Weaving through a crowd of about 50 people, Asha Sudra yelled into a megaphone that had the phrases “White supremacy was killing me,” and “#BlackLivesMatter,” written on the sides.
On August 17, 2017, Content Magazine’s August issue release party had Sudra’s portrait on the cover to feature her artist profile inside.
Guest and community members gathered on the rooftop of Hammer Theatre Center networking with vendors.
Sudra said her experience with Content Magazine was rough, starting with having her name incorrectly spelled on the cover.
“If they weren’t going to represent me authentically, I needed to come corrected,” Sudra said. “By the time I left that event, they were going to know who I was and what I was about.”
Sudra said her name derives from the bottom of the caste system in Hinduism and while she won’t let that define her, it is a part of who she is and her legacy.
A caste system is a class structure determined at birth.
Sudra is a San Jose poet, teacher, activist, musician, social justice warrior and more.
Art has been a major influence in Sudra’s life.
“I’ve been painting my whole life but usually portraits and real life things,” Sudra said. “The urban surrealism series was the first of my paintings to be completely from my head.”
Her website displays paintings made of a mixture of short and long strokes.
Pianos appear in several portraits, whether it’s horizontal across the width of the canvas, curved and looped or circling a fist, it’s clear music is centered.
Sudra’s art piece “Things Fall Apart” features a piano staircase climbing up the roots of a tree.
Appearing on that piece and several other paintings are short poems. “When things fall apart I crave nurture, but naturally am unable to ask for it,” reads part of the poem on “Things Fall Apart.”
Sudra is authentic and unapologetic. Her long brown curly hair falls free and her earlobes are pierced with gages. Her skin is an inked canvas.
Like her paintings, her tattoos also reveal her love for music.
She got her first tattoo when she turned 18. Her mom went with her as she got a treble clef and bass clef tattooed on her inner wrist.
“It made sense to me that everything that I do with my hands, music is there,” Sudra said.
The tattoos descend down her body to her arms, legs and feet. The dots on her fingers are connected to the same dots her grandmother had inked on her skin.
Each cluster represents something different from a mango tree to the feet of the Hindu Goddess Lakshmi.
Sudra spent the last couple years getting rooted in the Bay Area as an artist, now she has a full-time teaching position.
Not long after Sudra received her teaching credential from University of California, Santa Cruz, she was offered a permanent position as a United States history teacher for middle school students.
Sudra teaches history in a way children of color and minority backgrounds participate in the conversation.
“If we could tell stories and it still be academic, let us see what we end up with,” Sudra said.
Before the magazine release party in August, Sudra said the content editor warned her that people attending were there to network, not necessarily to listen to performers.
This was about a week after a white supremacist drove their car into counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia.
While racism was not the sole purpose of her spoken-word piece she touched on the issue in her piece titled “Broken.”
“All these folks had this platform to talk and no one was talking about what was going on,” Sudra said.
She wanted to make people listen.
“You bet, challenge accepted,” Sudra said.
She stood on a platform that night with a audience of about folks gawking. She spoke of her heritage, her skin color and her tattoos all of which embody her spirit.
Being a spoken word performance artist takes up the majority of Sudra’s time when she’s not teaching. She has performed at “March For Our Lives San Jose” and San Jose Jazz Festival.
She has made mentors along the way like Tshaka Campbell who said Sudra has developed her own voice, mastered her style and created clear messages.
“She respects the craft,” Campbell said.
Sudra grew up in Los Angeles, where she learned the importance of community and family. She is close to her older brother Asher Sudra.
As children, they both loved music.
“We’d jam out with pots and pans in the kitchen,” Asher Sudra said.
He said Asha was always the creative one.
“I am usually taken aback and in awe when I see her perform,” Asher Sudra said.
Sudra has let her art transcend all aspects of her life and inspires others to do the same.
“I am feeling all these things and I don’t necessarily have justifications for those feelings and the reason is because they are in the past,” Sudra said. “I had the privilege to stop and feel.”