Unfortunately, the state of California got a dismal C.
The Scorecard is a comprehensive analysis of where the state’s leaders stand on the environment and climate change.
Kalra was named Nature Defender by CLVC for championing AB 3030 in the state assembly, to preserve biodiversity and access to nature. He was recognized as “someone the environmental community can always count on to be the progressive leader and environmental champion that California needs.”
Kalra’s track record supporting a range of environmental bills on the assembly floor (buffer zoners for oil and gas safety, clean cars, and transparency within the Department of Toxic Substances Control), earned a 100% rating for two consecutive years (2017 and 2018), and a 99% in 2019.
Most recently he co-authored AB 1289, with Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), to help smaller family farms stay in business by transitioning from animal agriculture to sustainable plant-based agriculture.
Kalra stated that CLCV was his ‘go-to group “ for environmental leadership because they were helping combat the climate crisis with new, innovative proposals designed “to strengthen clean air and water for our communities.”
Mary Creasman, CLCV CEO, said that though California had a reputation for being progressive, 2020 was largely a year of ‘climate change inaction.’
Only 11 (nine Assemblymembers and two Senators) out of 120 legislators scored 100%.
Governor Gavin Newsom earned a score of 87% despite California’s poor track record on climate change initiatives last year, only because he issued executive orders at the year end to conserve biodiversity and boost climate resilience
CLVC said that the climate crisis took a back seat in Sacramento last year. For the first time, the annual Scorecard revealed that 70% of the California Legislature accepted campaign contributions from oil companies and major oil industry Political Action Committees (PACs). According to their analysis, 60% of Democrats and 100% of Republicans took these dollars.
Even though Kalra and a small band of legislators fought for climate justice, they failed to convince a majority in the legislature to pass bold policies. In reality, corporate interests are still calling the shots in Sacramento when it comes to the environment and public health, added Creasman.
“Corporate polluters continue to have an outsized impact on policy in Sacramento.”
With less than nine years left to address the most severe impacts of climate change, the California League of Conservation Voters is calling for renewed action in Sacramento and, in particular, the development of a comprehensive climate action plan for the state.
Mike Young, Political and Organizing Director at CLCV urged the Governor and the legislature to work together to renew their focus on the climate crisis. He pointed them to the Biden Administration’s climate action plan, with justice, jobs and public health at its center, nothing that “We need a vision for the future that centers the health and safety of Californians.”
CLVC called for California to create a clear climate action plan of its own, because “the country and the world is looking to California for leadership.”
California’s Overall Score: 74%
Governor Newsom’s Score: 87%
Assembly Overall Average Score: 71%
Senate Overall Average Score: 73%
Meera Kymal is a Contributing Editor at India Currents
Valley Verde to sell culturally-meaningful and hard-to-find seedlings for families to ensure food security and comfort during pandemic and economic uncertainty
Today, Valley Verde launched a new offering of seedlings for culturally-preferred produce at a price point that communities can afford (even offering a discount to low-income shoppers). With unemployment and the cost of living high and a crisis like COVID-19 hitting our community, a backyard or porch garden can provide economic security and a nutritional safety net for families in need.
“Families want to grow healthy, fresh, organic, and affordable culturally-meaningful organic produce like Thai basil, bitter melon, chayote, and chili peppers in their own gardens. We are here to help them every way we can,” said Raul Lozano, Founder of Valley Verde. “People can grow their own food and eat it, share it, or even sell it to other families in the community.”
Diverse South Bay communities can have difficulty finding seedlings for the healthy, culturally-meaningful, and organic produce they would like to grow and eat. When families must rely on big stores and corporations for food access it can be easy to feel disconnected from their cultural food roots. With this new effort, Valley Verde is making it easier to grow the vegetables that our communities want.
Valley Verde has provided participants in gardening courses with homeland seedlings for four years, and is now expanding this opportunity to meet community demand. This includes opening an in-person nursery at 59 S Autumn St. on Saturday, March 27th where families can buy seedlings and have access to resources for new gardeners.
Lozano added, “Food unites our communities and nourishes our souls. Planting seedlings in a home garden or community garden is a critical first step to food security. Harvesting foods from our heritage is also a way of investing in the future and creating the community we want to see.”
