A life-changing experience

As I tran­si­tion from SAALT, I want­ed to take a minute to do one final blog post as a SAALT Staff Mem­ber. I start­ed work­ing at SAALT in August 2007 right after I grad­u­at­ed from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land and have been here for almost 2 years as an Ameri­Corps VISTA (Vol­un­teers in Ser­vice to Amer­i­ca) mem­ber. Ameri­Corps VISTA is the anti-pover­ty arm of the Ameri­Corps pro­gram and I feel so lucky to have found this oppor­tu­ni­ty to put my under­grad­u­ate edu­ca­tion to use in a way that serves the com­mu­ni­ty.

Over the past few years, I have been priv­i­leged to work with so many indi­vid­u­als and orga­ni­za­tions in my capac­i­ty as the Fundrais­ing and Devel­op­ment Assis­tan on projects includ­ing work­shops, train­ings, local events, Be the Change, and the 2009 South Asian Sum­mit. In this time, I have not only learned about the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty but about the pas­sion­ate and inspir­ing indi­vid­u­als who work each and every day to build this com­mu­ni­ty. Work­ing with SAALT has been an unfor­get­table expe­ri­ence and one that I will con­tin­ue to digest as I tran­si­tion from SAALT.

One of my most mem­o­rable expe­ri­ences (among many) at SAALT was help­ing to plan the 2009 South Asian Sum­mit — a con­ven­ing of over 250 indi­vid­u­als from around the coun­try for a week­end of  work­shops, net­work­ing, and move­ment-build­ing. After months of plan­ning and por­ing over every detail of the event, to see it come togeth­er was incred­i­ble. I feel so for­tu­nate to have been part of this expe­ri­ence and to have played a part in putting togeth­er an event that is hope­ful­ly a cat­a­lyst for mov­ing our com­mu­ni­ty for­ward. At the Sum­mit, I met so many peo­ple who had pre­vi­ous­ly been names on a paper, email address­es, or pic­tures on a web­site. To have con­nect­ed with these amaz­ing peo­ple was inspir­ing beyond belief.

I am com­mit­ted to stay­ing engaged in this community,the non-prof­it sec­tor, and the social jus­tice move­ment.

I would like to thank every­one who I have worked with over the past 2 years at SAALT for help­ing me to grow both per­son­al­ly and pro­fes­sion­al­ly. This has tru­ly been a life-chang­ing expe­ri­ence.

2009 Asian American Health Initiative Conference “A Time for Change”

Last week, I got the chance to attend the Asian Amer­i­can Health Con­fer­ence, spon­sored by Asian Amer­i­can Health Ini­tia­tive. It was a great expe­ri­ence meet­ing pub­lic health advo­cates and experts (as well as allies, com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers and more) and hear­ing about the rel­e­vant issues in the Asian Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty. Asian Amer­i­can Health Ini­tia­tive does great work in Mont­gomery Coun­ty ensur­ing that Asian Amer­i­cans enjoy equi­ty and access to qual­i­ty health­care and the con­fer­ence gave me the oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn more about their work, but also the work of oth­er health-relat­ed orga­ni­za­tions around the coun­try.

AAHI con­duct­ed a needs assess­ment sur­vey of Asian Amer­i­cans in Mont­gomery Coun­ty and one of the pre­sen­ta­tions at the con­fer­ence was devot­ed to their process and find­ings. Mont­gomery Coun­ty has the high­est per­cent­age of Asian Amer­i­cans in Mary­land mak­ing up near­ly 14% of the pop­u­la­tion. The AAHI needs assess­ment uti­lized focus groups with major ethnic/national ori­gin groups as well as a few of the small­er ethnic/national ori­gin groups. Focus groups were made up of com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers from all walks of life from pro­fes­sion­als to retirees and seniors. More­over, they also con­duct­ed a young adults focus group made up of mixed ethnic/national ori­gin youths. Par­tic­i­pants iden­ti­fied a num­ber of stres­sors from strug­gling to fit in (young adults) to iso­la­tion and lone­li­ness (seniors). In terms of obsta­cles to health care acces, the study iden­ti­fied finan­cial, phys­i­cal, com­mu­ni­ca­tion and cul­tur­al bar­ri­ers. Per­sis­tent gaps that I picked up dur­ing this pre­sen­ta­tion, and real­ly, all the ple­nar­ies and break­out groups were the need for lin­guis­tic and cul­tur­al pro­fi­cien­cy, the lack of dis­ag­gre­gat­ed data about Asian Amer­i­can health out­comes and the lack of access to afford­able health insur­ance. To read the whole report, vis­it AAHI <http://www.aahiinfo.org/english/programs/needsAssesment.php>

