What you need to know before you buy a home …

Have you thought about buy­ing a home? Do you know what home equi­ty is? Are you won­der­ing what your cred­it score is? I have to con­fess that I know very lit­tle about the process of buy­ing a home and have been intim­i­dat­ed by it because all that I heard from fam­i­ly mem­bers and friends was about how stress­ful it was!

For­tu­nate­ly, when I was in Queens, NY last week, I was lucky enough to par­tic­i­pate in work­shop pre­sent­ed by Chhaya CDC called “The Road to Home­own­er­ship: Your Rights, Risks, and Rewards.” This very empow­er­ing and acces­si­ble work­shop demys­ti­fied what it means to buy a home and how you go about doing it. Right then and there, my ques­tions were answered and the process was bro­ken down for me. This work­shop is a part of a series that cov­ers var­i­ous relat­ed top­ics such as whether home­own­er­ship is right for you, finan­cial and cred­it basics, ana­lyz­ing whether you can afford a mort­gage, and how to avoid preda­to­ry lenders. These work­shops are par­tic­u­lar­ly time­ly, giv­en the recent fore­clo­sure cri­sis that has affect­ed many Amer­i­cans and has brought up ques­tions about how exact­ly the home­buy­ing process works in the U.S. If you’re in the New York City area and inter­est­ed in attend­ing one of these work­shops, vis­it Chhaya CDC’s web­site or email them at info@chhayacdc.org.

Chhaya CDC is an orga­ni­za­tion based in Queens that address­es and advo­cates for the hous­ing and com­mu­ni­ty devel­op­ment needs of South Asian Amer­i­cans in New York City. They pro­vide indi­vid­u­al­ized home­own­er­ship and finan­cial coun­sel­ing, work on ten­ants’ rights issues, and engage in com­mu­ni­ty out­reach on hous­ing and com­mu­ni­ty devel­op­ment issues. They also devel­op “know your rights” brochures for the com­mu­ni­ty, includ­ing fact­sheet on how to avoid fore­clo­sure res­cue scams (avail­able in Eng­lish and Bangla).

Election Monitoring at Lakelands Park Middle School in Gaithersburg, MD

On Novem­ber 4th, I served as the site super­vi­sor at Lake­lands Park Mid­dle School in Gaithers­burg, MD to con­duct an Asian Amer­i­can Vot­er Sur­vey and mon­i­tor and report any vot­er inci­dents. Our expe­ri­ence was amaz­ing in that most of the Asian Amer­i­can vot­ers we approached were more than hap­py to fill out our sur­vey and even more enthu­si­as­tic once we told them what it was for. It was on this day that I real­ized the impor­tance of col­lect­ing this data and get­ting a sense of the needs, chal­lenges, and pri­or­i­ties of our community.There is one inci­dent that sticks out in my mind from that day. There was a woman who I saw vote ear­li­er in the day come back to our polling site in the after­noon with a cam­era. She asked us to take her pic­ture near the “Vote Here” sign, near our “Asian Amer­i­can Vot­er Sign”, and even a pic­ture with us! Her emo­tion and excite­ment were vis­i­ble as she told us how she want­ed to doc­u­ment this his­toric day for her chil­dren. As the day unfold­ed, we saw vot­ers turn out in record num­bers and in a very real way, it struck me how impor­tant this day was. Peo­ple came out to vote despite the long lines, cold weath­er, and rain. They brought their kids, their par­ents, their pets, their cam­eras, and their excite­ment. I am thank­ful that I had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to wit­ness such an occa­sion.

Check back on the SAALT web­site for updat­ed infor­ma­tion about the vot­ing trends of the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty!



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”

The Passage of Proposition 8: Denying Fundamental Rights to LGBTIQ South Asians

A week after the elec­tions, many in the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty are look­ing for­ward to a new Admin­is­tra­tion and Con­gress that will hope­ful­ly bring forth pos­i­tive changes con­cern­ing civ­il rights. The elec­tions, how­ev­er, are bit­ter­sweet for many South Asians who are also grap­pling with dis­ap­point­ment of Propo­si­tion 8’s pas­sage in Cal­i­for­nia. This bal­lot ini­tia­tive amends the state’s Con­sti­tu­tion to ban mar­riage between same-sex part­ners. Its pas­sage is espe­cial­ly sig­nif­i­cant giv­en that it fol­lowed a Cal­i­for­nia Supreme Court rul­ing in The Mar­riage Cas­es that rec­og­nized same-sex cou­ples’ right to mar­ry.

