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Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders
Civil Rights Movement
First Year Read Programs
Human Rights
Immigration
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Programs for High School Students
Racism/Racial Justice
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Deepa Iyer is a South Asian American activist, writer, and lawyer. She is currently the Senior Fellow at the Center for Social Inclusion where she provides analysis, commentary and scholarship on equity and solidarity in America’s changing racial landscape. Through her 15 years in racial and immigrant justice work in governmental and non-profit sectors, Deepa has gained expertise on issues related to post 9/11 America, national security and civil rights, immigration reform, language access, and social change movements led by immigrants and people of color.

Deepa is the author of the groundbreaking book, We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future (The New Press 2015), winner of a 2016 American Book Award. Scholar Vijay Prashad has written that Deepa “brings the head of a lawyer and the heart of a community activist to bear on her remarkable book…It is a window into the struggles of the margins that allow the mainstream to remain humane.” Deepa’s book was selected by the American Librarians Association’s Booklist magazine to be one of the top 10 multicultural non-fiction books of the year.

Since We Too Sing America was published, Deepa has been part of over 40 community conversations around the country, including at college campuses, non-profit organizations, faith-based institutions, among others. Deepa’s opinion editorials on issues ranging from the post 9/11 backlash to immigration reform to anti-Black racism have appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Al-Jazeera America, and The Nation. Deepa has appeared on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry Show, A Changing America, and Nerding Out to talk about the themes in her book as they relate to today’s racial climate.

Previously, Deepa served as the Executive Director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT). While at SAALT for nearly a decade, Deepa shaped the formation of the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations (NCSO), a network of local South Asian groups, and served as Chair of the National Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA).

Deepa's work on immigrant and civil rights issues began at the Asian American Justice Center in the late 1990s. She also served as Trial Attorney at the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, where with two other attorneys, she shaped an initiative to address post 9/11 backlash, and as Legal Director of the Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center (APALRC), where she worked on a multiracial, community-led campaign to pass the DC Language Access Act.
 
Deepa has also taught classes on Asian American movements and South Asian American communities at Columbia University, Hunter College, and the University of Maryland where she served as Activist-in-Residence in the Asian American Studies Program in 2014.

Deepa is the the Chair of the Board of Directors of Race Forward - The Center for Racial Justice Innovation that publishes the daily news site Colorlines and presents Facing Race, the country’s largest multiracial conference on racial justice.

An immigrant who moved to Kentucky from Kerala (India) when she was twelve, Deepa graduated from the University of Notre Dame Law School and Vanderbilt University.

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