To tell this story, we can offer media:
Interviews with Valley Verde representatives (Languages: English, Spanish, Punjabi, Hindi)
Interviews with local growers/gardeners (Languages: TBD)
Site visits to the nursery, including on the day of its grand opening – Saturday, March 27th, 9am
Photos and b-roll of gardens and people working in their gardens
Seedlings will be available for sale at:
59 S Autumn St., San Jose, CA (Tuesday-Sunday, 9am-4pm)
Homeland seedlings for sale (at prices ranging from $5.00 – $10.00) include:
Chinese bitter melon
Alok – bottle gourd
Satsuma long eggplant
Squashes and zucchinis
Thai hot chili and other peppers
Habanero, jalapenos, and serranos
About Valley Verde
Valley Verde is a San Jose-based nonprofit focused on increasing self-sufficiency, health, and resilience through a culturally informed community based food system. We own greenhouses and help local residents plant gardens to promote food security. We offer monthly workshops and one-on-one mentorship in a variety of languages (including Spanish) to help home gardeners have a successful harvest. We want to support our community as they build resilience through food sovereignty by providing culturally preferred vegetable seedlings, environmental education, and supporting the development of edible gardens.
Silicon Valley has been one of the greatest wealth generators in the United States. Yet this wealth has come at a price, one that hasn’t been shared equally amongst the residents of the Bay Area. The more ‘visual’ costs, such as skyrocketing rents and urban sprawl obscure the more subtle, but far more dangerous and long-terms costs right beneath our feet. Literally. The true cost of Silicon Valley’s success is in the ground you stand on. Santa Clara County is home to 23 superfund sites, the most of any county in the United States. If you live in the South Bay, you are never more than a short drive from one of these sites. If you live in Mountain View, Sunnyvale, or San Jose, you can probably walk to one.
A site gains a superfund status if it scores above a 28.5 or higher out of 100 on the EPA’s Hazard Ranking System, which is a measurement of the site’s threat to human health. Sites must reach a certain level of severity before they can be designated as a ‘superfund’, which lets the government to force the parties responsible to perform cleanups or reimburse the government for EPA-led cleanup. There are also hundreds of other toxic sites which don’t qualify as superfund sites which are scattered across Silicon Valley.
To understand where we are, we need to look at where we have been. Silicon Valley earned its name by hosting semiconductor and microprocessor companies such as Atari, Fairchild, Hewlett-Packard. These companies used a solvent called trichloroethylene (TCE) in their manufacturing process. TCE is now a known human carcinogen and can also cause birth defects. After use, the TCE was poured down drains or kept in storage tanks which subsequently leaded and contaminated local groundwater. In some instance, the pollutants can re-emerge as vapor and result in ‘toxic plumes’ or ‘vapor intrusion zones’.
I live in northern Sunnyvale and I can easily walk to half a dozen, three of which are collectively called the ‘Sunnyvale Triple-site’. The vapor intrusion zone from this site encompass 400 homes and four schools, including the majority-Latino San Miguel Elementary School. Polluted in the 1980, the site was only fully cleaned up in the last decade and is now closely monitored by authorities.
It is not a coincidence that Highway 101 through the same areas of Sunnyvale, Mountain View, and San Jose which host the highest concentration of minorities (and superfund sites).
The highway also runs through East Palo Alto on its way to San Francisco. East Palo Alto is diverse city with 61% of its residents identifying as Latino, 15.6% African American/Black, and 11% Asian. The median income in 2018 was $58,783, a far cry from the average of $137,000 in whiter neighboring Palo Alto. Children in East Palo Alto are 2.5 times more likely to suffer from asthma as children in the rest of San Mateo County, and life expectancy is 13 years shorter.
And East Palo Alto isn’t an exception but rather part of a trend, a paper published by researchers at Santa Clara University noted that,
“Environmental burdens are concentrated along transportation routes and industrial centers that represent Silicon Valley’s rapid development. Hispanic populations, people of color, and socially vulnerable populations…are more likely to be exposed to multiple environmental hazards than other groups.”
The term ‘environmental burdens’ doesn’t quite convey the truth that our neighbors who bear these ‘burden’ will be sicker and die sooner than our neighbors without such burdens.
I felt two things when I learned this: shocked and lucky. Shocked, because I had no idea of the history of pollution and injustice which underlay the success of Silicon Valley. And lucky, because while traffic is annoying I don’t live in an area where I have to worry that car exhaust will damage my health or the health of my family. Nor do I have to decide between affordable housing and living in an area which could be exposed to toxic vapor plumes.
And now I feel determined, because I can do something to help my neighbors who do have to worry about these things. I can vote for people who take environmental issues seriously, and who support clean public transportation. I can advocate at the state and local level for our legislators to ensure that the benefits and burdens of success are distributed more equally. I can speak up because we are all part of this community, and it is my responsibility to help my neighbors.
