Live in Berkeley? Name an Asian American street!
Berkeley wants our help picking a new name for a downtown street.
If you live or work in Berkeley, California, help us nominate Kala Bagai!
She was born in current-day Pakistan in 1892, survived anti-immigrant attacks in Berkeley, and went on to build one of the earliest South Asian communities in the America. Berkeley is a 20% Asian American city, and this is a rare opportunity to honor an Asian American woman.
Kala Bagai's story:
- Kala Bagai and her husband immigrated to the U.S. from present-day Pakistan in 1915. The Bagais built a small business in the Bay Area and bought a home in Berkeley. When they arrived at the home with their children and their belongings, their neighbors physically barred them from moving in.
- After being driven out of Berkeley by racists, she fled to San Francisco with her husband and children, where they continued to organize against British colonialism in their homeland.
- Bagai survived local racism only to confront a federal anti-immigrant court ruling that stripped all Indians of their citizenship. This led her husband, now a stateless person, to commit suicide out of despair.
- But Kala Bagai persisted, raising children, remarrying, and going on to become a critical California immigrant leader. Nicknamed “Mother India,” she worked tirelessly to build bridges through arts and community.
More about Kala Bagai:
“Bridges Burned Behind”
Angel Island Immigrant Voice
Oral history interview with Kala Bagai
includes her retelling of her experiences in Berkeley
Rani Bagai on “Kala Bagai Chandra and Mahesh Chandra”
video interview from her granddaughter
The Kala Bagai Archives
via the South Asian American Digital Archive