SAALT ChangeMaker Award Recipient, Asm Rahman, Profiled in Detroit Free Press

SAALT ChangeMaker Award recipient, Asm Rahman

SAALT Change­Mak­er Award recip­i­ent, Asm Rah­man

Asm Rah­man, one of the recip­i­ents of the inau­gur­al SAALT Change­Mak­er Awards, is pro­filed in the Detroit Free Press. Elect­ed the Pres­i­dent of the Ham­tram­ck NAACP, Rah­man is a life­long sup­port­er of civ­il rights and edu­ca­tion. Check out the arti­cle here <http://www.freep.com/article/20090427/NEWS02/904270359/>. I had a chance to talk with Mr. Rah­man about what moti­vat­ed him to take a lead­er­ship role in the NAACP as well as what he envi­sions for the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty nation­al­ly and in the Detroit area.

Q: How did you get involved with the NAACP?

A: After 9/11, I real­ized that many peo­ple in my com­mu­ni­ty were unaware of their civ­il rights. They did not know why they should become cit­i­zens or that many were con­fronting post‑9/11 racism. While Detroit was not affect­ed like some areas with open harass­ment, they did go after many peo­ple, espe­cial­ly Mid­dle East­ern­ers, in a way that seemed relat­ed to race. When I first came to this coun­try, I had learned about Mar­tin Luther King, Jr and Fred­er­ick Dou­glas and such dur­ing Feb­ru­ary, Black His­to­ry Month, at Ham­tram­ck High School. I real­ized that after 9/11, we, as a com­mu­ni­ty, need to learn about and join this move­ment for civ­il rights. For our com­mu­ni­ty, we need to see that free­dom did not come cheap and we have to respect the African Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty’s con­tri­bu­tion to our free­dom.

Q: What do you hope for your community, in Detroit and around the country?

A: I hope that the com­mu­ni­ty can come togeth­er and get involved about the issues that we face. That’s why we formed BAPAC (Bangladeshi Amer­i­can Pub­lic Affairs Coun­cil). We saw that there were small­er orga­ni­za­tions pro­vid­ing social ser­vices, but in terms of polit­i­cal engage­ment or civ­il rights, we were behind. Vot­ing and pol­i­tics are dif­fer­ent in South Asia and it is impor­tant to edu­cate our com­mu­ni­ty about how the sys­tem works here. We run work­shops like how to vote where we use a sam­ple bal­lot to help Lim­it­ed Eng­lish Pro­fi­cient or old­er vot­ers nav­i­gate the process. The excite­ment that we saw dur­ing the Pres­i­den­tial elec­tions must be main­tained. This elec­tion was the first time I saw the Bangladeshi com­mu­ni­ty get­ting involved in nation­al pol­i­tics. There was this sense that even if our votes did not count before, this time it will mat­ter. My moth­er was watch­ing the elec­tion like her son was run­ning.

Q: What do you think the community needs in order to become engaged?

A: First­ly, I would say we need edu­ca­tion and I do not mean just aca­d­e­mics. We need to become famil­iar with the pow­er struc­ture. Know­ing that can help us be pre­pared for emer­gen­cies, when peo­ple real­ly need help. For instance, in terms of edu­ca­tion, many immi­grant par­ents do not know how they should get involved. By know­ing what is already in place, com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers can make a big­ger impact on the issues that mat­ter to them. Sec­ond, I would say it is lead­er­ship. This com­mu­ni­ty needs lead­ers who real­ly know what the prob­lems are and how to address them. Ulti­mate­ly, our num­bers do not mat­ter unless the num­bers are doing some­thing.

Daily Buzz 4.27.2009

1.) South Asian Phil­an­thropy Project: Live-Blog­ging at the SAALT Sum­mit!

2.) Racewire: Asian Amer­i­cans Increas­ing­ly Favor­able of U.S.