Erin Zimmerman was trained as a Climate Reality Leader in 2019 by the Climate Reality Project, but has been active in the environmental movement for over a decade. Erin holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of Adelaide, where she focused on environmental degradation and its impacts on country and regional stability in Asia. She is currently the Chair of the Speakers’ Bureau of the Santa Clara Chapter of the Climate Reality Project and an active member of the Legislative and Policy team.
Young people are integral towards the fight for a sustainable future. From social media to student platforms, teenagers have used their collective voice to pioneer a new wave of eco-friendly advocacy and innovation. To learn more about Gen Z’s unique position within the environmental movement, I had a chat with Almaden valley teen, Adarsh Ambati. A junior at Archbishop Mitty High School, Adarsh was the only U.S. finalist for the global Gothenburg Sustainability Youth Award and the International Action For Nature Organization’s Eco-Hero. After the devastating California wildfires, Adarsh learned more about the disaster’s impact on endangered species — most notably, California’s amphibian biodiversity.
IC: What prompted you to work in the sphere of environmental sustainability?
AA: The Californian drought was instrumental in developing my awareness of climate change. I found that changes in migratory patterns, habitat shifts, disruptions in food-web, the prevalence of pathogens, parasites and diseases, wildfires, and floods, are directly or indirectly a result of climate change. This interdependence of the climate on even niche areas of ecosystems developed in me an interest in understanding ecology and biodiversity, which propelled me into the world of environmental sustainability.
IC: Why amphibians? How do you learn about the pathogens impacting endangered species in the first place?
AA: Because of the California Drought, I grew up not only verbally hearing about the importance of water but practically witnessing the devastating effects of water shortage – lush green lawns turning brown, the creek in front of my home drying up silencing the croaking of the frogs, deers moving on, and ravaging wildfires. As a 6th grader, I used to accompany my brother to BioCurious, our community lab. Seminars and workshops regarding climate change at the lab provided me with a lens for understanding the environmental effect of climate change on organisms and their ecosystems, which spurred my interest in environmental sustainability. After further research in the field, I discovered the Batrachochytrium Dendrobatidis fungus that is endangering hundreds of frog species around the world. After reading more about this crisis in the novel, The Sixth Extinction, I promised to do my part in helping maintain the Earth’s biodiversity. With the help of mentors from my local community lab, BioCurious, I embarked on this Amphibian Biodiversity Protection Project.
IC: Why do you think it’s important for young people to use their platform to advocate for sustainability and the protection of biodiversity?
AA: The environment encompasses all that we need to sustain life on the planet. Today, massive problems ranging from water shortage to raging wildfires, which are triggered by climate change, threaten the environment and, indirectly, all life as we know it. While legislation and grassroots activism are 100% necessary to curbing and reversing man-made problems, innovative solutions are also crucial to solving such issues. So, I would implore all young innovators today to pursue environmental projects as the destruction of the environment will affect our generation the most. If we as youth choose to ignore the problem, it will only magnify until it can no longer be solved. By setting our minds to developing innovative solutions that help the environment without drastically changing one’s life, we can little by little overcome such worldwide issues. As these issues pertaining to the environment affect youth the most, it is imperative that we start to create projects aimed to help, protect, or sustain our planet immediately.
IC: What’s the future of this project? Do you plan on further developing or refining your in-field technique?
AA: After further testing with the fungal protein, I hope to expand into the next phase of the project – manufacturing the physical lateral flow strips using Ribosome Display. These test strips would allow researchers the unique ability to test in-field and be able to better protect the amphibians. So far, I have proved that a protein can be biologically engineered to build an in-field diagnostic for this fungal pathogen. My next goal will be to manufacture and continue to test this project.
IC: Do you have any advice for other teenagers trying to initiate sustainability projects of their own?
AA: For any youth trying to initiate sustainability projects of their own, my advice would be to be aware of the environment, think critically for innovative problem solving, and most importantly be open to taking criticism. In our world, there exist many problems ranging from massive losses of biodiversity to the seemingly insurmountable problem of climate change. We have to be aware of these problems so that we can solve them. Next, we need to think critically across various scientific disciplines to create the best solution for the problem at hand. For example, for my amphibian project, I had to combine my passions for environmental sciences, biology, chemistry, and physics to develop the most optimal solution. The next step is arguably the most important. Being able to accept criticism is one of the hardest to develop yet the most valuable quality an innovator can have for their projects. Through these three steps of identifying a solution, critical problem solving, and accepting constructive criticism, your sustainability projects will be increasingly successful.
