdeep Dhillon, Mudit Suebsukchareon, and Pranav Mandavia. (Photo by Mia Orantia)

Diwali Lights Up the Night

The Indian Student Organization brought the Festival of Lights — also known as Diwali — to USF last Wednesday evening.

Students were able to get intricate designs temporarily dyed on their skin with henna. (Photo by Mia Orantia)

Students were able to get intricate designs temporarily dyed on their skin with henna. (Photo by Mia Orantia)

“Diwali is our Indian new year. It’s celebrated across many different cultures and religions in India,” said Mudit Suebsukchareon, senior business administration major and president of ISO. “[The Festival of Lights] is basically lighting a lot of lamps, small candles, and keeping it very bright. You wear new clothes, eat a lot of food, and spend time with your family.”

The lighting of lamps and candles represents the victory of good over evil, and light over darkness. It is also symbolic of bringing in hope and wealth for the new year.

The celebration was held at McLaren Hall and included festivities that traditionally take place on Diwali. Tables were decorated with confetti and tea light candles, and ISO members came dressed in bright, ornate Attendees feasted on tandoori chicken, samosas, naan bread, and mango lassi (mango yogurt drink). ISO also showcased a one-minute preview of a traditional Indian dance they will be performing at Culturescape on Nov. 15. Henna (temporary die) tattooing was especially popular among students who lined up to get intricate body art.

Suebsukchareon has goals for this year to build a stronger community with Indian culture and more events. “I want to bring a different aspect to USF with Indian dance and activities like henna. This has a brought a lot of attention to people.”  He plans to make Holi — the Festival of Colors — an annual Spring event on campus.  Holi is another festive celebration in India where people chase and color each other with dry powder, and gather over food and dance.

ISO’s celebration of Diwali attracted many members of the USF community. Katrina Pasao, a sophomore biology major, said “I think it’s great that USF has a variety of culture events so that we can immerse ourselves in cultures we don’t know too much about.”

Diwali: The Festival of Lights

Dwali courtesy of Tamar

This past Wednesday night, USF’s Indian Student Organization(ISO) hosted its festival of lights—Diwali.

“[Diwali] is a religious event to celebrate the new year, and it’s one of our most traditional events,” said Harmon Chouhan, secretary of ISO.
Diwali originated in ancient India and holds different meanings for Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism.

“All the regions in India come together, that’s why we celebrate it because everyone can feel like they’re a part of it,” Chouhan said.

Some believe Diwali is a celebration of the marriage between the Hindu goddess Lakshmi and Lord Vishnu. In Bengal, it is a festival to worship Mother Kali, the goddess of strength. Others pray to Lord Ganesha, the elephant god of wisdom.
In India, Diwali is perceived as the time of year that people can begin fresh and traditionally involves the lighting of firecrackers and earthen lamps, and the exchange of gifts between families and friends.

The lighting of candles and lanterns symbolizes the hopes of the new year, and the noise of the fireworks serves as a message to the gods of the joy and prosperity of people on earth.

Students celebrated the evening with a feast of Indian food that included vegetarian and chicken samosas, chicken kabobs, pakora (fritters) and kheer (rice pudding). Students could also get henna, an Indian dye sometimes used to create temporary tattoos.

There were two performances at the event and the evening culminated with a DJ. “[Diwali]is a celebration of lights, celebrated in different ways,” said Chouhan.

MELA Event Highlights Social Justice Issues

SOA Watch representative Tammy Nguyen speaks with her cohort during the MELA Event. Photo by Annie Steimel/Foghorn

The Indian Student Organization threw their third annual event, MELA: A Celebration of Social Justice, on Friday, March 5. The  event was organized in collaboration with eight other student clubs and organizations. The night was complete with performances by the Hawaiian Ensemble and music by junior Ravi Amarawansa Jr. who played the plucked- stringed sitar, an instrument used in Hindustani classical music. The event was a tribute to recognize all the different social justice issues that USF clubs and organizations stand behind to bring awareness. It was also a representation to show that the USF community has the power to come together and acknowledge social injustices, according to ISO member Shelley Saini.

“MELA in the Indian culture is supposed to be like a carnival,” she said, “where people just listen to music, listen to speakers. It’s like a replica of that and it’s a very strong thing in our culture.”

The nine clubs and organizations represented their own social justice issues, illustrated by poster boards lining the back wall of McLaren. This year ISO decided to bring awareness about the law passed in India last year that criminalizes homosexuality. Other clubs, like Not For Sale, focused on their fight against modern-day slavery and human trafficking, a large movement that works closely alongside other branches of the nation-wide Not For Sale Campaign.

