Speaker and Artist Bios

 Kalpona Akter (Bangladesh): Kalpona Akter is the Executive Director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity (BCWS) and one of the most prominent voices of global rights advocacy for labor. Kalpona Akhter was herself a former child garment worker. BCWS is regarded by the international labor rights movement as one of the most effective grassroots labor organizations in Bangladesh.

Alia Amirali (Pakistan): Alia Amirali is a leading left activist and general secretary of the National Student Federation. She is also a researcher on the Baloch National Movement, a lecturer at Quaid-e-Azam University, and a volunteer for Awami Workers Party — a newly constituted left party formed through a merger of the Workers Party, Awami Party and Labor Party, Pakistan.

Vivek Bald (United States): Vivek Bald is Assistant Professor of Writing and Digital Media at MIT and a filmmaker whose work focuses on histories of migration and diaspora, particularly from the South Asian subcontinent. His current work, which examines the desertion and settlement of Indian Muslim merchant sailors in U.S. port cities in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, is the basis for his new book titled Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America, and a documentary film In Search of Bengali Harlem.

Omar Freilla (United States): Omar Freilla is an environmental justice activist, cooperative developer, and founder and coordinator of Green Worker Cooperatives in Bronx, NY. He is a nationally recognized voice for worker ownership, green jobs, and environmental justice. He has received numerous awards for his work, including the Rockefeller Foundation’s Jane Jacobs Medal for New Ideas and Activism.

Pooja Gehi (United States): Pooja Gehi is a staff attorney at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project where she represents low-income, transgender and intersex people of color in the areas of discrimination, immigration, access to government benefits, proper identification and healthcare. Prior to working at SRLP she wrote criminal appeals in 4th circuit and was a member of the Justice and Solidarity Collective in Washington DC. Pooja has organized against police brutality, the prison industrial complex, immigration detention, globalization, and unfair labor practices with the Coalition of Immokalee Farm Workers.

Priscilla Gonzalez (United States): Priscilla Gonzalez is a native New Yorker who’s worked for over a decade alongside countless others to build power among the working class. She’s organized public school parents, domestic workers, and has recently been working on a large-scale police reform campaign. She believes we all have a role to play and sees campaigns as important vehicles for building movements that can change the course of history.

Andrew Kadi (United States): Andrew Kadi is a human rights activist and digital media specialist currently serving on the Steering Committee of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.His writing has been published in The Guardian’s Comment is Free, Left Turn Magazine, Mondoweiss and The Electronic Intifada.

Ayesha Gill (United States): Ayesha’s grandparents, Bakhshish Singh (a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and Rattan Kaur, a Kuka, were among the founding members of the Ghadar Party in Astoria in 1913. Their children (Ayesha’s mother) Kartar Dhillon and uncle Bud Dhillon, were Ghadar Party activists, as was her father Surat Singh Gill. She is a life-long activist and a scientist who has worked in the fields of physics and genetics. Ayesha is a member of the IWW and is doing anti-war work, supporting whistleblowers Manning and Snowden, and supporting workers’ struggles here and worldwide.

Mohamad Junaid (Kashmir): Mohamad Juniad grew up in Kashmir and is a doctoral student in Anthropology at the Graduate Center CUNY. He has contributed essays on Kashmir in published volumes Everyday Occupations: Experiencing Militarism in South Asia and the Middle East (UPenn Press 2013); Until My Freedom Has Come: The New Intifada in Kashmir (Haymarket Books, 2012); Of Occupation and (Tranquebar 2013); The Hanging of Afzal Guru (Penguin 2013). His writings on Kashmir have also appeared in Economic and Political Weekly, Greater Kashmir, Aljazeera, Tehelka, and Guernica.

Herman Kumara (Sri Lanka): Herman Kumara is the convener of National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO), which encompasses more than 12 thousand fishermen in Sri Lanka.  He is also the Special Representative of the World Forum of Fisher People (WFFP), a board member for the People’s Commission on Human Rights (PCHR), a core committee member of South Asian Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE), a founding member of People to People Dialogue on Peace and Sustainable Development (PPD).