Arthur Chen, Chief Medical Officer-Alameda Alliance for Health

Arthur Chen, Chief Med­ical Offi­cer-Alame­da Alliance for Health

Anoth­er high­light from the event was the keynote speech from Arthur Chen, Chief Med­ical Offi­cer of the Alame­da Alliance for Health. Chen’s remarks gave a very con­tex­tu­al and com­pli­cat­ed view of the fac­tors con­tribut­ing to the unequal access to qual­i­ty health­care for Asian Amer­i­cans and oth­er minori­ties. From civic engage­ment to hold­ing leg­is­la­tors account­able to fis­cal and mon­e­tary man­age­ment, access to health­care is deeply inter­twined with the oth­er issues we are expe­ri­enc­ing as a nation. More­over, to address gaps in health­care ade­quate­ly we must be ready to tack­le oth­er per­sis­tent inequal­i­ties in our coun­try and around the world.

The theme of the whole con­fer­ence was “A Time for Change: Trans­form­ing Oppor­tu­ni­ties into Action” and I think every­one was excit­ed to see what we as a com­mu­ni­ty can do to make a real, pos­i­tive change for health­care acess for all.

SAALT Policy Connection (May 2009)

SAALT top bar

SAALT Policy Connection  (May 2009)

In This Issue

Immigration Policies

Hate Crimes Legislation Passes House!

Health Care Reform and the South Asian Community

At the Table: Meetings with Policymakers

Community Resource: Race and Recession

Support SAALT!

South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT) is a nation­al non-prof­it orga­ni­za­tion whose mis­sion is to pro­mote the full and equal civic and polit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion of South Asians in the Unit­ed States. SAALT is the coor­di­nat­ing enti­ty of the Nation­al Coali­tion of South Asian Orga­ni­za­tions (NCSO), a net­work of 36 orga­ni­za­tions that serve, orga­nize, and advo­cate on behalf of the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty across the coun­try.

The SAALT Pol­i­cy Con­nec­tion is a month­ly e‑newsletter that focus­es on cur­rent pol­i­cy issues. To learn more about SAALT’s pol­i­cy work, con­tact us at saalt@saalt.org.

Immigration: Policies from the Administration and Congress

Fed­er­al pol­i­cy­mak­ers are con­tin­u­ing to con­sid­er immi­gra­tion poli­cies that will affect South Asian com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers. With over 75% of the com­mu­ni­ty born out­side of the U.S., South Asians pos­sess a range of immi­gra­tion sta­tus­es, includ­ing tem­po­rary work­ers, green card hold­ers, asy­lum-seek­ers, depen­dent visa­hold­ers, and undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grants. Any changes in immi­gra­tion poli­cies will affect the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty. In order to pro­mote the full inte­gra­tion of South Asians into this coun­try’s econ­o­my and soci­ety, just and humane immi­gra­tion reform is nec­es­sary.

The Admin­is­tra­tion:

In recent weeks, the Oba­ma Admin­is­tra­tion made var­i­ous state­ments and insti­tut­ed sev­er­al poli­cies relat­ing to immi­gra­tion:

