More Reflections from Atlanta Town Hall for Civil and Immigrant Rights

Here are more reflection on the kick-off town hall in Atlanta, GA of the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations’ One Community United campaign for civil and immigrant rights. This time we’re hearing from Nureen Gulamali, intern at ACLU-Georgia  (one of the cosponsors of the town hall):

I’m lucky to be interning at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Georgia this summer and was grateful to be a part of the SAALT/ACLU forum.  After attending the Immigration Forum, my perspective has been enlightened and truly widened.  Immigration is a hot topic in today’s world – tell me something I don’t know.  But how it affects the actual immigrants is truly the issue at hand.  I’ve heard accounts of the trials and tribulations that so many people have had to go through in order to get a better start in this world, and my heart goes out to them.  The forum itself not only provided more information to the uninformed, but allowed for a healthy and knowledgeable discussion for both the informed and uninformed.  It’s so important to stand up for what is right and immigration rights are, in essence, human rights.  What knowing individual wouldn’t stand up for human rights?

So, I suppose the more important question is, what can we do about it?  Well, really, everyone who was able to make it to the forum has already taken the first step – stay informed.  It’s as simple as that.  You can make a difference by staying informed, whether that’s catching up on the current issues on Google News, or joining a human rights advocacy group (GA Detention Watch, Human Rights Atlanta, Raksha, SAALT, etc.).  The more allies we have, the bigger the impact we can have – not to mention strategic pull.  So, take ten minutes a day to read what’s going on in the human rights/immigration front and from there, I swear, it will be plenty easy to get involved!

For more information about the One Community United campaign for Civil and Immigrant Rights, visit here <http://www.saalt.org/pages/One-Community-United-Campaign.html>.

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