upper waypoint

ASHA, San Jose Artist, Educator and Revolutionary, Wants You to Speak Up

Save ArticleSave Article
Failed to save article

Please try again

Whether she’s teaching history to eighth graders at Monroe Middle School, performing spoken-word poetry at Works/San José or rallying a crowd of protestors, ASHA is unapologetically herself.

Part of that confidence and stage presence comes from knowing her family’s story—the result of generations of displacement and migration—won’t be told by anyone else, especially not the history books. That realization came early: In sixth grade she found her family’s name, Sudra, summed up in two brief paragraphs about India’s caste system.

“My family story is so much more rich than that,” she says, tracing their path from India to British-run East Africa, then to refugee camps in England and finally, Los Angeles, where she was born.

Her family’s trajectory deeply informs her own art, where she talks about the ramifications of colonialism, the realities of growing up as a person of color in the United States, and how she grew to be comfortable in her own skin.

In her history classes, she provides students with the tools to examine their own identities and learn about their families’ paths to San Jose. On stage and at the front of the classroom, she refuses to let her story—or theirs—be erased or forgotten.


“I’m calling on you to speak up,” ASHA says. “Find your story, find your history. No one will speak for us.” — Text by Sarah Hotchkiss

Watch ASHA perform an excerpt from her poem ‘She Walked’ below.

lower waypoint
next waypoint