brownindetroit brownindetroit

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brownindetroit  A collection of stories and more of South Asians in and around Detroit. 📸

“Up until 11th grade, I was the only brown girl in my school. Not “only Indian girl,” but legitimately the only brown girl. And because of that, the only woman I saw embracing my culture was my mom. And yes, like go mom, moms are amazing, always the unsung hero. But, as a teenager, obviously whatever my mom said was cool was perceived as completely not cool. So, instead, I just mimicked what all my white friends did, since that’s what I believed was cool, or beautiful, or bold, or whatever other positive adjectives 14 year-olds want to be associated with. My Indian and American friends were kept in separate worlds, Indian food was eaten only at home, and Indian clothes were reserved solely for Indian occasions.
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Then, in 11th grade, a new student from Maharashtra moved to our school. Now, I’m from a very small, very closed-minded town. This girl had everything going for her to be labeled as a “fob.” She had a thick accent, she wore a kurta and chudidhar to school, did all these things I always thought was a big no no. But, instead of receiving adverse reactions, this girl was adored. She looked amazing, she was brilliant, and so incredibly down to earth.
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At this same time, two-piece prom dresses (read as “westernized lehengas”) were becoming a big hit. Between the empowerment from this new girl, as well as this idea that my culture was finally beautiful because non-brown people approved of it, I basically did a 180. By December of my junior year, I was wearing kurtas and jeans to school, and taking roti sabji for lunch. I not only embraced my culture, but I felt very proud and comfortable with it.
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In college, I have found people that have allowed me to further embrace my culture, as well as appreciate it themselves. That said, I do still struggle to engage with my culture in a way that I believe is meaningful. Although it’s fun to pregame to Bollywood music and hit the Madras lunch buffet, being Indian-American is this experience that has no concrete definition, and because of that, has so much potential. I am so excited to have taken part in the Daughters of Color project, and I can’t wait to see what other experiences await.”

“Growing up as a second generation brown girl meant growing up with lots of culture, tradition, good food, and a unique perspective. Not only did I get to experience my parents upbringing while living wholly in the American dream, I got to blend the two lifestyles into my own unique experience. although I was taught to embrace my culture for the richness it carried I was never taught to embrace myself or my beauty for the richness I contained. The browness of my skin was hidden away under “fairness” creams and harsh chemicals, my childhood aged with burden as I stayed indoors to shelter my chocolate skin. Even the moments I dared to be bold and step outdoors, not caring about “how dark I would become” - I was quickly met with “you got so dark” in that judgmental tone. I frequently heard jokes about the darkness of my skin, laughing it away under the guise of confidence - all the while promising myself that I wouldn’t go outside for the next couple weeks hoping my skin would lighten up.

As women we’re often told to be confident and embrace our natural beauty while simultaneously being sold lightening soaps and creams, and magazine covers are edited to lighten models skin. As I’ve grown older being conscious of my skin tone is something I still deal with and I battle between not caring about what others think of me, but also letting it keep me from doing the things I love. I hope that every girl with an abundance of melanin, including me, learns to love it and embrace it because being darker truly is being beautiful.”

“One of my biggest insecurities is the fear of not leaving a lasting impression. I wouldn’t consider myself shy, but I am a relatively quiet person – especially in larger group settings. It’s not that I’m afraid to talk; I’ve always just been the kind of person that prefers to observe and keep my thoughts to myself.  This has been problematic in my mind because whenever I come home from an event where there were a lot of people to interact with, I fear that I came off as awkward or uninterested in what was going on. It’s something that I would fixate on for hours because I didn’t want people I was not well acquainted with to have the wrong impression of me or to not have an impression of me at all. I don’t have some amazing story of how I overcame this insecurity and put it all behind me because the reality is that insecurities like this are difficult to get past without feeling the need to overcompensate by dominating conversations or altering your personality. However, I have found ways to, at the very least, start taking steps towards rising above it like going into social situations with a more open mindset and learning to realize and correct when my mind is wandering to the point where I’m zoning out of conversations. It’s going to take me a while to overcome this fear, but I’m glad to finally be moving in the right direction.”

Part (3/3) "For me, that passion will always be music. I have been singing for as long as I can remember. I learned a lot from my grandma, who received her masters degree in music, and I also took private lessons with a voice teacher in the US for 4 years. When I received poor treatment and couldn’t use my hands to participate in recreational activities due to the pain, I did the only thing I could do — sing. I would sing for hours everyday so that I could remind myself of what I loved most, and why it was important to continue to fight my battle with lupus. Music provides a euphoric experience that nothing else can replicate for me, so it provided me with the motivation to live, because I’ll be honest — there were many times I wish I had died because of the constant, excruciating physical and mental pain lupus caused me to experience. I’m so glad I never gave up, because I wouldn’t be here today and would not have had the opportunity to make a positive impact on the world. *
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If you’ve reached this point, you’re probably wondering where I'm at in life now. Well, despite facing lupus and multiple types of discrimination (including ableism), I am fortunate enough to be in a place today that I would have never seen myself in 5 years ago. I have become confident, knowing that, because I’ve dealt with so much despite being 23, I’m adequately prepared to deal with most things that come my way. I have remained true to myself by continuing to be kind, compassionate, and empathetic towards others. Because I don’t take things for granted anymore, I’ve experienced success in academia and work that I never thought I would. While I'm fortunate enough to be where I am today, I think it's important to highlight that there are many individuals who will continue to struggle with the issues that I've faced in my life. One area that I feel never gets properly addressed is the lack of acknowledgment of physical and mental disabilities. As a community, we must strive to educate ourselves on how disabilities affect individuals, and what we can do individually to improve the lives of those people."