  • In April, Admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials stat­ed its com­mit­ment to immi­gra­tion reform, includ­ing legal­iza­tion of near­ly 12 mil­lion undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grants dur­ing 2009.
  • Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty (DHS) Sec­re­tary Janet Napoli­tano has stat­ed that DHS will prioritize enforcement raids and prosecutions on abusive employers who know­ing­ly hire undoc­u­ment­ed work­ers. How­ev­er, work­site raids may still con­tin­ue which impact the lives of many immi­grants work­ing in var­i­ous sec­tors of the econ­o­my.
  • Dur­ing a hear­ing before the Sen­ate Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee in ear­ly May, DHS Sec­re­tary Napoli­tano stat­ed her com­mit­ment to review profiling and searches of electronic devices at the border that have affect­ed many Mus­lims and South Asians return­ing from trips abroad, as doc­u­ment­ed in recent reports by the Asian Law Cau­cus and Mus­lim Advo­cates.
  • DHS has con­tin­ued and expand­ed imple­men­ta­tion of a trou­bling enforce­ment pro­gram, “Secure Com­mu­ni­ties” that would allow immigration status checks be conducted for individuals who are apprehended by local police at the time of arrest. It will also allow immi­gra­tion author­i­ties to place “detain­ers” (noti­fi­ca­tion to immi­gra­tion author­i­ties pri­or to release from jail that can lead to deten­tion). Such pro­grams raise cause for con­cern giv­en that checks may done, regard­less of guilt or inno­cence, and fur­ther open the door for pro­fil­ing. For more infor­ma­tion about Secure Com­mu­ni­ties and the neg­a­tive impact on immi­grant com­mu­ni­ties, check out this fact­sheet by the Nation­al Immi­gra­tion Law Cen­ter.

On June 8, President Obama will be meeting with various members of Congress to discuss immigration and immi­grant rights advo­cates as well as com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers will be look­ing to see what next steps may be decid­ed fol­low­ing the meet­ing


Con­gress has also recent­ly re-focused its atten­tion on find­ing solu­tions to address the bro­ken immi­gra­tion sys­tem:

  • Var­i­ous Sen­a­tors, includ­ing Robert Menen­dez of New Jer­sey, Kirsten Gilli­brand and Charles Schumer of New York, and Edward Kennedy of Mass­a­chu­setts, have intro­duced the Reuniting Families Act. This bill strives to reduce fam­i­ly visa back­logs that keep many South Asians sep­a­rat­ed from loved ones abroad, by reclas­si­fy­ing spous­es and chil­dren of green card hold­ers as “imme­di­ate rel­a­tives”, rais­ing per-coun­try visa allo­ca­tions, and allow­ing unused visas from pre­vi­ous years to be applied to the back­log. Community members are urged to contact their Senators to encourage them to support this bill.
  • In April and May, Sen­a­tor Charles Schumer of New York, chair of the Sen­ate Immi­gra­tion Sub­com­mit­tee, held hear­ings on immi­gra­tion issues focused on bor­der secu­ri­ty poli­cies and com­pre­hen­sive immi­gra­tion reform.
  • On June 3, the Sen­ate Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee will hold the first-ever hear­ing on the Uniting American Families Act (H.R. 1024), which would allow U.S. cit­i­zens and green card hold­ers to spon­sor their same-sex part­ners for fam­i­ly-based immi­gra­tion. This bill would be a vital step towards coun­ter­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion that exists in the cur­rent immi­gra­tion sys­tem against LGTBIQ South Asians in bina­tion­al cou­ples.
  • The DREAM Act, which would allow cer­tain undoc­u­ment­ed stu­dents to legal­ize their sta­tus if they attend col­lege or join the mil­i­tary, has been intro­duced in the House and Sen­ate.

Civil Rights: Hate Crimes Legislation Victory

South Asian com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers often con­front bias and dis­crim­i­na­tion in the form of hate crimes as a result of post‑9/11 back­lash, anti-immi­grant sen­ti­ment, and xeno­pho­bia. In a recent vic­to­ry in the move­ment towards pre­vent­ing hate crimes and pro­tect­ing its sur­vivors, the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives passed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (H.R. 1913) in May. This Act expands cur­rent fed­er­al hate crimes laws to include vio­lence moti­vat­ed by gen­der, gen­der iden­ti­ty, sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion and dis­abil­i­ty. It would also pro­vide greater resources to state and local law enforce­ment inves­ti­gat­ing and pros­e­cut­ing hate crimes. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration and community members are urged to contact your Senators to encourage them to support this bill (S. 909).

