About Us

Mission: Chicago Desi Youth Rising (CDYR) seeks to empower Chicago youth to combat racial, economic, and social inequity. CDYR works with youth ages 15 – 21 who trace their heritage to South Asia and the diaspora, and who want to grow as changemakers. CDYR organizes an annual youth summer leadership retreat, where 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. As of 2018, participants also have the opportunity to participate in year-round mobilization programming and also receive funding to organize community projects of their choice. 

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

After the annual retreat, youth are empowered to work together to put what they learned into action, and continue to come together to build community.

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:


Bindu Poroori (she/they) has called Chicago home since 2011, but is originally from sweet sweltering Chennai. These days, she’s working with the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the City of Chicago’s 47th Ward, City Bureau, the Chicago Parks District, the Fly Honey Show, and Chicago Desi Youth Rising – as a curator, artist, researcher, facilitator, organizer, and administrator. Bindu‘s personal artistic and social practice is at the intersection of poetry, civic dialogue, and racial justice. She is always looking for home.


Alima Sajwani was born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan and moved to Chicago to attend DePaul University in 2016. They first got involved with CDYR as a youth participant in the 2017 summer leadership retreat where they were deeply moved and inspired by CDYR’s mission and work towards encouraging South Asian youth to dismantle white supremacy and become social changemakers. The way CDYR challenged dominant narratives really helped Alima feel validated in their own identity and find community who wholeheartedly supported them. The following year Alima decided to join the CDYR collective which has quickly become their political home. Since then they have organized around racial and immigrant justice in their community. Alima graduated DePaul in 2020 with a BS in Biological Sciences and a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies. They are currently looking for job opportunities to pursue research in their field.


Tanvi Singh was a youth participant in CDYR’s 2017 retreat, where they were inspired to be able to share space with such a beautiful and grounding community of other radical South Asians. Tanvi had began organizing in high school, and has since been invested in the power of community building and direct action to disrupt oppression. Tanvi is passionate about youth power and mobilization to dismantle systemic violence in our communities, and in solidarity with other communities. They are also committed to slowing down, self-care, and embodiment within movement work and for collective liberation. Tanvi currently works in the Social & Behavioral Research department at Howard Brown Health’s Center for Education, Research, and Advocacy, where they assist on research projects aiming to eliminate disparities in  healthcare experienced by the LGBTQ community. They graduated from Roosevelt University in 2019 with a BA in Social Justice Studies & Mathematics. 


Stuti Sharma is an immigrant artist. She primarily is a poet and a standup comic. She is Chicago-raised and South Suburbs-based and claims them both proudly. She studied English and Chemistry for a bit, worked a variety of jobs that informed life and art including but not limited to shelving books at a library, selling corn at a farm, running an after-school program for immigrant and refugee youth at the Indo American Center, and herding school buses from field trips at a museum. Curiosity and questions propel her writing, teaching, and work. Achieving justice and liberation in solidarity motivate her. She had a spot in Belt Publishing’s Chicago Neighbor Guidebook that talks about growing up in the West Ridge of Chicago. You can find her around the city doing standup shows, exclusively eating in restaurants where the cooks simultaneously make food while Face Timing family, or exploring the prairies, wetlands, and forests of Illinois.


Prabhneek Heer (Niki) is the Grant Writer at Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago. She was born and raised in Central Valley, California and moved to Chicago in 2017. Niki also works with Asian Americans Advancing Justice—Los Angeles’s Untold Civil Rights Stories project, contributing to and developing ethnic studies curricula for K-12 public school students, is a member of A Just Chi’s Police Accountability working group and volunteers with the Chicago Community Bond Fund. Niki graduated from UCLA in 2017 with a B.A. in Political Science with a concentration in Race, Ethnicity and Politics. Her participation and experiences in South Asian organizing spaces and student government while at UCLA have helped shape her commitment to racial justice and issues of state violence in particular.


Gemini Bhalsod is a British Indian American daughter of immigrants who is committed to practicing her politics daily. Gemini has worked with youth formally and informally and is excited to continue working with youth through CDYR. She grew up in Michigan, where she studied plant biology and crop and soil science. Gemini has lived and organized in Lansing and Detroit, where she learned with an amazing community of activists and mentors, organizing for environmental, racial, economic, and transportation justice. In Detroit, Gemini was an adult collective member with Detroit Asian Youth (DAY) Project where she supported youth community building and political education efforts. Currently she works as a horticulture educator and can usually be found gardening or reading science fiction.


Shruthi Kannan (she/her) is a teacher and singer living in Rogers Park. She joined the CDYR Collective in 2020, after volunteering with the summer retreats for 3 years. She believes in the power of intentional intergenerational relationships to heal inherited wounds and clear the way for a just and equitable future for our communities. Shruthi loves trains, cooking, and staying in.


Nirali Shah attended the 2019 CDYR retreat as a youth participant, and was motivated by the power of storytelling to create social change and question dominant structures. Nirali is inspired by reciprocity within natural ecosystems for community building. 


Tanvi Kapatral (she/her) is a college student, born and raised in Chicago, who is hopeful for the future, as long as we center youth and lead with unconditional love.

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