Category Archives: Site Updates

Lessons from New York

I have never been to New York before but it isn’t places that hold importance–it’s people. And sometimes we meet and spend time with people who remind us why we are still residing in this #%#%% country.

I remember when I was a kid, I had made a speech about how friendship was the most important and telling relationship since it was one of the only ones that we aren’t forced to make or keep. This blog has many friendly stalkers and the ones in New York are both special and important enough to keep.

I inherited the red-eye on Thursday, spent the day in company of friends working to stop the deportation of Taha, had a smashing night with little sleep, got dragged to a meeting I had no stake in, spent a much longer part of the day ‘hobbling’ around New York/New Jersey over Taha’s case and partying the night away. I usually detest traveling but I spent quality time with people I love so the trip was productive.

And I did work. I owed Dave 10 blog posts over the course of the week and delivered duly. From the Senate passing the long-awaited hate crime bill to Lou Dobbs, Pat Buchanan and Kris Kobach to ICE breaking laws to apologies for racial discrimination and to the undying DREAM Act. And I learned some valuable lessons.

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Fundraising Pledges and T-shirts

Alright friends, we need help.

1. There is my 511 mile bike ride pledge. 511 miles between August 13 and August 22! For those who have donated or are thinking about donating, it is tax-deductible – TAX ID 94-10007751

2. We have DREAM Act T-shirts for sale for $15 here

DREAM ACT T-shirt

If you are sending a check, make it out to ‘Prerna Lal’ and mail it to:

P.O Box 7552,
Ann Arbor, MI 48107

This week I am blogging at Change.org Immigration before heading out to New York, Chicago and Wisconsin.

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August 13-22: The 511 mile Bike Ride | Tour de Dreams

This is the first time I am fundraising for myself. I have fundraised for countless organizations as a teenager, we fundraise for DreamACTivist.org and other undocumented youth whenever we can, but this is the FIRST TIME I have put up a widget for myself.

This past year I got into all law schools of my choice. But I couldn’t afford to go.

I couldn’t take out student loans since my house is going through foreclosure and our credit is bad.

I couldn’t get any federal or state financial aid since I am undocumented.

I decided to delay law school for another year, to delay our dreams. This dream has been delayed since I was 16 and decided to be a public interest attorney.

Now, as I find myself suddenly fatherless, this dream seems more elusive than ever.

It’s not empty fundraising. I will be doing a 9-day, 511 mile bike ride in the summer heat from UCLA to UC Berkeley. It’s a distance that I have never covered and given that my body has adverse reaction to prolonged exposure to sunlight, it is certainly going to be a challenge.

Hosted by RISE-UCB, Tam and I will try and cover this event daily on DreamActivist.org, including daily video uploads and write-ups. I will twitter! We will do a kickass job of bringing the event to you, I promise.

I will survive and hopefully we raise something so I can afford to go back to college next August.

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Shoutout: Text Link Ads

This is just a courtesy hat tip for bloggers, especially youth bloggers like me who don’t necessarily have stable incomes.

I detest advertisements. I avoid it on television using DVR and I avoid it on the Internet using various Firefox plugins like Adblock Plus.

But over the past 6-9 months as a blogger, I have come to really appreciate programs like Linkworth and Text Link Ads that are pretty unobtrusive and don’t slow down a site unlike Google ads.

I am earning enough through both programs to cover my monthly gym fees and grocery costs, which in turn, allow me to be healthy, stable, and blog-worthy. It’s encouraging me to keep this personal blog up and running, make it bigger and better and update it with a frequency that I used to before I became a full-time organizer/programmer.

Try it out if you have a self-hosted blog and do alright on traffic.

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The Website Mishap and More

After being a loyal customer of the crappy Hostmonster service, they finally terminated our contract yesterday.

Reason given? They didn’t want to deal with the hackings and exploits on one of the accounts, as if the security breaches were our fault and not due to their inability to provide a secure server. Then again, it was a cheap service so I am not complaining much. They could have given us a heads-up though; the account was terminated without so much as a phone call. Anyway, the advice is to avoid Hostmonster if you are looking for quality service and customer support.

We forked over $400 yesterday for two different servers–one for my personal needs and another for professional needs. I don’t know if that would resolve the hosting problems we have had, but it is a start. It also helps out one of our progamming gurus who is responsible for some of the work on DREAMAct2009.com. He was just laid off so we decided to help him out by shifting and upgrading his existing server. It just made sense since again, we cannot pay him for his services. Ideally, communications would have a budget to pay stipends for blogging work, graphic designing, server costs, house the 1800 hotline, obtain PR Newswire services, and so much more. But I am never going to hold my breathe and wait for some much-needed help to come my way. It’s alright to exploit our labor but not compensate it because somehow the lack of a piece of paper makes us less worthy, less qualified.

