Dhanya Addanki is a writer, editor, oral historian, and photographer working in human rights journalism.

Posts By This Author

How Appropriation of Yoga Masks Violence

by Dhanya Addanki 04-05-2019

Like racism in the U.S., the caste system in India is normalized, permeating every aspect of Indian society. With some exceptions, if you asked a middle-of-the-road white evangelical Christian if racism is prevalent in the U.S., they would likely say no. In a similar vein, if you ask any Hindu upper-caste person if casteism exists, they too would likely say no. But the people directly impacted by the systemic ways in which racism and casteism are baked into society would give you a much different answer. 

Between Me and My Motherland

by Dhanya Addanki 12-12-2018

I’ve been undoing this cycle for years now, grasping for whatever bits of myself I could salvage and building a whole woman with these fragments, gently weaving them together with truth, with pride, with love, and with hope that I now know. Because for all the ways America has taught me shame and taught me to hide, the people of America have taught me hope. That hope has filled in my gaps.

A Shared Theology of Sanctuary

by Dhanya Addanki 08-09-2018

Image via Ric Urrutia

When Velasquez came to the border, she was taken to a detention center in Texas where she was held for a month and a half before making her way to Colorado. She met her husband in Colorado and the couple have three children who are American citizens. She lost a request for asylum in 2016 and was given a year-long stay of deportation in the U.S. Immigration officials indicated that they would not renew her stay of deportation any longer. So instead of going to her Aug. 9, 2017 check in with ICE, Velasquez and her family went to Park Hill and Temple Micah

These Churches Are Modeling Real Unity, Two Blocks from This Weekend's Alt-Right Rally

by Dhanya Addanki 08-08-2018

Image via Wikimedia Commons 

“This is a great time for two churches that have been impacted by racial division to come together through the symbols of prayer, communion, focus on love and justice rather than racial division and hatred,” Roberts said. 

How We Deny Poor People Their Humanity

by Dhanya Addanki 02-22-2018

Sometimes, my great-grandmother used to sleep in the fields — not because she didn’t have a home, but because she wanted to make sure that no one stole her crop. My dad often tells me that she was ready to beat up any thieves that came at the dead of night and I’m sure there were instances where she did. I often picture this moment when I need strength. I think about her petite frame in a cotton sari knowing that she could tackle whatever danger came her way at night. But I also think about how she might have felt fear creep up and how she might have felt anger, too, if she saw someone attempting to sabotage her crop. Because no matter how nurturing and gentle she might have been, she could also feel anger and stand up for herself when she knew she was being wronged.

Photos from the Women's March 2018

by Dhanya Addanki 01-20-2018

On Jan. 20, one year since President Donald Trump's inauguration and nearly a year since the world's largest protest in history, thousands gathered in cities across the nation for the Women's March — this year focused on driving people to the polls in 2018. These are photos from the march in Washington, D.C.

Generations of Strength

by Dhanya Addanki 12-01-2017
You Bring the Distant Near, by Mitali Perkins. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

THIS IS A BOOK I wish I could have had when I was 15.

While there are numerous (and much needed) stories about the immigrant experience, Mitali Perkins’ young adult novel, You Bring the Distant Near, fully captures nuances of relationships, racism, death, family, feminism, sexism, and love in profound ways. It’s a story that’s not often told with such clarity and depth.

Reading this book was like staring into a mirror and seeing my reflection—sometimes surprised, sometimes in tears, and other times nodding in understanding.

It weaves together the lives of five women from three generations—Ranee, Tara, Sonia, Anna, and Chantal (nicknamed Shanti)—and focuses on Tara and Sonia’s journey from when they were teenagers to when they were mothers with successful careers.