Kanchan Naik is a senior at the Quarry Lane School in Dublin, California. Aside from being the Youth Editor at India Currents, she is also the editor-in-chief of her school newspaper The Roar and the 2019-2020 Teen Poet Laureate for the City of Pleasanton. Follow Kanchan on Instagram at @kanchan_naik_
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disproportionately impact our community, AACI’s Health Center remains committed to providing much needed resources during this time.
At AACI’s Story Road location will be providing No-Charge COVID-19 Testing for members of the community. Feel share this resource with your own networks and those in need.
No doctor’s note is required and we will serve everyone regardless of insurance or immigration status. Testing is only available to individuals without symptoms at this community testing event. We recommend that anyone experiencing symptoms see their own doctors.
If someone does not already have a doctor, AACI’s Health Center is accepting new patients. Please call (408) 975-2763 for more information.
Sachin Radhakrishnan, the co-founder of the San Jose non-profit In Their Shoes was recently honored by AACI (Asian Americans for Community Involvement) for his work with the homeless population. “Through his work, Sachin reminds us that our actions speak volumes. His many accomplishments are a shining example that any ordinary person, like you and I, can change lives.” A high honor indeed for this self-effacing young man but when you read his journey of how he got to this point, you will not be surprised.
When Sachin was in college during the economic downturn of 2009, he was aghast that “the first thing that our state cut was colleges, community colleges.” It became an issue because he and his fellow students could not get their required classes. So, he fell into community organizing and started lobbying with professors in Sacramento to effect change. He switched his major from engineering to politics because “I wanted to get into and learn as much as I could about how do you solve a problem.” The rest as they say is history.
After college, Sachin was working in City Hall in San Jose, when homelessness was becoming a challenging issue. In December 2014, the city decided to dismantle San Jose’s massive homeless encampment known as “The Jungle” which set off a chain reaction. This encampment was thought to be the largest of its kind in the US. Many people had been living there for almost 20 years and had built waterproof but non-traditional homes for themselves. While the city found other housing for some residents, many others were left with few viable options when their encampment was dismantled. Sachin started fielding calls from city residents when homeless people started moving into their neighborhoods.
Sachin realized really quickly the ramifications of the city’s actions. Instead of solving the problem of homelessness, their policies were only moving it around. “Just imagine your state of mind when you’re constantly being moved around. You feel like you’re breaking no law, but you’re just poor. You have no control, you lose your medication, you lose your identification. So, I started learning like that.”
Homelessness is not just a humanitarian issue for Sachin, but a deeply personal one. A close friend suffered from mental illness and was homeless himself. “His family did not know how to deal with that. And so, my friend was homeless just because relationship-wise, he was not doing a great job of respecting his parents. And at the same time, his parents didn’t really know how to talk to him.”
Sachin tried to make sense of his friend’s struggles, “Because he had money, his parents had money, but how does he end up homeless? And, he is intelligent and he has a lot of stuff going for him. How does he end up homeless?”
It has been a long journey but this story has a happy ending because his friend is now in the army and is doing well and. But that experience had a profound effect on Sachin and helped him better understand this complex issue.
Sachin and his friend Jamie Foberg had long conversations about homelessness and came to the conclusion that one of the key components that most of us take for granted – strong interpersonal relationships are completely missing for the homeless. They co-founded In Their Shoes to do just that – be a buddy and support the homeless. “To be one positive relationship that hopefully would spark other relationships. Maybe it would get them to heal relationships they had burned in the past. Because if they keep the relationship good with us, we’ll continue to help them. We advocate for them. We’ve been to the hospitals advocating for people, we’ve gotten people back on the list for housing.”
It started very organically for Sachin and Jamie. They would befriend the homeless in San Jose by bringing socks, water etc and start a conversation with them. They built relationships with them. They did not even pretend to have any understanding of their situation but just try to “step into their shoes” to really understand what their life is like and what they are dealing with.
Sachin recognizes that his unique background at City Hall helps him see the issues from both sides. One of the biggest aha moments for him was when he realized that the government can try to solve the cases while blaming homeless people for drug use etc, but “when you are working for the government, you should see the effect of your own policies.”
“Jamie and I, we would go and help people. When the city came in and kicked them out, they would lose their phones. It wouldn’t be so hard to find that same person who maybe we have a bed for at the shelter. The city needs to understand that you’re making social work harder.”
One of the myths of homelessness is that drug users end up on the street, but the fact is that people who end up homeless, often resort to drugs as a way to cope with their feelings of despair and hopelessness.
