Not-for-profit South Asian American Digital Archive raises $10,000 at fundraiser

Dr. Amarjit Singh Marwah, right, a Sikh nonagenarian and a beacon to the Indian-American community in California with Sharon Sekhon, founder and executive director of the Studio for Southern California History at SAADA’s fund-raising luncheon at Marwah’s home in Malibu, Calif., July 20.

The inaugural summer fundraising campaign by South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA), the largest publicly accessible archive of South Asian American history, collected close to $10,000 July 20 in Malibu, California.

The fundraising luncheon was hosted at his home in Malibu by Dr. Amarjit Singh Marwah, a Sikh nonagenarian who has served as a beacon to the Indian-American community, especially the Sikhs in California,for the last several decades. The fund aims to support SAADA’s efforts to honor the legacies of those who paved the way for the South Asian community like Dalip Singh Saund,the very first South Asian elected to U.S. Congress in 1957 and Dr. Marwah who came to the U.S. in 1953 on a Fulbright scholarship under the Guggenheim Foundation to study pediatric dentistry and also joined to work as volunteer for Saund’s campaign.

Marwah was recognized in February this year for his contributions to Los Angeles history and particularly to the Sikh-American community of Southern California, by Los Angeles Council member David Ryu.

The July 20 fundraising event also celebrated SAADA’s 11th anniversary and supported the digitization of the Dalip Singh Saund Archive.

“We had a very positive response to our first-ever formal fund-raising luncheon with many attendees to the event encouraging us to carry further our important initiative to document the South Asian history,” Samip Mallick, SAADA co-founder and executive director, told this correspondent.

He said the guests at the event numbering around 100 included non-South Asians as well. Among those present comprised Sharon Sekhon,founder and executive director of the Studio for Southern California History, Dr. Michelle Caswell, an associate professor of Archival Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, besides SAADA Board Members Nidhi Kohli and Dr. Seema Sohi.

Marwah was also interviewed about his time volunteering for Dalip Singh Saund’s congressional campaign. Although he was new to the country at that time, Marwah began volunteering for Saund with enthusiasm. Their opponent in the campaign played up Saund’s “foreignness” as a way to convince voters not to support him.

“We had a hard-fought campaign,” Saund later said, but they won… by less than 300 votes,” Marwah recalled in the interview.

Mallick, the former Director of the University of Chicago Library’s Ranganathan Center for Digital Information, launched the SAADA digital library project 11 years ago along with Caswell to collect, preserve and share the community’s stories.

Since then, the ongoing project has documented and preserved some 3,200 items through the SAADA website in the largest publicly-available archive of South Asian American history.

The idea, Mallick says, is to create a “more just future” so that the struggles of the past and the current generation for equality, inclusion and representation are not the same struggles for the future generations.

“South Asian American history is incredibly important for everybody, not just for South Asians, to know about, and is very relevant to the present context when one hears a lot about nativism directed against immigrants of color,” Caswell, told this correspondent in an interview earlier this year.

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