Ranee is a strong-willed, stay-at-home, Indian (Bengali) immigrant mother who comes to the U.S. with her husband for opportunity. She is the mother of Tara and Sonia. Tara is charming, peacemaking, and theatrical in the best ways. She is a shape-shifter of sorts, able to fold into any culture by studying and learning what traits she needs to be the most ideal version of that culture (when she arrives in the U.S. she emulates Marcia Brady). Sonia is fiercely intelligent, outspoken, and a brilliant writer. Anna is Tara’s creative, brazen daughter who is proud of her Indian roots. Shanti is Sonia’s athletic and easygoing daughter who loves math and dance.

Each woman represents a different side of femininity that together shows the reader the importance of multiple, empowering narratives.

Jonathan Martin: Being Forcibly Removed From Liberty University Campus was ‘Unnerving’

by Dhanya Addanki 11-03-2017

Image via Taber Andrew Bain/Flickr

“At the time it was pretty unnerving, because I knew enough about Falwell’s authoritarian instincts,” Martin told Sojourners. “I wasn’t expecting this amazing welcome, but I certainly didn’t expect to be forcibly thrown off the campus.”

Me Too: So Now What?

by Dhanya Addanki 10-18-2017

Image via Abd. Halim Hadi/ shutterstock

4. Do not wait to have a daughter to finally respect women.

You can respect us because we are human, with all of the glory, nuance, and mess that comes with it. You do not need to imagine a woman as your mother or aunt or cousin to respect her. You can respect her because of the soul that she carries and the life that she lives. Her relationship to you, her partner, her father, or anyone else should not be what defines your respect.

Safe House

by Dhanya Addanki 09-18-2017
As the Trump administration continues its attacks against immigrants, churches offer sanctuary, and more, to people under threat.
Credit: Jake Holschuh

Rosa Sabido at Mancos UMC. (Credit: Jake Holschuh)

WHEN I FIRST SPOKE with Rosa Sabido, she had been in sanctuary at Mancos United Methodist Church in Colorado for 75 days. She sleeps in a makeshift room in what used to be the church’s nursery, the head of her bed resting against a small mural of Noah’s Ark. Members of the church donated a bed, a dresser, and a computer with internet access and also installed a shower in the room itself.

Most days she has visitors, including members of the church and her parents, who take turns sleeping in a nearby office during the night and keep Sabido company during the day. She bakes when she feels inspired and sometimes joins church members in practicing yoga. But Sabido is clear: Sanctuary isn’t glamorous.

“The hardest thing is having to depend on someone,” said Sabido. “I have always been self-sufficient, always working to fulfill my needs and my parents’ needs.”

Sabido was raised in Mexico City but fled to the U.S. in 1987 due to the city’s increasing violence; she was 23. For the past 30 years, Sabido has lived in Cortez, Colo., a small town where her mother is a legal resident and her stepfather is a naturalized citizen. Sabido worked as a secretary at a nearby church and prepared taxes at H&R Block, using her salary to support her parents.

But since Sabido didn’t have documents that would allow her to stay in the U.S. permanently, she used visitor visas to travel between Mexico and the U.S. In 1998, she was stopped at the airport and deported back to Mexico City. 

How To Raise Tiny Activists

by Dhanya Addanki 07-14-2017

Image via Dhanya Addanki/ Sojourners 

Help them understand they have a voice.

Elizabeth Brandt, a mom and a participant of the play-in, takes her young daughters to her senators’ office. She believes she believes this will lay a foundation for her daughter to speak up throughout her life.

“She may not have the most articulate things to say — last year when she was three she asked them not to throw trash in the ocean which our senators don’t do — but she’s learning that she has a voice in this process and that’s about the most important thing,” said Brandt.

Meet the Christians Working to Abolish the Death Penalty

by Dhanya Addanki 06-27-2017

Image via Jp Keenan/ Sojourners 

For Christians, interpretations of what the Bible says about capital punishment vary significantly. But many Christian leaders — from mainline Protestants and Catholics to evangelicals — take a strong stance against capital punishment.

