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Biography
Topics
Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders
Civil Rights Movement
First Year Read Programs
Human Rights
Immigration
Islamophobia
Leadership
Multiculturalism
Programs for High School Students
Racism/Racial Justice
Religion/Theology/Spirituality
Resiliency/Healing
Women & Feminism
Youth Summit
Youth/Student Activism

Deepa Iyer is a South Asian American writer, lawyer, strategist, facilitator, and activist. She is a Senior Advisor at Building Movement Project and curator of Solidarity Is, a project that provides trainings, narratives, and resources on building deep and lasting multiracial solidarity.

Iyer served as executive director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) for a decade, and has held positions at Race Forward, the US Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, the Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center, and the Asian American Justice Center.

Iyer’s first book, We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future (The New Press 2015), received a 2016 American Book Award. She hosts a podcast called Solidarity Is This to explore solidarity practices around the country. Iyer has received fellowships from Open Society Foundations and the Social Change Initiative, and in 2019, she received an honorary doctoral degree from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Iyer serves on the Advisory Council of the Emergent Fund.

An immigrant who moved to Kentucky from India when she was twelve, Iyer graduated from the University of Notre Dame Law School and Vanderbilt University. She tweets @dviyer.

Testimonials
“Deepa was AMAZING!!!  Thank you so much for bringing her on board the Speak Out repository.  She brings such a valuable voice to the conversation.”
— Janelle Williams, Professional Development Coordinator, Southwestern College, Chula Vista CA
 

“In an era of heightened racial anxiety and contradictory state policies, Iyer challenges us to imagine and aspire toward a truly equitable and inclusive multiracial society.”
— Michael Omi, associate professor of Asian American studies, University of California, Berkeley

“At a time when Black and Brown communities from Murfreesboro to Ferguson are under attack, Deepa Iyer reminds us...that building meaningful and lasting allegiances, shaped by young people, is the urgent task ahead of us.”
— Vincent Warren, Center for Constitutional Rights

“With strong research and individual accounts, Deepa Iyer’s We Too Sing America fills an unfortunate gap in knowledge of the effects of post-9/11 bigotry and violence on South Asian, Arab, and Muslim communities. It is personal, political, and powerful.”
— Hari Kondabolu, comedian and writer

“Iyer’s personal journey organizing around racially charged events post-9/11 defines a new movement in America that is centered on the desire to reclaim our country. Her account of the policies, rhetoric, and actions that marginalize, demonize, and criminalize brown people because of their identities, their names, and their faiths provides a call to action for all of us.”
— Rashida Tlaib, former Michigan state representative and the second Muslim woman to serve in a state legislature

“Deepa Iyer brings the head of a lawyer and the heart of a community activist to bear on her remarkable book We Too Sing America. It is a window into the struggles of the margins that allow the mainstream to remain humane.”
— Vijay Prashad, author of Uncle Swami: Being South Asian in America

“…Iyer provides us with a wealth of detail on the struggles faced by South Asian, Arab, Muslim, and Sikh youth, women, and men who refuse to be excluded from full membership in the United States.”
— Rajini Srikanth, author of Constructing the Enemy: Empathy/Antipathy in U.S. Literature and Law and The World Next Door: South Asian American Literature and the Idea of America

We Too Sing America is a necessary, important, and passionate work that records the hymns, blues, and joyous songs of a post-9/11 America, featuring diverse voices of American communities often excluded from the choir. But Iyer’s book aims higher: it reflects hope for America’s pluralistic future where these ‘others’ ultimately emerge as the protagonists of not only their own narratives but of a new, vibrant America as well.”
— Wajahat Ali, host, Al-Jazeera America, and author of The Domestic Crusaders

“With years of experience in civil rights advocacy, Deepa Iyer’s book is an important contribution to the work of building a stronger and more inclusive democracy.”
— Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA)

“A fascinating read! Iyer is never shy to share her strong opinions; she has written passionately, tying well-researched sections on policy together with emotional accounts of national events. Whether you ultimately agree or disagree with the narrative, this book is a rare opportunity to read about a perspective on the intersection of community, governance, policy, family, and law.”
— Kal Penn, author and public servant
 

Speeches

Destination 2042: Navigating America’s Changing Racial Landscape
Examines the changing racial demographics in America; explores how communities of color build power and solidarity

Moving Beyond Diversity: Equity and Inclusion in America
Examines how to move beyond diversity and multiculturalism on campuses and in workplaces

Movement Building in Asian American Communities
Explores historical and contemporary movements for social change in which Asian Americans have played a part

Spelling Bee Champions, Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs and … Terrorists? The Narratives of South Asian America
Explores historical and contemporary narratives and characterizations of South Asians in the United States, and ways to disrupt and reshape the discourse

Of Allies and Co-Conspirators: Cross-Community Solidarity
Explores how social change movements rely on cross-community solidarity

Race and Politics in America
Overview of the ways in which America’s political climate is shaped by our discomfort with race

15 Years After 9/11: The State of America
Explores the post 9/11 climate through the lens of Iyer's book, We Too Sing America

My Point of Entry: A Political Consciousness Workshop
A workshop that enables students to trace their points of entry into political consciousness

Race Talk, Race Action
A workshop that enables students to identify how they can make concrete changes in terms of racial dynamics on campus and beyond

Media