Celebrating 5 Years! Take Four!

To con­tin­ue our series cel­e­brat­ing five years since SAALT’s first staffed officed, today we fea­ture Mad­hur Bansal, SAALT’s Ameri­corps VISTA Devel­op­ment Assi­tant from 2006 to 2007:

“To me, SAALT rep­re­sents a col­lec­tive and pro­gres­sive voice for South Asians in the US. SAALT offers com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers a way to engage direct­ly in civic life and pub­lic pol­i­cy issues. In the next five years, I hope that SAALT con­tin­ues build­ing sup­port across the coun­try and that it can be the pri­ma­ry nation­al advo­cate for the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty in pub­lic affairs, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the upcom­ing debate over immi­gra­tion reform. I also hope that SAALT can expand by reach­ing even more com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers and get­ting them involved in its work.”

..and from Imrana Khera, for­mer SAALT staff mem­ber:

“I can’t believe it’s been five years already–Congratulations!  SAALT rep­re­sents the very diverse South Asian com­mu­ni­ty liv­ing in the Unit­ed States, a chal­leng­ing job for any orga­ni­za­tion.  SAALT push­es our com­mu­ni­ty for­ward by advo­cat­ing for change with­in a social jus­tice frame­work.  SAALT’s strength is its respect­ful and effec­tive col­lab­o­ra­tion with orga­ni­za­tions that are work­ing with South Asian com­mu­ni­ty at a local lev­el across the coun­try.

My expec­ta­tion is that SAALT will con­tin­ue to grow over the next five years and con­tin­ue to affect change on behalf of our com­mu­ni­ty — through edu­ca­tion, pol­i­cy, and research — like the award-win­ning Rais­ing Our Voic­es DVD, through SAALT townhalls/community forums, and reports like Wash­ing­ton DeSi: South Asians in the Nation’s Cap­i­tal (July 2009).”

Celebrating 5 Years! Take five!

Anoth­er set of reflec­tions about the 5 year anniver­sary of SAALT open­ing its first staffer office. Now we’re hear­ing from Imrana Khera, SAALT’s Pro­gram Man­ag­er from 2004–2005.

“SAALT rep­re­sents the very diverse South Asian com­mu­ni­ty liv­ing in the Unit­ed States, a chal­leng­ing job for any orga­ni­za­tion.  SAALT push­es our com­mu­ni­ty for­ward by advo­cat­ing for change with­in a social jus­tice frame­work.  SAALT’s strength is its respect­ful and effec­tive col­lab­o­ra­tion with orga­ni­za­tions that are work­ing with South Asian com­mu­ni­ty at a local lev­el across the coun­try.

My expec­ta­tion is that SAALT will con­tin­ue to grow over the next five years and con­tin­ue to effect change on behalf of our com­mu­ni­ty — through edu­ca­tion, pol­i­cy, and research — like the award-win­ning Rais­ing Our Voic­es DVD,  through SAALT townhalls/community forums, and reports like Wash­ing­ton DeSi: South Asians in the Nation’s Cap­i­tal (July 2009) .”

Getting in Touch with the Netroots (pt.3)

Third ses­sion of the day and it’s Who’s Being Left Out of Online Orga­niz­ing. This pan­el was all about who’s not part of all these shiny, awe­some online spaces we’ve been talk­ing about all day at Net­roots. The pan­el’s actu­al­ly still going on, but I thought I’d put out some quick obser­va­tions:

-What does it mean to be left out? Left out of what? If its “the dis­course” or “democ­ra­cy”, then the online orga­niz­ing is sim­ply a tac­tic. If its only about online polit­i­cal spaces, maybe we’re miss­ing the point.

-We need to meet peo­ple where they are. It’s not just a mat­ter of whether cer­tain pop­u­la­tions pre­fer MySpace or Face­book, its whether SMS or text mes­sages are what peo­ple actu­al­ly use. We’ve seen inno­v­a­tive ways that cer­tain pro­gres­sive cam­paigns have sought to inte­grate things like cell phones which is used in real­ly inter­est­ing, sub­tly dif­fer­ent ways by com­mu­ni­ties of col­or and women.

-Some­one shared an anec­dote that dur­ing the past elec­tion, a cer­tain can­di­date’s cam­paign suc­cess­ful­ly used online orga­niz­ing tools only when they were tar­get­ed towards offline actions (donat­ing mon­ey, call­ing some­one, etc). Can we have a con­ver­sa­tion about online advo­ca­cy that isn’t miss­ing the essen­tial whole of what par­tic­i­pa­tion and orga­niz­ing means.