A few tables down the School of the Americas Watch, a club that actively works to close the highly controversial School of the Americas, brought awareness on the coup d’état in Honduras. The issue they presented was in correlation with their “Future of Honduras” event on March 9, a presentation and lecture by Andres Conteris. Conteris was one of the last American journalists in Honduras during the coup, and came to speak “on how the media plays into what’s going on social justice wise and all over America and all over the world,” said SOA Watch member and freshman Marissa Howser.

ISO invited Dr. James Taylor, USF politics professor, to give the key note speech. Professor Taylor had also spoken at the MELA event two years prior. “I was driving across the Bay Bridge trying to get here and I was thinking—this is amazing, because I can’t wait to get here and meet the young people who are spending their Friday night doing this rather than being at the bar,” he said.

“It’s really impressive with all of you,” he said to the nine clubs present. “You give us hope, and I think that the world can be a better place, and it has a great potential to be a better place.”

In his address, Professor Taylor talked about the 1960s Black Panther movement in Oakland, and how it was a group of young people who were committed to serving their community, just like the USF student clubs and organizations. Professor Taylor said that Huey P. Newton, a founder the movement, came up with a political philosophy 30 years ago called Revolutionary Intercommunalism. Because of the strong forces of capitalism expanding globally at a fast rate, Newton assured that ordinary people must come together from the ground up to respond to capitalism’s devastating effects on people, such as the increase in poverty. “The boundaries of nations would be eliminated and the world becomes a kind of community where people will need to respond intercommunally in order to respond to capitalism,” Professor Taylor said.

“I’m really proud of you and thankful that you are committed and are serious about this work. I don’t imagine that you’re playing around with it, or are you?” Professor Taylor joked. “I can hear, ‘Hell no! We’re not playing around!”

Freshman Marissa Kerum of AIESEC, an international student organization that promotes cultural understanding and global peace by sending students abroad, said “It definitely made me feel not special persay but kind of like we’re doing something right while everyone else is going out and partying and kind of having fun. I feel like I’m very passionate about it… so it’s definitely empowering.” AIESEC helps students through their entire process of going abroad, including finding the “perfect” internship or immersing students in the new country. “The reason why we’re here today is we’re focusing on Africa and HIV Aids awareness and education. We’re giving students the opportunity to go to Africa on an internship and educate pretty much everyone about HIV awareness because it is such a big problem,” Kerum said. Being a part of AIESEC, Kerum said that she really feels she’s making a difference, by giving others the opportunity of a lifetime to study abroad and helping them along the way.

Professor James Taylor, right, gave the keynote speech and spoke with students afterward. Photo by Annie Steimel/Foghorn

Professor Taylor said that students are now rising up all over the United States. He mentioned Bill Clinton’s visit to UC Berkeley two weeks before, and Clinton’s talk about how the world is hurting and students need to be committed to communalism. “Those were his words, and I was like ‘Wow, Bill Clinton used the word communalism!” Thereafter, the fastest growing minor at Cal became Global Poverty and Practice, with 350 students in its first semester.  Professor Taylor hopes USF catches on to do the same thing. “They have 350 students already doing much of the kind of work that students over here [at USF] are already doing. I really hope we can put a minor like that here at USF.”

Professor Taylor encouraged students to continue their work even if they are not able to complete it in their lifetime. “I think it’s arrogant for any of us to think that we have to fix the problems that we’re fighting for in our lifetime,” he said. “Whether it’s through Latin America, whether it’s in Africa, whether it’s in India…every bit of contribution you make, other people will come along behind you and continue to knock down these boundaries, knock down these walls and continue to humanize people.”

According to Professor Taylor, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s greatest speech was called “The Time to Embrace Silence Beyond Vietnam,” given on April 4, 1967—exactly one year before his death. King’s message was that the U.S. must become more committed to people. With all the evils of militarism, racism, and economic exploitation, the country still has the potential to be liberators.

“The only thing Martin Luther King talked about that’s really relevant to the way the world is today, we knocked out all the bad news and we still have some major challenges,” Professor Taylor said.  In the speech, King talks about the exploitation taking over the country. “Capital has taken over the soul of the human being. Our Supreme Court is out of its mind, I mean the U.S. Supreme Court has made a ruling that a corporation is a human being, and we don’t even take care of the human beings among us, but we’ll take care of our corporations, this is sickening! And im glad that each one of you are committed and fighting…I hope that you continue to fight and I hope that you continue to make a difference in the lives of people.”