The pas­sage of Propo­si­tion 8 replays a shame­ful chap­ter in our coun­try’s his­to­ry regard­ing inequal­i­ty in mar­riage. Dur­ing the first half of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry, anti-mis­ce­gena­tion laws pro­hib­it­ed many immi­grants and indi­vid­u­als of col­or, includ­ing Pun­jabi farm­ers in Cal­i­for­ni­a’s Impe­r­i­al Val­ley, from mar­ry­ing Cau­casians. It was­n’t until the land­mark Supreme Court case of Lov­ing v. Vir­ginia in 1967 that all race-based legal restric­tions on mar­riage were declared uncon­sti­tu­tion­al. With this his­to­ry in mind,
over 60 Asian-Amer­i­can orga­ni­za­tions joined legal briefs sup­port­ing mar­riage equal­i­ty in The Mar­riage Cas­es in Cal­i­for­nia in 2007.

Mar­riage equal­i­ty, along with oth­er issues affect­ing les­bian, gay, bisex­u­al, trans­gen­der, inter­sex, and queer (LGBTIQ) indi­vid­u­als, is often silenced and ignored in the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty. Advo­cates and com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers in Cal­i­for­nia worked tire­less­ly to raise aware­ness about equal­i­ty among South Asians. For exam­ple,
Trikone-SF devel­oped posters, dis­trib­uted in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Satrang, fea­tur­ing South Asians oppos­ing Propo­si­tion 8. South Asian Net­work (SAN) spoke at a press con­fer­ence express­ing con­cerns about the ini­tia­tive. SAN and Satrang also coor­di­nat­ed a march in Arte­si­a’s “Lit­tle India.” The strug­gle for equal­i­ty con­tin­ues with ral­lies against Propo­si­tion 8 con­tin­u­ing after Elec­tion Day and law­suits filed against the ini­tia­tive for vio­lat­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion.

If you want to learn more about the range of issues affect­ing the South Asian LGBTIQ com­mu­ni­ty, check out SAN and Satrang’s ground­break­ing needs assess­ment report,
No More Denial, and the LGBTIQ sec­tion of A Nation­al Action Agen­da: Pol­i­cy Rec­om­men­da­tions to Empow­er South Asian Com­mu­ni­ties.

Where were you on Election Day?

I hope that you were vot­ing and mak­ing your voice heard. Around the coun­try, vol­un­teers from SAALT and oth­er orga­ni­za­tions from the Asian Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty were at poll sites, pro­tect­ing the vote and learn­ing more about the vot­ing choic­es and bar­ri­ers faced by Asians. It was my first time being an elec­tion mon­i­tor and I was assigned to a poll site in Sil­ver Spring, MD (which is in the sub­urbs of Wash­ing­ton, DC). It was an amaz­ing expe­ri­ence on a num­ber of lev­els. First and fore­most, it was very pow­er­ful to see so many peo­ple after they had exer­cised their right to vote. It was the cul­mi­na­tion of a long, and some­times emo­tion­al, elec­tion cycle and you could feel the excite­ment in the air.

I saw a lot of peo­ple with smiles on their faces. Anoth­er notable trend was fam­i­lies com­ing in to vote togeth­er in which the chil­dren were vot­ing for the first time. As they filled out sur­veys, I could see the pride in the par­ents’ eyes. I moved to the Unit­ed States when I was twelve years old. My fam­i­ly had pre­vi­ous­ly lived in Sau­di Ara­bia, which was an inter­est­ing expe­ri­ence all around, but there was a pal­pa­ble dif­fer­ence when we came to Amer­i­ca. This was a place where peo­ple set­tled, not just a place to pass through. It was not imme­di­ate, but Amer­i­ca became home. And when I became a cit­i­zen in 2006, I was old enough to have real­ly cho­sen become an “Amer­i­can”. I knew when I said that oath in the cour­t­house in Chica­go that, in a fun­da­men­tal way, my place in the world had shift­ed.

Even though I had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to vote in the 2006 midterm elec­tions, I was beside myself with excite­ment about vot­ing in my first pres­i­den­tial elec­tions: to be mak­ing this huge, mean­ing­ful choice along with my fel­low Amer­i­cans (a deci­sion that I knew from per­son­al expe­ri­ence rever­ber­at­ed well beyond the US) was some­thing I had looked for­ward to for a very long time. In my fam­i­ly there are Amer­i­can cit­i­zens, per­ma­nent res­i­dents, H1‑B and stu­dent visa-hold­ers and Bangladeshi cit­i­zens. I vot­ed absen­tee in the Dis­trict of Colum­bia, so it was­n’t the whole Elec­tion Day expe­ri­ence, but when I stood in my lit­tle vot­ing booth, I felt my whole fam­i­ly there with me and I did my best to make sure my vote reflect­ed that.