‘Guardians Of the Galaxy Vol 2.’ and the Submissive Asian Woman Trope

by Dhanya Addanki 05-18-2017

Image via Gaurdians of the Galexy Facebook Page 

This is reminiscent of a time when European and American men went to Asia in the attempt to save Asian women from their own countries, or use Asian women for their pleasure, or — in many cases — both. In Pierre Loti’s 1983 novel, Madame Chrysanthéme, he writes a story of an affair between a French naval officer and a wife he’s taken in Japan. Loti describes the woman and her friends as docile, submissive, and overtly feminine, much like how Mantis is described by other characters in the movie, from Ego to the overtly masculine Drax.

At Summit on Global Christian Persecution, Pence Calls Trump Champion of Religious Freedom

by Dhanya Addanki 05-11-2017

Image via Gino Santa Maria / Shutterstock.com

“I’m here on behalf of Donald Trump as a tangible sign of his commitment to defending Christians and frankly all who suffer for their beliefs across the wide world,” Pence told a crowd of about 600 people. “We stand here today as a testament to the president’s tangible commitment to reaffirm America’s role as a beacon of hope and light and liberty to inspire the world.”

ICE Raids Near Sensitive Locations Stoke Fear in Immigrant Communities

by Dhanya Addanki 03-02-2017

Image via Ryan Rodrick Beiler / Shutterstock

No one has yet been willing to provide information about what Rising Hope Mission Church pastor Keary Kincannon calls a "confusing ordeal."

"We have no idea where they are, and we’re hearing reports that guards won’t even give detainees their one call," Kincannon said.

The Skin We’re In

by Dhanya Addanki 03-01-2017
Our Religion Will Not Save Us From Hate

In Indian American communities, we usually believe that being a certain kind of immigrant can save us. If we dress properly, no one can call us foreign. If we’re documented, no one can question our legal status. If we are highly educated, no one can accuse us of being lazy immigrants. If we (especially women) don’t go to bars, no one can accuse us of bad behavior.

We’ve convinced ourselves that if we melt into what we call American culture — into white culture — we can get by without getting killed.

The two men targeted by a racist and violent white terrorist were the quintessential “good immigrants.” But their stories of success — working at Garmin, receiving Masters degrees from the U.S. — did not protect them from hate. Economic status or education do not matter in the face of an extremist who equates skin color with terrorism.


Faith Leaders Rally After ICE Detains Group Leaving Church

by Dhanya Addanki 02-17-2017

Photo by Dhanya Addanki/Sojourners

“The practices of Immigration and Customs Enforcement right now are not in line with who we say we are as a government and a country,” Kumpf said. “What they did was legally on the line of violating the Sensitive Locations Memo. That’s extraordinarily morally reprehensible.”

Drafted in 2011, the Sensitive Locations Memo places restrictions on ICE enforcement in sensitive locations such as schools, places of worship, and hospitals. Many at the gathering felt that the sensitive lines of sanctuary were crossed on the morning of the Feb 8.

The Global Playbook of the Extreme Right

by Dhanya Addanki 02-16-2017
Q&A with 'Hate Spin' Author Cherian George

Cherian George: "One of the bitter ironies is that the extreme right the world around, although they may detest each other, are remarkably similar in the way they operate and in their world views. They believe in a certain purity of identity. They often use similar tactics."

This Captain America Fights Hate Crime

by Dhanya Addanki 02-01-2017

Image via JP Keenan/ Sojourners 

Deeply tied to Singh’s spirit are his thoughts about justice and equality. They are not only ideals of the Sikh faith and intertwined in his spiritual practice, but a natural state of being for Singh — especially since he started his Captain America performance art.


Marching On: 6 Women's March Participants in Their Own Words

by Dhanya Addanki 01-23-2017

Photo by JP Keenan / Sojourners

On Jan. 21, more than 1 million women and men around the world rose up and became part of a resistance.

Here are just a few of those faces — six people who showed up to make their voices heard at the Women's March on Washington. They each marched for individual reasons, but found common ground among the crowd.