About Us

Mission: Chicago Desi Youth Rising (CDYR) seeks to empower Chicago youth to combat racial, economic, and social inequity. CDYR is a weekend summer leadership retreat for youth ages 15 – 21 who trace their heritage to South Asia and the diaspora, and who want to grow as changemakers. Participants draw upon their diverse experiences and intersectional identities while they examine and challenge the underlying causes of their communities’ problems and conditions to become agents for social change.

Vision: During the 3-day retreat, youth will engage in experiential, hands-on, and interactive workshops that aim to:

  1.  Connect their personal identities as South Asian youth to social movements
  2. Highlight how systems of oppression shape our world and individual experiences
  3. Foster a sense of belonging and solidarity across intersectional identities
  4. Provide mentorship
  5. Build the technical knowledge and skills needed to create social change, such as critical thinking, communication, leadership, advocacy, and community organizing
  6. Set them up for action

We welcome adoptees, desis of mixed heritage, any immigration status, all LGBTQTSIS youth, and residents of Chicago and Chicagoland suburbs.

To learn more about how we work click here.

Organizing Collective 

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Viveka Ray-Mazumder (Vi) is a 1.5 generation Bengali American youth worker and community organizer who is excited to be working with CYDR this year.  Vi is a transnational adoptee who grew up in New York in the wake of 9/11.  This catalyzed Vi to become active around issues of racial justice, youth empowerment, and prison abolition.  Currently, Vi runs a program called KINETIC for immigrant and refugee youth in Chicago Public Schools through Asian Americans Advancing Justice—Chicago.  Vi is a former collective member of the Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois, a current core member if i2i: Asian Pacific Islander Pride of Chicago, and serves on the Advisory Council of the Journal of Critical Scholarship on Higher Education and Student Affairs. Vi is passionate about using art as a tool for social change, and building strong communities and chosen families. Vi holds a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Middlebury College.

HinaHina Mahmood is a Program Officer at Woods Fund Chicago. She is committed to making philanthropy work for and with communities in true partnership. While currently working in the field of philanthropy, her roots are in community organizing and public service. She served as an Education Organizer at Organization of the NorthEast and Grow Your Own Coordinator at Northeastern Illinois University. She also has experience in the public sector, having served as the Infrastructure and Social Service Coordinator for 49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore. She received her Masters from the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. Hina serves on Chicago Freedom School’s Board of Directors, is a Collective Member of Chicago Desi Youth Rising, and is a co-chair for the Chicago Chapter of Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy.   

IMG_5388Aneesha Gandhi is a queer, East African Desi, who immigrated to the States as a child. She is currently a staff attorney for the National Immigrant Justice Center’s LGBT Immigrant Rights Initiative, where she works with detained and non-detained LGBT immigrants. Additionally, Aneesha is a co-chair of the LGBTQ Immigrant Rights Coalition of Chicago, a board member of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) Chicago Chapter, and a member of The United People of Colors Caucus (TUPOCC) of the NLG. Aneesha received a bachelor’s degree from Smith College where she double majored in Spanish and American Studies with a focus on Asian American Studies. She also holds a JD from Northeastern University School of Law.

babyshowerglamshot (1)Aysha Mahmood is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and the Coordinator of Outpatient Mental Health at Pillars – a community-based mental health service provider. She provides individual and family therapeutic services, specializing in trauma focused care, parent engagement and positive youth development. She has extensive prior experience working with youth, as an educator and mentor. Aysha received her bachelors degree in Political Science from Northwestern University and went on to work on U.S.-Middle East relations at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C. She holds an MSW from the University of Michigan, where she was the recipient of the Detroit Clinical Scholars Fellowship – a program focused on providing mental health services to underserved racial and ethnic minority youth. Aysha also serves as a coordinator for the Muslim Mental Health Conference, a program aimed to raise awareness for the mental health care needs of Muslim Americans.


V Chaudhry (they/them) is a self-identified brown transmasculine cranky nerd. V is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Northwestern University; their dissertation research is based in Philadelphia, PA and focused on negotiations for funding for transgender-focused social services, advocacy, and organizing. After participating in the first-ever CDYR retreat in 2014 as a youth participant, V joined the CDYR Collective in 2015, and hasn’t looked back. V remains committed to making political education accessible to people from all backgrounds and walks of life.

Sophia Zaman is proud daughter of her Bangladeshi mother, who taught her to always seek 18275249_10209630315771623_5082068727265421315_n (1).jpgjustice and live purposefully. As a volunteer during the 2014 CDYR retreat, Sophia was deeply moved by the collective’s mission to activate South Asian youth by challenging anti-blackness & the myth of the model minority, and empowering them with the skills and relationships to uplift our communities. She brings over 5 years experience in the student movement, organizing for racial, gender and economic justice, most recently as President of the United States Student Association, where she represented 1.5 million college students at the White House and in Congress. Currently, she serves as Executive Director of Raise the Floor Alliance, a worker center collaborative advancing justice for low-wage workers. Sophia is a fierce believer in grounding rituals to sustain movement work, so during her downtime you will usually find her nurturing her flora, experimenting in the kitchen, or doodling with mehndi.

18342077_10212751538447898_2315486080040685060_n (1).jpgSerena Hodges is a bi-racial Bengali-American and a previous participant in CDYR! She currently studies Documentary Production at DePaul University. As a DePaul Leadership Scholar, she is paired with a CPS high school classroom to use restorative justice practices to talk about violence within their communities. She has also worked as a media intern for Chicago’s South Asian Film Festival and is currently working as an assistant for a feature length documentary about language and the standardization of English in India. After graduation, she hopes to continue to make films that deal with racial justice and centering marginalized voices, but, above all, wants to continue to collaborate with organizers and activists to use the camera as a tool for social change.

18403275_10209630316971653_1253569901348268144_n (1)Payal Kumar (she/hers) is a recent graduate of the University of Chicago and current Neurobiology researcher at Harvard University. From being a former board member of the PanAsia Solidarity Coalition at the University of Chicago to being a community leader with Asian Americans Advancing Justice, collective member of Chicago Desi Youth Rising, and R3 Chicago coalition organizer, Payal hopes to mobilize and grow with Asian and Asian-American-identifying communities to work towards collective liberation. As a spoken word performer, visual artist and teacher, and dancer, she believes in using art as a tool of resistance and imagining new futures. As a pre-medical researcher, she is a strong advocate for a more decolonized and inclusive scientific community, especially for STEM folks of marginalized identities. You can usually find her scouring the city streets late at night searching for stray cats and the perfect biryani.

Aditi Singh, In addition to being a Collective member with CDYR, Aditi is an attorney at Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 5.40.08 PM.pngChicago Appleseed. Prior to joining Chicago Appleseed, Aditi was a Staff Attorney at the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights where she protected and promoted access to education for court-involved youth in the Chicago-area. She currently serves on the Board of the South Asian American Policy & Research Institute and the Associate Board of the Indo-American Center. Aditi earned her B.A. in World Literature from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her J.D. from the University of Illinois College of Law


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