Sometimes, I look back and don’t really know how I got to this point where I am installing and repairing databases, restoring sites. I certainly don’t enjoy it–my life was built around rebelling against becoming a stereotypical Indian computer scientist. And here I am with several diplomas in fields like ethnic studies, political science and international relations, stuck doing programming, organizing, graphic designing, video production, social media and consulting work and not getting paid for it. Life has a cruel way of throwing a curveball at us, especially when we don’t even play baseball. I guess that’s what true leadership means: rising to the occasion, putting aside our own values and morals, and doing whatever it takes to get things done.

I just hope I don’t forget who I really am, what I really want and believe, and where I come from when all this is over. Our parents drag us to this country without our consent because they have certain dreams for us and never really stop to ask ‘What is it that you want? How is it that you want to live? Where do you want to live?’ We would be successful wherever we go but stay with them because they are family and we need to keep the family unit together. That’s just how lives are ruined, dreams are destroyed and we have to somehow settle for something that was never part of the plan.

This is not a goal; it is a detour. Living here is not my dream; it is someone else’s fixation with an American dream that is a mirage. I spent 10 years trying to not build long-lasting relationships with anyone here because I have always planned to leave and for the most part, succeeding in isolating myself. Maybe it was in self-preservation–I have been ripped apart from loved ones before and there is no way I would allow that again. The upside is that I have friends all over the world that I have deeper relationships with than the people I work with on a daily basis. People who have never met me probably know me better. I don’t know what to make of it all–bless the Internet. That’s how my life found me again.

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Change.org Endorsements from this Queer Promigrant Blogger

I have sent in endorsements for the following ideas for change in America. The Top 10 get sent to President on Jan 16 — Please register and vote at Change.org

I am actually quite excited about the new media activism and groups that have come forth and are using online tools to organize. When this is over, it would be great to sit down and evaluate where to go from here.

1. Pass Marriage Equality

2. Free Single-Payer Healthcare

3. Get FISA Right, Repeal the Patriot Act and restore our Civil Liberties

4. End the War on Drugs

5. End Corporate Personhood

6. Make the Grid Green

7. IMMIGRATION – Pass the DREAM Act and Same-Sex Immigration Reform and immigration relief for families.

And I may send in some more later as a ‘Desi Agenda’ for DesiPundit and DesiCritics, not that my endorsement means much. But hopefully, other blogger friends are encouraged to send in their endorsements too.

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a glimpse into the life of an activist academic

“No, I just got back from URPE sessions at ASSA.”
“What? What is that?”
“An academic conference for political economists.”
“Oh, I thought it was another DREAM(immigration)-related conference.”

Welcome to my life. 24, gay, single, desi, new media blogger, civil rights activist, student organizer, aspiring lawyer, researcher, programmer, fiction writer, editor, graphic designer, fitness freak … and so much more.

The trouble begins when these many hobbies become jobs.  The above list in bold are actually jobs, in some cases–professional level jobs that should pay me.

I find myself spread so thin nowadays — my true passion is academia, be it writing or researching new material. And yet, given my wide array of skills, I somehow find myself ‘signed-up’ for  every sort of activity, even the ones that I am mediocre at i.e. programming.

I want to make a list of promises for my readers, the ones that have been emailing me with their concerns.

I am working so hard for immigration reform and LGBT rights in this country that I find myself swamped, and at times, divided between the two movements that are unfortunately separate for most people. They are not separate movements for me as a young gay immigrants, and not separate for someone like Mohammad, who is undocumented and gay. Forget the vile hatred from the anti-immigrant groups and the misguided opinions of Raza Educators who openly advocate against legalization opportunities for undocumented kids, the disconnect between my two communities is all too real and painful. And it happens quite often — when a gay brother is talking ill about ‘illegal aliens’ or when an undocumented student is making anti-gay comments.

Not realizing the intersectional, multidimensional oppression faced by many students like Mohammad is not only preposterous, it is part of the problem. And it must stop starting from you. If you support the DREAM Act, why not Uniting American Families Act? We are all human — why so hatred for someone based on an arbitrary thing like place of birth? By now this must be ‘ad nauseaum,’ to borrow from Dave Bennion at Change.org.

As an activist, we all need to deal with ‘special’ people at times. People who think they are organizers or have great ideas or only make a bee-line to you in order to ‘use’ you. I am of the welcoming nature, the coalition-building-everyone-under-one-big-tenth kind, so I am especially susceptible to that.

News from astrology-ville — My mom consulted a priest about my ‘issues’ and he told her that I had to be careful about my current group of friends. Regardless of the nature of advice, that is something I have always known — Why else would I keep everyone at a distance? But it certainly does not do anything to alleviate my trust concerns.

To add to the workload, I ave academic papers to write for journals and at the same time, finish up her ‘romantic-drama’ piece. Next, I will be told to screenwrite for a movie. Oh wait. Bummer.

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