As inequality grows in our society, people are actually becoming homeless faster than before. Silicon Valley is the poster child for this problem but the right to a secure home is a universal right under international human rights law. Sachin is not the lone voice who thinks the policies guiding homelessness nationwide lack empathy and actually criminalize it. A United Nations expert on housing has called the Bay Area’s treatment of the homeless “cruel and inhuman”.
Sachin believes that “ it would be great if we could focus on that housing part, but at the same time, stop kicking people around. You know, I can’t imagine someone’s mental health after a year of being homeless. I’m actually so surprised when I see peoplehappy in the streets, they have some sense of pride, they still have hope. I don’t know how they have it. They’ve been kicked out so many times.” But when they are moved around so much, they lose that pride, security and sense of self and that leads them down a spiral.
Today at the Bill Wison Center, Sachin is doing outreach and case management for youth and loves being a part of this endeavour. He plans to go back to graduate school for business, concentrating on finance. He has seen first hand the effects of not understanding basic finance and learning to budget. “You’re easy prey to other people that may understand it. If people just even know a little bit, they may be able to stop the cycle of poverty.”
When I asked Sachin what we could do as a community to better understand the problem and be a part of the solution, he shared this point of view.
“So much of our culture is philanthropic and service . But there’s also another side of it that is very, very callous. Really disrespectful to people and their experiences. And yeah, that’s something in our society that we need to really think about, on how we talk about others. How we may even perpetuate certain stereotypes.”
He also urges all of us to get rid of the NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) mentality. Sachin would like us to get involved in our community and be a proponent for solutions for low income and subsidized housing. There are many reasons people become homeless. Being empathetic and trying to understand them instead of criminalizing and stigmatizing them would be a start.
Changemakers: Individuals making a difference in all walks of life
Anjana Nagarajan-Butaney is a Bay Area resident with experience in educational non-profits, community building, networking and content development and was Community Director for an online platform. She is interested in how to strengthen communities by building connections to politics, science & technology, gender equality and public education.
Edited by Meera Kymal, contributing editor, India Currents
Residents in Santa Clara County can now get free and easy COVID-19 testing in their neighborhoods. The county just launched six new and expanded drive-through and pop-up locations at community centers, parking lots, and county health system in Milpitas, Morgan Hill, Mountain View and San Jose.
People get who get tested at these sites pay nothing for the test.
“It’s fast, free and you don’t need insurance,” said Cindy Chavez, President of the Board of Supervisors, urging residents to advantage of the opportunity to get tested in their neighborhood.
“The County is bringing testing capacity to where it’s needed.”
The locations were chosen based on data showing a higher rate of recent cases in these areas compared to nearby areas. By adding six new locations, the county now has at least 46 sites offering COVID-19 viral detection testing.
Frontline Workers Need Monthly Testing
The county recommends that essential workers (grocery store clerks, food delivery workers, retail associates, first responders, and other frontline workers), who regularly interact with the public to get tested at least once a month going forward, even if they have no symptoms at all. Testing can identify the infection before a person feels unwell or before they spread it to another person with potentially deadly consequences.
“I encourage everyone to protect themselves and their family by scheduling a test at one of our test sites throughout Santa Clara County,” said County Supervisor Joe Simitian. The tests offered are viral detection tests, which diagnose a person who currently has the infection.
Mobile testing services will be available at Rengstorff Park in the City of Mountain View. “We need everyone – including cities, the County, and private healthcare providers and labs,’ noted Mayor Margaret Abe-Koga, “to do their part to help us get through this crisis.”
WALK-UP TESTING SCHEDULE
Walk-up testing at outdoor “pop-up” sites will be available available without an appointment, insurance or doctor’s note, at Mountain View (May 25 & May 27 and in San Jose (May 29).
Monday, May 25, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Rengstorff Park Pool Area, 201 S Rengstorff Ave., Mountain View, CA 94040
Wednesday, May 27, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Rengstorff Park Pool Area, 201 S Rengstorff Ave., Mountain View, CA 94040
Friday, May 29, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. La Placita Tropicana Shopping Center parking lot, 1630 Story Rd, San Jose, CA 95122
DRIVE THRU TESTING SITES
Drive-thru testingwill be available 7 days a week at four county health system locations in Milpitas, Morgan Hill and San Jose. These require appointments which can be made online at sccfreetest.org or by calling 888-334-1000.
1325 East Calaveras Blvd., Milpitas, CA 95035 (location subject to change)
This year Cinequest celebrates thirty years of elating audiences, artists, and innovators, honoring its legacy of bringing together Silicon Valley’s technologies and spirit of innovation with the arts to empower great creations – Connecting audiences, youth, artists, and innovators with these creations and with each other.
