SAALT Names Suman Raghunathan as Executive Director

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                      Contact: AuriaJoy Asaria
January 7, 2013                                                               301.270.1855


Suman Raghunathan will be joining SAALT as Executive Director in February.

The Board of Directors and staff of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) are pleased to announce that Suman Raghunathan will join our organization as Executive Director on February 3, 2014.

Ms. Raghunathan is a seasoned immigrant rights advocate with extensive experience on the range of issues addressed by SAALT, deep connections to South Asian communities, and relationships with key stakeholders. Through her work at organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union, Progressive States Network, and the New York Immigration Coalition, Ms. Raghunathan has developed expertise on policy issues and implemented capacity-building and advocacy campaigns. She is also well-versed in leading non-profit organizations, having served first as Interim Executive Director and then as a long-time member of the Board of Directors of Chhaya Community Development Corporation, one of SAALT’s close partners. She received her undergraduate degree in international relations from Brown University and has a Master’s in Nonprofit Management from Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy in New York City.

“Suman has the optimal combination of skills, experience, and ability to connect to people that will deepen SAALT’s social change mission and expand our reach. She is a passionate advocate who is sure to identify and implement strategic and innovative opportunities to amplify the voices of South Asians in the United States,” said Nitasha Sawhney, Co-Chair of the SAALT Board of Directors.

“I am thrilled and humbled by the opportunity to lead such an influential, community-centered, and vital organization as SAALT,” said Ms. Raghunathan. “As a daughter of Indian immigrants who has been anchored in the immigrant rights movement, I believe wholeheartedly in the importance of South Asians playing a critical role to work towards inclusive and responsible public policies in our nation on issues ranging from civil rights and xenophobia to health access and gender equity. I look forward to working with SAALT’s committed staff to forge coalitions across ethnic, racial and class lines, and strengthen the leadership of South Asian organizations and individuals around the country.”

Deepa Iyer, SAALT’s outgoing Executive Director, will remain in her position through January 2014, and then transition to serving as a strategic advisor in a consultancy role. “I am so pleased to welcome Suman as she steps into the role of Executive Director at SAALT,” said Ms. Iyer. “SAALT has been a labor of love for me for over ten years, and I am fully invested in supporting Suman, and our staff and Board members, during this transition and beyond.”

SAALT is a national, nonpartisan non-profit organization that elevates the voices and perspectives of South Asian individuals and organizations to build a more just and inclusive society in the United States. SAALT is the only national, staffed South Asian organization that advocates around issues affecting South Asian communities through a social justice lens. SAALT’s strategies include conducting public policy analysis and advocacy; building partnerships with South Asian organizations and allies; mobilizing communities to take action; and developing leadership for social change.

Please join us in welcoming Suman by tweeting a welcome message to her @saaltweets and@SumanSAALT. For more information, please visit or email us at


Stand Together, Serve Together

Stand Together, Serve Together: Over 3,000 volunteers celebrate service and Gandhi’s challenge at Be The Change events nationwide | PDF

For immediate release:
October 6, 2012

Washington, DC – The spirit of volunteerism and community service should be taken beyond a single day of service – that was the message at the annual Be The Change national day of service hosted by the DC area-based non-profit organization, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), on Saturday, October 6, 2012, in coordination with over 46 campus and city planning teams around the country.

Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s message, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world,” over 3,000 volunteers including students, professionals, and retirees contributed their time and energy to service activities around the country, including Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, New Brunswick, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC. In addition, college campuses from Hawaii to Oklahoma to New York coordinated Be The Change activities.

“For the past 11 years, Be the Change has encouraged community members, young professionals and students to take an active role to build community through service. With each year, we are increasingly inspired by the growth in numbers and initiative taken by individuals around the country to live the words of Gandhi as they get involved on this day and truly be the change,” said Deepa Iyer, Executive Director of SAALT.

“This was Austin’s third year participating in Be the Change as a core city. It was extremely exciting and gratifying for the Austin BTC coordinating team to watch the day unfold as volunteers from all walks of life stood together in service,” said Sonia Kotecha, the head of BTC Austin’s planning team. “To think that just a small group of us could inspire, motivate and mobilize an entire community to ‘be the change’ was humbling. It reminds me each year how ordinary people can do extraordinary things through serving each other.”