-Cost and access came up over and over dur­ing the pan­el, whether its along racial, gen­der, geo­graph­ic or age lines. Ulti­mate­ly, if we want to break open the doors of the inter­net to those miss­ing from the cir­cles of pow­er and agency, maybe phil­an­thropic advo­ca­cy needs to be on our radar so that work gets fund­ed.

Pres. Bill Clin­ton keynot­ing tonight!

Getting in Touch with the Netroots (pt.2)

Sec­ond ses­sion of the day: Blog­ging the Eco­nom­ic Bat­tles. It was a great ses­sion with pan­elists from OurFuture.org. The pan­elists broad­ly dealt with three issues: the cur­rent health­care debate, the bogey­man of deficits and neg­a­tive trig­ger words. There were a cou­ple of real­ly inter­est­ing obser­va­tions that I took from the pan­el.

1. one of the msot neg­a­tive aspects of the cur­rent polar­ized nature of the debate is that it shifts per­cep­tions such that the cen­trist or just-left-of-cen­ter posi­tions get cast as the far-left when the rhetoric of the far-right is so “wingnut”-y as some pan­elists and audi­ence mem­bers not­ed.

2. as pro­gres­sives, we have to reframe the debate from its cur­rent­ly defen­sive posi­tion. In ref­er­ence to the bogey­man of bud­get deficits, one of the pan­elists, Dig­by, not­ed that when asked how deficits per­son­al­ly affect them, most peo­ple have no answer. Now ask them how health­care affects them, they have a ready answer. We need to remind peo­ple that gov­ern­ment does great things for them. Don’t believe it? Get off the inter­state! We need to stop just fight­ing this notion that things like deficits are poi­son, we need to start from a place where peo­ple have to acknowl­edge that the gov­ern­ment does cer­tain things real­ly well and we should­n’t have to act like that isn’t a patent truth. Get­ting gov­ern­ment out of one’s Med­ic­aid would be hard, would­n’t it?

3. Not refram­ing the debate and get­ting out of our defen­sive posi­tion keeps us back as a coun­try from tru­ly speak­ing and fight­ing for every per­son, espe­cial­ly those who are most dis­em­pow­ered by the cur­rent sys­tem’s inequities. We can’t fig­ure out how to address Rust Belt work­ers in Penn­syl­va­nia when we’re trapped in a black-and-white par­a­digm where “trade” is good no mat­ter what and “pro­tec­tion­ism” is bad no mat­ter what it actu­al­ly refers to.

4. The abil­i­ty to bal­ance the debate is in our hands. The sto­ries of how, say, the health­care sys­tem is fail­ing peo­ple is in our back­yards. If we want to counter over-heat­ed rhetoric that los­es sight of the actu­al stakes, show them the real sto­ries you know. I found a great exam­ple of exact­ly this in a sto­ry from the Chris­t­ian Sci­ence Mon­i­tor from a pro­fes­sor in the town where I went to col­lege (from the rival school, no less). Now its a main­stream media out­let, but tech­no­log­i­cal advances have made it pos­si­ble for us to get our voic­es out there in ways I could­n’t have imag­ined years ago, no one’s going to do it but us!

Any­ways, just some thoughts, but I took away a real man­date to take up our own roles to counter the neg­a­tiv­i­ty we find in the dis­course. Stay tuned for more ses­sions!

Getting in Touch with the Netroots (pt.1)

So I am at the Net­roots Nation con­fer­ence in gor­geous Pitts­burgh (where its an incred­i­bly pleas­ant 81 degrees which is a nice change from the swamp that DC has been for the last few days) . The con­fer­ence brings togeth­er pro­gres­sive activists and advo­cates, many of whom are par­tic­u­lar­ly tech­no­log­i­cal­ly-ori­ent­ed. I thought since the con­fer­ence is all about blog­ging and SAALT has a blog, what a nat­ur­al fit!

After a short flight and a very long bus ride into the city, I bare­ly made the Asian Pacif­ic Amer­i­can Cau­cus ses­sion. There were about 10 peo­ple in the ses­sion and we spent most of the time iden­ti­fy­ing how we could work in issues like health­care and Cen­sus 2010 in the Asian Pacif­ic Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty. I heard a lot of great ideas, from bring­ing Asian Amer­i­can caus­es to main­stream online spaces to crit­i­cal­ly ana­lyz­ing how to use tech­nol­o­gy to reach audi­ences like school kids to get to non-tech­no­log­i­cal­ly con­nect­ed old­er Asians.

While it was great to be able to share the space with fel­low Asian Amer­i­can activists and blog­gers, I some­times won­der whether these sep­a­rate con­ver­sa­tions some­times hold us back from cast­ing these actu­al­ly main­stream, impor­tant issues as broad­ly as they could be. Any­ways, I’ll keep post­ing as much as pos­si­ble from beau­ti­ful Pitts­burgh!