Showcasing premier films, renowned and emerging artists, and breakthrough technology—the festival’s stellar reputation not only hinges on its knack for creating a powerful line-up, but also for securing distribution for many of its honored filmmakers.
With over 200 international movies from 44 countries, the festival will once again bring a world of cinema, fans and moviemakers to downtown San Jose and Redwood City. Cinequest is renowned for its many socials, soirees, and parties, fusing the community of film lovers with film creators, so do plan on attending one or more and meet directors, artists and like-minded enthusiasts.
Here is a sneak peek into films of Indian origin:
The Elder One (Moothon)
An action thriller film features a bilingual narrative in Malayalam and Hindi. The film tells the story of a 14 year old child from Lakshadweep who comes to Mumbai in search of his elder brother.
Ghost of the Golden Groves
Strange incidents occur in the heart of “Shonajhuri” forest in rural Bengal, which develops an ominous character of its own that allures and finally engulfs the protagonists.
In the heart of an Indian market, the captivating portrait of lives of everyday people with everyday stories, not dignified as heroes, but nevertheless people who make the lives of each other better.
Nirmal Anand’s Puppy
An ambitious super-fit Pharma salesman is faced with a major dilemma after being diagnosed with a health condition. Shattered, he is forced to relook at his life’s priorities. He then decides to listen to his heart’s calling and embarks on a new path that he believes will make him happy. But little does he realize that this quirky pursuit of happiness is going to shake up his married life and threaten its very foundation.
Opening Night Screening and Celebration: John Pinette: You Go Now is director Bob Krakower’s loving tribute to the funny man who made us forget our troubles and laugh at our foibles. Famed comedian, Matt Donaher will lead the screening with a ten-minute live set. Tuesday, March 3, 7:15pm, California Theatre
Closing Night Screening and Celebration: The world premiere of Resistance, the powerful retelling of the story of Marcel Marceau and his incredible efforts to save lives during WWII. Sunday, March 15, 6:00pm, California Theatre
Cinequest 2020: March 3 – 15 in San Jose and Redwood City. www.cinequest.org
DCF co-founder Samson Koletkar (aka Mahatma Moses) says this all started nearly ten years ago in the aftermath of the coordinated series of terrorist attacks across Mumbai in 2008. Koletkar, who grew up in Mumbai felt helpless about the mistrust, anger and ill-will. Wanting to do something, he used his comedic genius to stage a couple of shows. “The least I can do is get Indians and Pakistanis in the same room and make them laugh.” Thus, was born the Desi Comedy Fest, a showcase for South Asian talent, that he started with fellow comic, Bengaluru born, Abhay Nadkarni.
It started small, but over the years it grew steadily in terms of audience size and a diverse roster of talent onstage. Featuring a revolving cast of more than 30 performers from across the United States, the DCF featured comics with roots in countries far beyond its focus on India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Over the year’s comics and stand-up artists from Iranian, Syrian-Mexican, Libyan, Japanese and Filipino backgrounds joined the line-up.
This year the majority of the comics participating in the festival are American-born, and all reside in the United States. Nadkarni and Koletkar make it clear that’s due to the one-two punch of the Trump Administration’s travel ban focused on several Muslim-majority countries, and the increasing hassle and expense of obtaining visas.
Asif Ali is a handpicked favorite from some of the top comedy bookers working today. From his standup in the U.S. and internationally, to many outstanding theatrical roles, he is one of the fastest rising entertainers in the business over the past 7 years in the making. When he is not on stage or touring with his improv group, you can catch him on hit shows such as ABC Modern Family, Netflix Arrested Development, Marvel Agents of Shield, and on Comedy Central. Currently, he is the star on the new hit TV show NBC Mr. Robinson with Craig Robinson.
Raj Sivaraman is a writer, comedian, and unfunded research scientist. He has been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, and hosts the monthly show Monotony!, where comedians talk about their weird, trivial obsessions. Raj has performed in comedy festivals around the country and presented his research at just as many science conferences around the world. He has also written for Comedy Central, and was one of the main writers and performers for Boston News Net. His 2012 sketch album “In Case of Emergency” is available in several boxes under his bed.
Isha was recently featured in HBO’s Women in Comedy Festival and runs Affirmative Reaction, Boston’s only stand up show dedicated to Asian and Asian American voices. She was also a runner up in ImprovBoston’s Stand Up Throwdown and performed at PIT’s Femme Fest. Isha is also an accomplished improviser and sketch comedian. When she’s not doing comedy, Isha likes to attend Moana themed spin classes and work as a user experience researcher.