This year’s service activities focused on food and hunger, seniors, children and youth, civic engagement, and the environment. Partners and sponsors also affirmed the values of Be the Change. Partners ranged from South Asian sororities and fraternities to national Asian and Pacific Islander organizations and South Asian professional networks. Be the Change 2012 was supported by National Sponsors Sodexo, Development & Training Services, Inc., North American South Asian Bar Association, and Iota Nu Delta.

“Sodexo is once again thrilled to be a part of the nationwide Be The Change events which align with our corporate values and reflect our Business Resource Groups’ commitment to community engagement,” said Cassandra Chin Muh Loh, Sodexo Senior Training Manager and National Co-Chair of Community Engagement/Cultural Awareness of Sodexo’s Pan Asian Group.

This event was tweeted under #BTC2012. For more information and additional photographs, please contact or 301-270-1855.

Diverse Organization Hold Press Conference After Senate Hate Crimes Hearing

Diverse Organizations Hold Press Conference After Senate Hate Crimes Hearing | PDF

For Immediate Release:
September 19, 2012

Today, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights, chaired by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), will hold a hearing on “Hate Crimes and The Threat Domestic Extremism” in the Hart Senate Office Building Room 216 at 2:30 p.m. Following the hearing today, representatives from civil rights and interfaith organizations will hold a brief press conference. Over 200 community members are expected to attend the hearing, which comes in the wake of the tragic, hate-motivated shootings at a Sikh gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin that killed six people. Sadly, since September 11, 2001, South Asians, Arab Americans, Sikhs and Muslims have endured profiling, discrimination, and hate violence at unprecedented levels. “As history has proven, the highest levels of government can be very effective in setting a framework to prevent hate crimes and the threats posed by violent extremists,” says Deepa Iyer, Executive Director of South Asian Americans Leading Together. “The leadership of our government was crucial to counter the crisis that emerged during the attacks on African American churches in the 1990s. We are at a similar moment in history now and we, as a society, need the government to assist us in moving forward towards a safer America.” Read more about SAALT’s policy asks on our Statement for the Record, submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Please join us for this timely and important hearing, as well as the press conference that follows so that we can begin a dialogue on these issues.

For more information, please contact Nasreen Hosein at, (301) 270-1855, or Deepa Iyer at, (301) 270-1855. This event will be tweeted from @SAALTweets using #antihate.

Diverse Community Organization Applaud Senate Hearing on Hate Violence Next Week

Diverse Community Organizations Applaud Senate Hearing on Hate Violence Next Week | PDF

For immediate release:
September 13, 2012

(New York, New York) September 12, 2012 – In the wake of the tragic, hate-motivated shootings in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, a United States Senate Subcommittee announced that it will hold a hearing on the threat posed by hate and extremist groups in the United States.

The hearing, entitled “Hate Crimes & the Threat of Domestic Extremism,” will be held before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights, chaired by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), on Wednesday, September 19, 2012 in Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 226 starting at 2:30 p.m.  Following the briefing, leading civil rights and interfaith organizations that have spent the past decade working on community and policy challenges pertaining to hate crimes, will hold a brief press conference highlighting reactions to the hearing and outlining next steps.

On August 21, a diverse group of more than 150 organizations, led by the Sikh Coalition, requested a Senate hearing on hate crimes and domestic extremism. The immediate response by the Senate to this request indicates the severity of this problem and the importance of political leadership partnering with communities of all faiths and races to identify policy solutions that will make our country safer.

“We commend Senator Durbin’s leadership in calling for this unprecedented hearing,” said Amardeep Singh, Co-founder and Program Director for the Sikh Coalition, the nation’s largest Sikh civil rights organization. “As the tragedy in Oak Creek reminded us, the threat of domestic extremist hate violence is real, ever-present, and growing.  The topic of domestic extremist hate violence certainly needs a Senate platform. We expect that the hearing will bring this problem to light and explore the solutions needed to prevent another Oak Creek from happening.” Reach Mr. Singh at

“SAALT welcomes next week’s hearing and commends Senator Durbin’s leadership in addressing hate violence and bias against all Americans.  We join our partner organizations in bringing light to the issue of hate violence which is on the rise, and in providing policy solutions that can make our country a safer place,” said Deepa Iyer, Executive Director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT).  Reach Ms. Iyer at