Health Care Reform and the South Asian Community

Health care reform has jumped to the top of the agen­da for Con­gress and the Oba­ma Admin­is­tra­tion. The need for afford­able cov­er­age and lin­guis­ti­cal­ly and cul­tur­al­ly acces­si­ble health care is vital for the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty. In fact, approx­i­mate­ly 20 per­cent of South Asians lack health cov­er­age plans leav­ing afford­able health care out of reach for many com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers. In addi­tion, lin­guis­tic and cul­tur­al bar­ri­ers pre­vent many lim­it­ed Eng­lish pro­fi­cient South Asians from being able to com­mu­ni­cate effec­tive­ly with health care pro­fes­sion­als and obtain emer­gency assis­tance when need­ed. To get a back­ground on health issues affect­ing South Asians, check out the health sec­tion of the Nation­al Action Agen­da, a pol­i­cy plat­form devel­oped by the Nation­al Coali­tion of South Asian Orga­ni­za­tions, and a recent piece in SAMAR by Sap­na Pandya and Pratik Saha of the South Asian Health Ini­tia­tive at New York Uni­ver­si­ty.

Pres­i­dent Oba­ma has urged Con­gress to enact health care reform before the end of 2009 and con­vened a White House Forum on Health Care Reform. To learn more about the White House­’s com­mit­ment to health care reform, vis­it www.healthreform.gov. The Sen­ate Finance Com­mit­tee are expect­ed to start work­ing on a health care reform bill in mid-June.

Community Issues at the Table

As part of SAALT’s pol­i­cy work, we par­tic­i­pate in var­i­ous meet­ings and brief­in­gs with gov­ern­men­tal agen­cies and leg­is­la­tors at the local, state, and fed­er­al lev­el to raise issues about poli­cies that affect the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty. Dur­ing April and May, SAALT par­tic­i­pat­ed in the fol­low­ing meet­ings to con­vey the con­cerns of South Asians regard­ing var­i­ous pol­i­cy ini­tia­tives:

  • Roundtables with Various Government Agencies during South Asian Summit: Com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of South Asian orga­ni­za­tions had an oppor­tu­ni­ty to dia­logue with var­i­ous gov­ern­ment agen­cies at the South Asian Sum­mit in late April. Par­tic­i­pat­ing agen­cies includ­ed the Depart­ments of Health and Human Ser­vices, Home­land Secu­ri­ty, Hous­ing and Urban Devel­op­ment, Jus­tice, and Office on Vio­lence Against Women. Dur­ing these meet­ings, par­tic­i­pants raised local issues of con­cern and learned about the agen­cies’ pol­i­cy pri­or­i­ties for this year.
  • White House Religious Liaison Meeting: SAALT met with the Reli­gious Liai­son at the White House Office of Pub­lic Engage­ment in May to dis­cuss and high­light issues of impor­tance to faith-based com­mu­ni­ties. SAALT iden­ti­fied issues rang­ing from dis­crim­i­na­tion and harass­ment on the basis of reli­gion to the need for greater fund­ing and sup­port for faith-based insti­tu­tions at the meet­ing. For more infor­ma­tion, please con­tact us at saalt@saalt.org.

Community Resource Spotlight: Race and the Recession

A new report from the Applied Research Cen­ter, “Race and Recession: How Inequity Rigged the Economy and How to Change the Rules” tells the sto­ries of peo­ple of col­or who are dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly affect­ed by the reces­sion. It uncov­ers root caus­es of long-term racial inequri­ties that fed into the eco­nom­ic cri­sis and pro­pos­es struc­tur­al solu­tions to change a sys­tem that threat­ens future gen­er­a­tions. Read the report online and check out the “Race and Reces­sion” video to learn more and take action.

Make A Donation to
Support SAALT's Work Today!

We would like to welcome and thank those who donated to SAALT in May!

Are you a SAALT mem­ber yet?

If not, we urge you to become a member today. By becom­ing a SAALT mem­ber, you not only receive ben­e­fits (such as our annu­al newslet­ter and dis­counts at events and gath­er­ings), but the sat­is­fac­tion of being part of a nation­al non-prof­it orga­ni­za­tion that address­es civ­il and immi­grant rights issues fac­ing South Asians in Amer­i­ca.