Finally, Professor Taylor brought up President Barack Obama. “I’m sure you are all excited about Obama like everybody else, but Obama’s not gonna transform this world. It’s gotta come from the people, it’s gotta come from the bottom up,” he said. “Now if you’re doing it, don’t think about one day I’m going to be. No, you’re doing it right now!”

Andrea Powell, sophomore and Not For Sale club member, said that she agrees with Professor Taylor. “People always say ‘Well, I’m gonna go do something when I have my degree, when I graduate.’  And it’s, ‘No! You can do it now.’ I think at USF we have an advantage over other universities because we certainly have opportunities for people to get involved.”

Professor Taylor encouraged everyone as student leaders to continue fighting, helping, and serving. “Keep on trying to make a difference so that other people can have as good as the life that you have been afforded in this great country.”

The nine participating student organizations were AIESEC, the Culturally-Focused Clubs Council (CFCC), Delta Zeta Sorority, the Indian Student Organization, Invisible Children, Lambda Theta Nu Sorority, Inc., the Muslim Student Association, the Not For Sale Club, and SOA Watch.

ISO Discusses Injustice, Shares Food and Music

On Thursday night, McLaren Hall was home to USF’s second MELA event, where six USF clubs each brought a different social injustice to the forefront of discussions among the hundreds of students in attendance.
The Indian Student Organization (ISO) spearheaded the event that featured  traditional dances and music, South Asian food and speeches by USF students and professors. The ISO’s main issue was the pollution in India.

“We want to inspire people to join a cause and find something they care about,” said co-president of the ISO Priya Sajja, who said the ISO got the idea for their cause from the movie “Slumdog Millionaire.”

“We want to create awareness about the South Asian community at USF,” said senior Ravi Sandhu. Sandhu, who was the DJ of the night, is the former president of the ISO, but has since passed on the title and is still a member.

After roughly an hour of socializing during which students had the opportunity to visit each group’s table and learn more about specific causes, the first speaker of the night, USF Professor Taymiya Zaman, stepped to the podium to speak about her life as a Pakistani-American.

“Do I find it difficult to be a woman in Pakistan? Not really,” said Zaman, as she discussed the prejudices she and her family have battled in the United States, from airport security to the questions about her appearance. The roughly 400 students in attendance went from a loud, talkative crowd to a silenced group as Zaman passionately tackled U.S. foreign policy and the use of the words “extremists” and “terrorists.”

“Those extremists’ groups provide healthcare for people that U.S.-backed regimes do not provide,” she said.
The other five groups who shared social injustices were the Muslim Student Association, Back to da Roots, Invisible Children, School of Americas Watch and Not For Sale.

“There has been a 20-year-long war on children in Uganda,” said freshman Maggie Kennedy, whose Invisible Children group focused on the suffering of children in northern Uganda.

Kennedy has been studying this issue since high school, and traveled to southern Uganda two years ago as part of a humanitarian mission. Kennedy and her group were not allowed to enter northern Uganda though.
Invisible Children is a nationwide group that was started in California. There is a branch of the organization in Kampala, Uganda, the nation’s capital.

After two separate musical and dance performances, one by USF sophomores Ravi Amarawanza, Marina Liu, and Sarah Reinheimer that featured South Asian music performed on the sitar, drums and flute, and a separate Hawaiian Ensemble dance, the final speaker of the night approached the podium. USF senior Erin-Kate Escobar, a Jewish-American student, spoke about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The issue was the focus of the Muslim Student Association. Escobar talked about being Jewish and recognizing Jewish and Israeli injustices, as well as Jewish-Americans being major contributors to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which seeks to maintain and strengthen the American-Israeli relationship.

“In terms of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, I have no resolution for you tonight,” she joked with the crowd, giving those in attendance a bit of comic relief in between her speech and a poem she wrote about how she feels being a Jewish-American.

“I am from the flesh and bones of the colonized and the colonizers,” she told the crowd. Escobar also gave information about “Abraham’s Vision,” an organization that explores social relations within and in between Jewish, Muslim, Israeli and Palestinian communities. Escobar went on a trip with the group last summer to the Middle East, where they explored just alternatives to the status quo in the Middle East. She encouraged other students who identify with any of their communities to do the same.

The MELA event grew this semester from the previous one held, with more clubs and more students in attendance.

Sajja said, “We want to try and get other clubs involved, and more students to come every time.”