(Part 2/3) "Facing discrimination is something that I had gotten used to since I consistently dealt with it, but nothing could prepare me for being diagnosed with lupus (an autoimmune disease) shortly after I turned 18. I was pursuing a degree in Music Education in school at the time, and a month into undergrad, I was suddenly struck with the debilitating symptoms of lupus. I was in excruciating pain from head to toe, I lost the ability to walk, my wrists were so weak and inflamed that I couldn’t turn a doorknob or lift my phone, and mentally, I was close to giving up. I had to medically withdraw from school that year, since I initially received an inaccurate diagnosis and poor treatment. Thankfully, I came across a physician at the University of Michigan, and through their excellent treatment, the pain and inflammation I experienced was significantly reduced. It’s been 5 years since my diagnosis, and not only can I do things that I was once unable to, but I can play one of my favorite sports, basketball, at full strength and without restrictions. *
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As if having a disability isn’t difficult enough, the negative and dismissive attitudes some brown people had towards me made dealing with lupus more difficult than it needed to be. I was told by members of my community that I withdrew from school because I couldn’t “handle” it. I was told I must be a terrible person because I did something horrible in a previous life, so I was getting what I deserved. I was told that I never prayed enough, and that God was trying to teach me a lesson by punishing me. What I wasn’t told by these people is that, when you have a disability, it’s more important than ever to love yourself, block out the hate, and to be patient and kind to yourself. It's okay to give yourself a break, and it's incredibly important to be easy on yourself. You experience things the average person will NEVER experience or truly completely understand — including those providing care to you. Of course, you have to be strong, but it’s so much more than that. You have to embrace the concept of self-love and truly find something that you’re passionate about."

(Part 1/3) "People often talk about the importance of being strong when you face obstacles, but what do you do when you come across unique challenges in a fast-paced world, and no one ever slows down to show you the ropes? My entire life has been about being resilient in the face of adversity — and I’ve had no other choice. *
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For the majority of my life, I wore a turban since I was raised in a Sikh family. People usually assumed I was Muslim, and consequently, I faced Islamophobia. It wasn’t uncommon to hear things like “9/11 was your fault” and “get that turban off of your head, Osama” in school, especially since I was the only turbaned Sikh during my K-12 years. Despite the fact that over 90% of the men in the US who wear turbans are Sikh, not Muslim, I was not willing to throw my Muslim brothers and sisters under the bus simply to to save myself. I did my best to educate people, but I still couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable to even exist. While the decision to cut my hair and get rid of my turban is complex, I can say that it had to do with comfortably expressing the truest version of my identity, and I’m truly happy because of my decision. I still consider myself a Sikh because I strongly believe in Sikhism’s principles of equality, social justice, and serving others. I think it’s important to highlight that, while I did not remove my turban to appease those who harassed me, there are people who do so because they are concerned for their livelihood, and I think it’s unacceptable that the discrimination people face makes them feel that they have no choice."

Swipe the pics first to read the first three paragraphs of this post!! The paragraph below is the last paragraph!
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A while ago I had a conversation with a friend about how people genuinely feel that we’re really great at what we do, even though behind the scenes we’re always questioning ourselves and downplaying our achievements. Truthfully, we are really good at looking like we’re great at what we do. What's the line? "I walk on water, but only when it freezes." But truthfully, I’ve always felt like I actually am great at what I do, and I hate doubting it. It’s not that I don’t actually know what I’m good at. I know I’m talented and I know my skills. But I can’t kick that ‘not good enough’ feeling. I know a lot of us might feel the same and I know we’re all trying to find that middle path between hubris and complacency. Things are improving. I’m pushing myself to be better because I don’t think that I am Icarus. I’d like to think that I’m more Daedalus – the one who makes the wings. A creator. But I want to make a difference with the things I create. Ultimately, that is the goal of this page, and anything I write or create. I don’t just want to be a great man, but a good one too.

(Part 2/2) "When I share I’m moving to Bombay and talk about my work, I often get the “omg your life is so cool” and believe me, there’s not a second I don’t pinch myself that my passion can be turned into a monetizable career. But what I want people to realize is that it’s never too late or too early to start pursuing their dreams. Your life can also be “cool”, whatever that means!!!
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You can do anything no matter where you live. You don’t need fancy equipment. You don’t need to be a star kid. You don’t need to compromise your values.
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What you do need is pro-activeness, persistence, thick skin and laser focus on your goals. It’s easy to play the blame game and psych yourself out. *
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Listen and enact on the call of your authentic self. And if you don’t know what that is, set out time every week to consciously work on finding that purpose. Opportunities don’t magically land in your lap by dwelling on the past or wishing for your dreams to come true. Just start."