Do you know some­one who would be inter­est­ed in learn­ing about SAALT? For­ward them this email by click­ing here:

Forward this email

South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT) is a nation­al, non-prof­it orga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cat­ed to fos­ter­ing full and equal par­tic­i­pa­tion by South Asians in all aspects of Amer­i­can civic and polit­i­cal life through a social jus­tice frame­work that includes advo­ca­cy, coali­tion-build­ing, com­mu­ni­ty edu­ca­tion, and lead­er­ship devel­op­ment.

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)

SAALT in May: Community Events, New Faces, SAALT Speaks

SAALT top bar

SAALT Community Connection - May 2009

In This Issue

SAALT Speaks

New Faces in SAALT

Community Calendar

Be the Change

Summit Wrap-Up

Support SAALT in 2009!

The SAALT Com­mu­ni­ty Con­nec­tion is a month­ly e‑newsletter that focus­es on com­mu­ni­ty news and events. To learn more about SAALT’s com­mu­ni­ty and pol­i­cy work, con­tact us at saalt@saalt.org

South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT) is a nation­al, non-prof­it ded­i­cat­ed to fos­ter­ing full and equal par­tic­i­pa­tion by South Asians in all aspects of Amer­i­can civic and polit­i­cal life through a social jus­tice frame­work that includes advo­ca­cy, coali­tion-build­ing, com­mu­ni­ty edu­ca­tion, and lead­er­ship devel­op­ment.

SAALT Speaks on First 100 Days, Immigration, and Citizenship

  • lavPriya Murthy, Pol­i­cy Direc­tor, appeared as a guest on WPFW Pacifica Radio in April to dis­cuss immi­gra­tion and civ­il rights issues affect­ing South Asians.
  • Deepa Iyer, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor, appeared as a guest on Beneath the Surface radio show on KPFK 90.7FM in Los Ange­les, CA with Hamid Khan to dis­cuss cit­i­zen­ship and immi­gra­tion reform on April 23rd.
  • Deepa Iyer spoke on the Applied Research Cen­ter’s “Race in Review: First 100 Days” con­fer­ence call on April 28th.
  • Lavanya Sithanan­dam, SAALT Board Mem­ber, appeared on “That Fresh Radio Piece” on May 18th on WMUC 88.1FM in Col­lege Park, MD to dis­cuss the effects of recent immi­gra­tion enforce­ment efforts and raids on the chil­dren she sees as a pedi­a­tri­cian in Tako­ma Park.


  • Deepa Iyer will be speak­ing at Georgia State University at the Immi­gra­tion & Human Rights Sym­po­sium on June 17th, 2009.
  • Deepa Iyer will be speak­ing at the “Know Your Community: A Discussion of Issues and Trends Affecting Asian Pacific Americans in Washington DC and Beyond" spon­sored by the Asian Pacif­ic Amer­i­can Bar Asso­ci­a­tion — Wash­ing­ton DC on June 3rd.

New Faces at SAALT

SAALT wel­comes Aaditi Dubale as the new SAALT Fel­low! She will be work­ing on Be the Change 2009, our Nation­al Day of Ser­vice, as well as sup­port­ing fundrais­ing and devel­op­ment efforts. Aadi­ti can be reached at aaditi@saalt.org.

SAALT also wel­comes our sum­mer interns:

Ashley Vij from George Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty
Niralee Shah from Williams Col­lege
Zara Haq from Amer­i­can Uni­ver­si­ty Wash­ing­ton Col­lege of Law

SAALT bids a fond farewell to Aparna Kothary, Fundrais­ing and Devel­op­ment Assis­tant. Aparna’s work at SAALT advanced the devel­op­ment of an indi­vid­ual mem­ber base, helped us to iden­ti­fy new fundrais­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties, and expand­ed Be the Change — our Nation­al Day of Ser­vice.

Community Calendar

BTC09May 30th - New Jersey SAALT Circle Service project
Join the SAALT Cir­cle for a com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice project with ‘The Shar­ing Place’, a food pantry at St. Pauls’ Luther­an Church in Jer­sey City.  We’ll be prepar­ing, pack­ing, and serv­ing break­fast and lunch to the local com­mu­ni­ty.  Come out and BE THE CHANGE!

The Shar­ing Place — St. Luther­ans Church

440 Hobo­ken Avenue (five cor­ners) in Jer­sey City, NJ

Please RSVP by May 26th at
qudsia@saalt.org. Space is lim­it­ed — sign up now!

