News / Arts & Entertainment

Smithsonian Exhibit to Highlight Indian-Americans

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal takes the oath of office on Jan. 14, 2008 during his inauguration ceremony. He was the first Indian-American elected governor of any state. The Smithsonian Institution will highlight the history of Indian-Americans in an upLouisiana Governor Bobby Jindal takes the oath of office on Jan. 14, 2008 during his inauguration ceremony. He was the first Indian-American elected governor of any state. The Smithsonian Institution will highlight the history of Indian-Americans in an up
x
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal takes the oath of office on Jan. 14, 2008 during his inauguration ceremony. He was the first Indian-American elected governor of any state. The Smithsonian Institution will highlight the history of Indian-Americans in an up
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal takes the oath of office on Jan. 14, 2008 during his inauguration ceremony. He was the first Indian-American elected governor of any state. The Smithsonian Institution will highlight the history of Indian-Americans in an up
A national project to highlight the contributions, successes and struggles of Indian-Americans is preparing to leave the virtual world and become an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.

“The HomeSpun project began a few years ago [online], with the goal of showing how American life has been influenced by Indian-Americans,” said Pawan Dhingra, the curator of the project.

Indian-Americans are often recognized for their contributions in medicine, software engineering and small business, but the exhibit will also put a focus on lesser-known fields where they’re making their mark, like music, literature, film, cuisine and politics.

“Indians are making a name for themselves in realms that I didn’t appreciate,” said Dhingra, who was born in India, but lives in the United States.

He pointed to Vijay Iyer, a highly regarded jazz pianist, Floyd Cardoz, a celebrity chef, and well-known politicians Nikki Haley and Bobby Jindal, the governors of South Carolina and Louisiana, respectively.

But the exhibit will also point out that Indian-Americans in politics is nothing new. For example, the exhibit will devote space to Dalip Singh Saund, a former congressman from California in the late 1950s and early 1960s who was the first Asian-American and first Indian-American elected to Congress.

Indian-Americans weren’t always so prominent. Dhingra said that in the 1970s and 1980s, it was very hard for Indian immigrants to become doctors, even though they were just as well trained and certified as their American counterparts. They reached out to other immigrant doctors to stem institutional discrimination and pave a path for future immigrant physicians.  

That theme - working together to build better lives - will be on display at the Smithsonian.

The exhibit will also explore the less glamorous occupations undertaken by Indians in the U.S., specifically cab driving, long a staple career for many Indians. In New York, roughly 60 percent of cabbies are of South Asian descent, said Dhingra. They have such a big presence that in 1998, an Indian-American founded the New York Taxi Workers Alliance the nation’s largest taxi driver union.

Indians have a long history in America, coming to the U.S. as far back as the 17th century, although the first significant number of immigrants started to arrive in the late 19th century. Dhingra said these were mostly Sikhs who had come to work in agriculture and logging, primarily in Canada. After a major anti-Asian race riot in 1907 in Vancouver, Canada, many of the Indians began moving south into the U.S.

In 1917, when the U.S. passed a major immigration law preventing Asians from coming to the country, many of these mostly male Indians found it hard to get married or bring existing wives from India.

That law, Dhingra said, as well as laws preventing whites from marrying non-whites, led many Indian men to marry Mexican women who were also working in agriculture. The exhibit will show photos of these families as well as some of their personal belongings.

The exhibit will not only focus on the positive, Dhingra said. It will also explore domestic violence, which for cultural and immigration status reasons is common in the Indian community.

Because many Indian women are in the U.S. with visas tied to their husband’s, Dhingra said the “power dynamic between husband and wife can be extreme,” leading to potential problems.

To highlight the efforts made to stem domestic violence, the HomeSpun project worked with Manavi, the first organization in the U.S. to specifically address the needs of South Asian women victims of violence.

Lastly, the exhibit will display the turban of Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh gas station owner in Mesa, Arizona, who was murdered in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The exhibit, part of a larger Smithsonian initiative to highlight Asian Pacific Americans, is scheduled to open in Sept. 2013.

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: angelica chiara from: italy
June 18, 2012 6:36 AM
I love Indian Americans very much, especially for their love & respect towards nature and animals, and for their beautiful, spiritual sayings. I hope the interest in their regards will cover these very important fields and spread their message of peace.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Soul Lounge

New Orleans-based Water Seed joins Shawna Renee inside the "Soul Lounge" where they introduce listeners to their latest album, a wonderful fusion of jazz, soul and rhythm & blues. The group also explains how the heart of New Orleans influences each of them as musicians and songwriters.