Jendog Lonewolf (United States): Jendog Lonewolf is a Hip Hop MC/lyricist and photographer, mixed with Blackfoot, Cherokee, and the Grand Cayman Islands, born & bred in pre-hipster/pre-gentrified Bushwick, Brooklyn. She navigates multiple spaces delivering messages of Love, Life and Self-defense through her sharp, layered lyricism and her organic photography. Amongst the places she has performed are, NuYorican Poet’s Cafe, Jazz Fest, and the Blue Nile.

Monami Maulik (United States): Born in the refugee colonies of Kolkata, India and raised in the Bronx, Monami is the Founder and Executive Director of DRUM- Desis Rising Up & Moving, a membership led organization of over 2,000 South Asian workers and youth for immigrant and racial justice, workers rights, and to end the school to prison pipeline in NYC and nationally. She is a Board Member of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, the National Dignity in Schools Campaign, the Civil Society Steering Committee for the UN High Level Dialogue on Migration, Immigrant Communities in Action (ICA) in NYC, and the United National Anti-War Committee.  In 2012, Ms. Maulik launched the Global South Asian Migrant Workers Alliance. She is published in Howard Zinn’s book, “Voices of a People’s History”, the Journal on Race and Ethnicity, and Left Turn magazine.

Aparna Nancherla (United States): Aparna Nancherla is a stand-up comedian and comedy writer. Originally from Washington D.C., she now resides in NYC. Aparna’s comedic goggles are dry and observational, and her act is sprinkled with absurdist wit and a whimsical take on the world. She writes for and sometimes appears on Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, formerly on FX, now on FXX.

Siddharth Narrain (India): Siddharth Narrain is a legal researcher and lawyer with the Alternative Law Forum in Bangalore, India. He has worked previously as a journalist with The Hindu newspaper and Frontline Magazine. Siddharth’s work includes research and advocacy around laws related gender, sexuality and free speech. Specifically, he has focused on the legal challenges to laws that criminalize homosexuality and gender expression in India, and on research related to sedition laws and hate speech legislation.

Naeem Mohaiemen (Bangladesh): Naeem Mohaiemen is a writer and visual artist, working in Dhaka and New York. He uses essays, photography, and film to research histories of the international left, and the failure of utopia projects.

Bharat Patankar (India): Bharat Patankar is a leading activist of the left wing Shramik Mukti Dal and of the peasant movement in South Maharashtra. He is one of the architects of the equitable water distribution movement in Maharashtra. He has been fighting for the rights of workers, farmers, agricultural laborers and also been part of radical anti-caste cultural movements for more than three decades. Bharat has been instrumental in establishing a Shramik Sanghatana (agricultural workers organization) working among adivasis in northern Maharashtra as well as alternative irrigation and dam movements.

Michael Premo (United States): Michael Premo is an artist, organizer and multimedia producer, currently co-creator and co-director of Sandy Storyline (sandystoryline.com), a participatory documentary that collects and shares stories about the impact of Hurricane Sandy on our neighborhoods, our communities and our lives. He is also co-director of Housing is a Human Right, a multimedia storytelling project connecting communities around issues of housing, land, and the dignity of a place to call home.

Maia Ramnath (United States): Maia Ramnath is a teacher, writer, activist, and dancer/aerialist living and working between NYC and central Pennsylvania. She is the author of The Haj to Utopia: How the Ghadar Movement Charted Global Radicalism and Attempted to Overthrow the British Empire, and Decolonizing Anarchism. She is a member of the Institute for Anarchist Studies board , organizes with Adalah-NY and part of the organizing collective of South Asia Solidarity Initiative.

Junaid Rana (United States): Junaid Rana is an associate professor of Asian American Studies in the Department of Anthropology at University of Illinois. His interests include transnational cultural studies, diaspora studies; community organizing and social movements; critical and comparative race studies, political economy, the postcolonial state; South Asia/Pakistan/US. He is also the author of Terrifying Muslims: Race and Labor in the South Asian Diaspora.