August 14th - August 16th: Transgress, Transform, Transcend - A Nation­al Con­fer­ence of Les­bian, Gay, Bisex­u­al, Trans­gen­der, and Queer (LGBTQ) Asian Amer­i­cans, South Asians and Pacif­ic Islanders (API)

Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton in Seat­tle, WA
Reg­is­tra­tion infor­ma­tion is avail­able online at: http://www.nqapia.org

Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund presents The Asian American Vote 2008

Dur­ing the 2008 Pres­i­den­tial Elec­tions, 16,665 Asian Amer­i­can vot­ers were sur­veyed as part of AALDE­F’s nation­al mul­ti­lin­gual exit poll.  The exit poll was the largest non­par­ti­san sur­vey of its kind in the nation and was con­duct­ed in twelve Asian lan­guages and Eng­lish across 39 cities in 11 states.  At these spe­cial pre­sen­ta­tions across the coun­try, com­par­a­tive infor­ma­tion will be giv­en about the Asian Amer­i­can vote in the Pres­i­den­tial and Con­gres­sion­al elec­tions, con­cerns about key issues, first-time vot­ers, and pro­files of the Asian Amer­i­can vote by eth­nic­i­ty, par­ty enroll­ment, nativ­i­ty, age, and Eng­lish pro­fi­cien­cy.  For more information or to attend any of these presentations, contact jyang@aaldef.org or call 800.966.5946, www.aaldef.org

  • June 8 at 12:30 PM — The Mass­a­chu­setts Asian Amer­i­can Vote (Boston, MA)
  • June 8 at 5:30 PM (Low­ell, MA)
  • June 11 at 6:30 PM — The Mary­land Asian Amer­i­can Vote (co-spon­sored by SAALT) (Rockville, MD)
  • June 12 at 2:00PM — The Asian Amer­i­can Vote (mul­ti­state) (co-spon­sored by SAALT)(Wash­ing­ton, DC)
  • June 17 and 18 at 6:30 PM- The Vir­ginia Asian Amer­i­can Vote (co-spon­sored by SAALT) (Rich­mond, VA)
  • June 18 at 11:30 AM (co-spon­sored by SAALT) (Annan­dale, VA)
  • August 8 (time TBA) — The Chi­nese Amer­i­can Vote (San Fran­cis­co, CA)

Check out events on SAALT's Community Calendar.calendar

SAALT staff are avail­able to speak at your stu­dent orga­ni­za­tion meet­ings, con­fer­ences, and com­mu­ni­ty events on top­ics includ­ing immi­grant rights, South Asians in Amer­i­ca, civic engage­ment, and immi­gra­tion. Please email us at saalt@saalt.org for more infor­ma­tion.

Get Ready for Be the Change 2009 - National Day of Service!

BTC09What are you doing on Saturday, October 3rd?

1) Host a Be the Change event on your campus — If your cam­pus tra­di­tion­al­ly hosts a Be the Change event or if you would like to start one on your cam­pus, please fill out this form by May 30th and we will send you a planning guide and connect you to the national event.

2) Host a Be the Change event in your city- Join or start a plan­ning team in your city. As a mem­ber of the plan­ning team, you will be coor­di­nat­ing ser­vice events, recruit­ing vol­un­teers, and con­nect­ing with oth­er plan­ning teams around the coun­try. Please fill out this form by May 30th and we will connect you with others in your city who are interested in planning a Be the Change event.  Our core cities this year are: Wash­ing­ton DC, New York City, South Bay, San Fran­cis­co, Atlanta, and Boston. We also wel­come oth­er cities to hold Be the Change events.

3) Join SAALT as a National Partner for Be the Change- If your orga­ni­za­tion, pro­fes­sion­al asso­ci­a­tion, or youth group would like to part­ner with SAALT, local­ly or nation­al­ly, please email us at btc2009@saalt.org by May 30th.

South Asian Summit Roundup

summitDid you miss the Summit?

  • Lis­ten to pod­casts of the ses­sions here
  • View pic­tures from the Sum­mit here
  • Hear from par­tic­i­pants in Sum­mit Snap­shots here
  • Read entries from the SAALT Spot about the Sum­mit here

Make A Donation to
Support SAALT's Work in 2009 Today!

