Purvi Shah

Purvi Shah inspires change through her work as a non-profit and media consultant, anti-violence advocate, and writer. In 2008, she won the inaugural SONY South Asian Social Service Excellence Award for her leadership fighting violence against women while Executive Director at Sakhi for South Asian Women. During the 10th anniversary of 9/11, she directed Together We Are New York, a community-based poetry project to highlight Asian American voices. Recently she hosted A Woman’s World, a radio show for South Asian American women to speak to their advocacy, creativity, and impact. Terrain Tracks is her award-winning book of poetry. Discover her work at http://purvipoets.net or @PurviPoets.

What inspires you?
Laughter. Nature, including city parks and rainforests. Birds flying in formation, singing sunrise. Triumphs of justice, the diligent efforts, strategic advocacy, and camaraderie to achieve victories. The resilience and creativity of women and all people who find courage in sorrow and renewal despite suffering.

What do you see as the purpose of your writing?
As an immigrant, writing offered me a home between homes. In my own creative work, I strive to foster feeling, generate dialogue, offer a shelter or new vista. My writing succeeds when it has emotional resonance, when someone responds genuinely to my work, when the listener and I together share connection. Whether on Facebook or Twitter or in real life, writing is a way I create community.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career as an artist?
Fewer and fewer people read. Resources for writers (especially poets!) are dwindling. Being an artist is a tough stand. I’m grateful to my career as a non-profit consultant and anti-violence advocate since it supports my creative work. I see these vocations as complementary and both necessary. As a community change agent and a writer, I get to work in multiple modes to help create a kinder world. In my own writing, I am striving to circumvent my own internal editor and perfectionist tendencies. I am excited to keep growing my writing range including through recently beginning to write children’s books. I’m excited to see where this new adventure leads!

What has been your greatest accomplishment?
On the gender justice front, I am honored to have been able to create social impact with my amazing teams at Sakhi for South Asian Women. When I first started as a Sakhi volunteer, we would be excluded from community events. In my last years at Executive Director, we began to see dramatic change including community members clapping for us in parades, more people seeking assistance (including men calling on behalf of sisters, aunts, etc.), and diverse support of our groundbreaking work. Over 15 years of advocacy, I have been able to mark a shift in our community from denial of domestic violence to acknowledgement that there’s no excuse for abuse. On a personal level, I’m proud of my coalition-building work and cutting-edge advocacy to secure tangible language access regulations in the courts. It’s a joy to know my work helps ensure immigrant and deaf survivors (and all folks who need interpretation) are not voiceless in the courts. Finally, I’m proud to have been able to give voice to Asian American perspectives during the 10th anniversary of 9/11 alongside an incredible team of poets through the creative project, Together We Are New York.

What can we do to empower more women to be artists?
Creativity is a risk but it should not be a privilege. Artists labor to show us our deepest selves and provide a societal mirror. When we do not have diverse artists, we fail to see ourselves truly. Not only do we need more structural support for women artists (resources, mentoring, presentation opportunities, etc.), we need to create a social shift in how we value creative work. We need to give economic value and access to artists, especially in marginalized communities.

Give yourself a compliment.
I sparkle inside and out.