“The Anti-Defamation League welcomes Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on response to hate crimes and the implementation of the Matthew Shepard James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA),” said Michael Lieberman, ADL Washington Counsel. The ADL was the leading organization that fought for passage of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act.  “The horrible bias-motivated murders of Sikhs in their house of worship in Oak Creek, Wisconsin last month demonstrate, once again, the tragic impact of hate violence – and the critical importance of partnerships between government and community groups to prevent these crimes and respond effectively.” Reach Mr. Lieberman at

“No one should live in fear of worshiping freely, expressing affection with one’s partner or spouse, or simply leading their day-to-day lives,” said Wade Henderson, President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the largest civil and human rights coalition in the United States. “Passing the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was a historic step toward ending bias crimes, and this hearing marks an important opportunity to revisit the law’s impact on protecting diverse communities, ensure its full and effective enforcement, and refine our techniques for preventing these crimes from occurring in the first place.” Reach Mr. Henderson at

“The National Urban League commends Sen. Dick Durbin for holding hearings to shine a light on the threat of domestic extremism and hate crimes,” said Marc Morial, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Urban League.  “Radical, violent rhetoric and behavior in the pursuit of any ideology, political philosophy or social agenda cannot be tolerated in a free and civil society.    Indeed, a hate crime against even one citizen is a threat to all Americans, and we stand in solidarity with SAALT and the Oak Creek Community as they look for answers and a peaceful path forward.” Reach Mr. Morial at

“We join with people from all backgrounds who stand united against hate crimes and domestic extremism. No one should live in fear while going about their daily business, whether it be attending a worship service, holding the hand of the person they love, or simply being who they are. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, especially those of color, understand all too well what it’s like to be targeted for being who they are,” says Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.  The Task Force has led national advocacy on gay civil rights issues. “The Senate is doing the right thing by shining a light on the continuing scourge of hate violence. One of America’s greatest assets is its rich diversity, and intimidation and violence against anyone should not be tolerated.” Reach Ms. Carey at

“We commend the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights & Human Rights for its timely hearing to examine hate crimes,” said Jose Perez, LatinoJustice Associate General Counsel and Legal Director.  LatinoJustice has led advocacy on behalf of Latino hate crime victims. “We join with our fellow civil rights colleagues and hope the hearing will identify the causes for such extremist behavior, and develop potential solutions to again make the U.S.A. the welcoming haven it has historically been for all immigrants.” Reach Mr. Perez at

“The attack on the Sikh temple in Wisconsin marked a deeply disturbing escalation of hate violence against Sikh, Muslim, South Asian and Arab Americans,” said Farhana Khera, Executive Director of Muslim Advocates, a leading Muslim civil rights organization.  “Hate violence has now reached a crisis point in our nation requiring the attention and leadership of the President and congressional leaders, and we commend Senator Durbin for holding a hearing that sheds light on the hate and discrimination that is fueling the violence against innocent Americans.”  Reach Ms. Khera at

“The tragedy in Oak Creek calls upon us to have a national conversation about how to combat hate in America,” said Valarie Kaur, Director of Groundswell at Auburn Seminary. Ms. Kaur has spent considerable time with victims of the Oak Creek massacre. “As people from many faith traditions – Christian, Jew, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Hindu and Humanist – we believe that an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us   We welcome this congressional hearing as an opportunity to catalyze introspection and action not only in our halls of power but also in our schools, workplaces, houses of worship, and communities. ” Reach Ms. Kaur at

“Since the events of 9/11 there has been a fixation on extremism and radicalization in the Muslim American community which has blinded us to real and imminent domestic threats of violence from other groups including white supremacists,” said Linda Sarsour, National Advocacy Director, National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC). “This hearing is an opportunity to look at hate crimes and extremism through a broader lens. We commend Senator Durbin on his leadership once again.” Ms. Sarsour has led the community response to spying by the New York City Police Department on Muslim communities in New York City.  Reach Ms. Sarsour at

“The Japanese American Citizens League commends the Senate Judiciary Committee for holding this vital hearing on hate crimes and domestic extremism. Our organization has always stood steadfast against attacks and violence fueled by hatred and looks forward to the public discussion on strong measures that the government, community stakeholders, and the public can take to end bigotry in this country,” said Priscilla Ouchida, National Executive Director of the Japanese American Citizens League.

The Sikh Coalition has set up an RSVP link for people to indicate whether they can attend the hearing.

Sikh Coalition Contact:

Amardeep Singh,, 212-655-3095 x83
Rajdeep Singh,, (202) 747-4944
South Asian Americans Leading Together Contact:
Deepa Iyer,, (301) 270-1855