DJ Rekha @ the Black Cat

On Friday night, myself and other SAALT staff members attended DJ Rekha’s show at the Black Cat.  First off, I have to say: What an amazing show!! I have always been a fan of DJ Rekha’s beats, but seeing her live was fantastic.  I also want to thank Rekha and the Black Cat for letting SAALT table at the show.  It was refreshing to see many familiar faces and to know that so many Desis in D.C. already know about SAALT’s work.  I am a fan of Rekha, not only because she is a talented artist, but because she uses her music as a tool for social change.  While it is inspiring to see artists like Rekha getting involved in the South Asian movement, you don’t have to be a DJ to work for change for your community.  Volunteer for Be the Change, organize an event in your local community, or if you haven’t already, become a member of SAALT.  Thanks again to DJ Rekha for her continued support of SAALT and involvement in our work!

Anjali Chaudhry is the Maryland Outreach Coordinator for SAALT.  To learn more about SAALT’s Maryland Community Empowerment Project and ways you can get involved, email anjali@saalt.org.

Aaditi Dubale, SAALT Fellow (left) and myself (right) tabling at the Black Cat.

A Loss of Life, A Community’s Responsibility

Please read this op-ed written by members of the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations (Raksha, Narika, Manavi, Maitri) on the recent murder of Reshma James in New Jersey

A Loss of Life, A Community’s Responsibility

As representatives of South Asian community-based organizations working to end violence against women, we are saddened by the recent murder of Reshma James, a 24-year old South Asian woman, just days before Thanksgiving.  The tragic shooting death of Reshma James at the St. Thomas Syrian Orthodox Knanaya Church in Clifton by her estranged husband has stunned the entire South Asian community. In addition to Ms. James, two other individuals were injured, one of whom also died.

This act of violence – the last in a history of abuse perpetrated by Ms. James’ estranged husband – has affected individuals and the justice systems of three states: California (where the abuse occurred); New Jersey (where the murder occurred); and Georgia (where the murderer was apprehended).    

As community members deal with the trauma and grief of this incident, it is important to broaden our lens to understand the epidemic of domestic violence that affects families around the country from all backgrounds.   

The murder of Reshma James is one incident among many that affect South Asians and other women in the United States.  In fact, according to the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), intimate partner violence claims the lives of three women each day in the U.S., and guns are the weapon of choice.    

Through our direct service and advocacy work with South Asian survivors of violence, we know all too well that domestic violence can affect all families regardless of religion, race, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, age, or immigration status.  Maitri, Manavi, Narika and Raksha are organizations that address domestic violence in the San Francisco Bay Area, New Jersey and Atlanta.  Collectively our agencies receive over 4,000 calls annually from women seeking legal and health assistance, social services, basic information about their rights, and referrals.  

Yet, the messages that we often hear from within the South Asian community are the same: that domestic violence does not happen in our community; that it does not happen within educated families; and that it is not an important issue for an entire community to address.   From non-South Asians, we often hear that domestic violence must somehow be unique to South Asian communities, given our customs, beliefs, and familial relationships, or that it does not occur based on false stereotypes they have about South Asians.

Women are battered in every culture, and the common factor is the social sanction of violence against women, across cultures. Our collective work as a society then is to build safe communities where everyone can live free of fear.   We must bear the collective responsibility of keeping everyone safe.  And that work cannot be done in isolation, by a few community based organizations such as ours. It has to be done by all of us, working together.   

We ask you to support the work of ending violence against women and children in our communities.   We ask that you listen to and empower survivors in your community.  We ask that you look at legislation that compromises survivor safety and speak out against it and to advocate for laws and policies that protect survivors and provide them with linguistic and cultural access to the justice system, law enforcement, and shelters.

 The entire community must be prepared to speak out against violence and address it in our homes, places of worship, cultural centers, and social service organizations.  We ask you to reach out to someone who needs your support.  Only as a community can we prevent the murders of women like Reshma James. 

Maitri, Manavi, Narika, Raksha – community-based organizations working to end violence against South Asian women – are all members of the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations.  

