South Asian Heritage Month

South Asian Heritage Month

In August 2020, SHADE launched with a social media celebration of Asian heritage month.

South Asia is formed of eight countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Republic of Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Each of these countries has been hugely impacted by its relationship with the UK, primarily through war and colonisation via the British Empire. Part of South Asian Heritage Month seeks to explore and embed understandings of these histories, important to any understanding of present-day UK and to CELEBRATE these communities, histories and stories.

SHADE Member Khadija shares some of her father, Mohammed Akram Khan’s history.

“In 1957 my father worked for an American diplomatic family in Lahore, only a decade after Pakistan had become independent. He was employed as the house boy and when they returned to Washington, they took him with them. For the next ten years he was their general handy ‘boy’.

Another diplomatic move relocated my father to Paris. Older now and wanting to become independent from his present situation, he befriended some Pakistani diplomats who were forming the new Pakistani Embassy in Libya. He jumped at the chance to join them as he had missed his people.

In 1968, with seven languages under his belt but illiterate, he found himself the personal driver and interpreter for one of many ambassadors in post.

After meeting my mother who had come over from England to Nurse, they married and me and my brother were both born in Tripoli.

At the age of six, we immigrated to the UK. My father started as a trader in the markets of East London with a group of other South Asian men. They would do the markets at the weekend and sleep in their cars during the week. Meanwhile we were living with my grandparents on the Devon coast.

It wasn’t long before his big break and started exporting clothing to Libya. Within a couple of years, the three friends independently opened up their own factories in the East End, with my father being the Middle Eastern contact. His languages and tenacity took him from the streets of India to becoming the import exporter of East London during the 70s. During a time where Whitechapel experienced violence from the East End fascists, he was beaten and there were numerous attempts of arson on his showroom.

From the street boy in India, he traveled the world, sat down and ate with King Idris of Libya, helped new arrivals to settle both in Libya and East London and never turned anyone away that needed a roof over their head or food to eat. “

Cllr Maya Evans:

“As part of South Asian Heritage Month, I am remembering my own father who was part of the 1970s Bengali activists and protesters defending Brick Lane from the fascists in East London.

In this video my father, Aloke Biswas, announces the “first black strike in England” – a remarkable era of solidarity by an oppressed community, and testimony of what can be achieved via unity and organising.

My father arrived in the UK in the early 70s, he worked hard to establish himself and give back to society. Today, as a councillor, and member of the Hastings Council Cabinet, I am playing an active role in giving back to my community and helping to build a thriving town. I am also actively involved with the campaign to combat racism, lobbying for systemic change and global justice.

I’m proud to be a part of multicultural Britain, an incredible melting pot of cultures and ethnicities. Diversity is strength, multiculturalism is beautiful.”