(Part 1/2) "Like my Insta bio says, I’m a 3rd generation American (both my parents and I were born and raised in America) with the desi-est soul living her dream. I graduated from @uofmichigan in April and am moving to Bombay in June to interview Bollywood celebrities for @avstv, create content on YouTube, host events for brand launches, collaborate on marketing campaigns, and ultimately share my journey with all of you!
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My vision is for South Asian young adults to recognize that there’s a world beyond corporate America-medicine-law-engineering-the stereotypical boxes. And that world is accessible if you work for it. *
I’ve done colon cancer research at @CWRU, media buying/planning at @PayPal, a 4 month co-op at an HR consulting firm, social media for a healthcare practice and Bollywood film agency, digital marketing at @Whirlpool, blogging for @MissMalini, so trust me when I say I’ve dabbled in it all. From internships across sectors, my professional trajectory hasn’t followed a straight shoot path. My grandfather always emphasizes, no matter how big or small the role, aim to learn, expand your network and hopefully leave your mark in some way.
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And with these experiences and learnings on my back, I’m taking the plunge with this next venture!"

"Becoming a mom wasn’t the easiest road for me, but I also know there’s people out there that have struggled & are struggling much harder. So I’m grateful to have got here. Through this journey, I was able to see the many sides of our culture & their view on the role of women in our South Asian community when it comes to women bearing children. It also showed me what a supportive system I have & how lucky I am to have my husband & family. Now that I do have Aydin, I feel like I was born again the day he was born. All of a sudden, I understand & get my parents so much more, & know so much more patience. I also have hopes for my son that I feel like I grew up with. My parents raised us to be pretty liberal & open-minded & I want those values for Aydin. Your hypocrisy is tested as a parent, & I want to preach what I pray. I want to teach him about gender & sexuality & speak about it openly. I also want him to know we are here to accept him in his perfection & his flaws. I want him to know that his morals & values are what I care about & I want his education to be about learning & not just about the conventional choices. I know there’s a lot out there that he will have to learn on his own, but I want him to know that his dad & I are there for him to figure it out as we go. I don’t want to raise him with crazy notions about worrying about what society or people will think long as his morals & values are not being compromised. I also want him to expose himself to new experiences & know that failure isn’t the end of a journey but the beginning of a new one that will lead to success in ways he didn’t set out for perhaps. I see him learn new things even now everyday, & I feel so proud as a mom that I made this human & I’m teaching him how to live what I hope he will think is a good & balanced life. This is my first Mother’s Day but I know it’s not my last (iA) & every year I know these are the wishes that I want for the both of us. Also as a mother, I am grateful to his father for being in this with me & he is just as involved if not more than I am, & I know not everyone has that privilege.
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(continued in comments...)

“When I told people from my hometown in NJ that I was planning to go to the University of Michigan, many of them thought it was just some midwestern state with cold weather and a lot of white people. I remember my English teacher joking that I would be 1 of 5 Indian people here, quite the difference from our English class with more than 60% of the students being South Asians. My hometown was clearly pretty heavily populated with South Asians. Having a class with that many people of the same ethnic background as me was something that only became more common as I got older and moved from elementary to middle to high school. I was never very involved in a lot of the cultural activities and events around me in high school. But as I came to college, I started seeing South Asians who grew up in hometowns where they were a very small minority flocking to organizations like SAAN, IASA and Indian dance teams. And while I ended up choosing to spend my time pursuing other extracurriculars in college, I began participating more in these events and started to see the value in this community of South Asians here, realizing how much I had taken what I had back home for granted. As I grew closer to people who came from those hometowns, I found myself conflating my identity more and more with being Indian. Not much had changed in terms of my actual knowledge or understanding of my culture, I just realized how much being Indian is so deeply ingrained in who I am by talking to individuals who did not have this community before and what their experiences have been like now that they have come to Ann Arbor. So now as I graduate and think back on my four years at Michigan, I realize how these people and these experiences have allowed me to develop a far deeper appreciation for my culture and community. Michigan is my home for so many reasons, and helping me dig deeper and take greater ownership of my identity is just one more reason why I love this place. “
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Shivani Bakre, a recent graduate from the University of Michigan Ross Business School. Congratulations to all graduates 🎉

(Part 3/3) "I always knew I wanted more for myself. I had to make something more of myself. The idea of remaining a small town girl suffocated me. Mediocrity used to suffocate me. Most dreamers definitely can relate to this.
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So I started; I began looking for a community that I belonged to. It took a lot of painful instances to finally get me here.
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I'm not completely where I want to be, but I'm exactly where I need to be. For that I'm grateful. Social media helped me connect to a world beyond my imagination. I was able to see so many others like me. But what also helped was the ability to express myself so freely, with or without judgement.
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This is how the journey to my path as a brand ambassador and model began, and I feel like I'm still at the only beginning stages."

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