By Jai Jhamb
New York City, NY
Within predominantly white institutions (PWIs), finding a space where they feel like they belong can be difficult for students of color. Finding others with shared cultural values and experiences can feel very empowering for students, especially for high school students who are searching for a sense of identity. To do this, however, can be challenging, and it is particularly difficult for South Asian American students at PWIs. The issue of belonging is one that Spice Club, an NYC-based independent school South Asian affinity group, aims to address. Spice Club was founded earlier this year by seven members: Amani Creamer (’22), Ashfah Alam (’21), Nishanth Araveti (’21), Kabir Singh (’21), Krishan Dave (’21), Jai Jhamb (’22), Diya Mehta (’21) and Anjali Tandon (’21).
Even though many of them had never met each other before, the group immediately hit it off. They discussed topics ranging from how “chai tea” is the same as saying “tea tea” to the more serious issues of being mistaken for other South Asian students. The friendly, supportive dynamic of its founding members is exactly what the group plans to bring to Spice Club. Although COVID-19 presented challenges, it didn’t stop the team from executing their plan.
The first virtual meeting of Spice Club boasted an attendance of more than 50 high school students from across different NYC independent schools. They shared similar experiences; they discussed not having their names pronounced correctly and simply not having anyone to discuss the next Shahrukh Khan movie with.
Spice Club was the space so many South Asian students were lacking. Whether the group engages in serious discussions or casual conversations, it has the potential to fulfill the needs of so many students who felt they did not have a space to explore those topics. Now, meetings typically take place monthly, and topics for each forum are advertised through Instagram posts with the Zoom details included. Activities such as Bollywood movie nights, discussions about the Netflix series “Never Have I Ever” and a critical review of the latest NAV album have helped create a sense of understanding, togetherness, and community despite being physically apart.
This temporary virtual meeting format will hopefully soon be replaced by in-person meetings, which the founding members are already working on and excited to start.