Aparna Sharma, a friend and leader in the South Asian artist activist community, passed away on February 9th after a hard fight against cancer. I’m shocked and deeply saddened by this loss.

In 2003, I met Aparna the way many of my peers met her, through the South Asian Progressive Action Collective. In my early twenties I was looking for a progressive South Asian space, and I found out about Voices of Resistance, an annual South Asian political arts show organized by SAPAC. The first person I met was Aparna–she was collecting tickets at the front table as I walked in. I went on to collaborate with her on VOR and “Get Out the Vote” efforts over several years.

My mid-twenties were when I became more politicized, and Aparna and SAPAC were a big part of that. Aparna helped create a space for young South Asians who were searching for connection and a part of ourselves that was missing. Aparna also encouraged me a great deal in my work as an artist, and supported my efforts to organize Indian classical music concerts.

I always thought of her as a key leader in SAPAC, even though she would have none of it. If we had to make a difficult decision, we often sought out Aparna’s perspective because one of her great strengths was her ability to critically analyze issues.

Aparna was smart, energetic, kind, sincere, and so much fun to be around. Her impact on our community and the whole city of Chicago is strong and powerful. I miss her dearly. I wish I had more time with her before she left, and I wish I had the chance to tell her how deeply she impacted my life. I’ll be thinking about her for the rest of my life.