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In Search of Bengali Harlem: Screening & Discussion

Presented by the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU. Co-sponsored by the NYC Center for Global Asia, Center for Black Visual Culture at the Institute of African American Affairs, and Asian Film and Media Initiative at the Martin Scorsese Department of Cinema Studies at NYU Tisch School of the Arts.


The Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU is thrilled to welcome back Professor Vivek Bald (PhD, NYU American Studies) for a screening of his acclaimed documentary with actor and playwright Alaudin UllahIn Search of Bengali Harlem (85 min). The film follows Ullah as he investigates the lives of his Bangladeshi immigrant parents, unearthing a lost history in which South Asian Muslims, African Americans, and Puerto Ricans forged an extraordinary multiracial community in the tenements of mid-twentieth century Harlem.

The screening will be followed by a discussion, moderated by Professor Dina M. Siddiqi (NYU Liberal Studies), featuring Bald, co-Director Ullah, and community members Yolanda Musawwir and Shah Khalique.

COVID-19 & NYU campus access guidelines: This is an in-person event, open to the public. Registration is required. All attendees must be able to present proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and boosted with an FDA-authorized or WHO-listed vaccine. Non-NYU guests must present a government-issued photo ID which matches the name on their registration.

Accessibility note: This venue has an elevator and is accessible for wheelchair users. If you have any access needs, please email apa.rsvp@nyu.edu.


Vivek Bald is an award-winning filmmaker, writer, digital media producer, and scholar. His work over the past twenty-five years has explored the stories and experiences of South Asians in the US and Britain. Bald’s first documentary, Taxi-vala/Auto-biography (1994) examined the lives, struggles, and activism of New York City taxi drivers from Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh. Bald’s second film, Mutiny: Asians Storm British Music (2003) focused on South Asian youth, music, and anti-racist politics in 1970s-90s Britain. He is the author of Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America (Harvard University Press, 2013) and is the faculty director of MIT’s Open Documentary Lab. He is also developing “The Lost Histories Project,” an interactive documentary and participatory oral history that will build upon and extend the Bengali Harlem film and book. Bald received his PhD in American Studies from NYU in 2009.

Alaudin Ullah is a comedian, actor, and playwright. He is the son of one of the first Bengali Muslim men to settle in Harlem. Ullah is the author of the acclaimed one-man show, Dishwasher Dreams, based on his father’s life in New York City in the 1930s-60s. Ullah premiered Dishwasher Dreams at the New Works Now! Festival at New York’s Joseph Papp Public Theater, and was subsequently awarded one of the Public Theater’s prestigious Emerging Writers Group Fellowships. Ullah’s three-act play Halal Brothers centers on the interactions between African American and Bengali Muslims in a Harlem halal butcher’s shop on the day of Malcolm X’s murder in 1965. This emotionally charged ensemble drama is in development for stage production. His film credits include co-starring in American Desi and several voices for the award-winning animated feature Sita Sings the Blues. He is co-director of In Search of Bengali Harlem, which has won several awards in film festivals across America including the DocNYC Special Mention Jury award. Ullah’s ongoing dedication is to creating stories and characters that counter, challenge, and correct the misperception of South Asians and Muslims. 


Dina M. Siddiqi, a cultural anthropologist by training, teaches in the School of Liberal Studies at NYU.  Her research, grounded in the study of Bangladesh, joins development studies, transnational feminist theory, and the anthropology of labor and Islam. She has published extensively on the global garment industry, non-state gender justice systems, and the cultural politics of Islam and nationalism in Bangladesh. Siddiqi is on the advisory board of the journals Dialectical Anthropology, Contemporary South Asia, and the Journal of Bangladesh Studies. She is on the Executive Committee of the American Institute of Bangladesh Studies (AIBS) and a member of the Executive Board of Sakhi for South Asian Women. Her publications can be found at https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Dina-Siddiqi.


Still from the film: A 1952 banquet at the NYC headquarters of the Pakistan League of America, an organization whose members were former ship workers from a region that would later become Bangladesh, along with their African American and Puerto Rican wives and mixed race children. Photograph courtesy the filmmakers.


Venue: NYU Cantor Film Center, Theater 200
36 E. 8th Street
New York, NY 10003 US
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Add to Calendar 03/09/2023 06:30 PM 03/09/2023 08:30 PM America/New_York In Search of Bengali Harlem: Screening & Discussion More detail: https://apa.nyu.edu/event/in-search-of-bengali-harlem-screening-discussion/ NYU Cantor Film Center, Theater 200, New York, NY, 10003