Angela Suresh is shattering stereotypes about what it means to be a South Asian American.
This story was first published in February 2017. Angela Suresh has since graduated from UW Tacoma. She currently works at Boeing as a communications specialist. Suresh will soon start work on a Ph.D. in strategic communications at Penn State University. In the past few years, Suresh has received several notable awards including 425 Business Magazine's 30 under 30 Honoree and the India Press Club of North America's presidential award. Suresh will talk about her experience in higher education and the working world on Thursday, December 10 at 6 p.m. as part of UW Tacoma's Alumni Speaker Series.
Being a catalyst for change is not a simple task, but such is the charge of activism, a versatile role which many students find themselves filling, one among them being graduating senior Angela Suresh.
Suresh states that it was her experience within the classroom at UW Tacoma which opened her mind and steered her towards using her voice, which she has come to use, as she states, “for those that feel they can't, or feel they are not heard. I use my voice to make sure they have an added strength to theirs.”
“My voice is one of many. I don’t want to be remembered just for the things I did, but the things that I said. I define my activism by listening to understand and not simply to reply.”
Last May, Suresh started a blog she calls “The Voice of an ABPD” in which she discusses issues that face her as an American-born, and proud, Desi (a person of South Asian descent). Suresh explains, “I came up with ABPD when I realized that I no longer wanted to be referred to as that ‘confused Indian girl’. Throughout my life I was always called out for either being too Indian or too American, and through my falls and rises I realized it's just a matter of accepting me.”
The phrase ABPD is one which Suresh has personally reclaimed from a similar term, ABCD, “American-born confused Desi,” a term which has come to describe the feelings of alienation and diaspora which many South Asian first-generation students experience. While Suresh certainly agrees that this group exists, she argues that the word “confused,” works to “otherize” youth and box them into a very specific idea of who they should be, one which is defined by the perceptions of others rather than the individuals themselves. She states, “American Born Confused Desi always sounded so negative and thus, I wanted to create a connotation that is much more fulfilling... hence how American Born Proud Desi came about.”
Suresh's own path is one of activism and art, beginning as a model and eventually working as an actress, all while completing her undergraduate degree. “From 6 years old, I had a passion for the arts, from dancing to acting, but that gradually grew into helping others find their passion within the community.” She continues, “So from 8 years old and onwards, I held various youth leadership positions on nonprofit boards and school leaderships activities. It eventually grew to be not only a passion but a lifestyle.”
Suresh has accomplished a great deal as a performer, but currently finds herself most invested in her writing and journalism. She also works as the news editor of The Ledger, UW Tacoma’s student-run newspaper, and aims to apply the critical perspective she has gained through her education to document the experiences of people in the world around her.
“I was born and raised in Auburn, by two wonderful Malayalee parents,” she said. “They wanted to make sure their children had the best opportunities that life has to offer.” Starting college, she found herself unsure of exactly what she wanted to do because, as you might expect, she likes to do a lot. When she finally settled on communication, she found herself lacking the familial support she had experienced when she was pursuing, for instance, healthcare leadership. While other majors had a direct correlation to a career, communication was a bit more abstract and while Suresh saw her path in it, initially she found herself to be her primary support on her new path.
This experience is one that other youth who identify as ABPD may have, where support must come from within. Suresh's hope is that through her writing and activism she can help other young adults from similar backgrounds feel a sense of community in pursuing their futures. As she believes, “at the end of the day, it is you and only you, so kindly remember who you are, and not who you are to others.”
Suresh is thankful for her time at UW Tacoma. She says “it is where I found my voice, in the classroom.” Following her studies, Suresh hopes to pursue a career in journalism in order to share even more stories, because, as she concludes, “I believe everyone has a voice on this earth and that no one should feel suppressed.“
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