Are you a SAALT mem­ber yet?

If not, we urge you to become a member today. By becom­ing a SAALT mem­ber, you not only receive ben­e­fits (such as our annu­al newslet­ter and dis­counts at events and gath­er­ings), but the sat­is­fac­tion of being part of a nation­al non-prof­it orga­ni­za­tion that address­es civ­il and immi­grant rights issues fac­ing South Asians in Amer­i­ca.

Do you know some­one who would be inter­est­ed in learn­ing about SAALT? For­ward them this email by click­ing here:

Forward this email

South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT) is a nation­al, non-prof­it orga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cat­ed to fos­ter­ing full and equal par­tic­i­pa­tion by South Asians in all aspects of Amer­i­can civic and polit­i­cal life through a social jus­tice frame­work that includes advo­ca­cy, coali­tion-build­ing, com­mu­ni­ty edu­ca­tion, and lead­er­ship devel­op­ment.

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)

Interview With Shamita Das Dasgupta

Hel­lo, SAALT Spot read­ers! My name is Viraj, and it’s more like­ly you know me as the “Blog Intern”. I am a recent grad­u­ate of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Illi­nois at Urbana-Cham­paign, and I earned my degree in Eng­lish with a minor in Asian Amer­i­can Stud­ies. This past semes­ter, I com­plet­ed a the­sis regard­ing “hon­or” killings. While I will save that dis­cus­sion for (hope­ful­ly) anoth­er time, this research real­ly opened my eyes to domes­tic vio­lence among women of col­or.


     In April, I was lucky enough to meet Shami­ta Das Das­gup­ta, who spoke at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Illi­nois at Urbana-Cham­paign for the annu­al Bal­go­pal Lec­ture on Human Rights and Asian Amer­i­cans . Dr. Das­gup­ta is the cofounder of Man­avi (New Jer­sey), the first orga­ni­za­tion in the U.S. to focus on vio­lence against South Asian immi­grant women. She is cur­rent­ly teach­ing as an adjunct pro­fes­sor at NYU Law School.

Dr. Das­gup­ta told me that, out of 160 South Asian women sur­veyed in the Unit­ed States:

-35% claim cur­rent male part­ner phys­i­cal­ly abused them at least once

-32.5% claim such abuse has hap­pened with­in the last year
‑19% claim their cur­rent male part­ner has sex­u­al­ly abused them at least once dur­ing their time togeth­er
‑15% claim at this abuse hap­pened with­in the past year 

While I was­n’t able to attend her actu­al lec­ture (inter­view­ing for grad­u­ate schools demands sac­ri­fices), Dr. Das­gup­ta was gra­cious enough to speak with me the fol­low­ing morn­ing. We spoke about a range of top­ics, from sex­u­al vio­lence among dif­fer­ent socioe­co­nom­ic class­es as well as con­nec­tions with reli­gion and the issues dif­fer­ent gen­er­a­tions of South Asian Amer­i­can women face:

“In the upper class, when a woman is raped out­side of the home, it is assumed that it is because she is expos­ing her­self. Women still feel as if the home is a safe place, and that sex­u­al vio­lence can only occur out­side of the home. On the oth­er hand, the poor­er class­es know that women must trav­el out­side of the home. Also, often­times, their “homes” are shan­ty­towns and are very exposed spaces. The poor­er class­es under­stand that sex­u­al and domes­tic vio­lence can occur any­where. The whole issue is of a woman being iso­lat­ed- upper class­es feel that if a woman is iso­lat­ed, she can­not be harmed.”  

Returning to her work in the United States, Dr. Dasgupta spoke to me about some of the narratives she has heard from the women she has worked with regarding religion and domestic abuse:

“There is this con­cept called sar­wan saha which many peo­ple abide by. The con­cept is often inter­pret­ed as “You’re the one who can change bad men into good men. Your respon­si­bil­i­ty, as a woman, is to endure”, is how it is read. Women think that reli­gious cul­ture is to endure- “My hus­band is beat­ing me because I am fail­ing and he is teach­ing me what I need to know.”  