Hashim bin Rashid (Pakistan): Hashim bin Rashid is a former general secretary (Lahore) of the Awami Workers Party in Pakistan. As a journalist, he has contributed over 80 articles on subjects of national and international interest and written and translated poems in English and Urdu about blasphemy, the army’s violence against citizens and patriarchy. He has been working with indigenous fishing communities along the Indus River basin in Punjab and the struggles of various slum settlers in Lahore against displacement.

Rafael Samanez (United States): Rafael Samanez is the Executive Director and co-founder of VAMOS Unidos – Vendedoras Ambulantes Movilizando y Organizando en Solidaridad (Street Vendors Mobilizing and Organizing in Solidarity), a Bronx community-based social justice organization founded by low-income Latina/o immigrant street vendors organizing for economic and racial justice, immigrant rights, and police accountability. Samanez was born in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil and grew up in Lima, Peru and migrated to the United States in 1989.

Ravi Sinha (India): Ravi Sinha is an activist-scholar based in India who has been associated with the left movement for nearly four decades. He was trained as a theoretical physicist from MIT, Cambridge. Ravi has devoted himself full time to organizing and theorizing. He is the principal author of the book, Globalization of Capital (1997) published by Lal Parcham and Lok Dasta, co-founder of the Hindi journal, Sandhan, and one of the founders of New Socialist Initiative.

Samita Sinha (United States): Samita Sinha is an artist and vocalist/composer based in New York. She combines tradition with experiment to create new forms, drawing from a deep grounding in North Indian classical music, a contemporary vocabulary, folk and ritual music, and songs and texts in several languages. Her work reconfigures given inheritances, and combines raw, visceral energy with knowledge garnered from classical tradition.

Kavita Srivastava (India): Kavita Srivastava is the national secretary for the People’s Union for Civil Liberties and the convenor of the steering committee of the Right to Food campaign. She has been working in the women’s movement and civil rights movement for the past 20 years in Rajasthan and other parts of Northern India. Most recently, she has been involved with building resistance to state repression in different parts of India.

T. Sound (United States): T. Sound is a singer and Transmedia artist who in 2003 was featured in Utne Reader as One of the Top Visionaries Under 30, and the same year was profiled in The Source as One of the Top Ten Political Forces in Hip Hop. Growing up as a Dalit-American, she was driven to tell the stories of marginalized communities, which led her, upon graduating from UC Berkeley, to found the international media training organization, Third World Majority.

Mahendran Thiruvarangan (Sri Lanka): Mahendran Thiruvarangan is a graduate student at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. He is a member of the Collective for Economic Democratization in Sri Lanka, a collective with a shared commitment to social justice and economic democratisation. Thiruvarangan’s research interests include transnationalism, subaltern studies and post-Marxism.

Varuni Tiruchelvam (United States): Playing the cello for 27 years, Varuni Tiruchelvam has been creating improvised music as a spiritual & political vehicle for connecting to the land & community around her. Born in Sri Lanka, raised in England & Pennsylvania, she continues to yearn for peace & justice in all the places she has called home. She has performed in places such as Carnegie Hall, the Orpheum Theatre (LA), and the Cloitre des Oblats (Aix en Provence, France).

Aladdin Ullah (United States): Aladdin has been pioneering the past decade as one of the very first South Asians to perform stand-up comedy on national television on networks such as: HBO, Comedy Central, MTV, BET, and PBS. Co-founder and host of the multi-ethnic stand-up show Colorblind, which Mel Watkins of The New York Times hailed as “hilarious, thought provoking and ground breaking.”

YaliniDream (United States): Lankan Tamil Blood, Manchester Born, Texas bred and Brooklyn steeped, YaliniDream conjures spirit through her unique blend of poetry, theater, song, and dance.  Her work has been performed at venues such as NYC’s Lincoln Center and New York Live Arts, Chicago’s Vittum Theater, and Manchester’s Contact Theater.


One thought on “Speaker and Artist Bios

  1. I´m a Mexican-American Scholar doing my Ph D. dissertation on Pandurang Khankhoje,Ghadar activist,agronomist and friend of painter Diego Rivera and italian photographer Tina Modotti.I would like to share my findings with you all,I live in Mexico City and study at the National University( UNAM)

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