I don’t know if it is the same for oth­er immi­grants and chil­dren of immi­grants, but the very act of vot­ing felt like some small but vital por­tion of my par­ents’ dreams and my dreams becom­ing a real­i­ty. Being an elec­tion mon­i­tor and see­ing peo­ple of all races and eth­nic­i­ties, of dif­fer­ent ages and socioe­co­nom­ic sta­tus­es seemed a qui­et and pow­er­ful affir­ma­tion of Amer­i­can democ­ra­cy at work. On a very prac­ti­cal lev­el, being there to help doc­u­ment any prob­lems or issues with vot­ing helped me con­tribute to a bet­ter under­stand­ing of Asian Amer­i­cans as a vot­ing pop­u­la­tion. This infor­ma­tion not only helps us under­stand our com­mu­ni­ty bet­ter, it informs pol­i­cy­mak­ers and politi­cians about the issues that mat­ter to us. I know that I will remem­ber Novem­ber 4th, 2008 for the rest of my life and I hope that the work that I and all the oth­er elec­tion mon­i­tors can make a sim­i­lar impact on our com­mu­ni­ty’s future.

We’re going to put up some more posts about peo­ple’s expe­ri­ences with elec­tion mon­i­tor­ing so keep a look out for them.

What Do I Need to Bring to the Polls? and Document the Vote!

It’s almost here! Elec­tion Day! After a rather long pri­ma­ry sea­son, this elec­tion is com­ing to close in the most excit­ing way pos­si­ble. Vot­er turnout is expect­ed to be quite impres­sive and if ear­ly vot­ing is any indi­ca­tion Amer­i­cans around the coun­try are excit­ed (and com­m­mit­ted, with ear­ly vot­ing loca­tions in some states hav­ing wait times in excess of SIX hours) about hav­ing their say this elec­tion. So for every­one get­ting ready to vote on Elec­tion Day, make sure that the ID require­ments in your state don’t keep you from cast­ing a bal­lot. Lookup your state’s ID require­ment on www.866ourvote.org.

Also, while you’re wait­ing online, doc­u­ment the vote, take pic­tures or video of how vot­ing looks in your com­mu­ni­ty. If you have any inter­est­ing sto­ries to share about first time vot­ers or the excite­ment in your fam­i­ly or cir­cle of friends about vot­ing, we want to hear about it. Are you vot­ing, get­ting out the vote, or mon­i­tor­ing at the polls on Elec­tion Day? Bring a cam­era or video­cam­era with you to doc­u­ment pic­tures and sto­ries of South Asian vot­ers. Send pic­tures, video, writ­ten reflec­tions, quotes and more to saalt@saalt.org by Wednes­day, Novem­ber 5th at 5PM!

Here’s an inter­est­ing PSA I found that real­ly under­scores how mean­ing­ful the vote is, it may take a cou­ple of hours (so I sug­gest bring­ing a book… and maybe a fold­ing chair) but going out and vot­ing remains sig­nif­i­cant long after Elec­tion Day.

Make sure your vote counts on November 4th!

This is a real­ly great video that out­lines how impor­tant it is to make sure that your vote counts on Elec­tion Day. There may not be enough vot­ing machines, your name might not be in the vot­er rolls, you may get asked for ID you don’t have to vote. So its very impor­tant that you know what your rights are, it can be the dif­fer­ence between hav­ing your say on Elec­tion Day or not.

More­over, by know­ing what vot­ers have a right to expect, you can make sure that those around you, vot­ing at your polling place, vot­ers from your com­mu­ni­ty and more! Vot­ers can con­front a num­ber of prob­lems at the polls, from poll work­ers who are not knowl­edge­able about the rules to dif­fi­cul­ties with lan­guage and Eng­lish bal­lots to unfair treat­ment based on race or eth­nic­i­ty. Remem­ber:

-Check your state’s vot­er ID laws to make sure that you have the prop­er iden­ti­fi­ca­tion to vote
‑If you or any­one you know needs help inter­pret­ing the bal­lot, it is your legal right to bring an inter­preter into the booth with you
‑If your name is miss­ing from the rolls, you have a right to vote using a pro­vi­sion­al bal­lot
     Want to learn more about your rights on Elec­tion Day, check out this SAALT resource

If you encounter or wit­ness any bar­ri­ers to the right to vote, call 1–866-OUR-VOTE.