Aparna Bhattacharyya, Raksha (Atlanta)       1.866.725.7423          www.raksha.org

Atashi Chakravarty, Narika (Bay Area)         1.800.215.7308           www.narika.org

Maneesha Kelkar, Manavi    (New Jersey)     732. 435.1414             www.manavi.org

Sarah Khan, Maitri               (Bay Area)         1.800.799.SAFE         www.maitri.org

SAALT and Community Partners Issue Statement Regarding Recent Bias Crimes Targeting South Asians in New Jersey

You may be surprised to learn that nearly 200,000 South Asians reside in the state of New Jersey.  SAALT’s New Jersey Community Empowerment Project developed from a series of meetings in 2004 with South Asian organizations in New Jersey, allies, and concerned South Asian individuals.  Through these dialogues, it became clear that South Asian communities in New Jersey are underserved and largely voiceless in policy debates. To learn more about the New Jersey Community Empowerment Project, or to read our report highlighting key issues affecting the South Asian community in New Jersey, “A Community of Contrasts: South Asians in New Jersey,” please check out SAALT’s local initiatives page.

In response to recent bias-crimes targeted towards the South Asian community in New Jersey, SAALT, along with several South Asian community partners – Manavi; South Asian Mental Health Awareness in Jersey (SAMHAJ); the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ); UNITED SIKHS; and the Sikh Coalition issued a joint statement condemning all bias crimes.  Read the statement below:

“We come together, as organizations serving South Asian communities here in New Jersey, to denounce the recent hate crimes and bias incidents that have taken place in our state.  The South Asian community in New Jersey, with a growing population of 200,000, has long confronted bias and discrimination, beginning in the 1980’s with the attacks perpetrated by the ‘Dotbusters’ and the post-9/11 backlash.  In addition, our organizations – Manavi; the Sikh Coalition; the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ); South Asian Mental Health Awareness in Jersey (SAMHAJ); and UNITED SIKHS – have observed a rise in New Jersey, which we believe has fostered an environment where bias incidents and hate crimes can occur.

Today, we stand in solidarity not only with the Grewal family – victims of a cross-burning outside their home; Mr. Ajit Singh Chima – an elderly Sikh man who, on October 30th, in Wayne, New Jersey, was violently punched and kicked in the face several times by an unidentified man, and as a result suffered several fractures around his eyes and jaw; Gangadeep Singh – a fifth grade student who, on October 8th, was attacked in Carteret, New Jersey while walking home from school by an unidentified masked assailant that threw him on the ground and cut off his hair – but with all survivors of bias and hate crimes.

We stand together now because we must say no to any act of bias and intolerance when it happens.  We stand together to ask our elected officials and law enforcement agencies to protect survivors of hate crimes and to join us in condemning them.  As a vibrant segment of New Jersey’s neighborhoods, schools, businesses, and non-profit sectors, South Asians raise our voices to call for justice and equality for all.”

Please join us for a march and rally in support of the Grewal family on Saturday, November 15th at 3PM in Hardwick, New Jersey.  The ‘Unity for the Community’ March will start at the Municipal Building and end at the Grewal residence with a rally. 

Saturday, November 5th, 3PM
Hardwick Municipal Building
40 Spring Valley Road
Hardwick, NJ 07825
If you’d like to attend but do not have a ride, please contact Qudsia:
(qudsia@saalt.org) or call (201) 850-3333.

Additionally, if you’d like to learn more about bias and hate crimes, check out a new resource by SAALT:  “Know Your Rights Resource Addressing Hate Crimes”

SAALT briefing on South Asians in New Jersey covered in the New Jersey Star-Ledger

Check out a great article from the New Jersey Star Ledger about the October 1st briefing on the South Asian community in New Jersey. The briefing included Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula and Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Transportation, Kris Kolluri. The panel featured speakers from the Sikh Coalition, Manavi and CAIR-NJ and was moderated by SAALT Policy Director, Priya Murthy. You can read the articles here <http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2008/10/njs_growing_south_asian_commun.html>

To read SAALT resources about the South Asian community in New Jersey, click here <http://www.saalt.org/pages/Local-Initiatives%3A-New-Jersey.html>

Watch a clip of Assemblyman Chivukula (the first South Asian to be elected to the New Jersey state Assembly) speaking about the New Jersey South Asian community. To his left is Kris Kolluri, the Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Transportation and to his right is Mark Murphy from the Fund for New Jersey. Moderating the discussion is Deepa Iyer, Executive Director of SAALT.

SAALT Oct. briefing in Trenton, NJ