3.) Bangladeshi Amer­i­can to become First Asian Amer­i­can to Head NAACP Chap­ter

4.) Indi­an-Amer­i­can helps design ener­gy-sav­ing PCs

5.) Bangladesh-US ven­ture to build coun­try’s first solar pan­el plant 

Deepa Iyer, Executive Director on Apr 28 Applied Research Conference Call “Race in Review: The First 100 Days”

Check out Deepa Iyer, SAALT’s Exec­u­tive Direc­tor on Tues­day’s ARC call “Race in Review: The First 100 Days”. The call is at 4pm EST/3pm CST/1 pm PST. Learn more (and RSVP!) here <http://www.arc.org/content/view/594/1/>

Daily Buzz 4.22.2009

1.) Delta Clos­es Indi­an Call Cen­ters After Com­plaints from Amer­i­can Cus­tomers

2.) One Pak­istani Amer­i­can’s Plight at Guan­tanamo

3.) New Report on Air­port Search­es of Mus­lim, South Asian, & Mid­dle East­ern Com­mu­ni­ties

4.) Brown Girl Mag­a­zine: Smart. Hip. Beau­ti­ful

5.) Mac & Cheese with Masala

Daily Buzz 4.20.2009

1.) Oba­ma names Aneesh Chopra first US Chief Tech­nol­o­gy Offi­cer

2.) U.S. to Sit Out U.N. Con­fer­ence on Racism

3.) From Racia­li­cious. Hoagland’s Hog­wash: Islam­o­pho­bia in the Wash­ing­ton Post

4.) An Indi­an Amer­i­can Oberves East­er in India

5.) “Being Indi­an” and “Being Amer­i­can”: A study of how sec­ond gen­er­a­tion Indi­an Amer­i­cans approach dat­ing

Undocumented Immigrants, Children and CCPA

Check out this piece from Lavanya Sithanan­dam, pedi­a­tri­cian and trav­el doc­tor in Tako­ma Park and SAALT Board mem­ber about undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grants, cit­i­zen chil­dren and the Child Cit­i­zen Pro­tec­tion Act:

The non-par­ti­san Pew His­pan­ic Cen­ter released a report yes­ter­day enti­tled ‘A Por­trait of Unau­tho­rized Immi­grants in the Unit­ed States’ .  The report reveals that 4 mil­lion Amer­i­can chil­dren in the Unit­ed States have at least one undoc­u­ment­ed par­ent, which is up dra­mat­i­cal­ly from 2.7 mil­lion chil­dren in 2003.   Chil­dren of unau­tho­rized immi­grants now account for about one in 15 ele­men­tary and sec­ondary school stu­dents nation­wide.  One third of these chil­dren live in pover­ty and close to half (45%) of these chil­dren are with­out health insur­ance.

As a prac­tic­ing pedi­a­tri­cian in Tako­ma Park, MD, these sta­tis­tics are more than num­bers to me.   Some of my patients that I treat in my own office are includ­ed in this data.  What these per­cent­ages and sta­tis­tics do not con­vey is how deeply entrenched these chil­dren and their fam­i­lies have become in this coun­try.  Despite this, I have noticed a dis­turb­ing trend over the past two years, with a grow­ing num­ber of my patients hav­ing to deal with the deten­tion and pos­si­ble depor­ta­tion of a par­ent, friend, or neigh­bor.  This is a night­mare sce­nario for any­one to have to cope with, let alone a young child.

In response to this sit­u­a­tion, I have been work­ing with SAALT and sev­er­al oth­er non-prof­it orga­ni­za­tions such as Fam­i­lies For Free­dom to shed light on the plight of such chil­dren and to help them stay unit­ed with their fam­i­lies.   This week is a ‘Week of Action’ in sup­port of HR 182 or the Child Cit­i­zen Pro­tec­tion Act, which will give immi­gra­tion judges dis­cre­tion in depor­ta­tion cas­es involv­ing the sep­a­ra­tion of fam­i­lies with chil­dren who are U.S. cit­i­zens.    Cur­rent­ly, judges have their hands tied and are forced to deport many par­ents unless they meet an ‘extreme hard­ship’ stan­dard–  a dif­fi­cult stan­dard for most to meet.  I ask that you call your local con­gress­men and ask them to sign on to this bill.  Also please try to doc­u­ment any expe­ri­ences that you may be fac­ing with the deten­tion and/or depor­ta­tion of a loved one.  In my own prac­tice I am ask­ing my patients to draw pic­tures of bro­ken hearts (like the one above) to rep­re­sent the pain and suf­fer­ing these fam­i­lies endure when one or both par­ents are deport­ed.   I hope to show these draw­ings and let­ters that I col­lect to my local rep­re­sen­ta­tives as part of SAALT’s annu­al advo­ca­cy day next week.

Tako­ma Park Pedi­atrics Patient, Age 7

Also, check out Dr. Sithanan­dam’s excel­lent Op-Ed pub­lished in the Bal­ti­more Sun.