After hearing these narratives from many women, Dr. Dasgupta said that:  

“I have actu­al­ly found pas­sages in Mus­lim and Hin­du texts that real­ly cel­e­brate the strength of women. One par­tic­u­lar Hin­du text says “God is not in the home where the woman is not cel­e­brat­ed”. When I find these empow­er­ing texts and show them to women, it is like they are awak­en­ing. I ask them- “Why is this pas­sage invis­i­ble? Is it not also a part of your faith back­ground? I real­ly ask the women to chal­lenge how and why tra­di­tion is cre­at­ed. ”

As a second generation Indian American woman, I was curious to see what sort of advice she has for me and other second generation South Asian American women: 

“For a lot of sec­ond gen­er­a­tion women, I see that their par­ents are push­ing them into mar­riages they don’t want-often with men from South Asia, and often with men who are South Asian Amer­i­can. If they choose to rebel, divorce, etc., their par­ents tell them that “you are not our daugh­ter any­more.”. These women are told that they are betray­ing our com­mu­ni­ty, [and that they are a] trai­tor to our cul­ture. It often dri­ves women away from iden­ti­fy­ing as Indi­an Amer­i­can or engag­ing with the com­mu­ni­ty”   

I wish they would not reject the cul­ture but rather claim a space with­in the com­mu­ni­ty. We are incum­bent on the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion to change us, and I would advise them to not let oth­er peo­ple define what your gen­er­a­tion con­sists of.”  

And, finally, as a bookworm, I asked her for a book recommendation- specifically, a book that has changed her life:  

It is a Ben­gali book. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, I do not think that they have trans­lat­ed it into Eng­lish. It is called The First Promise by Asha­pur­na Devi. It is a won­der­ful sto­ry that dis­cuss­es many issues women face- I read it when I was a young girl and still hold it very close to my heart. “


Dr. Das­gup­ta’s words real­ly opened my eyes to the com­pli­cat­ed, and often con­flict­ing, chal­lenges South Asian Amer­i­can women face, and her words about “betray­ing the com­mu­ni­ty” is some­thing I have seen come up in my research about “hon­or” killings as well. All in all, Dr. Das­gup­ta’s pas­sion for her com­mu­ni­ty is some­thing I found inspir­ing and her pas­sion as an edu­ca­tor is some­thing I am very grate­ful for.

Join the Summer of Service!

On Wednes­day, May 20th Michelle Oba­ma will roll out “the vision of ser­vice for the Admin­is­tra­tion for the sum­mer” in Wash­ing­ton DC. SAALT’s Exec­u­tive Direc­tor, Deepa Iyer, will be in the audi­ence to hear about the sum­mer of ser­vice and learn how orga­ni­za­tions like SAALT and the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty as a whole can get involved. Are you inspired by Michelle’s mes­sage of ser­vice? How are you get­ting involved and engaged this sum­mer?

Daily Buzz 5.19.2009

The Dai­ly Buzz is Back After a Brief Hia­tus for Uni­ver­si­ty Finals!

1.) Lak­sh­mi Menon’s 12 Page Spread in Amer­i­can Vogue Begs The Ques­tion: Why Don’t More Indi­an and South Asian Mod­els Book Top Jobs?

2.) Retreat Offers Hope for Indi­an Amer­i­can Women Alco­holics

3.) Read­ing Rec­om­men­da­tion from the Blog Intern: Taqwa­core Webzine

4.) US Uni­ver­si­ty Hon­ours Indi­an-Amer­i­can Eco­nom­ics Pro­fes­sor

5.) Remem­ber “Sig­na­ture” From Britain’s Got Tal­ent? They Were on Oprah!

Hear about the 2009 National South Asian Summit from the Attendees Themselves!

Dur­ing the Sum­mit, SAALT staff and interns used our handy Flip cam­eras to hear from atten­dees about their expe­ri­ences. We’re are cur­rent­ly in the process of post­ing these clips on our YouTube chan­nel. Hear what Sum­mit par­tic­i­pants learned, what they hope to bring back to their com­mu­ni­ties and more!

Taha Gaya:

Taz Ahmed:

Check out all the Sum­mit Snap­shots here: http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=DFD50F179385221B