Kasha Patel was listed on Thrillist magazine’s “Best Undiscovered Comedians in the US”. She primarily focuses her jokes on her life as an Indian-American and science, producing one of the only science-themed comedy shows in the nation. Kasha presented a TEDx talk called “Sneaking Science into Stand-Up” where she shares a series of surprising revelations pulled from her analysis of more than 500 of her stand-up jokes. In 2016, she hosted an award-winning mini-series for NASA TV highlighting Earth science fieldwork.
Richard quit tech to do stand-up… oops! He started performing in San Francisco and is now based in Los Angeles. He talks about his experience as a first generation Indian immigrant, mental illness, and why he left Silicon Valley. He has a Half Hour Special “Missed the Window” on Dry Bar Comedy and was featured on NDTV’s “Stars of Comedy”. His albums “Live in San Francisco” and “Live at The Setup” available on Spotify. He headlined opening week at Doug Stanhope’s club Chuckleheads in Bisbee, AZ.
Gibran Saleem was born in North Carolina and raised in Virginia in a Pakistani household. While studying Psychology at New York University he was handpicked as an MVP nominee on the national TBS Rooftop Comedy College Competition and was a 2-time recipient of the UCB diversity scholarship. Gibran is the only comedian to ever be selected, as a finalist for both the Stand-Up NBC and NBC’s Late Night program. Gibran has been featured on MTV, TV Land, Popcorn Flix, PBS, CUNY TV, VOA, Elite Daily, and Cosmopolitan and performed his stand-up television debut on Gotham Comedy Live for AXS TV. He was the focus of an international documentary on NHK TV called Asian Dreamers: Brown is Funny and has been featured in festivals nationally across the states as well as winning 1st place in the Hoboken comedy festival.
Badar Tareen is a civil rights lawyer by day and a stand up comedian by night. Born and raised in a Pakistani-Muslim family in North Dakota, Badar won first place at last year’s Think Your Pretty Funny stand-up comedy competition in Washington DC. He has become a crowd favorite at venues like DC Improv, Busboys and Poets, Wonderland Ballroom, West Side Comedy Club, the New York Comedy Club, and the Greenwich Comedy Cellar.
Abhay is a comedian/writer/producer that moved from South-India to South Central Los Angeles for grad school. Dodging bullets en-route to grad school armed him with plenty of stories and stand up was his only catharsis for combating culture shock. His act is an eclectic mix of his experience as an immigrant in the US. He’s appeared on CBS, Audible’s “America from Abroad with Rob Delaney”, been featured in The Huffington Post, SF Chronicle. He is also the co-creator of “The Setup”, a weekly comedy show featured as one of the best underground comedy shows in San Francisco by Thrillist and Timeout.
Samson Koletkar was born in Mumbai and raised Jewish. Growing up in the world’s most crowded city, he spent most of his childhood years burning the midnight candles for earning a Master’s Degree in Computer Software, thereby fulfilling his parent’s dreams. He was named “10 Best Indian-Origin Comedians of the Last Decade” by BookMyShow and “10 Indian Comedians Who Found Success in the U.S.” by Silicon India, and SF Chronicle published a cover article on him “India-born stand-up builds comedy utopia in Oakland”.
Back in ancient China, people once held that their magnificent culture was a gift from the heavens. Art was a way to explore this connection between humankind and higher realms. Today, Shen Yun is reviving this tradition. Through the universal language of dance and music, Shen Yun weaves a wondrous tapestry of celestial paradises, ancient legends, and modern heroic tales, taking you on a journey through 5,000 years of authentic Chinese culture.
Shen Yun combines ancient legends with technological innovations, historically authentic costumes with breathtaking animated backdrops and classical Chinese dance with expressive storytelling, to share with you beautifully diverse ethnic and folk traditions. Filled with an enchanting orchestral sound, this is a mesmerizing experience you won’t find anywhere else.
Shen Yun cannot be seen in China today, where traditional culture has been devastated under decades of communist rule. Yet Shen Yun, a nonprofit based in New York, is now bringing the wonders of this ancient civilization to millions of people across the globe. The stunning beauty and tremendous energy of the performance are leaving audiences uplifted and deeply inspired.
See for yourself why Shen Yun is leaving millions around the world in awe, and why they return again and again.
