Mapping a Radical Legacy of South Asian Activism in the Bay Area

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You’ve probably heard of Bobby Seale and the Black Panthers, and Mario Savio and the Free Speech Movement. But California and the Bay Area were also a hotbed of radical South Asian activism that began more than 100 years ago.

Throughout the 20th century, immigrants from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and other countries in the region—along with their children—laid the foundation for social movements that still resonate in California today. And while this Desi legacy has been largely ignored, two Berkeley community historians have spent the past decade bringing these stories to life.

Barnali Ghosh and Anirvan Chatterjee lead the Radical South Asian History Walking Tour in Berkeley. The three-hour tour visits sites where there are often no plaques or markers. But the couple bring the story to life through photography and props. Both even play historical quotes and scenes.

They share stories of California South Asians you probably know, like Vice President Kamala Harris, as well as those you may never have heard of, like freedom fighter Kartar Singh Sarabha. Below, we’ve reached a handful of stops on the in-depth tour and give you a taste of this little-known history. You can also listen to the full audio episode (above) for a deeper dive into the story.

[View a full-screen version of the interactive here.]


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