“I’ve reviewed over 3,000 shows. None can compare to what I saw tonight. Five stars, mind blowing!” – Richard Connema, renowned Broadway critic
“My heart was open and I started to cry. The spirit of hope, beauty, and blessing…It’s a fabulous gift to us.” – Sine McKenna, award-winning Celtic singer
“This is the finest thing, the finest event I’ve ever been to in my life! I was in tears, because of the human spirit, the dignity, the power, the love, coming out of those people was astounding!” – Jim Crill, producer
Buy tickets HERE or check ShenYun.com/CA for more information.
This season of Navaratri brings with it garba, dandiya, music, masti, and hordes of Indian Americans ready to celebrate! Traditionally, garba/dandiya is associated with the region of Gujarat, however, all over America, this practice has been adopted by all. Uttar Pradesh Mandal of America (UPMA) is one such local Bay Area organization that has used the love of garba and dandiya for a good cause. On Friday, October 18th, at the San Jose Convention Center, UPMA held a benefit garba, Festival of Life “Dandiya Dhoom”, with world renowned singer, Falguni Pathak. UPMA has used the money they have raised over the past year from such events to build 10 daycare centers in Chitrakoot and helped 15,000 underprivileged women become empowered and get married. I was lucky to attend such an event on Friday October 18th; it was a night of synchronization, music, energy made unforgettable by Falguni Pathak’s infectious energy.
“Every penny earned [by UPMA] is sent back to India.”
UPMA’s light and energy is sourced from founder, former President, and current Chairperson, Nilu Gupta. Nilu Gupta and Prakash Agrawal co-founded the organization in 2006 when they saw a gap in knowledge and retention of UP culture in the Bay Area.
As a Hindi professor at De Anza Community College, Nilu Ji also runs one of the few college credit Hindi courses in California; she is trying to inspire the next generation of Indian Americans to grasp their native language and keep it alive.
UPMA is not without a team of volunteers and the current president, Ritesh Tandon, is working tirelessly to keep the organization vibrant. Attending events like Festival of Life shows support for Indian culture in the Bay Area and allows us to be civically engaged transcontinentally. To learn more about UPMA, to volunteer, or to find out about upcoming events check out their website http://upmaglobal.org/.
Saturday, November 2nd: Skandha sasthi soora samharam. Evening at 4.00 PM skandha sashti kavadi festival special pooja abhishekam, continued with Sri Venkateswara abhishekam, Continued with Sri Vishnu sahasra nama chanting, aarati and manthra pushpa.
Sunday, November 3rd: Day light savings time ends.
Saturday, November 9th: Evening at 4.00 PM, Sri Venkateswara abhisheka, continued with Sri Vishnu sahasra nama chanting, Sani trayodasi, Sani pradosham, Shiva Sri Rudra abhisheka, aarati and manthra pushpa.
Tuesday, November 12th: Evening at 5.00 PM, Aipasi pournami, Sri Shiva maha anna abhishekam, arati and manthra pushpa.
Evening at 6.00 PM, Pournami vratha, Sri Sathya Narayana swamy pooja, aarati and manthra pushpa. All are welcome to participate with family.
Wednesday, November 13th: Kritika vratha. Evening at 6.30 PM, Sri Valli Deva Sena sametha, Sri Subramanya abhisheka, aarati and manthra pushpa.
Friday, November 15th: Evening at 4.00 PM, Sri Bhuwanewari / Sri Lalitha Devi abhisheka, continued with Sri Lalitha sahasra nama chanting.
Evening at 5.00 PM, Sri Sankata Hara chathurthi, Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi homa / Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi abhisheka, aarati and manthra pushpa.
Sunday, November 17th: Evening at 6.30 PM, Sri Ayyappa mandala pooja begins. Special pooja, aarati and manthra pushpa (daily Ayyappa mandala pooja starting: November 17th 2019, Sunday to January 15th 2020, Wednesday, when mandala pooja ends).
Tuesday, November 19th: Evening at 6.30 PM, Sri Kala Bhairava asthami special pooja, aarati and manthra pushpa.
Sunday, November 24th: Evening at 4.00 PM, Pradosham, Shiva Sri Rudra abhisheka, Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi abhisheka, Sri Valli Deva Sena sametha, Sri Subramanya abhisheka, aarati and manthra pushpa.
Thursday, November 28th: Thanksgiving Day weekend timings.
Friday, November 29th: Day after Thanksgiving Day weekend timings.
Monday, December 2nd: Sukla Sashti. Evening at 8.30 PM, Sri Valli Deva Sena sametha, Sri Subramanya sahasra nama archana, aarati and mathra pushpa.